It’s been 18 months since I started my career working on the Garbage Collection team for IBM’s Java Virtual Machine in Ottawa. When I first got the call with that job offer, I was pretty damn excited. It was exactly the team I wanted to work on. To this day, I can’t imagine a better place to start my career. The experience gap between myself and my coworkers was huge, such that I knew I would have plenty to learn and lots of room to grow. And believe me, I was learning heaps of information every day.
Yet life wasn’t all roses. The disconnect between my life as a student and and professional office life wasn’t something I had a lot of trouble coping with. I moved back to Montreal one year ago because I decided that it was much more important to enjoy my life and spend time with my friends. I declined the offer to work remotely from Montreal and keep my job on the Garbage Collection team because I didn’t want to be isolated from my team. Unfortunately, the team I’ve been working with over the past year is nothing like the one I was working on in Ottawa.
On the bright side, this past year has given me the time figure myself out. I spent the time conversing with my mentor (who has kept me sane and focused), and chatting up dozens of people all over IBM to get an idea and a feel for where I would belong. One of the biggest advantages of a huge company like IBM is the diversity of its teams. Especially in Canada, where IBM grew out many acquisitions, the culture varies greatly from team to team. Talking to people from all different types of teams in different parts of the business helped me figure what I wanted out of my career.
Knowing what I wanted was the key step in figuring out where I should be going. There’s no doubt in my mind that if I looked hard enough I could find what I wanted, whether it was in IBM or not. I began to get discouraged, however, when I realized that Montreal lacks a bustling tech scene. Unless you want to work in videogames, your options are quite limited. As far as IBM is concerned, the teams that interested were all either back in Ottawa, or in Markham. I started to feel like staying in Montreal was holding back my career.
Writing about my experiences on this blog turned out be the best thing I could have done. Little did I know several of my friends, acquaintances, former classmates and colleagues actually read it. It didn’t take long for them to start telling me about the jobs that they have and enjoy, and offered to refer me to their employers. Shortly thereafter I had a two-week period where there was an interview of some kind every single day.
The company I decided to go with was also the first company to make me an offer. That company is Genetec. I was impressed with how quickly they got me through their hiring process. Right after applying, a friend of mine (whom I didn’t even know worked there) called me to let me know how much he loved the place and it’s atmosphere. When I went to visit the lab I fell in love with the environment. My gut feeling told me that I would be quite happy there.
Even then, I was hesitant to accept the offer right away. I wanted to see what my other options were and compare what different companies could offer me. The clincher was when I was participating at Les Jeux de Génies du Québec as a “parrain”. The team from Université de Sherbrooke was walking around with giant Genetec logos on their clothes. The fact that the company was so ready and willing to continually invest in student life spoke loudly to me. It solidified the initial feeling I had that I belonged at Genetec.
As for the project, I’ll be part of a brand new team building a brand new product from inception to deployment. This is an opportunity that I’ve been looking for since I graduated. I don’t get the feeling that it comes along very often. I’m very excited to start this new chapter in my career.
I’d like to express some gratitude and thank everyone who has helped me along the way, especially my mentors and all the IBMers that spoke with me over the last year.
So long and thanks for all the fish. :-)