Failure is the New Textbook

Hello!

It’s 11:47 PM, November 16. Only a few minutes left, and it’s tomorrow already. I’m still here in the office, stuck over something that I am about to tell you in the next few paragraphs, if you decide to stick around. So far, I have completed much of it, and I can just sit around and blog for a while before getting back to a little more work and then finally catching a ride home.

Earlier today, we met our clients to present the current progress–if you could call it that–of the project we’re currently into. It was supposed to be a smooth-sailing project since 2 months ago. The only catch is, it wasn’t.

For a project quite as easy as this one, this project is kind of easy. It’s some sort of search engine for this big company we’re working for. A little collection of URL’s, coupled with a proper “indexing” scheme, and an excellent user interface should do it. Initially, the problem revolved on which configuration of the index would serve our client’s purposes the best.

Initially.

Then, problems with the infrastructure came up. Little by little, I had to dive deep in code fix it. Even during the testing phase of the project, I was changing code. I kept on changing configurations while at the same time doing user testing.

My changes weren’t so big, until a few days ago.

I found an “ideal” solution to the search and indexing problem I was facing, and so, I worked on it. To my eyes, this and a little more time would solve the problem…

But, to our clients’ eyes, it wasn’t.

Back to a few hours earlier today, we went to our client.

They asked me to search a single sentence in my search engine… and, it failed them. It failed us.

It returned a hit that they weren’t actually expecting (and they were despising). It was an awkward silence at first, then came some sort of fear, anger, and frustration.

I got some words. The first in my first five months outside school. Not rude words, but words that sure warned me that even if I was doing my best, it wasn’t even tiny good enough for them. And I accept it. I’m still learning the ropes of this industry, especially the technologies they wanted me to use. I’m still in experimentation stage.

In that small room, I felt cold. Sweat was flowing underneath my clothes, although they don’t show elsewhere. It was chilling, I felt that I am doing this thing entirely wrong…

…That was the feeling that lasted even after the clients left us in that small, cramped meeting room. It lingered on for so long.

The thing is, I wasn’t alone. I brought a senior developer and our project manager to share the blame with me. But still, as the primary developer working on the project, I felt the weight of that thin air, when mixed with the words they were carrying through, crush my shoulders and cramp my lungs until I could say no more.

Fortunately for me, I have these two veteran, experienced employees with me. Two veterans who told me to stay calm no matter what. That what happened in the meeting room was all work and nothing personal. They told me repeatedly that I should not take it to heart.

The senior developer told me something about failure:

“If you don’t fail, you don’t learn.”

I know that lesson before, but I have never appreciated it so much, until now.

Those kind words were the first words a coworker said to me that made me feel comfortable emotionally. After he said those, the words that our client’s representative said to us were slowly turning from words of anger to pages in a book — a book I was supposed to read and learn from seriously.

And thus, this is the first page in my newest textbook, Failure. I know this wouldn’t be the last, and I know it doesn’t feel good at all.

What I do know, however, is that the pages of this new book I discovered, no matter how bitter, are lessons I need to learn. No matter how bad they feel at first, I’m sure they will make me wiser than I ever was. No matter how evil failure is, it shall make me a better person.

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