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.

Dublin, Ireland

Things have turned around lately. Early in the year, I was with the functional safety team getting the a product to comply with a product development lifecycle that enable the product to be compliant to a safety standard for either automotive or industrial use. The software director (which was my previous boss before joining the functional safety team) came down to Penang. I had set up a meeting with him to talk through some of the systematic process that we need the software team to comply. He had let me talked through the list of issues and complains, then he sprung a surprise. We had a program manager in his team who is running 2 programs in parallel and overwhelmed. He asked if I would like to take up program management for one of the project, so happen to be follow up project from the one that I left off before joining functional safety. I didn’t have to wait before he leaves Penang to accept the offer and the transition was pretty quick after that.

This new project is great, it’s the next generation AI/Deep Learning chip that we will collaborate with a new team that came on board as an acquisition based in Ireland. Another great aspect of this assignment is that I get to start from the project execution phase. The planning has been done, I get to execute this from the current program manager who planned for it. It is pretty normal for a project manager to be involved in the whole planning phase and then handing it to another person for execution. Typically the planning phase involved a small team of experienced lead and the execution phase involves the whole army.

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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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Steno what?

Stenosing tenosynovitis – apparently I got it.

About one month ago, I woke up from bed with this stiff middle finger on the left. It curled up and would not straightened. I am sure I can force it to straighten but then I am sure I will be in pain and agony. Being a regular with joint and muscle pain, I decided to leave it alone and see if it goes away. A couple of days later, the finger can straighten again and I did not give it a second thought. After a few days, the ailment came back again, same finger would not straighten.. and just as fast as it came, it went away.

Then one day, it jammed! The finger curled up and would not straighten after a few days. I gave it one week just in case. That one week dragged to 2 weeks and the finger still would not straighten.

A few things came to my mind. Is it gout? Since I have a very high uric acid content? Did I sprain some join when I was sleeping? Is this finger going to straighten again? I told my parents about this finger (since they are in the medical line) and my father straight away say that it is a “trigger finger”. I refused to hear him out because my finger is not “triggering”, it won’t straighten. Too many questions that needs answer.

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Out for 4 days – in high seas

Whenever I pass by the pier in Georgetown, I have always gawked in awe at the giant cruise ships that docks there during the day. This is especially true for the StarCruise ship which dwarfs all the ships in the pier and even some of the buildings in the vicinity. It always looks as if the ship is a building by itself, larger than life. I have always wondered and wanted to travel on a cruise. I want to enjoy all the trappings of the high seas cruise but the scrooge in me would not want to pay for the fare.

Luckily, I stumbled upon a buy 1 free 1 offer on Superstar Libra and took up that offer.

The ship was everything I had expected, more than just a large vessel, it has a soul in the form of the staff that worked on the ship. Activities start as soon as you board ship with not much time to work out the cabin. There are activities for all walks of life. In fact, most of the passengers are not shy about joining in the activities, as if what happens on the ship, stays on the ship.

Goes without saying, we are well fed.

The only drawback of a large ship is the many colourful characters that boards the ship. A fight almost occur between 2 families during mealtime because of queuing policy. So bad that the familes are asked to sit at separate corners of the restaurant and the ship’s officer has to come down and attend to the problem. I guess in a crowded environment, patience and manners are thrown overboard.

Cabin was reasonable for 2 adults and 1 toddler who has to sleep on the floor because he may roll off the bed. The bathroom is small but sufficient.

We were expecting some rolling when the ship is moving, preparing various methods to counter seasickness. Since our cabin is almost at the water line, we do not feel the movement as much as the higher floors.

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.

My Hong Kong Stereotype

I am in Hong Kong now for a week. I am here alone. I didn’t plan for this trip and it was a rather last minute arrangement. Othere than knowing that temple street is just across the corner and starbucks is around the other corner, I am confined to travelling between the hotel and conference center.

But having arrived at Hong Kong a few hours ago, I began to have this strange feeling. So it is easier to compartmentalize all that is going on and all that is Hong Kong.

1. Calculators. I bought a ticket from a young chap for the airport train to town. He clearly understand English, so do I. But when telling me the price of the ticket, he just has to punch in the number on the calculator and show it to me. It is like they call numbers differently from everwhere else.

2. Hong Kong, looks like the series. Feels like in the mini series.. ooh, those are filmed here!

3. There are a lot of indonesians, filipinos etc. It is like a reverse of UK. The majority of people are Chinese but sprinkled around are indonesians, filipinos and I am sure there are many malaysians here too.

4. Feels like UK here. apprently it DOES get cold here. How come I don’t see people in winter clothes in TVB miniseries.

5. There are people here that looks like hong kong mafia sidekick. My hotel concierge for one. They dress in leather jackets that has many zippered pockets with dark jeans. When they asked me to go level 2, feels like and order.

6. Hong Kong, at least where I stay in Nathan Road.. is a HUGE petaling street.

7. What’s with the bambo scafolding?

Will continue to add on the stereotype as I move along with my stay here.

 

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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.

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