The grass on the other side is not always greener. It never is. (Chapter 10)

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IMG_0328We often believe that it’s the others who are richer, smarter, luckier and above all happier than us. The truth is we all have our struggles, big and small, desperate and ephemeral on a daily basis. No one has figured it out 100%, although many pretend to have done so. In these series of very short portrait descriptions I will tell the stories of ordinary people I have met throughout my travels around the world. These encounters have helped me put things into perspective on my own life. These are real people with real stories, nothing is imagined. So, next time when you look at your life and think about the things you’re struggling with, remember, everyone has his/her own battles to fight and nothing is so bad after all.

Portrait 28: Meet Jaime, security analyst, lives in Miami

Jaime is an American, born to a Venezuelan father and a Polish mother. He works 3 jobs to put his son and daughter through college. He loves to go back to Venezuela and live there.  “Many Venezuelans will give an arm and a leg to be in your place and have the opportunity to leave Venezuela, get an American citizenship and live in the US .” I said. “I know…” responded Jaime. “…but this is how I feel.” “The grass on the other side is always greener“, I thought…”and how in the world is it even possible that someone wants to voluntarily move from the US to Venezuela? Even Cubans don’t want to go to Venezuela these days….

Portrait 29: Meet Juan, restores old homes, lives in Miami

Juan is in his late 50s with tired eyes and somewhat happy smile. He is Cuban and moved to the US 6 years ago to earn money and send back home. “So, how is your life here?”, I asked. “I wake up every day with the thought of Cuba. I saved some money, built a house in Matanzas, now I’m saving to buy some home appliances and buy a car. When I’m done, I will go back for good. I also have a second home that I would like to rent to folks who work in Varadero…” he paused and added….”I thought the grass was greener here, but it is not. It is almost time for me to go back. ”

Portrait 30: Meet Fernando, wants to start his own business, lives in Miami

Fernando arrived in Miami two months ago from Uruguay and is ready to put all the effort to achieve the American dream. “What means the American dream to you?” I asked. “I want to save some money, go back to Uruguay and start my rental car business with a friend.” Why can’t you do it now?” “Well, you know, I need to make some money first and have some capital t start with, so that I can reinvest…In this country [the US] everything is possible.

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“The system will give you the right raises as you go along…”

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When Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, was asked what advice he has for women seeking a pay raise, but who are not comfortable asking, he said. “It is not really about asking for a raise but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along. And that might be one of the additional superpowers that women who don’t ask for the raise have, because that is good karma. It’ll come back. Long term efficiency solves it.” (from “Hit Refresh”, Satya Nadella’s book)

When I read this, my blood pressure when high and I felt how every cell of my body was shouting “WTF?!?!”

This is so wrong” I thought to myself. “Have faith on the system? Really? The last times I did I was screwed consistently…”

After the fact, which means after he said it, Satya Nadella apologies for what he said, but it was too late. He had dropped the bomb.

Here are some episodes from my 15+ year career in the software industry, the one Satya started his career in and grew to become Microsoft’s CEO. I worked for 3 great software brands, let’s call them Company1, Company2 and the BestOfAll3.

Episode1: The year is 2005 and I have been with Company1 for almost 3 years. I moved to a new role, where the manager really wanted to have me join his team. As soon as I joined he said “Krassi, you’re earning the lowest salary of all team members. But I know that after the first year you will do a great job and earn a decent salary increase.” I knew my boss meant it and I trusted him. Next thing I know he changed jobs and left for another country. Another guy became my manager. And although my ex-boss shared with the new guy his  intentions to raise my salary after the 1st year, the new manager didn’t give a damn. My only chance was to work hard and wait for the system to reward me.

And we know…..the system is a bitch!

Episode2: After some major disappointments, I decided to move to a new role and I knew the stakes would be high. This was my chance for my star to shine.  My actual manager was not the program leader, which means that although I had worked over 1 year with program leader, he was not the HR responsible to a decide what salary increase I were to be awarded.

I worked super hard over more than a year. When the time came for the promotion round, I was told it was Josh’s turn to get a promotion this year and not mine. It was Johs’s turn? Are you kidding me?….But I was consoled with the statement that I join the pool of “Company1 top talent”, which basically means a tap on the shoulder and 0% salary increase. Josh is a loser….has always been….still with Company1 waiting patiently for his pension….what else?

I was absolutely devastated. I called the SVP, who I personally knew. He asked “Krassi, did you have an arrangement with your manager to get a promotion after this project?

I said, “No, Mike, I didn’t. I thought I would first show results and then ask for what I deserve.” His response: “No, this is not how it works“.

Good karma, Mr. Nadella, right? The system will reward you, right? What a royal BS?!

Episode3: One of my best bosses at Company1 advised me to stop fighting the system. “There is no way in the world, you can get what you deserve, just because you had a poor start (low salary) with Company1. You cannot compensate for it. Period. If you want a higher salary, you have to leave and the sooner, the better“, he said.

Episode4: I left Company1 and moved to Company2. I got a decent salary increase or so I thought. 2 years in the job, a softhearted colleague shared the range of his salary and I figured out I earn €20K less than him for the same job. I knew I negotiated pretty poorly. Needless to say, there were no salary increases in Company2. I looked at it as a learning opportunity.

Oracle

I had to move on. After 15 years in the software industry,  I joined the BestOfAll3 companies in 2017 and for the first time EVER I know I earn what I deserve.

Final thought: I stand on the shoulders of men (I didn’t have women as managers until recently) who helped me grow, kept me grounded, recognized my talents & hard work and rewarded me accordingly.

I’m also thankful to the assholes managers, by-products of the system we work and live in, for showing me profound levels of mediocrity, so that I know what to run away from.

THANK YOU!

 

The grass on the other side is not always greener. It never is. (Chapter 9)

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IMG_0328We often believe that it’s the others who are richer, smarter, luckier and above all happier than us. The truth is we all have our struggles, big and small, desperate and ephemeral on a daily basis. No one has figured it out 100%, although many pretend to have done so. In these series of very short portrait descriptions I will tell the stories of ordinary people I have met throughout my travels around the world. These encounters have helped me put things into perspective on my own life. These are real people with real stories, nothing is imagined. So, next time when you look at your life and think about the things you’re struggling with, remember, everyone has his/her own battles to fight and nothing is so bad after all.

Portrait 25: Meet Dan, artist, lives in Melbourne

Dan is a street artists and has a difficult time to make ends meet. He complains about the increasing rental prices in Melbourne, the “Chinese invasion”, the lack of community feeling in the society today, the Australian government that don’t seem to get their ducks in a row. He is just somehow angry, I guess…. “Consumerism is not a life-style, it is a disease.” reads a sticker on the back of his denim jacket sprinkled with paint. “Never go to Singapore, Dan, you would feel hell broke loose….” was my thought.

Portrait 26: Meet Alex, neuoroscientist, lives in Melbourne

Alex is 26 and doing his masters degree in neuroscience. He doesn’t look like a neuroscientist though- he is vivacious, bubbly and loves partying. He is well-traveled, has intelligent blue eyes, a very pleasant voice, loves the Game of Thrones and his flat latte at the Duke Roasters. “What will you do when you finish your masters? I asked. “I don’t know…urrr….are you my mom?” he laughed.  “Just curious…” I laughed back to the unexpected response.

Portrait 27: Meet Jake, actor, lives in Sydney

Jake strikes you with his playfulness: Jake will change his voice, posture, facial expression at least 10 times while conversing with you. Every conversation is an opportunity to act! He is super fun to be around. He studied theater and film and has started his own gig with 3 theater plays- 2 by Australian writers and 1 by William Faulkner. “I’m trying to set my foot in the theater scene here in Sydney. It is pretty hard, there is a lot of competition, but I hope I will succeed.” Jake wants to try his luck in the film industry as well. Good luck, mate!

The grass on the other side is not always greener. It never is. (Chapter 8)

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IMG_0307We often believe that it’s the others who are richer, smarter, luckier and above all happier than us. The truth is we all have our struggles, big and small, desperate and ephemeral on a daily basis. No one has figured it out 100%, although many pretend to have done so. In these series of very short portrait descriptions I will tell the stories of ordinary people I have met throughout my travels around the world. These encounters have helped me put things into perspective on my own life. These are real people with real stories, nothing is imagined. So, next time when you look at your life and think about the things you’re struggling with, remember, everyone has his/her own battles to fight and nothing is so bad after all.

Portrait 22: Meet Shalini, Welsh, lives in Brisbane

Shalini is a dentist and moved 2 years ago with her husband, Pavan, who is also a dentist, from Wales to Australia. They are a young and cute Indian couple, who feel exploring the world before they settle down and have kids. They like it in Australia. “When we’re in Brisbane, we miss Europe and when we’re in Europe, we miss Australia.”

Portrait 23: Meet Ben, natural-scientist, lives in Melbourne

Ben is of Aboriginal origin and takes a great pride in his ancestry. He grew up in an Aboriginal community north of Melbourne and feels very much part of it. He speaks about reconciliation. “The Australian government never officially apologized to the Aboriginal people for what they did to us. They owe us an apology and until then, we will be angry.” Ben spoke how we so much appreciate diversity and forget to acknowledge that Aboriginal people of Australia had 250 different groups who had different languages, rituals and way of life.

Portrait 24: Meet Tatiana, beautician, lives in Miami

Tatiana is Columbian. She works as a beautician, has a teenage old son and loves traveling. She is a single parent, who separated from the father of her son one month after her baby was born, lives with her mom in Little Havana and saves money to travel. This is her major goal in life: visit 100 countries. She has an upcoming trip to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Oman, about which is super-hyped. “Lo comido, lo bailado y lo amado no se puede quitar“. This is a mantra I actually live by. I felt for a split-second Tatiana is my soul-mate.

I’ve got no regrets

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lukanka

home-made Bulgarian lukanka

The year is 1985. The place is Yambol, Bulgaria.

When I look back what were the conversations about at the dinner table during this time of year, I get scared……So much time wasted…time that I could have used to learn, improve and pave my way forward! Instead I was listening and participating in conversations about how many home-made sausages my neighbors prepared for the winter, who has the best recipe for canned fruits, the so-called “compot”,  who has the biggest stock of home-made canned tomatoes, paprika and cabbage (the so-called “kiselo zele”) in their cellars, how much pig fat (the so-called “svinska mas”) my cousins derived for cooking and eating from the slaughtered pigs in their village.

toast with lard…or as we call it “svinska mas.”

I also remember the heated discussions between my mom and some cousins, who always know better, that lard aka pig fat is much better for the health compared to vegetable fat….Really?????

What a waste of time to listen to these sort of things….

I didn’t know any better….

Pervasive mediocrity of a provincial existence….

But this is part of your culture“, you will argue. “This is who you are, this is what makes you unique.”

Not really, because I didn’t choose where to be born and where to grow up. I can choose now for myself as a grown-up and I can choose wisely. ”

When I left my hometown at the age of 19, I had to start re-invent myself. I had to erase a lot of what I was exposed to, re-wire my brain and double the speed of learning to catch up with the world.

I touched a computer for the first time in 1997. What is E-mail? What is Internet? People were researching drones and doubling down on AI (Artificial Intelligence) in Silicon Valley at that time……And what was I doing? Lining up at the University computer lab in a provincial town in Germany to teach myself how to leverage the Internet, how to use Word, Excel and Power Point and how to get myself an E-mail account…..

This is when I discovered that the world is full of opportunities to learn and I was so much behind. I couldn’t strike a meaningful conversation with my fellow student colleagues. I had nothing of interest to share with no one. I didn’t know how to ask questions, what to ask questions about. All the conversations I knew and grew up with lost complete relevance in the new context….Pig fat, anyone?

So, I focused and spent the next 20 years polishing my skills, mindset and attitude. Not to speak that I had to change many old habits along the way. Quite a journey….hard and worthwhile!

The year is 2018. I’m in Germany. “I’m happy with who I turned out!!! Finally!!!!” This doesn’t mean that I will stop learning, it means that I’m in the right environment under the right circumstances to stay competitive, to learn, un-learn and re-learn.

This is who I want to be.

This is where I want to be.

The home-made sausages, the melted pig fat with red pepper on a toast are history now and no longer a subject of a conversation I want to return to.

I’ve got no regrets.

 

 

The grass on the other side is not always greener. It never is. (Chapter 7)

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IMG_0219.jpgWe often believe that it’s the others who are richer, smarter, luckier and above all happier than us. The truth is we all have our struggles, big and small, desperate and ephemeral on a daily basis. No one has figured it out 100%, although many pretend to have done so. In these series of very short portrait descriptions I will tell the stories of ordinary people I have met throughout my travels around the world. These encounters have helped me put things into perspective on my own life. These are real people with real stories, nothing is imagined. So, next time when you look at your life and think about the things you’re struggling with, remember, everyone has his/her own battles to fight and nothing is so bad after all.

Portrait 19: Meet Mario, just finished college, lives in San Francisco

Mario is born and brought up to Mexican parents. He lives in San Francisco. Mario served in the Afghanistan and after he did his time in the army, he went to college to study Spanish and English. He teaches kids Spanish. “It is hard to make ends meet“, he admitted. “I heard Salesforce is hiring, but what can I work there? I can probably work only as security.”

Portrait 20: Meet Patrice, start-up owner, lives in Palo Alto

Patrice is a musician, he studied piano, and originally from Luxembourg. He speaks English with a very thick French accents. “I’m in the business of making people happy”, says Patrice. He is founder of the start up Tech4Stress and struggles to make his start up scale.

Portrait 21: Meet Patricio, start-up owner, lives in Mexico City

Patricio has a stern look. He knows what he wants. He has a successful start up business in the real estate space based out of Mexico City. Patricio wants to spend some time in Silicon Valley to recruit people to do sales for him over the phone. He goes on asking people around “Do you know anything about sales?”

The grass on the other side is not always greener. It never is. (Chapter 6)

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The grass on the other side is not always greener. It never is. (Chapter 6)

We often believe that it’s the others who are richer, smarter, luckier and above all happier than us. The truth is we all have our struggles, big and small, desperate and ephemeral on a daily basis. No one has figured it out 100%, although many pretend to have done so. In these series of very short portrait descriptions I will tell the stories of ordinary people I have met throughout my travels around the world. These encounters have helped me put things into perspective on my own life. These are real people with real stories, nothing is imagined. So, next time when you look at your life and think about the things you’re struggling with, remember, everyone has his/her own battles to fight and nothing is so bad after all.

Portrait 16: Meet Maximillian, amateur billiard player, from Azerbaijan, lives in San Francisco

Maximillian is an amateur pool player and struggles to make ends meet for his family. He has a wife and a 15-month old baby. He has to practice a lot playing billiard to win in competitions. Next month he is going to a competition in Las Vegas, where the winner gets $10.000 award. “This is good money”, added Maximillian while stroking his unwashed hair. “If I win, this will be a huge help for my family as my wife doesn’t work. Otherwise, I will have to drive Uber to make ends meet….Plan “B”, if the billiard stuff doesn’t fly, is to learn coding via online classes and join a company as a programmer…The problem is I’m not really passionate about programming….”

March 2017

 

Portrait 17: Meet Paolo, company owner, lives in Singapore

Paolo owns a small company based out of Singapore that helps clean buildings and apartments. His company does minor maintenance jobs for companies and private households. “It is a challenge to keep the prices low and attract new customers: the Singaporean Government places all kinds of restrictions on hiring low-paid workers from outside Singapore.”,  says Paolo. He has plans to expand his business in Manila, the Philippines, where he is travelling next. He can hire people for less money there, thus keeping the costs low.

November 2016

Portrait 18: Meet Christian, hair-dresser, lives in Germany

Christian is struggling to reconcile his family over a long-kept secret about his uncle, who did a gender-changing operation 30 years ago. “The family is very polarized, some are advocates of accepting Michael, now Michaela, but others are not. At the funeral of my grandmother last week, I think Michaela showed up, but stayed in the car and didn’t go out. No-one dared to go and talk to her and since we haven’t seen him, now her, for many years we were not really sure if this is was really my uncle…errr….aunt” said Christian, carefully gesticulating with the scissors, while cutting my hair.

January 2017