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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Of Shark's Fin & Bear Paws

I am proud to say my company has banned shark's fin soup from any company dinner event. It started with my Australian big boss who banned it on the spot when he accidentally tasted it at a function. You know Australians, they are big on environment issues.
Today I heard a radio program which focused on protecting the environment. The DJ said he discovered something which he would like to share with his listeners. Although many environmentalists advocate carpooling and reduction of car usage by using public transport etc, sometimes these changes are nearly impossible for us because it really takes too much effort. This is especially dependent on the public transport connections and the nature of our jobs - for example, if you have a sales job, then it would be very difficult to not take the car. However, choosing not to eat certain things does not take effort. The DJ shared a story about a University professor who visited the indigenous people in Thailand and was taken to see a bear cub that was captured. He thought it was very cute, and having little communication skills with the people, he thought that the bear cub will be nursed back to health and then released. A week later, when the professor returned to see the bear cub, it was only a carcass with no paws and no head. The head was a prize in someone's house. The rest went into the cooking pot. The professor was horrified. In this world, we humans still have so many things to eat. It's not as if there is a worldwide famine going on. Why go for endangered and exotic species and hunt them to death?
I found the story really touching and meaningful. Choosing not to eat exotic meats can help protect the environment, and it is something we can do with very little effort. I urge all of you who are reading this to take a stand, and make our world a better place.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Neocyber Domain, Cyberjaya for Rental

The current tenants of my unit of serviced apartment at Neocyber Domain, Cyberjaya, will move out at end of June 2010. Once they do, I will do some touch up to the place and it would be fully furnished.

I am excited about it as I like interior decor and the design would be practical, clean and bright. I am already shopping around for additional things that will go into the apartment. That means taking annual leave in early July to ensure everything is in tip top condition and ready by 2nd week of July.

The facilities include a swimming pool, gymnasium, multi-purpose hall, surau, BBQ area and a study cell. (Don't ask me why it's a named a cell - perhaps to imprison the students for fruitful study periods?) Security is tight as entry requires an electronic card. CCTV is also installed at the carpark and main entrance at the ground floor. The unit is broadband ready, and there are wireless ‘hot-spots’ at common areas.

The Domain is walking distance to eating places. There is a bus stop where you could take buses to Alamanda (for weekly grocery shopping). Free shuttle buses are also provided by Multimedia University.

The unit itself has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and is fully furnished. A fridge, microwave oven, washing machine, water heaters in both bathrooms, airconditioners & fans in all bedrooms, dining table, sofa, tv, a kitchen ready for cooking etc are provided.
Photos? Will post it here soon.

Meanwhile, if there is anyone who is interested in renting, please leave a comment and provide your email address ;-)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Rejecting an Offer from Another Company

Continuing from my post of Leaving vs. Staying Back, here is what I learnt about the "right" process to do when rejecting a job offer.
If you have been offered a job by another company, you would then get an offer letter which you have to sign within a stated time period, usually within a week. Signing on that letter means that you have agreed to join them.
Usually candidates would wait for the offer letter before tendering in their resignation. With the letter, they have a firm document in hand - they have a job in another company. They would then let their current employer know that they are planning to resign and submit the resignation letter. During this period, if the company wants to retain the employee, negotiations would take place, and then the candidate would make the final decision.
The unspoken ethics about this procedure is not to sign on the offer letter first before letting your current employer know of your intention to resign. That shows your company that you would like to give them a chance to retain you. If you have already signed on that letter, then what can the company do? (Unless your company is really crappy and you wouldn't think twice about leaving). However, nowadays, many younger generation employees think nothing about putting their signature down on that letter. They think they can still reject the new company if things work out alright at the old company - as if the signature carries no weight at all.
In my experience, the candidate confirmed joining my company and signed on the letter, and then gave 1 month's notice to his old company. During that period, his company decided to woo him back and succeeded. It took the candidate a total of 2.5 weeks after signing the offer letter to tell me that he won't be joining us after all. Imagine my frustration - I lost 2.5 weeks because during the time I thought he accepted, I stopped interviewing others. I also lost my 2nd choice because that candidate decided to accept another job after hearing that we didn't offer her the job. The results were devastating to me. I had to start interviewing all over again and it was already so late - my project timelines were thrown off course.
My boss always said it is ok to reject a company's offer on 2 conditions: 1. You have not signed on the offer letter and 2. You don't take too long to tell them. That's because if you are good, your company will fight to keep you. So if you reject an offer, the other company would understand that you really are that good. But be considerate, let them know early so that they, too, can move on. And have integrity, your signature should mean that you intend to keep your end of the bargain. The CEO's signature on the offer letter guarantees that you have a job, so why shouldn't your signature guarantee something to them?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Baby Xin's Kangaroo Bib

At 4 months, Baby Xin is drooling a lot. So the kangaroo bib that my friend gave me comes in handy. Last Sunday, J was holding her so I took the bib and gave it to him to wear on Baby Xin.

This is the picture of the effect. It felt like Halloween already!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Our Palazio Austin studio unit

J and I just came back from a 2-day trip to JB. While I went to work, J caught up with his friends. Then today(Saturday), we went to see the Palazio show unit and the progress of building. We have bought a studio unit there.

So far, they have completed the piling only.This building is due to be completed in July 2011. 

Our studio unit has a little balcony. When it is completed, we hope to furnish it and rent it out to take advantage of the booming projects in Iskandar Malaysia. J and I think that maybe we can stay there for 1 or 2 nights when we take our kids to Legoland!

Post-note: I think I got the completion date wrong.  It cannot be July 2011, when the progress payment as of Jan 2011 is still at 10%.  ;-(

Friday, May 21, 2010

Leaving vs Staying Back Depends on What You Really Want

There was a time when I looked out of my current company for another job. That job would have given me the promotion to business unit manager and the salary increase which I sought. Although I liked my job very much, I couldn't see how I could be promoted in the near future and therefore had to look out, after 6 years of being in the same position.
When the offer came, I really felt very uncomfortable as my bosses were very good people to work with. Before receiving the offer letter which was supposed to be ready the next day, I spoke to my manager about leaving, about how difficult that decision had been for me, and what opportunity awaited me outside.
She said it was such a good thing that I came to her first, before signing on the offer letter. That was because I was showing consideration to my company by giving them a chance to hear me out on what I wanted, and see if they could something about it. If I had just signed the letter and threw in my resignation, that would have been totally heartless and untactful, even in this dog-eat-dog corporate world, especially when I had very supportive bosses who had invested time in grooming me. Since I had such a good reason to leave - promotion - I certainly had no qualms about sharing my plans with them. To my surprise, they said I didn't have to leave at all. A new position similar to what I was seeking had opened up and they were going to announce that for internal applicants! And they would be supportive of my application since they had that career plan for me anyway.
At that time, I still considered to leave as I had given the outside company so much hope about joining them. My big boss intervened and asked me to stay. I remember saying, "Just let me go, I'm just a brand manager, you can find someone to replace me in a month or 2." But he said he would never find another me, and I was very touched.
I stayed back. And there are unspoken ethics about the way to reject the other company as well, which I would share in my next blog. The gist of it was, if I could get to where I want to be in my current company with a supportive environment that I already know, there was really no need to leave and to reestablish my performance, stature and level of trust in a new environment. Even if it meant forgoing that high salary jump, for the time being.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Think before you leap

A colleague of mine recently resigned to accept another job which he hoped would give him new things to learn, sharpening of skills in formulating strategies and exposure in marketing management of 2 countries.

Our industry circle is very small, and my boss and I had heard some unfavourable things about the people managing that company. So we gave our colleague ample warnings without sounding too much like we were saying bad things just because we wanted him to stay back. In fact, I said only enough to convey the most relevant information, and encouraged him to get feedback from other people, including our clients who certainly had dealings with that company as well. However, blind in his enthusiasm for a new start, better pay, and promises by that company's HR department, he refused to do his research homework. The only people he clarified with were the HR execs of that new company.

So we sent him off with a farewell dinner and well wishes, and my boss looked for another person to fill his position.

2 weeks after he started work there, he called me and asked to come back! I thought he was joking and said, "Haha! Very funny!" and began to advise him that it was only teething pains and things would work out well after he got used to the new environment and systems there. But he was serious about coming back. So I told him to talk to the boss.

Unfortunately, my boss had already offered his job to the new replacement. He was too late.

I asked him why he wanted to come back, and he said that he was misled about the situation in that company. Instead of being able to formulate strategies, these came "top down" from the USA, which he was not allowed to change to suit local situations. Instead of providing marketing support with very much of a free reign, he had to consult the regional marketing manager who is in charged of Asia Pacific, but because she is based in Malaysia, that manager has 10 fingers in the Malaysian pie. In a nutshell, his expectations for career development there were not met.

Moral of the story: Do your homework before you go. The hiring HR execs could either intentionally hide certain facts, or they are simply "blurr" as well.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Technology Era, Technology Kid

My daughter, Yuan, did well in a BM assessment for Std 1 pupils. To encourage her, I thought a surprise reward in the form of picking any book she likes the next time we visit MPH, would be a pleasant gift for her.
So I said, "Yuan, I am going to reward you for your excellent work in the BM test."
Without missing a heartbeat she asked, "What reward? A laptop?"
Kids these days....

Friday, May 14, 2010

Thomas Cup as Wei sees it

"How can Lee Chong Wei lose, mom? He is World No. 1, so how can he lose?" Wei was complaining to me after Lin Dan won.

Then, when the first doubles were losing, he walked into my room and said: "I'm going to complain against China!"

"Complain against China? About what?"

"Hey China, did you employ a foreign coach? You can't do that!" This must be too much English Premier League education from his dad.

"No, dear, China's coach is from China..."


"Yes, just like Malaysia's coach is from Malaysia..."

"I still don't like China, mom! Malaysia is losing!"

My Malaysian little boy.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What's in a Platinum Card?

I just came home from meeting a client over drinks in Midvalley today. After discussing business, we talked about other trivial things, including the benefits of having a platinum credit card, which in my opinion is very few and far between.

After that, on the way to the carpark at Gardens, I passed by the washrooms beside Isetan. Thinking that I did not want to be caught in the traffic jam outside Midvalley with a full bladder, I decided to visit the washroom when I was stopped by a sign at the counter.

Premier Washrooms - RM5 per entry. ("What?!")
Free Entry for Holders of the Following:
Isetan card - ("I don't have...")
Robinsons card - ("Ok, I didn't bring...")
Platinum cards of any banks - ("Hey, I took it out today to call the bank to cancel it...")

And voila! I pulled it out of my handbag, showed it at the counter and walked right in.
And since I've forgotten to call the bank, I think I will keep the platinum card, and cancel the gold instead. What's in a platinum card? I didn't even apply for it, it was sent by the bank, and has a low credit limit. Maybe it should include this line as one of the benefits: "Free entry into the premier washrooms of Midvalley." ;-)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Wei's Saturday Schedule

Wei is always too busy on Saturdays. I feel guilty about this, however he and I have both accepted it.
First thing in the morning at 8.30, he has chess class at school. He gets home before 11am, and gets ready for the piano teacher. Unlike conventional piano lessons, this teacher does not encourage exams and grading, which is the way I like it. Just music appreciation and playing the piano for the love of music. After that, a quick lunch at 12pm, because at 1pm he attends tuition for BM karangan and Chinese essay writing for 3 hours. He goes to this tuition (at the next block to our home) in his swimshorts underneath his clothes and packs along a towel, flippers and a swimboard. That's because he has swimming lessons at the pool downstairs at 4pm.
I did try to reduce the number of activities for him on Saturday. Aside from the 3-hour tuition which is compulsory (as he was very weak in Karangan and Chinese essay), I told him he could drop any one of the others. This is what he said after some analysis: "I love chess and I really want to attend the classes. If I stop the piano lessons, then you would have wasted money buying the piano since nobody would play. And the swimming lessons, you said that if I were in an aeroplane one day and it fell into the sea, then at least I can swim to save my own life. So, I have to attend everything."
My boy, so rational and considerate. And so bought into my story of the aeroplane plunging into the sea and swimming away to save his life ;-)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Chess - 2nd Stage

Wei came to me excitedly yesterday. He has been selected to take part in next week's chess competition. Apparently, he is ranked number 7 in the boys under 10 category at our Zone, so now he is a Zone Representative. According to him, those who rank number 1 to 12 are eligible to take part. There are 2 others from his school taking part, they are ranked number 9 and 12 (at this point of the story I swelled up with pride).
So next week he will miss 4 days of school, because when he gets to school, his teacher will drive them to the competition. That will be quite an experience for him as he is now competing with boys who are winners in their own zone too. He tells me that he is a little worried that he won't win, but I say, "It's okay, it doesn't matter if you win or lose. What's most important is that you tried your best."
I hope that next week, I wouldn't have to pacify a sad, teary-eyed boy because he lost. Best of luck, Wei!

Post-note: Wei played 7 games from May 10-13, and won only 2. He didn't qualify into the next round. He was disappointed, of course, but at least he didn't cry.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Updates on my Domain apartment

In my previous post entitled Collecting the Keys to my Domain, I revealed that I had recently bought a rental property in Cyberjaya. After the keys collection, the developer was supposed to contact the existing tenants to inform them that future rental fees should be paid to the new owner (me) and to contact me directly. Unfortunately, despite numerous attempts from the developer rep, the tenants could not be contacted.
That was until last Tuesday when I got a call from a Botswanian girl who said she was the tenant in my apartment with 2 other girls. She explained that she had stayed there even though it was her brother and his friend who initially rented the apartment. The rep was trying to contact her brother through his old local mobile number, the SIM card of which he had lost, hence the inability to contact them at first. She wanted to meet with me, so we arranged to meet the next day.
It was a little weird as we sat down in the apartment that was now mine - J and I with the 2 Botswanian girls and an Iranian girl; housemates in the apartment. I expected the house to be bare, but they had actually furnished it quite completely. I did not wish to continue the tenancy as I would like time to furnish the apartment and then rent it out for higher rental fees. We negotiated because while they really would not want to move, I was not prepared to continue at the current terms. We worked on some options, and they said that they would need a week to decide on which option when the tenancy expires on 30th June 2010. As of now, I can only wait for their decision.
This was really unexpected, a lesson to keep in mind if you are buying a property with existing tenancy.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

My experience with Interviews

In the beginning when I had to interview, I was always uncertain. How to determine the quality of the candidate, how to review, how to bring out the best in people - everything to me was just gut feel and guess work. But my boss insisted that I do it anyway, and she will provide the backup support being the 2nd interviewer.

So I went ahead, and most of the time I was unable to make a judgment about how good people are even after I've interviewed them. I would do a quick summary of the person and let my boss see him too. Then we will reconvene and she will tell me what she has picked up from her observation. I learnt to read cues, verbal or non-verbal, and asking critical questions that will help open up the candidates and help us understand them better.

Over the course of a few interviews, I found that I knew better already. I can now make a quick judgment, and profess my opinion confidently when I am recommending for 2nd interview, or cut short the interview and let the candidate go. I found myself confidently expressing: "I like this candidate." Or "No, Boss, you don't need to see." It's amazing! Although I didn't like interviewing at first because I was always so unsure, now I found that the extra interviews that I do actually hone my skills.

Of course, interviews are not foolproof. There will still be hiring mistakes. But my boss has been through enough interviews to make the odds better. And it is great to be learning under her guidance. I still learn a lot from her, especially the 50-50 cases.