2020 – The Career Turning Point.

Today is May 1st 2020.

For posterity sake, the family have been locked down at home since April 18th due to COVID-19 pandemic. Malaysia Government implemented Movement Control Order, allowing general public to only go out to get essential supplies. Schools are closed, wife and I have been working from home. Today, the Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin has announced that most businesses can start to operate from 4th May. We can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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Take a pause before deciding

Never Make Permanent Decisions On Temporary Feelings

The world celebrated Covid’s birthday a few days ago, it is a good time to remind ourselves that we are living in unprecedented times. Let that fact sink in a little bit. Life has been challenging BC (Before COVID) but the pandemic response has made life worse. We see challenges working from home, children attending classes at home, the lack of personal touch and socialization. Despite it all, we should celebrate that we have somehow made it this far.

When the going gets tough, let’s take some time to pause. Take time to think it over before we make big decision. Let the problem simmer a bit. Tell yourself you need time to think, we are living in ways unimaginable and people will understand if you want to take time to think through. The fact is, there is always hope, take it day by day, this too shall pass. What we are facing now is a temporary feelings and emotions triggered by the weird world we are living in. There is a silver lining and things will get better, you should focus on preparing for the better days.

In the office, challenges are forcing people to make ad-hoc decision such as quitting their jobs because they cannot handle the stress. Rather, I would advice the you reach out to your boss, or your colleague. Connect with people remotely, IM, call, message. Share your concerns, your troubles, your feelings. Some will step up to help, but even if no one does, you will immediately feel better. In normal times, we would be chatting in pantry, drop by people’s cube to ask how they are doing, share ideas on whiteboards and join each other for lunch discussion football. All that is gone, it leaves a social void that does have impact to people. These are all the temporary feelings that we should be the basis to make life changing decisions.

COVID is a unprecedented but a temporary situation. It does put stress into normal situations that would make us reflect how we are surviving. Cliche as it seems, we need to count our blessing especially if we still have a job. Look forward to your future goals, and not make hasty decision.

6 Principles We Can Learn

During tough times, we want to find feel good stories that would encourage us. We want to know that the tough times won’t be forever and learn how others navigate through difficulties. Their life stories and sharing serves as motivation for the anyone who is struggling. At the same time, for those who are doing well, it gives hear warming feeling.

This sharing is poignant, Alex is a secondary school mate and he has survived a life threatening brain tumor. I could imagine the moments of uncertainties in his life as he goes through the journey. But the positivity that he spreads through his message is has been insightful.

I start with a quote that he used in the video which is a good reminder for us.

You are not tested for more than you can take. You thrive the most when it there are challenges.

Alex Tan
Alex Tan on The Lite Breakfast
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Gratitude, Perspective then Hope

It is coming to 8th month since Malaysia first started the Movement Control Order (MCO), since then we have various levels of movement control and now into our 3rd wave of infections. All of us are somehow impacted by the pandemic response in many different ways. People are losing jobs, businesses related to travel is crushed, even the stable oil and gas industry is facing challenges with the price crude oil.

I would like to share this quote and the video that I was recently introduced to. Hopefully we can continue to take one step at the time to move forward with life despite the challenges.

Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise

Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
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MCO Part 2

For posterity sake, today is the first day of the Conditional Movement Control Order for most states in Malaysia. This is what I called the second #lockdown.

972 new cases in Malaysia, where for the past few weeks it went past 1000 new cases on some days. We went into a tighter control MCO in March when cases were hitting 300ish a day. We are way past that.

Image may contain: text that says 'STATUS TERKINI COVID- 9 November 2020 DI MALAYSIA Kes baharu New cases 972 Kes tempatan Kes import 967 5 Kes Sembuh baharu recovered cases 1,345 71.8% Jumlah sembuh Totalrecov 29,579 41,181 Jumlah kes keseluruhan Total confirmed cases Jumlah kes aktif Total active cases 27.5% 11,308 Jumlah Termasuk 86 31 BanuanAla 0.7% Kematian baharu New death 8 Jumlah Kematian 294 Sumber:CPRCKebangsaan CPRC Kebangsaan KEMENTERIANKESIHATANMALAYSIA comms@moh'
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Humility is sometimes needed

I am in Malaysian Red Crescent Society, that’s no secret. I’ve been in the society since primary school if anyone is counting without any breaks in my service. I am proud of that.

What people sometimes don’t know is that I was also active in university. We had made good friends with the State committee that we get to attend a instructor crash course. I remember it was a whole week, camped out in University Malaya, sitting for ALL the courses needed to get the instructor certificate. All in one week.

That was almost 20 years ago.

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Characteristics of Leader

It is my belief that one of the best places to learn about leadership is in the military. Not everyone gets a chance to join the military leadership so watching documentaries is one of the easiest way to get information. I always look for case studies, where someone has put in the effort to analyze the outcome of some of the decision made in battle or during planning.

Hindsight is 20/20 but learning about mistakes and successes helps to shape my worldview. This will then translate to the intuition that I need in time when quick decision is needed.

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Victory Lap Around Ireland

As I was looking though Google Photos to embellish this site, I was taken on a sentimental trip on what happened in the past few years in my career. So taking a break from writing serious posts on my journey of leadership to look at the trip the symbolizes the happiest moment in my career so far.

Before the start of the power on, we had gone on a short trip to Kilkenny.

This trip happened in early September 2019, with the dedicated team members who went to Ireland for the silicon power-on event. After months of preparation, 2 weeks of 16 hour days in the lab (weekends included), the event was a success. This was the weekend before everyone flies home. Everyone agreed to do something big to commemorate this great achievement.

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Kilkenny

This is a recap of the first day of power on, the cumulation of a year’s work and preparations that brings us to Ireland.

The night before (a Friday), the international team involved in the power on decided that we would have a nice dinner before starting power on the next day. In our previous trips, we fell in love with the tapas and sangria in Salamanca. In the afternoon of that day, we know that the silicon parts were being cleared from the airport cargo hold and would be in the lab any moment. Indeed the parts arrived in the lab, just as some of us were already on the way to the restaurant. While some of the team members turned around to start their work, the software and post-silicon validation team had our last dinner before the event. After dinner, the rest of the team went back to the hotel, while the few of us who need to coordinate our activities went back to the lab to understand the situation. There’s only 3 people in the lab, huddle in the corner working with one silicon part, checking out the reset sequence to boot up the part. We were then asked to go home, and they didn’t think we will start till Sunday.

We the leads, headed out early on Saturday to the lab to check on the status, seems they had started the bootloader phase and would need a day before they can be ready for us. Conveyed the message to the team and they wanted to spend the last day of “freedom” in Kilkenny. I have no plans, I have the car so we took a 2 hour drive down south.

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My First Eureka Moment

One of the first thing I was lucky to get was a professional coach to help me through my journey into the leadership role. At this point, he already have my personality assessment results as well as feedback that he has gathered from my peers and managers. In one of the assessment, it is clear that I have very little clarity in my life and in my work. He was going through the assessment results with me and asked if I had any thing to question to bring to the discussion. I then start to put forward some of my concerns with the new job. I brought up issues like struggles working with stakeholder and issues I think my team is facing where I would need some help. As he asks more clarifying question, I think he can sense that my thoughts are everywhere and there’s no specific anchor to how I am doing things in the new role.

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Where did I start this journey?

I count my self lucky that I have a very supportive manager throughout my career, especially in the past few years. My manager did give me assignments, support and the psychological safety for me to take on challenging roles. I have been known to take on programs that relate to non-traditional technologies. My first prime time software project management role was to plan for a SOC with cellular technology for the embedded systems market. Basically saying that we take a cellphone chip and make it work for kiosk, handheld controllers, etc. Prior to taking up the current management role, I was the software project manager for the next generation vision processing unit, a technology that was brought in through acquisition. I am new to the technology, the team that I need to work with are new to the company’s culture and processes.

In a way, I thought I had been prepared for the new role as a “leader of leaders”. My manager has publicly announced to the team as well as to the higher management team that I will be his successor should any changes happen in the future. I heard this from him for at least 3 years before I took over the role, therefore I am clear on the path set forward for me. The good thing about being identified as a successor is that the company provides some management training that I can attend. This is so that I get some knowledge before actually taking over the job. Most of the training provided are on the standard process, methodology and management culture in the company. Basically knowledge to do the basic job as a manager.

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