Today I leave my Firm and start anew

30 June 2017 marked the end of my 6 years journey with my beloved firm and 10 years in Singapore. It was not long nor short but it represented a turn in my career. The Firm was my first and also my last oneI have worked for in Singapore. During my tenure with it, I have learned a few lesson that I would like to note down as a reminder for my future self

WHY MAKE YOU A GOOD MANAGER?

Personally, I have been working for the past 6 years (maybe I should include my part-time and internship to make it more dramatic to make it 9, whatever) and have met countless of managers from different teams, departments or clients. Therefore, I can say that I have witnessed the good and the bad one, either by myself as staff or by hearing from other friends and colleagues. Still, I can’t seem to decipher the secret of becoming a good manager. However, I probably know what I do not want to become in order to be a good manager.

  • Backstabbing your staff:

This should be obvious. Personally, I have seen this numerous time especially when the time is bad or when there is discord between the 2. I have seen manager sabotage staff project just to undermine his credibility with other managers and enhance hers. I witnessed manager spread rumors on staff loyalty to boot him out of the team. In each case, as the team found out about manager’s motive, their morale collapsed and resignation letter started to fly in. What was once a high-flying and energetic team was reduced to a ghost of itself.

  • Stealing your staff credit:

Haha, do I need to explain any further on this? I personally faced this so yes, tell me about how I felt when realizing that all the credit for my hard work was accrued to my boss who did not do anything but was able to brag to higher manager regarding her vision.

  • Running for shelter during bad time:

Let’s start with the basic question, what is a manager? Personally, I feel that even though you are a manager, in a team, you are just another staff who has a privilege of managing other peers. Why? You probably start your work as a staff and work your ass off to earn that “manager” position. However, without your peers ( or now your staff) support, you will not attain that rank or won’t sustain at that rank for long. Hence, though in the organizational chart, you are at the higher level than others, you are in fact, just an employee. People will look up to you when things are bad and it is when you hone your leadership and crisis management skill.

NEVER BE AFRAID TO BE THE FIRST

Despite whatever people might argue against taking the lead and being the first in the market due to high failure rate, you should always embrace the challenge. Being the first offers you limited downside since nobody has ever done it before. Hence even if you screw up, it is simply because you are inexperienced or the market requires time to adjust to your products. However, if you are successful, the upside is unlimited since you now will be able to capture sizeable market share. I have done it and it is one of the best moment in your life 🙂

 

Anyway, it has been a long post after a long absence. I have now enrolled in an MBA course and probably will update this more regularly :P. Till next time.

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Morality

What is morality, she asked.
“Judgement to distinguish right and wrong, vision to see the truth, and courage to act upon it, dedication to that which is good, integrity to stand by the good at any price. But where does one find it?”

The young boy made a sound that was half-chuckled, half-sneer:

“Who is John Galt?”

Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

Recently I have ventured into a bit more philosophical reading with “Justice: What is the right thing to do” by Michael Sandel. In that book, he discussed at length about the development of philosophical discussion regarding what constituted justice aka what was the right thing to do, from the simple idea that whatever made the most people happy to the intertwine between religion, social custom and human liberty. If you have not read about him, I do recommend his lecture series on Youtube.

 

After I have finished his book, since I have a lot of free time, I start on Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Whilst I do agree that the book portrayed an extreme view on the government oppression and special interest group on the market, up to the point of limit technological advance for the sake of “social equality”, I realize that the book does contain deep philosophical discussion on morality, human liberty.

To be honest, such discussion regarding human liberty is fascinating for me. From an Asian perspective, there is extensive rulebooks, social norms on what constitutes a good behavior that each of us (the citizen, son, father, etc.) is expected to conform. Therefore, such book opens a whole new discussion point for me. I remember whenever I challenge my family decision, they leverage on the main thesis that this is a norm, a custom, and culture of the society and I should not deviate or else the family and I will be condemned by others. Sometimes, I do wonder who are those “others”, so omnipotent that able to judge us “impartially”. I argue that whatever custom, the social norm is not always what guides us, individually into a good life and worse, might not be right to do. Nevertheless, after multiple heated exchanges, I have decided to give up. Despite my defeat, I maintain my points that I have my own liberty to pursue whatever is right for me or makes me feel happy as long as I do not do anything wrong or violate other people rights. Social norm and customs present for people to observe and interpret. They are not fixed and constantly change to reflect the current trend. Therefore, applying social norm blindly into one’s decision will sometimes be counterproductive and worse might not be the right thing to perform.

Anyway, as I am leaving Asia to North America, I am getting straight into the multiverse of opinion, perspectives, religion. As such, I am ready to embrace them 🙂

 

I read, therefore I am

Technically I should have written about 3 leadership sins, in fact, I have nearly completed the draft but can’t bring myself to complete it. Hence, I switch to this topic as it is more lighthearted and seems way more interesting to me than work lolz. Maybe it is for the next post.

Anyway, every year I have my reading target. Last year it was 30 books and I completed 32. This year, it is 33 and I have read 10 so far. However, the quantity of book is not a primary goal but the quality is. You can read 30 short books and call it a day but you didn’t find any of those interesting or worth your time. Thus, you have failed. Every year I try to identify a book that truly moves me regardless whether I agree with the author or not. Last year, that honor went to “Animal Farm” by George Orwell and to a certain extent, “The Sympathizer” by Nguyen Viet Thanh. People might be familiar with “Animal Farm” with this quote “All animals are equal, but some animal are more equal than others” and “Khong co gi quy hon doc lap tu do” (“Nothing is more precious than freedom and independence”) vs (“Having nothing is more precious than freedom and independence”) from “The Sympathizer”.

For the first half of 2016, I read quite a lot of Russian classics e.g, Crime and Punishment, War and Peace, Anna Karenina, Brother Karamazov. I totally immersed myself with the guilt that engulfed Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment or intrigued my mind with ” Happy families are all alike, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” in Anna. Unknowingly, my writing style reflected the genre that I read. It was quite funny that during my performance review, my boss asked me if I had read any Russian classics so far. He commented that he sensed some Dostoyevsky usage of adjective and maybe some Tolstoy premise in my mid-year performance haha. At the end of 2016, I told him that I was reading Kafka so watch out for some enigmatic language and complex set up in my review. Thankfully I didn’t do it.

Recently, I have read quite a lot of Kafka stories such as The Trial, Metamorphosis, The Hunger Artist, etc. I am in the middle of One Hundred Years of Solitude. Besides, I have completed When Breath Becomes Air By Paul Kalanithi and 1984 by George Orwell (thank you, Trump). I reckon that all the book I have read so far for 2017 contains a strong sense of melancholy, darkness in the setup. Some of them was a like a utopia that seems so near yet so incomprehensible and slowly drifting away from the main characters. Anyway, my choice of books might be affected by the current working situation that I am stuck at.

Regardless of circumstances, reading has become my habit and I am glad that I am still maintaining that habit since young (not like I am old or anything ;)). Reading has changed my perception of the world, provided me with anecdotes for my conversations with friends, colleagues, and clients and yes, shaped who I am.

Below is the list of books I have done for 2017 YTD.

1984

The Refugee

The Trial

Metamorphosis

The Complete Stories of Franz Kafka

Reading Lolita in Tehran

When Breath Becomes Air

A Peace to End all Peace (ongoing)

One Hundred Years of Solitude (ongoing)

The Blackswan (ongoing) (by Nassim Taleb, not the novel one) – he is into himself too much ~.~

Why Nation Fail (ongoing)

 

New Chapter, Old Habit, A Rekindle

During my high school time, I used to write Yahoo!360 blog on a weekly or even daily period. I wrote extensively, from daily chat, task to books, ideas, future plans. Initially, it was meant to improve my writing skill and hopefully, to help me to express myself more eloquently. However, my Vietnamese literature score still sucked (I was nearly denied from applying to NUS because of low Vietnamese literature score) but on the other side, it became my habit or my own little treasure, my diary. During the write-up, my thought became clearer, my idea was sharpened and my mind was at ease. It helped to me overcame numerous challenges I faced at that important crossroad during University applications and overcame the depressing feeling each time I received a rejection from my dream school.

After coming to NUS, I tried to continue that habit for a while until that fateful day when Yahoo! announced to discontinue Yahoo!360 (shame on you Yahoo!). Since then, multiple attempts to continue writing blogs failed. Let’s see, I have tried WordPress (yes this one), Medium, Blogspot, etc. All failed. It seems to occur that my passion for writing has gone despite numerous attempts to re-kindle it. Until now, 9 years after my last posts, I am standing at the new crossroad and new chapter of life in pursuing an MBA in the new country. It is a leap of faith, similar to what I have done 10 years ago at NUS. Hence, I guess it is a good time to start that old habit again, once more time. Hopefully, this time will last and yes, WordPress, please do not shut down!!!!

Therefore, I make a promise to myself now, one post per week, publishing on Wednesday. The topic can be everything I would like to write. This is my blog anyway 🙂

That’s it, new chapter, old habit.

REKINDLE!

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Why MBA???

I am opening this blog with a question that has been lingering in my mind for the past one year. Why MBA? This is also the question my boss really stressing me out whenever we are in the discussion room talking about my career development. So I will try to provide some pros and cons from my personal experience and perspectives. They will help me to note down my thought at this very important cross road. Maybe a few months down the road, I will have a totally different answer. Anyway, it doesnt matter as change is the only constant in life, isnt it.

PROS

Networking is the strength:

I have spoken to a lot of people during my consideration period about what the most important / valuable thing they have acquired during their MBA. 100% of them replied back that it is the network of talented friends, super helpful alumni, etc. They talked with passion how they land an internship, score the interview or even sign the new job solely on the network. School boasted to prospective applicants how many thousands of alumni it has globally, how helpful and responsive they are. For example, Kellogg has XXXX, Chicago has YYYYY. Imagine getting lost on the street of Bangkok and some alumni spot you from the shirt you are wearing and voluntarily accompany you for the whole day. Impressive huh?

Career Development is emphasized:

Usually when you talk to MBA admission officer or MBA Alumni, they will elaborate at length on how MBA will help to to transform your career. You will be able to take a step up, turbo charge your career towards your goal not only 3-5 years, but also for life. You can take a step out from your daily chaotic work, reflect on your past career if it is what you really want to do. Also, you can experiment new things, career path until you determine what your next step is. Consequently, new path will come with new expectation both in learning opportunity as well as salary. MBA will help you to increase your salary base dramatically. Just look at website of Booth or Wharton and you will see the % of salary increment pre and post MBA.

AGAINST

 Opportunity cost is high:

Not only about USD100k+ that you will fork out to pay for tuition, room and board, MBA usually takes 2 years in US and 1 in EU or UK; hence, you should expect to lose 1/2 years worth of salary. Thus, your opportunity cost should be 200k instead… Imagine the worst case scenario that you get out of school and still clueless about your future similar to when you get it… Ouchhh, that would be painful isnt it?

Content is not new:

Whatever you learn in MBA should have been more or less cover in your Finance undergraduate course. So you will learn more about team-work, management, negotiation, time management, project management, etc. All of them can be acquired from work experience even networking skills which is the strong selling point of MBA.

The above are 2 main pros and cons that come out of my head about MBA. Sometimes I refer to take MBA is taking a leap of faith since your opportunity cost is high, your learning points can be acquired elsewhere. You will need to know what you want to do, why you want to do it.