Taking the leap of faith

I signed up for an internship interview at ON Semiconductor in July. The people who were sitting beside me on a sofa in a narrow white-painted corridor on the factory’s third floor; second floor as they would refer to it in the U.S.; are some of the brightest students in the university. They outperformed me in tests, a few of them have competitive track records and many have a great deal of work experiences.

In a seminar back in April, I raised a question to ON Semi’s GM—Mr. Richard Carruth—in regard to the possibility of striking an employment with the mediocre GPI that I have. Let’s face it. I’m taking on a major that was neither my strength nor my favorite; I’m not passionate about electronics, not by a long shot, and I sorely lack the talent for it. And the ON Semi is a manufacturer of electronics.

His answer back then was disheartening. In the job market and specifically in this industry, a high performing academic transcript means everything. It indicates a person’s ability to learn and adapt.

My academic transcript indicated my ability to learn electronics.

Three hours after the interview, after the long weekly trip home from the dormitory, I talked to my parents about my plans during summer holidays. I have applied to four internships this years: a long shot position in Germany—shot down mercilessly—, a web design job in a shady start-up firm in the neighborhood—I quickly realized the so-called president was in fact looking for females to add to his office harem—, process engineer at ON Semi and app programmer at HP.

It was tough to convince employers of experiences outside one’s own major without any qualifications, scoresheets as proof and with all the works involved fell under the “giggle-worthy, hobbyist” category, deemed inapplicable by most serious firms. Yes, most employers don’t consider anime-related artwork, or fantasy fiction, or blogging, or Dragon & Dungeon as genuine expressions of art, writing and English skills.

Guys, you can engage in web-chat D&D sessions, praying to Pelor and running from bugbears all you want, you still cannot be considered proficient in English unless you have a certificate.

In that regard, it baffled me how I was selected among the candidates for the first interview. So this summer, I was given two options: process engineering in a factory in a faraway industrial zone and app programming in a comfy air-con office in a software park a stone throw away. Between the two jobs, I know nothing about process engineering but I have always been a keen programmer. The most sensible choice should be obvious.

Curiosity and inquisitiveness got the better of common senses. I picked the less sensible process engineer one.

I have learned first-hand that tools from one field can solve problems in another.I would learn more from a field I’m oblivious of and the tools I get from there would be exotic and undoubtedly invaluable. I could add a lot more to the basket of abundant principles and philosophies too. Besides, I had always admired the way they handled management. The open-mindedness and integrity described by Mr. Carruth back then had drawn me in. And so, on the first Sunday of August, I weathered the sun and rode my black-orange Honda on Highway 1 across the states to an industrial zone I had never known existed.

I shared a room with two other friends who also passed the interview. The three of us ended up in different departments so we didn’t have much in common to talk about after hours. There was no furniture in the room we rented, we had to improvise and sleep on the floor on thin blanket sheets. My first meal in the working world was in three lunch boxes packed by my mother. It was cold by the time I took it out of the wrapping for dinner. Work started early at half past six in the morning, almost two hours earlier than the wake-up time I had been accustomed to, and office hours ended at five, an hour later than even the latest school out.

To think I made the least sensible decision regardless of all the foreseen hardships.

Boy, what a masochist I am!


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