A reflection on how I knew I wanted to go into technology since I was a young girl, and why I’m not so sure of that career path anymore.
I’ve been having a bad job hunt. It is so bad that I feel like I’m genuinely in the worst state of mind I have ever been in, am dissociating more often, and feel like my self-improvement is simply feeding into this slate that has already run past its time.
Lately, I’ve been joking and telling people that I should just become a music journalist. I am likely better at writing than I am at design, though I’m really not too good at either. It seems like I know as much about the music industry than I do the design one, and it feels like I have a perspective to share about it. It feels like it’s something I genuinely want to do. This of course, won’t happen–but it’s sincerely the first time that something has even been at a stage for consideration and commitment: that you know, this is impractical and just as impossible to break into–but given the miracle, I wouldn’t mind doing it for the rest of my life. I think I know why.
When I was a young girl, I already knew that I was going to enter the field of tech. I just feared saying it.
Like many isolated kids, I spent most of my growing up online. I built things by hand, learning how to code by copy-pasting source codes and fighting with people on chatboxes over the legitimacy of the content I worked on. (I distinctly remember a sixteen-year-old with a WordPress website and domain angered at my offering of four different Pokemon website layouts repurposed from some site’s free website structure. A week later I sat down and learned how to absolutely position my own layout, measuring things with shapes and pixels on Photoshop.)
It’s not a new problem for there to be so few ways to explain why this sense of living is so meaningful to me, and how it’s still difficult to describe. I don’t know how to quite explain the impact talking to strangers everyday, losing innocence and making dozens of friends that I sometimes still remember idly had on me. I was wasting time but also consuming the world. I was not outside, I was in this greater, more expansive world. But it’s hard to express how transformative this was because it was an experience that absolutely does mirror the reality of all the regular experiences my parents and theirs likely had: the heartbreak, the dissolution, the influence of religion and politics, the languid memories of every piece of media that has ever touched you or formed you.
There’s something distinctly special about the internet, especially when you’ve grown up with it in that kind of enchanting way. To anyone who has found grounding in the internet as a space for escapism and not entirely business or email; but also not to the people who have only known the internet without being able to measure the forced absence and constraints that there was in my time (Php20 internet cafes, 8kbps download speed) I believe also significantly differentiates it from the instantaneous, information overload it is now––I just know this must be felt. It’s having breakfast television and Sunday mass but also these intense, gargantuan projects and collaborations that maybe were never really finished but unconceivable of today––or the type of friendship that lived in anonymity.
That visceral, unmatched belief in something, and then yourself, that was there that let you feel like you could take over the world.
In my recent talks, I often share my present thesis about technology: I want to bring people together in creation. Where Urcades believes that “the most meaningful human activity boils down to providing support structure for one another,” I believe that the potential of creation just as it was given to me by self-exploration and friendship in the early 2000s is the best way to bridge humanity. This differs in that I don’t just want to be a sculptor or a builder of bridges. I want to maximize the human potential of creation in all its form: from thoughts to software to media and messages that evoke more than words alone can. I feel sometimes that no words (or very few of them) will ever solicit equivalent understandings, so what we must instead investigate is evoking human emotion that then translates and captures this understanding. Creation is the most beautiful way of doing so; and is infinitely productive: in the relationships we foster, the people we think for, and what comes after creation.
Today, especially as I delve closer into businesses and learn more from people who have doing this for dozens of years, I am learning the truth about an industry I had only dreamed of and I am feeling lost. Technologists seem to build to only satisfy other technologists needs (I have talked a lot about the misunderstanding of startup culture in the Philippines and how the injection of technology seems to polarize rather than solve, not truly serving the masses); the way we invest in and value products relies on self-servitude: we invest so much in individual founders and humans with continuously changing ideals or only so much heart before it all becomes a ploy for money. There are no investments in these industries that will go towards creating public solutions. Get fucking lucky or go. The motto of “failing fast” seems to stagnate the growth and care into these problem spaces. Will I have to keep reading these weirdly detached ‘insights’ from industry specialists and cashholders who experienced ‘rough pasts’ somewhere in between going to Harvard and being Employee #4 at Unicorn #193 that make it clear that they have no intent of solving a problem in the long-run, but kind of just want to throw money at it and see if someone likable enough to them will try to solve it for a $100k/year salary? I think I’m woeful about the state of tech where you just have to be rich and charismatic to win. People craft stupid shit that gentrify cities that have existed long before tech and will exist long after all this is gone, praised only by other rich, elitist-educated investors that lack the slightest tendril of reality and truth. College students are funneling into late-capitalist dystopias in belief that being a part of companies that further these evils while offering a 10% chunk of their salaries (worth 0.0000001% of what their bosses make in a week) to the next charity that desperately optimizes their workings to look good in impact reports is some sign of justice or impact–all while disregarding the work they do or the world around them before going to cycling classes with 20 dollar late fees. In the past two decades, the tech heroes have been reinventing and failing at the public library, fucking up perceptions of basic human connection, making glorified 3000% markup hydrocolloid patches or makeup with potential to impact equivalent to the visual appeal of an Instagram feed that is too late to hide.
Of course, I’m not a founder and those are some worst-of-the-worst claims. But I can’t be truthful if I don’t say that I don’t believe I am positioned to engineer or drive the future if I am recruited solely due to my knowledge of dynamic programming approaches; nor do I feel like my “career change” into design has any weight if my influence and impact are for products that I don’t think… change anything. I can’t continue to operate on hypotheticals, or to claim that exploitative tooling or models go with my principle of creation. Working on extensive APIs to help richer tech dudes fly drones or create expensive robotics solutions sounds more technically sound but is a lot worse in action. Even when I think about the magic of servers, scale, sockets, and the connections and feelings that people share: I can’t help but think that there should be more.
There are many tools that make the world a better place. There are many systems and processes that we must work on. There are probably countlessly much more spaces where tech is saving the world than it is earning some tech billionaires more money than the entire century’s history of my country can fathom holding. But my disappointment still holds. The way I learn, the way I do, the people I would be surrounded by: I am not given the enchantment I had when I was younger at this state. It’s because in process, if I am not serving all the people around me adequately then I do not serve myself.
Music is an easy thing to joke about because it’s universal. Because it’s something dead simple, maybe even stupidly so–tech in this sense might even be more abstract, an unwilling yet pervasive presence. But when you press play and let a record twirl and tell you its stories I can immediately feel.
It’s an easier field to create for. There are no side projects really––music is still music. It is easy to imagine no audience or picture yourself with thousands of them. It’s even easier to remember the last time you truly fell in love with a song than with a product, even if it might not have impacted you as much in whatever it seeks to solve. It’s inherently self-aware though: in how you play it and do; it doesn’t need to pretend the way technologists do.
If I want to bring people together in creation, I need to be part of building something that seeks diversity, that creates (whatever pace that may be). If I can bring someone closer to feeling empowered, then that’s what I need.
I know somewhere inside of me that technology can feel like that again. At this point, I desperately need it to. With space and time we will know that the reason why we are given numbers and reason is for love.