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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Has True North by Bill George been sitting on your reading list? Pick up the key ideas in the book with this quick summary.
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.
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.
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.
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.