Getting into tech: Coding for a shipping line

After finishing college, my first job was as a PHP programmer for a shipping company. The company specialized in shipping cargo and container vans across the Visayas region of the Philippines and had a small office team and a number of on-ground employees.

We were brought in to create a website for the shipping company, streamline their existing processes, and automate certain tasks. The project required only two developers, myself and a colleague, both of us having just graduated with no prior work experience in building a website or a system from the ground up. I thought it was a great opportunity for learning as we progressed. The first few weeks went smoothly as we were provided with the necessary tools, introduced to Adobe Dreamweaver, and given room to experiment.

When your website is poorly designed and most of the pages are broken, you know that the job was done by inexperienced graduate students. I suppose that’s the price you pay for not hiring senior engineers. We continued with our day-to-day tasks, which involved learning, reading online tutorials since YouTube videos were not yet available at the time, and practicing. Standup calls were not a thing in the company, and I was not even aware of their existence. Occasionally, we had calls with our boss when he required our assistance, but it was infrequent. Updates and questions were conveyed through email or Skype, and because our boss was very busy, responses took days to arrive. It was not an ideal place for a novice like me, but it was still a valuable learning experience.

Our colleagues who were not involved in the technical side of the business had a hard time understanding our role in the company. They even questioned whether we were legitimate employees, which is understandable since I later realized that we were not officially on the payroll and were paid in cash by our boss. We attempted to clarify our responsibilities, but their expressions remained perplexed. In fairness, I also didn’t have a clear understanding of their duties. All I saw them do was eat, converse, or play Facebook games, which were popular distractions at the time. I eventually became engrossed in the games myself during my later days with the company.

After a few months, our boss realized that he couldn’t afford to keep paying us without a functional website, so he had to let us go. I was in my 20s, debt-free, and focused on gaining new technological knowledge and experience, so I took it in stride and moved on. My colleague, on the other hand, transitioned to the construction industry and we lost touch, but we still communicate occasionally.