This will be my first and my last time working as an animator. But no worries, I’ll be back to animation industry one day.
My contract as an animator is coming to an end soon. Three more weeks and I’ll be flying back to Singapore. Colleagues have been asking me about my future plans.
Sadly, it has nothing to do with animation.
I know I’m going to get a lot of questions from my friends and relatives when I go back to Singapore. People will be confused, especially because I just left my accounting job for animation not long ago.
Instead of explaining to others one by one, I might as well start the ball rolling here and answer a few of the potential questions which I’m likely to get.
Q: Why won’t you be an animator anymore?
To be honest, I was feeling rather bored doing animation for the last 2-3 months at work. My work was getting so repetitive that I asked myself one day at work:
Do I really enjoy animating blinks, lip sync and layer in squash and stretch etc every single day?
And my answer was a resounding “no”!
Working as an animator for a TV series, I don’t get to do the things that I love as an animation student:
- I don’t get the time to plan and design my shot.
- I don’t get much opportunity to be creative.
- I don’t get to act and shoot video references for my shot.
What’s worse is that I get to do more of the things that I don’t like such as dealing with technical issues and rushing for deadlines.
So one to two months in my job, I kinda already knew that animator is not a good career fit for me.
Initially, my plan was to give myself a six month break as an animator. Maybe build up my animation reel and animate some shots that I like. Then, perhaps find another animation job.
But these last couple of weeks, I was doing a lot of rope animation and fixes for interceptions and hookups. They made me reflect:
Why am I spending so much time and effort doing something that the kids watching the show won’t even care for?
I understand that the final 10% (aka polish) does make a difference to the shot, especially to an animator. But I’m not sure if the polish is of any value to the end consumer (i.e. the audience) and whether they can see it or not. If making my shot perfect is of no or little value to the audience, am I just doing it for my own pride and ego as an artist?
As an INFJ, I seek meaning in my work. I can do detailed work, but if I don’t see the value of doing it, I don’t feel motivated to do it.
Plus, I’m a big picture person. I love to create, plan and strategize. I feel trapped when I’m caught up with detailed work all the time and don’t get the chance to create.
I figured that as an animator, you produce more than you create. So I’ve decided not to pursue an animator career anymore.
Q: You have spent so much time and money learning animation. Wouldn’t it be a waste? Why write it off so early?
Same as accounting and music, I don’t see learning animation as a waste. I strongly believe that nothing I learned is a waste. It’ll be useful to me somehow in the future.
It’s not an easy decision to make, but it’s an essential decision to make.
I already have a lot of things on my plate. I’m an animator, author, songwriter, blogger and an entrepreneur. Saying no to animation is actually very liberating. I don’t have to update my demo reel anymore. I can turn down all the animation freelance projects that I’m asked to do. I don’t have to improve my animation skills anymore. I can just concentrate on my blogs and develop my business.
“One less thing to focus on frees up so much time for other important stuff.”
Of course, accounting and animation will always be a backup for me if I can’t make a living in the future. But it’s not something that I will actively seek to do.
Q: Do you make this decision because your job as an animator is too tough?
I don’t mind having jobs that are tough and challenging. What I can’t stand is to see myself doing the same tasks using the same workflow over and over again without any improvement to how things are being done at work.
If I were to rank my three jobs I had done so far, it will be as follows:
- Accountant (most favorite)
- Auditor (least favorite)
Being an animator is tough, but it’s not half as tough as being an auditor. At least what I produce is something I like and I don’t see people breaking down at work.
But being an animator doesn’t allow me to improve my workflow. I cannot find extra time out of my busy schedule to improve my workflow. I just have to keep producing shots to meet the deadlines.
“It’s like being beaten down again and again by this enemy called deadline, and I can’t do anything about it.”
As an accountant, I can change my workflow and find better ways to do things easier because the deadlines are fixed on a certain date monthly. And that’s why I enjoy being an accountant more than an animator.
Work Aren’t Meant to Be Hard
My dad always tells me that all jobs are the same. They are tough. You just have to suck it up, put in the hours and effort to do the work.
I believe in working hard, but I don’t believe in hard work. Work is hard because people haven’t found better and easier ways to do things.
Working as an animator made me realize that this is a recurring theme among the three jobs I had worked as so far. Whenever I see a process or a system that isn’t working as optimal as it should, I want to change it. I always believe that there are better ways to get things done.
Yes, employees should put in effort in their work and be more productive. But people have limits. There’s a limit to how fast they can work. There’s a limit to their focus and attention span. Improving systems and processes is a long-term approach. It’s better than working hard and sticking to an inefficient process.
So to answer the question, I didn’t make the decision because animator job is tough. I made the decision because as an animator, I’m not empowered to change the systems and processes I’m using.
Q: So why not be an accountant again?
Because only 10% of my time spent at work is used to change and improve the systems and processes.
I was thinking that if I could get a job that is all about improving systems and processes, that will be fun for me. Because I get to be creative in solving problem and be nerdy with details and documentation at the same time.
And that’s how my next job is created.
Creating My Next Job
When I go back to Singapore, I won’t be an accountant or an animator anymore.
I’m going back to my ex-company, HBO Asia, to help them create better accounting systems for the next six months.
My new job title will be “Project Team Lead”. This position didn’t exist previously. It is created based on what I love to do and what I think would be of value to my ex-company.
I figured that if I could help them reduce their staff’s OT (overtime) hours and save money by improving their accounting systems, they would hire me back. And they did.
I would have to assess if this is something I want to do long-term. If it is, then I’ll be finding more companies that I love and see how I can help them improve their systems and processes.
Q: Why do you keep changing jobs?
When my parents thought that I’m finally going to pick a career path and stick with it, I changed again.
It’s not that I’m fickle-minded. It’s because similar to systems, I love to improve and revise my career path until it fits me.
“The biggest mistake is not choosing the wrong career – it’s sticking with a career that makes you unhappy.”
Every time I’m in a new job, I’ll assess what I like or dislike about the job. If a career path isn’t working for me or I don’t see myself working in that job for more than three years, I’m not going to stick around and complain about my job. I’ll change it.
Making My Career Progression Horizontally, Not Vertically
Being an animator reaffirmed something which I already know – I don’t like vertical career progression. In other words, climbing the career ladder and getting promoted.
I prefer horizontal career progression. Going to various companies and help them solve problems is meaningful to me. I love to serve many companies and people, instead of just one.
And that frustrates people like my dad who doesn’t understand my career strategy.
When I was an accountant, I know I didn’t want to be a manager, financial controller or chief finance officer one day. Because I don’t want to manage people or lead a department.
When I became an animator, I know I didn’t want to be a lead animator or a supervising animator one day. Because I don’t want to attend meetings or assign shots for others to do.
The natural career progression that most people take doesn’t interest me at all. So I had to be an entrepreneur.
I Was Forced to Be An Entrepreneur
I didn’t plan to be an entrepreneur. I was forced to be one because there wasn’t any other option for me.
I’m super creative on my own. It’s hard for me to follow other people’s direction or ideas. I may seem deceivingly compliance at work. That’s because I feel that it’s my duty as an employee to comply and I do respect rules (nerdy brain at work). But deep down inside, I also want to change rules and do my own thing (creative brain at work).
“I don’t want to work for companies. I want to work with companies.”
Plus, now that I have established my career progression as horizontal. There’s no way I’m going to work for one stable company and be happy about it.
So being an entrepreneur is perfect for me.
Q: You wrote a book to inspire others to pursue their passion and now you aren’t doing animation anymore. Aren’t you contradicting your book?
First, when authors write their books, they only share what they knew at the moment when they were writing their books. People continue to grow and gain new knowledge from their life experiences. Perspective changes as time progresses. So there’s nothing wrong to contradict your own book.
Second, not only am I not contradicting what I’ve written in Fearless Passion, I’m perfectly in congruent with it.
In my book, I mentioned that you need to explore your passion continuously to uncover your deepest passion. And that’s exactly what I had been doing.
Through my animation experience, I had uncovered my deeper passion – storytelling.
My Passion for Storytelling
When I realized that being an animator isn’t the right career path for me, I started asking myself why am I doing animation in the first place.
I don’t watch anime or cartoon. I don’t play computer games. I don’t read comics. I don’t draw that much. All I do is watch animation films.
So why am I attracted to animation?
I realized that the thing that really attracts me to animation is not the art form, it’s the story.
Most animation films I love have amazing stories. I love animation because it allows meaningful stories and lessons to be told through imaginary contexts and characters.
“I realized my passion isn’t doing animation, it’s storytelling.”
Animation is just another medium I use to tell stories. Over the years, I’d been telling stories with other mediums such as music, words, videos and designs, without even realizing that I love storytelling!
Q: Will you still come back to the animation industry one day?
I have plans to come back to the animation industry in the future.
Not being an animator doesn’t mean that I’m giving up on the animation industry. It just means I’m too passionate about animation to just be an animator.
I don’t see myself adding much value to animation industry by being an animator. Sure, I can improve my animation skills and animate a great shot for TV or film. But I know that doing animation isn’t my biggest strength. And I want to do so much more for the animation industry
Creating better system is how I can provide the most value to the animation industry. Plus, I find it more meaningful to help the industry grow through innovating the existing systems.
Hope to Understand Animation Pipeline Better
One of my goals later this year is to get into studio like Disney to understand their workflow and pipeline.
I hope to find studios with R&D or Technology department or are interested in improving their pipeline and work with them. Alternatively, I may also work with Autodesk or other animation software developer to improve their software.
Or I may end up in the story department of an animation studio.
Who knows what the future is going to be.
I shall see how it goes.
Q: What will happen to this website since you are not doing animation now?
I’ll still be doing animation on my own so that I can learn more about the systems and workflow.
As for this website, it will not be closed down. In fact, it will be rebranded to an animation website so that it’s clearer for the audience. More details on that later!
My Life as an Animator in Malaysia is a series that I’ve created to share my adventure as an animator in Malaysia from Sep 2014 to Feb 2015. It’s my first time being an animator and working in a foreign country. I’m looking forward to share my experiences with you.
Finding your passion is a journey
For more inspiration, check out my book Fearless Passion.