- Random startup trying to create a product similar to Coursera
I started working with tech when I was 17 years old. I was in my first year at college and I got a job as a PHP developer. I built websites. It was a time where even using jQuery was polemic and people would avoid it, writing everything by hand (making it work at IE 6). My salary was around 700 BRL or 112.20 EUR per month. My second job, one year after this one, was at a big software factory.
My salary was not much different, around 1000 BRL, but my main goal was to build e-commerce/websites for J&J that was outsourcing this to Brasil and India. One day J&J decided to move all the development to India and the company relocated me to a financial project. I started to work with java, building a huge system for a Brasilian bank. My salary did not improve, although the software I was written was responsible for millions of Reais (BRL).
I kept working there (I moved jobs for 6 months to try the startup life and I spend two months without working to be able to do the Master degree classes, but I later came back to the same company), and when I left Brasil I was making around 5000 BRL or 800 EUR. The signing bonus to work for AWS was bigger than my annual salary.
During my bachelor’s degree, I always worked. In my first year 6 hours per day, during the others at least 8 hours. I used to wake up at 6, go to work and go back to my house around 23, after college. Weekends were for relaxing, enjoying friends, and trying to learn something I was not going to learn during the classes.
And I was lucky, I was working for tech companies, a lot of my colleagues were not. They spend their whole day in their non-related job and would go to CS college at night. I spend 8 hours learning during my work about tech, they didn’t had that luxury.
Most of my years working in Brasil was building financial systems with JEE. It was fun, it was complex. But not once I worked in something that could improve open source projects. Even if we found a bug in a open source library we were using in a project, we would do a workaround in the code instead of fixing the library. Touching the third-party library and submitting pull requests were not seen as “part of the job”.
People in Europe talk a lot about life-work balance. Even though I was studying at night, I would still work extra-hours or even during the weekends if we were behind in the project. What choice did we have? I could not say no in a way that wouldn’t mean losing my job in the first opportunity or never get a promotion.
There were some people pushing for changes, I joined them. Workers would spend some time doing coding-dojos, talks or even weekends hackathons to fix Drupal, an important CMS for J&J and Pfizer, two big costumers. In the end, on those weekends we were still working. We were promoting the company as a Drupal contributor. We were not paid for those days, but in general, it was fun and I was learning a lot. But looking back, it makes me think if this opensource movement (not the Libre Software one) is just a way of corporations to use free (as in beer) labour.
I don’t want to focus only on the bad things. The people I worked with were amazing. Also, we work in a very different way in Brasil. We split the tasks together and the tasks have no owners, whoever finishes what they were doing “grabs the next task”. Everybody has the whole context and anyone can take vacations and the project would be completed by the remaining team members. The main focus was always the team, even though we were working a lot to meet the deadlines, we talked about everything, we helped each other. We had a good end of the year parties, we would go out during lunch and celebrate achievements. It was fun and I learnt a lot. Also, those companies are different now, all of them are huge and become multinationals. I wouldn’t know how is to work for them currently.