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Archive for October, 2010

Thank You List

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This is my thank you list to really important people who helped me succeed.  For those who don’t remember who I am, here’s shortened list of my achievements.

- entrepreneur, co-founder of Razor Edge Lab, company of 6 web developers
- founder of evermight, web company that merged with utopia to create Razor Edge Lab
- software engineer, architect of the Evermight Framework, contributed to TOPS CMS and OISE IT systems
- silver and gold medalist pan american wushu athlete 1997
- pursuing an amateur boxing career

Here’s my thank you list in order of appearance in my life:

Parents, restaurant owners – hired as a child to be a son in the family.  In summary, what I learned from parents, “If you love your family, then work hard.”  I learned from them that no matter how bad things get, you can’t stop, or else you’ll die.  I don’t think I have to say thanks, because we all know.

Mrs. Lardino, gr. 4-6 teacher – You’re the first teacher who paid attention to me and encouraged me to do good work.  In my previous years, I was a shy student with no self-esteem.  My grades were lofty and I never did homework.  I was too afraid to do homework, because I was worried teachers would say it was no good.  When I entered your class, you didn’t give me a choice.  You were strict, and you glared at me with disappointment each time I didn’t do my work, it was scary.  But when I actually did doit, you’d say succinctly and sternly, “Good work”. And I thought, “Ok, that wasn’t so bad.  I don’t want to disappoint teacher again.”   For the next two years, you kept telling me I was the hardest worker in the class.  I knew I wasn’t as bright as the other students, but I believed I was the hardest worker of them all, just like my parents.

Master Wayland Li, kung fu master and head coach of Canadian team on many occasions – Thanks Sifu for so much over so many years.  I don’t even know where to begin.  Well thanks for calling me no good, stupid, lazy, sleep too much, no power and no concentrate.  “John, you no good!  You no power!  Why you late?!?!!  You do push up!!! You no good! Aiiieeee….”, sighs, takes a puff of cigarette, and leaves the class in disappointment.  Compliments were as rare as diamonds, so when you did dispense them, I knew I must have done a really really awesome job.  “Ooooh…John good now.”  Wow, really?  What I learned from you is that success is as rare as diamonds.  And you have to fight hard every day to succeed because there’s a lot of competition.  “John good boy now.”

Mr. Harrison, Highschool teacher of ecology, science, astronomy, history – I ask a lot of questions.  And you had all the answers.  Most people, even to this day, do not have the endurance to keep up with my inquisitiveness.  You, on the other hand, encouraged it, and I’m glad you did because it’s the source of my creativity and the reason I’m so resourceful.  It’s the reason I’m a successful software engineer, entrepreneur and martial artist.  I’m always asking myself, “Why can’t the world work this way instead?”.  So really, why is the sky blue?  Why has China never been a theocratic nation?  Why does Apple need Steve Jobs?  Why is the Myers Brigg Personality test so heavily criticized?

Vic Cauchi, President of Vengeo – Worked as a junior software developer and manager.  Thank you for telling me harshly that my inability to understand the “bigger” picture was a liability to the team.  I suffered from tunnel vision as a programmer and as a project leader.  You told me I had all the right tools to become a leader, but if I don’t see the bigger picture, I’d lead my team down a disastruous path.  This is something I’m conscious of every day, and it’s the first and most important thing I impart to my team members.

Denise Makovac-Badali, Director of Research at OISE – Hired me as a receptionist/secretary.   You kept telling me I did an amazing job, even though all I ever did was answer the phone, sort files, fetch the mail, shred documents older than me, …you know, stuff that any secretary can do.   But you knew I could do more, and that I was going through the post-bubble-inexperienced-new-grad-unemployment phase.  Your confidence in me instilled confidence in myself.  The most inspiring thing you said to me, that would change my career forever, “I don’t see you as a technology guy.  I see you as a well-rounded person who can do anything.  You get along with everyone because you’re nice to everyone.”  I didn’t know that about myself, because I’ve always been a shy person.  Five years later, I repeated those words to myself, and left my job as an anti-social computer programmer to start a business, a mission that requires well-roundedness and social skills.

Heather Berkeley, Marketing Manager at U of T – Hired me as envelope stuffer for Orbit Magazine.   Hi Heather!  You kept saying I’m going to do amazing things.   Ok, I’ll go do amazing things now.  Do I really need to say thank you to you?  Anyway, words are too primitive to express my thanks.  And I keep you in the loop so much already.  So let’s celebrate by smashing cars.  See you next lunch!

Hyunwook Jo, Senior IT Analyst at U of T – taught me how to program in PHP.  Nothing I did ever surprised you.  I showed you what I could do with AJAX when it was relatively new, and you reacted plainly, “Oh, that’s cool.  Very good John.”  Then a couple months ago, I tell you my company grew to 6 employees in under two years, and again you reacted plainly, “That doesn’t surprise me.”  Your reaction is consistent with you’ve said to me many times in the past, “John, I know that whatever you do, you will succeed.  I’ll be surprised if you don’t succeed.”  Since you believe that, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to surprise you.  “Look Hyunwook!  I’m champion of the world!”  Reacts plainly again, “That’s very nice John.”

Donald Ho, Senior Architect at Torstar Digital – hired me as intermediate programmer.  I was a self-taught programmer when I arrived on the scene.  You identified all my bad habits, refined my knowledge of software engineering and filled in all the theoretical gaps.  Then you told me we need to rule the world.  And we worked every day to try to make it so.  Two years later and just a few minutes ago, I sent you an email….we’re entering phase 2!  It’s working with you at Torstar that I realized I’m no longer a little chinatown boy clearing tables.  I’m in a new social and economic circle.  I can have more than just BBQ Pork on Rice.  I can buy expensive 8 dollar burritos!  I’m closer to the stars than I had ever imagined as a toilet-scrubbing kid 10 years prior.  There’s nothing to stop us from building the next Facebook or Youtube!  Thanks for showing me a new light I never knew I could have!

Tim Leung, Senior Architect at Torstar Digital – the other senior programmer i reported to at torstar.  Where Donald would say once a week, “John, it’s time to rule the world”, you would say every morning when I arrived late at the office.  Every hour, you did something like send me inspirational videos of successful entrepreneurs, blog posts of exciting web 2.0 start ups, or just nudge my MSN “sup? rule the world?”.  Shortly after I left Torstar, I temporarily deleted you from my MSN because your nudges “sup? rule the world?” were too frequent and too disruptive.  I thought, “Alright, I’ll get back to this guy after I rule the world.”  So thank you for two things: 1) your energy and 2) making it seem so simple….which it isn’t by the way. HAH!  Ok, I’ve got you back on my MSN.

Jared Tapscott, President of Utopia and Partner of REL – partnered on so many business ventures.  This is just the beginning.   I value humility and modesty…so much so that sometimes I don’t appreciate myself.  The biggest thing you taught me is to appreciate myself.  You made me realize that if I don’t value myself, neither will my customers.  From working and talking with you, I realize I’m no longer in chinatown selling BBQ pork on rice combos for $3.25 (a big mac combo at McDonalds is over 5$, and you get less).  If I believe I should be scrubbing toilets, then that’s all I’ll ever do.  If I believe I should be making a great web application to help the world, then that’s what I’m capable of.  You helped me realize that although I should remember my roots, I should not let it mire my progress.  Just as you said not so long ago, don’t let my greatest strength become my greatest weakness.  Alright, let’s keep moving forward!  So much more to learn and do!

Written by John Lai

October 6th, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized