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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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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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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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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Need to know myself and kind of a leader I am

When I started to transition my job from a successful individual contributor to a leader, a lot of doubts come to my mind. Essentially, I am jumping from a great happy job to something that I have to start from beginning. Maybe it would be great if I knew what I needed to do, but as with leadership, there’s a lot of ambiguity in the job.

Then I begin to question myself, my future and my sheer existence..

What am I..

Spoke to some people and they brushed it off as mid-life crisis. But a good pal recommended me to read the synopsis of this book. The essence of the book is to say that everyone has a history, a past. Your passion and inspiration derives from your life journey.

So what I have started doing is to draw up my career journey in this company and share it with my team. I draw up all the ups and downs in my career pointing out the various events in the career that made me feel that way. Along the way, the personal values gets called out and those are the values that drives the inner compass for the north star.

Bounce back Like A Rubber Band

Image result for this too shall pass like a kidney stone meme

I have been feeling stressed and  worried at work over the past few months. The feeling of hopelessness, mainly on work issues.. the feeling that the balls I am jugging now will fall very soon.

Then people tell me, well I have to practice resilience, this is where you learn to bounce back after every setback. They keep saying, the bad time will pass.. and I found this quote very interesting.. 

The only thing I can remember from all the resilience classes is to look at things from a positive aspects and have some time out once in a while. 

In other words, you got to roll with the punches. 

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Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

I like books like this, they basically take some research results, come up with some use case and write a story about it. This book is so interesting that I finished it in 2 weeks. Impressive considering that I only get to read during the weekends and at night.

Link to Amazon

Link to Wikipedia

There are lessons to be learnt from this book although in the book, it is vague. We have the capability to create a first impression and make accurate decision from very little information. The book calls this “thin-slicing”. This fact hits home for me because in the organisation that I work, data is everything. A lot of time is spent collecting data and analyzing the tons of collected data. The eureka moment for me is when the book used the example of the Chicago Hospital. The correct information (just 4 factors) and an unbiased view is enough to make a life or death decision. So I have to question the tons of data that I collect in my day to day work, whether they are important to the decision being made or they are just biased opinion.

What I learned from the book about making snap decision

  1. You have to be an expert in the field. The “gut feeling” only works if you have tons of experience and spend years honing your skills. A highly technical decision cannot be made by ordinary “people on the street”.
  2. You would need to put yourself in a situation where only the necessary information is  available so as not to cloud your bias. An example given was the use of gender to determine the suitability of a person playing brass instrument.

I would think that I have learn a few things here and there from the book. Especially about using enough and correct information to make a decision rather than collecting as much as information as possible. Sometimes, less but more relevant, is better.

Workplace Anger

I hope this post won’t get me into trouble. It is a general observations of my anger management that I face in the workplace. My post, my personal demon to control.

As I reflected on my anger management in the past month (without the help of the shrink which I owe them a visit long time ago), I do find that other than road rage, most of my anger comes from the workplace. I do find that working with people with different backgrounds can be sometimes frustrating. You know what they say about software engineers, we are like a bunch of cats. And if you know cats, you know that they each have their own individuality. Prominent Individuality.

Looking back at my ACTIONS, I do find that I snap easily when I am facing an angry moment. I have shouted at people even though it is not their fault. I have used old issues to bring guilt into the other party, like what they did wrong the last time.. makes it a good excuse for me not to help them this time. I take offense when I am given work that is not planned, and I snap at the whole issue. Thinking how stupid the workplace is. In other words, I am acting childish. Some people say that I take things to personally. Professional conduct has gone into the drain for personal feelings.

So far, my actions are basically on shouting and doing emotional hijacking, bad enough when I know those actions means that I am burning bridges and destroying trust.

Looking back at the past few months on what caused these ACTIONS, I find that my IRRATIONAL BELIEFS are centered around a few issues. Firstly is my bloated ego thinking that everyone has to pull his own weight when it comes to completing task. Well, the people in my team are great.. but I do hear stories of people from other teams that are not pulling their weight. These people have nothing to do with me and I should not concerned. But the stories give me the “impression” that they are getting paid for the easy work and I have to take all the heavy lifting around here. Secondly is the fact that nothing is ever happening as planned. Everyday I come in the office, regardless how it is planned, things will always go south. Then I have to come in and fix the issue or deal with it. It disrupts daily routine and concentration.

To DISPUTE the Belief, I am drilling into myself that everyone is working hard, no one is goofing off and the stories I hear, are just stories. I should not look at myself and compare with other people so much, that is what my parents always drill into me when I was a kid. People can do whatever they want, as long as I achieve better than what I was last year. I also have to drill into myself that I work in an engineering department. Things screw up all the time. The fact that I get it fixed, means it is not that serious and it means customer will see one less issue.

Will I be able to achieve a zen-like attitude after this? NAH.. one step at the time..