Thoughts of a geek

26 April 2012

Decisions, decisions

Filed under: Me — Tags: , , , — qwandor @ 6:45 am

I moved to London in May 2010 for various reasons. Partly because Jordan and Josiah told me to (hmm…), partly because I was not sure what was next in life so I thought a change might be helpful, partly to travel and see the world a bit, partly because I did not seem to be getting anywhere in Wellington on several fronts. I originally was planning to stay for between 6 months and a year, get whatever job I could find, travel as much as possible, and then head back home to Wellington. I ended up getting a better job than I expected, and found the travelling bit to be much more time-consuming than expected (particularly planning and organising everything) and so did not get as much done as I had thought I would.

It is now 23 months later, and I still have not done as much travelling as I would like or feel like I should, but am not keen on the idea of staying in London long term either. I have still not worked out what to do with my life. A number of things which I am dissatisfied with include:

  • I am not finding the project I have been working on at work all that interesting, fulfilling, or in an area I want to focus on.
  • My flat has numerous problems (the kitchen not being very nice to cook in and living areas not being particularly conducive to community are probably the biggest issues for me, though how cold and damp it gets in winter is a close runner-up). It is not possible to find a flat in London which is all three of nice, affordable and in a convenient location. Even finding two out of three is tricky.
  • People are almost always very busy with work, travel or various other commitments, and also tend to be a bit more reserved than those in e.g. New Zealand. This makes it difficult to make friends, and even once one does have friends or at least acquaintances they hardly ever have any time to actually meet up or do anything. Some people are always busy with work, some are travelling a lot, some are booked up months in advance; for one reason or another pretty much everyone is busy. Even organising weeks in advance people are usually busy, or will cancel at the last minute. Not that this is never a problem anywhere else, but it seems to be worse in London in my experience.
  • The city is just generally big, crowded, dirty, noisy and unfriendly. There are no beaches, no hills, and I cannot really go walking about barefoot. The parks are good but not really comparable to Wellington’s town belt.

On the other hand, there are many good things about London, and this side of the world in general:

  • Lots of great museums, art galleries, and some fairly decent parks
  • Lots happening to see and do — plays, musicals, live music, dancing, festivals, and pretty much anything one might be interested in
  • Cheap and fast Internet connectivity
  • Amazon MP3 store, free radio, iPlayer, and other online services that are not available in NZ
  • Cheaper music than NZ, cheap or free delivery from Amazon and various other online stores, and some other cheaper things too
  • Cheap and quick flights to pretty much anywhere in Europe

On that note, and a particular dislike of cold dark winters in London, I am pondering moving on at the end of the year. Though there are yet things which could keep me here, your advice (dear readers!), would be much valued. Some options I am considering — with varying degrees of likelihood, and not actually in any particular order — are should I:

  1. Keep working at Google in London
    1. On Offers
    2. Transfer to another team
  2. Transfer to Google somewhere else
    1. Sydney
    2. New York
    3. (where else?)
  3. Do an MSc in Computer Science
    1. At VUW
    2. At Auckland University, Canterbury, or somewhere else in NZ
    3. Somewhere in London, maybe Imperial
    4. Somewhere else in the UK
    5. Somewhere in Australia
    6. Somewhere in Europe
  4. Do some sort of diploma or certificate in theology, or something similarly God-related.
    1. At Laidlaw in Auckland
    2. Somewhere else (where?)
  5. Move back to NZ and look for a job (at what company?)
    1. In Wellington
    2. In Auckland

Any advice? Comments? Suggestions for other options? Things to consider?

This also means that I need to get on with seeing as much as possible on this side of the world before I leave.



  1. I always advise people against going to bible college unless they have a jolly good reason. My reason for this is that it seems to be a standard line of thought amongst Christian youth: “I have no idea what to do with my life. I know, I’ll go to bible college! It can’t be against God’s will for me cause it’s bible college!” All that happens is they get a bigger loan, delay having to make a decision about their life for three years and still come out the other end not know what to do with themselves. I’m not saying you shouldn’t go, just that if you do go, you should have a proper reason. Don’t waste more years.

    At the end of the day, what Jesus told us to do is love God, love others and make disciples. As long as you’re telling people about Jesus, it doesn’t particularly matter whether you’re working at Google, the Warehouse or even (despite my previous paragraph) going to bible college 😉 God is so stoked when people decide to follow him and there’s no shortage of people around us who haven’t made that decision yet and need our help. Everything else is secondary, though not unimportant. Anyway I’ll shut up before I start ranting 🙂

    Comment by tommo39 — 26 April 2012 @ 11:34 am

    • Yep. It is a fairly unlikely option, and if I did then I would look for something I could do in a year.

      Comment by qwandor — 26 April 2012 @ 11:41 am

  2. Study if you can stand it. I admire people who have the fortitude for higher study. It’s a scarce resource. And if you are going to study, it makes sense to do so overseas.

    But it’s easy to be rational; there are times when you need to figure out what you actually want. I’ve heard visualization can help with that.

    Comment by Gael — 28 April 2012 @ 12:27 am

    • Why do you think studying overseas makes sense? Doing it in NZ has the advantage of being closer to friends and family, and probably it would also be easier to get scholarships and cheaper. Doing it overseas could provide opportunities to make contacts overseas, and perhaps have new experiences.

      And yes, figuring out what I actually want is the main problem here. I am not really sure, although I know some things.

      Comment by qwandor — 28 April 2012 @ 5:38 am

  3. […] world over here, so far away from New Zealand. I do miss home a lot still, and I still need to work out what to do next year in that regard. The weather having been so cold and rainy here since I have been back has not […]

    Pingback by Visiting New Zealand (and being back in London) « Thoughts of a geek — 5 May 2012 @ 10:03 am

  4. You probably already know my opinion. Stay at Google. Its a big company with lots of branches which can provide opportunities for growth that smaller companies *just can’t*. Talk to your line manager about what you want to focus on or what you find more interesting (they can’t help you if they don’t know what’s going on). Take a look at the Google branch layout, I’m sure there’s also Canada, probably California and bound to be lots of others that you haven’t considered (Google should make a branch in Hawaii!).

    Comment by Chris James — 5 May 2012 @ 11:10 am

    • One of my main motivations (at least at the moment) is to be closer to home. To that end, and agreeing with the points you make as well, I am investigating the possibilities of option 2a from the list in the post.

      Comment by qwandor — 5 May 2012 @ 11:32 am

  5. Disclaimer: I’m up too late and can’t think straight, at all, and my eyes hurt, so there. And I struggle to

    pen such perplexing thoughts under given conditions.

    I ask myself these questions every day, because I came to Sydney after similarly not knowing what to do with

    myself. I put off doing a PhD or an MSc because I wasn’t sure which field to throw myself at, and I knew that

    without time to think about it I’d end up hating myself not much further down the track. So, with respect to

    further study, I think you should definitely do it if you know kind of research/project you’re interested in.

    I took the job in Sydney for the promise of travel and finding stuff to keep me passionate, but so far it

    hasn’t been so glamorous. And, despite Sydney being so close to Wellington, I’m isolated, alone, uninspired,

    etc. But at least I’m learning something. It’s nice to be able to fly home fairly regularly (and cheaply), but

    all it does it prevent me settling in. I hold true to the notion that real friendships last the tests of time

    and distance, so my trips home – while thoroughly enjoyable – ultimately prevent me making new friends who can

    more actively participate in my life. Diminishing returns.

    I think fundamentally, though, the question is one of values. I have at various points had to prioritise (in

    no particular order, and not exhaustively):
    – how important it is to spend time with friends;
    – how hard it is to make new friends and spend time with them;
    – how much overhead is associated with where you live: transport, bureaucracy, politics; in particular
    – how much stress comes with living, its cost, the relative standards of living, etc;
    – how much I believe what I’m doing benefits humanity;
    – how many opportunities will be opened up for me to discover my true passions, if I haven’t already;
    – the importance of material wealth (assets, liquidity, etc);
    – the importance of perceived prestige (position, status, brand name institutions, patents, publications,

    – the pursuit of knowledge, learning;
    – faith; and
    – love, family, companionship;
    – security, stability

    I’ve struggled with this to the point that I’ve gone mad, regularly, for 5 or 6 years. It can be paralysing –

    I can’t work effectively if I don’t fundamentally believe in what I’m doing, and why. My life has distilled to

    a somewhat headless search for truths. So, even though I have learnt a lot on the way, I don’t feel very much

    closer to fulfilment. Some would say I never will. But in the meantime, I have to keep looking, which means

    not staying in the same place for too long. So, concretely:

    – I love Wellington. I think it’s the best place to live in the world, if all you do is live there. But it’s

    very small. Many industries are non-existent, in particular the ones I have the keenest interests in. You can

    make something of it yourself if you have the means already – but that’s another labour of love in itself, and

    not applicable to all pursuits. I think if you find truly inspiring work to do there, you are exceptionally

    – I want to see the world. I want to see what people are doing in more places. I want to find my passions use

    them contribute to humanity. I want to learn from as many cultures and different peoples as I can. I couldn’t

    do this sitting behind a computer in Wellington.
    – I want to learn. I want to go where things are happening. I want to explore different fields as much as


    What has suffered and will continue to suffer is my immediate social life, my sense of belonging, and my sense

    of community. I miss my friends. It would be nice to live with some of them, see more of them regularly, and

    foster more good times. But I have always been a bit of an outsider, so it feels like my natural state is to

    journey on. That seems like a cop out, which it is. But ultimately, I have to look at what I greater ambitions

    I think I might have, or what questions I still haven’t solved. Relatively, then, this seems like small price

    to pay.

    Therefore, FWIW, I would personally pick 1b/2, because with Google you really do have exceptional opportunities to explore what you want to do and where you can contribute – *IF* you can stop yourself working too hard. So MTV is a hard sell. But Sydney is pretty good, if you’re on the right team and know when to go home every night! I really think University is best saved for when you know what you want and can get the most out of it. It’s a good option, but therefore I think not the most optimal (in abstract units of quantities of knowledge/experience per unit time).

    Comment by Arya Reais-Parsi — 6 May 2012 @ 5:11 am

    • Good point about trips home preventing you from making local friends. Ah, community is hard! (And, uh, the topic of the next blog post I am working on. It keeps coming up.)

      Where did you get to with faith by the way? I remember we had some interesting conversation when I visited last year, but I forget where we ended up.

      I agree with you about Wellington! That is part of the reason I am torn in different directions. Actually I agree with much of what you have just said, and feel the same way about many of those points. I am also trying to work out what I am passionate about and how/where to do it. And would like to have a net positive effect on the world. I think I put a slightly stronger weight on friends / community (whatever that means) than you do though, perhaps.

      But yeah, very well put! Thanks for your comments!

      Comment by qwandor — 6 May 2012 @ 5:58 am

  6. Choosing what to do is hard. To quote James 4:13-15 (NIV):

    13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

    My not knowing what to do is what lead me to do honours and then an MSc at VUW. Was that the right choice? Who knows.

    I’m now taking some theology distance courses through Otago University. Which are great — I’m finding them really really interesting, although the workload of two uni courses and a 32 hour week isn’t brilliant. But then I am intending on becoming a minister (God and PCANZ willing), so I do have a concrete goal in mind that requires this.

    Occasionally churches in Wellington run what are essentially night class versions of Chris Marshall’s (VUW lecturer) papers — I went to one on “Jesus and the Gospels”. It was extremely awesome and helped fill in a lot of gaps in my knowledge. If there’s something like that offered nearby, take it up.

    If your aim of being in Europe is to see Europe, then do that. Not so much as to get burnout, though. Move on when you want or need to — sounds like that point is getting close.

    There is rarely one right answer, and no choice you make will be perfect. You’re still stuck with making a choice, though.

    I’d suggest asking yourself: what is important to you?

    Is being super-amazing-compsci-geek important?
    Is seeing the world important?
    Is living somewhere where nature unimpeded by suburbia/city important?
    Is making lots of money important?
    Are cheap consumer goods important?
    Is working at Google important?
    Is living in or close to home important?
    Is connecting with other people important?
    Is living with or around other people whom you get some chance to connect with important?
    Is making a difference to the world important?

    You’re still young and unattached (IIRC), you don’t have to stick with your answers forever, and remember that God’s plans are going to be way more awesome than your own — the tricky bit is working out what they are. But you’ll never get to do absolutely everything you want to do. Find out what matters, and head in that direction.

    I ended up joining a Christian community (Urban Vision: one of our leaders has just been elected Anglican Bishop of Wellington!). That ticked some of the boxes. I worked at innaworks, that ticked the super-amazing-compsci-geek box for a while. I like the idea of working at Google, but the road I’m on is never going to take me there, and at some point my salary will halve. That’s OK; there are more important things for me.

    Comment by xyzzy — 6 May 2012 @ 2:34 pm

    • I am indeed unattached, and somewhat young, though less than I used to be. From your list of things:
      * Having interesting and at least mostly enjoyable work is important, I think. That does not necessarily being super-amazing-compsci-geek, though that could be one way.
      * Seeing the world is good, though I would not mind taking a break from it for a few years and continuing later, perhaps waiting until I have another person / people to see it with.
      * Making lots of money is not that important, but it can make some other things easier.
      * Working at Google is not too important for its own sake, but it does offer opportunities for things like (potentially) interesting work, some travel, smart people and so on.
      * I am not sure how important living close to home is. It would certainly nice to be able to visit more often. In some ways I am very tempted to move back home, but I suspect it may not actually end up working out quite how I imagine it, because people have changed and moved on (and in fact many of my friends have left or will soon end up leaving Wellington anyway).
      * Connecting with other people is definitely important, and the lack of close connection is one of the things that makes me less happy about living here in London.
      * I am not quite sure what the distinction between “living with or around other people whom you get some chance to connect with” and actually connecting with them is.
      * Making a difference to the world is important I guess, but not something I really think about very much.

      Thanks for your comments!

      Comment by qwandor — 7 May 2012 @ 12:58 am

      • >> * I am not quite sure what the distinction between “living with or around other people whom you get some chance to connect with” and actually connecting with them is.

        It’s the difference between (for example) living in a flat where everyone is either out all the time or hides away in their rooms and no one eats or cooks together, and living in a flat where people at least occasionally do things together and cook/eat together. I’ve been lucky to never live in the former type of flat, but I know people who have.

        Comment by xyzzy — 7 May 2012 @ 10:17 am

      • That example seems to be neither though: you do not get a chance to connect with people if they are always out or hiding. My current flat is a bit like that much of the time though, for various reasons.

        Comment by qwandor — 8 May 2012 @ 10:27 am

      • Sorry, it’s more an example of what I meant than what I said.

        Comment by xyzzy — 8 May 2012 @ 10:39 am

  7. Dear Andrew, I cannot really advise you on where to go or what to do, but I will pray for the Lord to guide you to where he wants you to be. If you feel like your time in London has been unproductive in your life, claim the verse in Joel 2 that says “I will restore the years the locusts have eaten”, and trust God to use your experiences to benefit you and others in the future.
    I am currently a housewife looking for a job, so please pray for me too….. 🙂
    P.S. I plan to visit Sydney at some stage with Dan when we have saved enough money, as I’d like to catch up with the friends I made there and see more of Australia. I could also put you into contact with my Christian friends in Sydney if you do choose to shift there.
    P.P.S. Thank you for the chopping board and towels!!! We use that chopping board all the time! 😀

    Comment by Sharon W — 14 May 2012 @ 9:12 am

    • Oh, I do not think that it has been unproductive by any means! It has been good in many ways, I have met some interesting people, learnt new things, seen many new places, and grown in many ways. It just has not particularly helped me to work out what to do with my life. There have been good times and bad times, like all of life. (-:

      I will pray! Make sure to make the most of enjoying your time without a job take all your time as well though.

      Thanks for the offer for Sydney, I will be in touch if I decide to move there. I am glad to hear you like the chopping board; we had the same one at one of my flats a few years back and I found it a great size and shape, so thought it would be a good choice.

      Comment by qwandor — 14 May 2012 @ 9:16 am

    • Also, heh, “Sharon W”. It took me a few seconds to work out who you were. People changing their names is confusing!

      Comment by qwandor — 14 May 2012 @ 9:17 am

      • Haha! Dan and I are finding it a bit weird too. Sometimes he uses the wrong surname when referring to me, and I have to make sure I use my new signature, not my old one.

        Comment by Sharon W — 15 May 2012 @ 5:19 pm

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