20 months at Schneider Electric

I was flushed out of college and joined Schneider in 2014. 20 months later I left to Amazon. My experience at Schneider was mixed with achievements and cautiousness.

Being a young college undergrad at a giant 500 fortune company was almost glorious moment for me in 2014, though it wasn't a easy decision at the time.

In the summer of 2014, I was still poking around, trying to figure out the best angle to dive into 'the' real life. It was exciting but quite non-predictable: I was offered three full-time positions in Ohio, where two of them are from internships (strangely one of the internship was at the public accounting firm KPMG). Meanwhile, I received my fourth offer from a company at Boston. That Boston firm, was Schneider. Who would know which choice led to what future?

Here came the tricky part: the wage offered from all companies are almost exactly the same as in Ohio or Massachusetts. It was up to me to choose the cozy life in Ohio or a costly adventure at Boston? I ultimately choose Boston, even though the future might requires lots of tight planning such that I won't jump out of budget. Regardless, I was happy and full of courage on my way to Boston.

A friend asked me about Schneider Electric long time ago, specifically about a position called 'Solutions Architect'. Sounds fancy, right? That was the position I was assigned to. Of course I had no idea about what to do for it. I wasn't even given a programming problem at interview. All that I was told to do is to learn the company's stuff, and combine with my knowledge. I met my manager Warren a month before my start date, a driving and experienced guy.

I learned quite a bit from Warren: set and meet expectation, learn from all kinds people with different experience, and a driving personality when it comes to certain occasions.

To be honest, I was well taken care of. I was given weeks of learning opportunity to get used to all systems before cracking into any project. It was never a hard task, but it was quite a bit to get used to. Warren's philosophy was to train me as much as possible, and then I would be able to shine in front of all. He used to say, being a young computer science undergraduate at a company like Schneider Electric, it was quite easy to shine. He was referring himself 30 years ago. I didn't know what that meant, but I surely understood after my first year there.

I did carry a major project that seemed quite important at the time. I built the initial prototype from a beta system, made the product a success demo, and eventually integrated with other major systems.

For months, I had compliment from different units of the department. To be honest I was once felt good about myself. Then I continued the good work and start making the system more efficient.

The tipping point was when I'm trying to introduce a new way of transmitting data with a thing called 'JSON'[Javascript Object Notation]. If you are coming from my background, you must be surprised to see this. What? JSON was such a fundamental concept as we build web application with javascript, isn't it? Yes, but not in all units of a giant company that made its legacy through power controls. I ended up spending at least 20 minutes in every new conversation on my product, trying to explain how a simple JSON object could bring us huge benefit of efficiency. Similar things start happening around me. The most concerning part is, my surrounding environment was either not ready to change or didn't want to change at all.

After the glory, I can't helping questioning myself: where would I be in 10 years? Would I be just like what Warren described, sitting in the lab building software, doing what been told to do and ignoring what's like outside?

Unfortunately, I have already been like this for awhile. I was cheered up by compliments from those who were experts in a total different industry. Of course I was be better in software development because that what I was supposed to do in the first place, and I'm only better than those who are not software engineers. That must felt good to be the expert on certain things, but my software developing skills wasn't improving from my work. Nevertheless, there was nothing wrong with everyone around, but I may have chosen a route that didn't entirely fit my goal.

I stopped and thought about what was my goal?

I have always been the person who wanted to share happiness, achievement and adventure with large group of people. I used to write stories, singing in the band, and even made it to VP of Chinese student union of my year.

I came up with a vague idea: I wanted to build something, likely to be a piece of software, or a form of service that will be used by millions of people. I want my product to be helpful to people's daily life, either make their life more efficient or with more joy.

Then I thought about leaving Schneider. I know this is a great place, sometimes even nice and warm place to build a career. I could even imagine being a young professional and leader in Schneider. However, a cozy and safe place was never my choice of living, at least it wasn't the path that I'm willing to settle.

It was only then I realize how much that I have left behind. After collage, I almost disconnected from all that I've learned from my degree. I pulled all my strength to regain the knowledge that I lost. It was a long journey but I was lucky to be accompanied with my girlfriend's full support.

Saying goodbye to Schneider was kind of sad. It was the place that I gained all my confidence at workspace, trained with patience to work with people from varies backgrounds, and obtained my ability to explain technical contents to the public. Schneider led me to learn so much that I wasn't even aware of until I started using these skills.

That, was my 20 months at Schneider Electric.