Monday, August 24, 2020

My Most Recent Journey

I'm a fan of Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, and a slew of other science fiction, fantasy, and popular culture. I once wondered if enjoying such entertainment is a guilty pleasure. Is it fair that I get to enjoy such science fiction and fantasy when others struggle? But I've realized the world would probably a better place if more people could be in a position to connect and form communities around their favorite creators and their fictional worlds. This assumes people's basic needs are met first, so we're not quite there yet.

Coincidentally, I was born and raised in San Diego, home of Comic Con, which celebrates rich entertainment mediums from comic books themselves to the latest incarnations in digital media.

Central to many of these stories is the Hero's Journey, which reflects the call-to-action and changes some protagonist faces before returning back as a changed person.

I don't quite consider myself a "hero," but I can say that I've returned from my own journey in understanding and helping a technical community and its product. The short version is a decade ago my company was looking for a system to manage content. We purchased Tridion, an enterprise content management system. I learned about it, shared about it, and won an award in 2011.

After consulting for a bit, I moved to the Netherlands to help manage the same product arriving in September 2015 in Amsterdam with family, 2 dogs, and 8 checked luggage.

Five years and several product releases later, I return to San Diego, older, wiser, and heavier with family, one dog (we had to say "goodbye" to one of our chihuahuas while abroad), 2 cats, and more luggage than I wish to remember. I believe I was a good steward for my beloved product and have left my team and organization in a somewhat better state than when I joined.

Most of all, I think I changed in my thinking, habits, and communication skills. I've finally put a fascination with leadership into regular practice as a product owner. I've brought creative hobbies like performance and digital media editing to conference speaking, customer demos, and webinars. I've mentored and have been mentored. Ultimately, I was able to get smart people on the same page to solve tricky problems with solutions validated by actual customers.

I've blogged about crossroads before, but I'm not quite sure that's the right description for this kind of homecoming. Tagalog, the a Filipino language has the word "balikbayan" to represent homecoming, but that doesn't quite feel right either as I associate the word with happier returns and things like balikbayan boxes. Oh and technically, I think the term refers to returning home, to the Philippines.

Oddly, being a "native English Speaker," albeit with a Californian accent, makes me appear abroad as an American first, and then Filipino-American next, if even that.

I'm writing this during the COVID-19 pandemic at a short-term rental, waiting to make sure we're not sick before joining family for a longer-term stay. We're paradoxically busy setting up life in the US again while slowly fighting cabin fever and boredom with family, dog, 2 cats, and more luggage than I wish to acknowledge. We have online accounts to review and update. We have "offline" accounts to close or otherwise transfer from the Netherlands.

Limiting exposure, wearing masks, and seeing closed stores makes being "home" like some post-apocalyptic scene. This next journey will be something else entirely, something that's a mix of really being home, near-yet-distanced from family, and digital transformations. Perhaps we'll find a permanent home sooner-than-later, but we'll have to see if that's in the realm of science fiction, fantasy, or reality.

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