Sunday, June 28, 2015

DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME AT HARVARD

I was at a business networking event some time ago and got talking to a guy whom I'll call Leon.

He was born in Malaysia but grew up and studied in America, worked in Silicon Valley within the IT industry, then decided to come back here and begin his own tech startup company (at the time of speaking they'd had a number of apps under their belt and had built a couple of online retail platforms.)

We were talking about some of the inner works of running a lean startup and he shared that one of their ways of getting manpower while keeping costs low was to hire interns.

He told me that he personally screened through all resumes and interviewed all candidates (oh the things you do as an lean startup, even as the Founder and CEO!). At the interviews, one question he asked in partly in jest and partly of curiosity was why each candidate chose to go to the university they were at.

He received varied responses to his question, such as 


  •  Ranked number XX standing among local private universities in Malaysia.  
  • Partner of XX university in Australia / America / UK hence able to obtain an overseas degree upon graduation.
  • Good reputation among employers / better employment advantages.  

***
I asked him what he thought of those responses.

   " Honestly as an employer, on paper all these universities are the same to me. Only unless you went to some Ivy league school like Harvard I'd sit up and take notice. " 

   " But do you know what's the true value of a Harvard education? It's not the ranking or the reputation or the prestige or the employer credibility. They're nice to have, but not the most valuable. "

   " They say that you become alike the people you surround yourself with. Most people at Harvard go on to become very successful in life. If you are a part of that circle, you are likely to go on to be very successful yourself. "

   " The network, contacts, and lifelong relationships that you build and develop - that is the highest value of a Harvard education. "

   " Unless you're aware of this, you will have lost out greatly and going to school at Harvard will be a waste of your resources, time, and money. "




Friday, June 12, 2015

EMPLOYMENT BUZZWORDS TO BEWARE


You've graduated, congratulations! Now what?

Aside from the probable gap year (which I highly recommend to everyone), you're going to have to start earning your keep and stop depending on your parents.

My friend said it best when they so eloquently bemoaned
   " My mom told me that I now have to start paying for my own shit.  "

The good news is that getting yourself employed is easier than you think. (These are some pretty cool places you can send your resume out to.) If you can write decently, carry a conversation (you wouldn't believe how important this is, but more on that another time), and are relatively well groomed, you can bet that getting a job shouldn't be an issue. However, take note if these terms surface during the interviews. (Hint: they're probably not what you think they mean.)

***
Employment Buzzwords to Beware 

   Flexible working hours
Expectation: 
I can start work at 11am and end at 7pm. Or at 10pm and end at 6am. As long as I put in 8 hours a day (sometimes less) everything will be fine and dandy.

Reality:
Work never ends. And your 'official working hours' are 'all the time', weekends included. (My friend's boss once called her at 12.30am for something that wasn't even remotely urgent and expected her to take care of it. Right. Away.)

   Mobile location
Expectation:
Whee! I can work from home! Or Starbucks! Or even go away to the beach as long as I have Internet to reply to emails!

Reality:
You have to work from home. Or Starbucks. Or even when you're away at the beach as long as you have Internet to reply to emails. And when you get into the office, there won't be a designated spot for you to sit so just have to find an empty  meeting room where you can camp out (that is, until a bunch of people show up to hold a meeting, kick you out, and you'll have to hunt for another empty meeting room and repeat the process all over again.)

   No fixed leave
Expectation:
Awesome! I can take 6 months of paid vacation, twice a year!

Reality:
You're going on leave? Really? It's not a good time now honey. No, 3 months from now isn't a good time either. In fact, there's chock-a-block projects and deadlines for you to handle until the earth has completed a full orbit around the sun. Check again in a leap year's time. 

   Company phone 
Expectation:
An iPhone 6 with unlimited data? Yasss! Imma Youtube, download all the music and movies I want and so much more!

Reality:
I know your laptop is infected with a nasty virus and is currently with IT for a major overhaul, but are you done with your presentation and proposal was supposed to be handed in yesterday? Have you sent out that project brief to our vendors? What do you mean you haven't installed MS Office or Adobe PDF reader in your phone? 

Why didn't you pick up my call at 12.30am yesterday? What's the point of you having a company phone if I can't reach you 24/7? (Also related to 'flexible working hours')

   Diverse and interesting jobscope:
Expectation: 
I can do everything and anything!

Reality:
You have to do everything and anything.

***
The point I am trying to hammer home is to take all your so called benefits with a large pinch or spoonful or salt. While most of these seem exaggerated and out of the norm, it isn't impossible for these scenarios to occur (in fact most of them have played out in real life). 

I'll end here by tweaking a famous line from spidey's Uncle Ben

   " With great privileges come great expectations. "



Happy job hunting everyone!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

MY MOST MEMORABLE INTERVIEW

In my past life as a freelance writer, I've been through a wide scope of assignments - product reviews, lifestyle pieces, copywriting (consisting of only a sentence or two), event write-ups, interviews, and more.

Getting free products and attending exclusive events are always fun, but nevertheless interviews are my absolute favourite. Being paid is a bonus ; the real value lies in receiving invaluable insights and sharing amazing journeys from various people I admire greatly - and that opportunity in itself is truly humbling and inspiring. 

However, my most memorable interview was the one I did as part of a college assignment - my first interview ever.

***
It was in Mr K's class that we received an assignment to do a background feature story on a significant figure in the media industry in Malaysia. They could be from any aspect of communication - photography, film, broadcast, advertising, public relations, marketing, journalism, etc.

I chose someone who had founded one of the first community-based digital social media advertising agencies in Malaysia (maybe its no coincidence that 5 years down the road since then, my fulltime job today revolves around digital social media?) and got the go-ahead of approval from my lecturer.

Now, it was on my end to craft the interview and arrange the meeting. Coming up with questions to interview him was the easy part, but it was tricky getting hold of him or his PA.

Emails with a suggested time and date to both his personal account (which I had managed to find on the net) and company account both went unanswered. Messages to the PA and company receptionist were futile as well.

I decided to just pop by the office and try my luck. After all, the worst that could happen was 'No.' 

The office was located in the heart of KL, on Level 10 of an office tower. Clutching my camera and files, I stood in front of the lift and pressed the 'Up' button.

The lift pinged and the doors opened to reveal your typical morning bunch - a couple of middle-aged guys in collared shirts and slacks, a young girl holding a Starbucks frappucino, a janitor, a courier boy.

I stepped in and hit a big round button with the number '10'. The doors slid shut.
More people piled in on the 2nd and 3rd floor.

On the 4th floor, a guy carrying a duffel bag wearing a polo shirt and jeans stepped in.

Standing behind him in that crowded lift, I only had a brief glimpse of his side profile over his shoulder - but he looked familiar from photos of articles I was poring over the nights before.

" Tim! " I exclaimed. 

Long story short - I got my interview.

***
That day, I learnt some very important lessons.

   People will not take you seriously unless you take action to show them your sincerity.

   Not getting an answer does not mean no. 

   There is no such thing as luck, only preparation meeting opportunity. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

FAR OFF

Sometimes people see things in you, which you never saw in yourself.

Just yesterday, I was discussing the development of Facebook Cover Photos with a colleague. (Yes, what I do for work involves content development for social media platforms). 

For inspiration and for the sake of getting the creative juices flowing, we were going through other the covers of other Facebook pages, both personal as well as corporate accounts. When it came to my own account, they sat up straight and enthusiastically exclaimed

   " Your photos are amazing! "

As photography is something which I have always dabbled and had a keen interest in, I beamed and said thanks.

   " I mean seriously, have you ever considered submitting them for any competitions like National Geographic Photojournalism Awards, or selling them to photo stock agencies like Getty? "

What? Me? That's pretty.. far out. I guess I'd always known my camera skills were alright, but to that extent? Just a note that this particular colleague is relatively well-rounded on photography so this suggestion in itself was quite a compliment already.

   " You really should. After all, you have nothing to lose. "

***

Sugar cookies in West Sumatera.


Truck driver's everyday office, Coron, Palawan, Philippines.


Local lady selling clams, West Sumatera.


Monks by the Mekong, Vientiane, Laos.


Moat around Banteay Srei, Angkor.


Fillipino man on Malawing Island, Palawan, Philippines.


Sunset on the Gold Coast, Australia


Beers on the rooftop bar, Siem Reap, Cambodia.


Filippino children in Bueno Vista village, Philippines.