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. 


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..

A little bit more about the masters class

The MSC program that I am attending is called MSC in Reliable Embedded Systems. It is offered by university of leicester. It is a 2 year part time program covering 6 modules. Each module is done in 5 days, Saturday till Wednesday. That means I need to take leave on 3 working day. Every year, there will be 3 such classes and the lecturers will come all the way down form UK to deliver the class.

The course, is paid in Pounds sterling and compared to other masters class offered locally, they are one of the more expensive classes.

All assignments and exercises that you would expect to finish in one semester, is done in that 5 days. So normally lab work that usually takes one week in school, we have 20 hours to finish it. So you can say it is an intense 5 day class.

The stress is only for 5 days, 3 times a year but the schedule fits all of us. Short and stressful.

Some people tell me that is not a good way to learn as I am not given much time to digest and absorb. Yup, I agree. That is we are given notes and books to read up AFTER the class is over. There are exams.. yup.. I am rushing for a final assignment now which is due in a few more days for a draft review.

One thing I admired, even after paying them so much.. you would expect them to let you off easy.. but they are very strict when it comes to exercises and assignments. Need to hand in on time and no cheating, no copying.. no peeking. The lecturers are there to help if you don’t understand but most of the ground work is done by the students.

It is a tough 5 days and we did ask the lecturer why is it so.

He said that at the end of this class, we should have a sense of achievement. a sense that we have worked our ass off, sacrificed a lot of effort and time and then get the masters. You need to feel that you have worked for it. Otherwise, getting the masters after 2 years, is not something that you feel you have achieved.

I think so too.


Since the classes are in compressed modules, I asked to take couple of the classes in UK. One of the reason is that I wanted to see the university (to make it look more legit that I am studying in a UK university) and secondly because I signed up late for the course so the subject that I missed will be available in UK. I had to pay for my own stay and travel, which has the feel that I am legitimately a foreign student, especially during the border control questions. Few of the the classmates also went along, it was a good trip

Photos of our 2011 trip to Leicester. 


5 more to go

Wife saved up this phrase for me for one week “one down, 5 more to go”

she is referring to the module that I have to complete for my masters.

Yes, I am taking masters. For those who knows me, you are probably saying.. geeze finally.

I have been talking about it for about 5 years now and if i had taken the class when I talked about it, i would have finished it by now..

Though I am really doing this masters for myself, a lot of people are sharing the joy. My parents are spreading the word that I am taking masters even before the university has accepted my application! Well a lot of my cousins are masters holders themselves. So it is nature that dad was happy.

I had my apprehension on the first day of class. It feels like the first day of school. New faces, new people. Not sure how they will react, not sure how I will react. The teacher.

All scary shit man.

First day was hard, i kid you not. I am considered the newbies and it seem that most of the people there already know each other. They have been in class for the past 2 modules (i joined late).

But at the end, it turned out well. I think I was happy at the end of the module. I still have one more assignment to hand out in 2 weeks for early comments and then hand it up in 6 weeks. I got a project to think about.

tell you guys more about the class. Lets say it is a compressed class.

first time in 7 years

I am going back to school. After 7 years away from school, I am going back to school.

Part time masters class. Masters in science. If I am doing masters, going to spend all the effort, the time, the tears, it has to be something more difficult and more challenging then an MBA.

People looked surprised that I am taking masters, when I tell them so. The raised eyebrows and the “huh?”

What, see me no up? (haven’t used that phrase in a long time).

I have been telling people that I want to take up masters since joining this company. A lot of people around me took their masters during their first few years in the company. Also a lot of people who joined the company has masters. I feel, inadequate.

My friends tell me if I took up masters when I said I wanted to, I would have gotten in by now! So shut up and sign up.

I did, maybe 5 years too late but I did.

Feels like first day in school all over again.

Student Number

I got an email today from the university that I have been accepted for the course and I got a student number. WOW. The last time I had anything similar to a student number was 7 years ago. After that, I had an employee number in this company, the 3rd company in my working life. And now, I did a full circle and have a student number. Makes me feel younger all over again.

Yup, I am going back to school, part time that is. The course is a masters in science with University of Leicester. It is a distance learning course and they university lecturers will come to Penang to deliver the course.

there is a little bit anxiety whether I can still pass the exams or not.

One lesson

One of the method to deal with anger (as opposed to controlling anger) is apparently the way I talk. The counselor, after asking me a few case study question, said that I use a lot of the word “you”. Example.. when I get mad and want to screw someone, I would start blasting that poor bugger with all the nasty.. “you should not have done this”.. “you should have informed me first”.. “why did you do this and getting us all screwed”..

Apparently, that is not the best method to deal with the anger. The advise she gave me was to start the conversation with the word “I”. I should say, “I feel that you have betrayed me, you should have….”… or “I feel angry now because you did …. “.

I read through some website for easy understanding on this technique. At that time, I was hungry and I could not pay attention to what the counselor was saying about using the word “I”. She was being a bit abstract. I was in no attention span for something abstract. I found this website that explains it quite clearly. (

By using the word “I”, starting the statement with “I am angry..” puts the anger as my responsibility. Saying.. “you should have done this”.. makes the other person responsible for my anger. This is not the case, as I was told. Anger is mine and they did not cause it. they may have triggered it but it was my irrational belief that cause the anger burst. So by using the word “I”, I put the responsibility for that anger to be mine.

interesting concept.

Just that the implementation was not that easy. Lets just say I had almost had a fuse this afternoon after some inconsiderate leach proposed a very outrageous suggestion. I kept saying.. you should.. you must.. you you you.. it was after he left, that I realised that I should have used what I had been taught.

I still have a long way to go.

I went to the shrink

For my anger management problem. Well technically she was just a counselor and not a shrink. And the session was paid for the by the company, so what the heck, I thought. Anger was something that I did not think I had. I think I am a happy person, positive and never had a care. Apparently, the wife noticed that do I snap once in a while. It gets more frequent these days. And then I started to notice too.  I can be driving on a slow Saturday, someone overtakes me and I turn into godzilla. I can trail that fellow no matter how fast he driver. Wife can see the rage in my face, I can feel the rage all over the body. I so want to make someone hurt bad.

You know how this always ends, everyone gets hurt and nothing is gained from it. So I decided to make use of company benefits and see the shrink.

Her advise started with the usual, breathing technique and then how to clench your fist. Apparently, there are ways to calm down, decide what to do and then act on it.

I mean.. it sounds easy right. Try pissing me off these days and we shall see blood!

She did teach something interesting though. The ABC of anger management.You can read more here but I think the article is too complicated. Basically

A – Stands for Action. Someone’s action, which I cannot control.

B – is for the irrational belief that I held. This is in the mind. Example, I think people should not overtake from the left.

C – for the consequences. I get angry, slam the accelerator and make a fool of myself.

In this technique, I am supposed to challenge the Belief. Idiots exist on the roads. The end up killing people. As long as I am not the one getting Killed, live with it.

Does not sound right.. hhmm..

Anyway, it is the B that takes the A to C. Without the belief, someone’s action will not translate to my consequences. I should first calm down, then challenge my irrational belief, then subsequently take control of the situation.

I am supposed to start a journal about how I overcome my anger. Take the ABC and note down. I don’t think I want to do it here in the blog. But perhaps I should share some once in a while.

You heard of the song ” I want my money back”?

I want my old life back. Whatever happened to the happy go lucky fellow.