I didn’t know if I would ever be ready to write this. But it’s been awhile now and I think I’ve moved on enough to finally be honest about how I feel. With so much that has happened, it is time.
But first, a little side track:
I’m getting ready to dive back into my Masters. The new semester is finally beginning after a long 3-month break. A little bit excited, honestly. Unfinished looking architecture, gorgeous picturesque views, and gangster monkeys, UKM is amazing. The place invokes solid Wabi-sabi vibes.
Okay, back to the juicy tea:
Three months ago, I was told to leave my job. I wasn’t needed anymore because the company reasoned that they weren’t making as much money as they would like and that there are cheaper resource alternatives.
The company was based overseas, no office. Initially, I was ecstatic to get a remote job, one where I wouldn’t need to go into the office and go through the mind-numbing morning traffic. It also meant I was free to work whenever and wherever I wanted.
I was excited that I landed my dream work arrangement and was even being paid in USD. Whatever, I was on my way to the digital nomad life. I could finally do all the travelling I wanted minus being bound to one location!
Or so I thought.
Unfortunately, me being naïve at the work life experience, I never noticed the warning signs of a toxic company. Like every rookie, I failed to protect myself from the beginning. I accepted a job that was way below my asking salary with the promise of a small pay increment every month. The consequences were horrible.
Now that I look back at this whole period, the warning signs were there, I was just too passive about it.
The sudden unexplained pay cuts, being expected to work on public holidays, the absence of sick leaves, the sudden disappearance of workmates, the scrutiny of every single hour worked and so much more.
It happened twice for me. I was angry but I was also scared of the inevitable if I voiced out. I gave in to the checks. I needed the money, I had just gone back to doing my Masters. My salary was cut in half, the reason being I wouldn’t have time. No written agreement, no contract update. All word of mouth.
And then the inevitable did happen.
I actually wrote this in my phone 10 minutes after the soul crushing call:
“A kid is bawling. His heartbroken shrieks are piercing. They shake me out from my train of thought. I get irritated.
Relax kid, you have a long way to go. I wish I could cry like you are and it be acceptable. Except I can't.
I'd just gotten fired. April 30th, 2018.
They told me I had 30 days left. They said an intern could take over my work. For half the salary I was getting (which at that point, had been slashed to a low USD400 per month) or for no pay at all.
That was soul crushing. It sucked.”
In the last three months, I wanted to blame, but there was no time to blame. I had to move on fast. That’s when I started ReactiveDucks and SeniKentut.
But then I also realised:
Working for a company that has no concept of how the law works is dangerous. You can get in serious trouble if a signed contract is left hanging without proper handling.
After the ordeal, it felt like a heavy weight has been lifted. I was struggling with only USD400 a month and all the scrutiny. Of course, for a long time I blamed myself that I could have, should have done better and more. But I don’t blame myself anymore, I don’t blame them either. It was a thin thread that had to be severed.
I was debating with myself for a very long time if I ever wanted to let anyone know this. Being asked to leave felt like a black stain on my resume. But of course, the black stain is a reminder. Friends and people whom I admire have all gone through this phase and they just came back stronger and unfazed. I hope the same for myself.
I want this to be a cautionary tale to myself; to anyone. Be careful and vigilant in your work arrangements. Get everything in black and white. Protect yourself. In work, winner takes it all.