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.

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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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.

Think for a moment the situation that I have put myself in. Someone that I have only met for the second time, told me that I don’t have clarity in my thoughts. I was taken aback since really this is an assault to everything that I know. After all the preparations for this job, all the readings that I’ve done, this is someone telling me that I don’t know what I am doing. The defensive mode did come out, asking myself if he really know what I have done in the past and what I have gone through to get here. It is hard to accept. It’s a big blow to the ego.

I took some time to clear my head and decided that no harm trying what was prescribed.

So his homework for me till we meet the next time is to seek clarity by asking the following questions to the managers up my chain and also other people that I engage.

  1. What is your expectations for myself and my team
  2. How can we support you better

I was skeptical that I will get some results from this activities. But i followed the steps asking these are 2 simple question to the management chain an my stakeholders. I find that for some people, one meeting is not enough as I have to pry more information.

As expected, my manager that I am reporting to gave me a list of his expectations. I treasure what he has written so much that I printed the email, stuck it in my cube and look at it every day. One thing that worked for me is that most of the people that I spoke to really wanted to help so they did provide great insights into what is expected of my team and where they think we can be successful.

The feedback was overwhelming and another assault to the ego. This is when I realised there’s a lot that I need to catch up, a lot that I don’t know. Once I put all the feedback together, there are some trends that I can deduce from the list. Can clearly see what’s the most important things for me to work on.

Seek Clarity

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.

At the same time, my manager also brought me along to events like offsite discussion, management forums. This exposed me to other leaders in the organisation, so that it’s easier to get help and talk to management.

With all this, I thought I was set.

I was wrong and I realised that I really don’t know what I am doing after taking the helm for the first few weeks.

I feel like a “Post Turtle”, the story goes like this

An old rancher is talking about politics with a young man from the city. He compares a politician to a “post turtle.” The young man doesn’t understand and asks him what a post turtle is. The old man says, “When you’re driving down a country road and you see a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that’s a post turtle. You know he didn’t get up there by himself. He doesn’t belong there; you wonder who put him there; he can’t get anything done while he’s up there; and you just want to help the poor, dumb thing down.”

I could go around reading books after books, watching videos after videos, I realised there’s a lot to learn in a short time. I am already on the rocket heading to the moon and I better know what to do. This was about a month after I took over, the organisation was trying out a new program where they hired an external professional 1-1 coach for the senior manager. Due to the cost, there’s limited seats for this program but one of the managers that has been identified to sign up to this program has turned down the offer. So happen another manager told me about it and I quickly made a deal to take his place in the program.

We had to take some personality assessment, the coaches will look through our report and try to personalize my approach to management. I was asked to provide names of managers and peers who could give feedback for me. They feedback he obtain is checked against the assessment and tells him more about me. Herein lies my first breakthrough!. The coach went straight to tackling the main problem that I have, and also provided general insights into what others in the industry is doing. Gives perspective and widens the mindset.

GET A COACH!

I was told, and passing the message along, that not everyone who is reaching out to help is sincere about it. Some people will turn on you to using the information that you give them. Having an external coach helps in the sense that they come from outside the organisation, therefore impartial (it could also be said that they would not understand the context of the organisation, therefore would only give general advice). Since they are paid, the external consultant do have my success as their priority.

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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Lest We Forget

Not going to try and write a travel blog post for my trip to UK. I can name many people who has been there or are staying there. No point sharing the places I visit since UK is very popular and information can be obtained easily on the internet. What I am going to write is about the feelings and the culture that I see in UK, then compare it to what I experience in Malaysia. Since I have not really been outside of the country much, I don’t think there is much I can compare to other than Malaysia, so don’t lynch me for using MY country as a comparison. Also, I need to make comparison to put into perspective the culture that I observe in UK.

Lets start with the very obvious, there are memorials for the fallen EVERYWHERE! There is no escaping a statue here, a memory there, some stone markings everywhere in UK. The fallen may have names, they may not have names. What I feel is that everyone who has sacrificed for the country at one time or another will be remembered through memorials. Granted that the United Kingdom has been through a lot of wars and conquest, the amount of memorials are stunning.

Although some of the memorials are generic, I can sense that the sacrifices of the people are not in vain. The memorials serve to remember people of the sacrifices that has to be made so that the quality of life and freedom can be enjoyed now.

Winston Churchill. Prime Minister during the war. Although he did not die in the war, he has his own memorial.

Montgomery, who chased the Dessert Fox out of Northern Africa. My travel companion asked my wife who is he. Wife, with the best of her knowledge, just answered that he is one of the war hero. Actually along this whole walk path, there are a few statues of war heroes.

This monument is dedicated to the women in WWII. As most men are drafted into war, women took over a lot of the work used to be done by men. The momument depicts the uniforms representing the kind of work women did during the war. I see this momument and think how they will hopefully hung up their war clothes for good.

Nelson’s column.

They did not left out the firemen during WWII who helped to save London from the fires and bombing. More interesting is the fact that the monument is located near St Paul’s Catherdal, the church of the nation.

This is a memorial for the artillery regiment in world war one. Nicely done piece of art that people like love visit. It is not just a plaque with names on it. It has meaning.

A fairly new installment. From the front it looks like metal bars, but the steel is cut to reveal crosses at the top. Nice installation.

And not forgetting the soldiers who faught in far away lands, like ours.

This is what I noticed. The society, the culture, remembers the nameless people who has served the country. All these memorials are not all funded by the government, a lot of them are funded by the people. So don’t just blame the Malaysian government for doing nothing to remember the Malaysian who sacrificed for the coutry. We as the people need to do more for the people who made this nation what it is. Sometimes we have to swallow the truth that bad things happened during WW2, japanese occupation, emergency, confrantation, May13th. We need to confront these issues and remember the people who fought both sides of the conflict. Everyone is after all, Malaysian.

I remember what the coach driver says, “history is boring because of the way it is taught”.

Who has been to Francis Light’s grave and laid flowers for the founder of the state? At least I can say that I have been once, to the grave of Rev Hutchings AFTER I left school.

Scotland – My Story

We heard the Scottish folk song called “Lock Lomond” when the Australian Trinity Boys Choir came to Penang. We thought that it was a very nice song. The song starts like this

By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes
Where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond
Where me and my true love will ne-er meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomon’.

So here we are in Scotland, standing on the bonnie bank of Lock Lomond. Wonderful place. The feeling was surreal. A song unheard of until some choir from Australia, came to Penang to perform a song about a body of water in Scotland.

And finally, there we are. Surreal.

This is the castle near the Loch. I don’t remember the story of the castle or the name but the view was stunning.

Then the song went on to talk about Ben Lomond. Well, Ben is a mountain and it is the second highest in Scotland.

‘Twas there that we parted in yon shady glen
On the steep, steep sides o’ Ben Lomon’


So Yes, we were in the United Kingdom. I am sticking to my story that we were there for a holiday. But I had to stop over Leicester my MSc class. I signed up for an MSc class from University of Leicester. They had the class in  Penang, sent their teaching staff down to Penang for classes. But I joined 2 classes late, the big bulk of them have “graduated”, leaving about 6 of us stranded. University covered some of our expenditure to continue our studies there in the UK and I took it as a chance for a holiday.

More stories to come I guess.

Queen Victoria Market – Melbourne

Know a place by visiting the market. That is what I did. QV market is HUGE. They sell everything there and they are more known for selling souveniers there than your produce. They do have a relatively small wet market which sells seafood and meat. I could have mistaken the wet market for supermarket and wet and anything but.

here are some of the stuff they sell in the wet market.

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Nuts of all kind. 3 packets for 12 dollars.

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fresh pasta. Like wimpy and fresh pasta. none of those hardened dried thing. This is the real thing!

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Kangaroo salami anyone?

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dips of all kinds. I believe this is one of the quirky Australian thing. you buy these dips and you eat them with crackers.

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cheeses of all kinds. Some shops sells 3 for 10 dollars. We got some.

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chocolate. Like fresh, if you can call it that, chocolate.

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Ham and deli of all kinds.

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this is a typical meat shop.Every cuts of meat there.

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sausages of all kinds. the fresh one. Not frozen.