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Archive for May, 2011

Are You Linked In?

The most recent IPO of LinkedIn raised a lot of eyebrows.  Starting off at $45 a share last Thursday, today’s stock price is a whopping $93.  With this apparent huge demand and popularity analysts are expecting to see similar IPO success with other social media firms like Groupon and Facebook.  Yes, there is enormous profit to be made being socially and commercially connected.

I believe I was on LinkedIn much earlier than the birth of my Facebook life.  Keeping business cards is a real chore and even if you have all of them nicely stacked in name card cases, they become obsolete in no time due to mergers & acquisitions, changes in company names, addresses and phone numbers, your contacts changing jobs, and eventually you find yourself totally disconnected from the business world, again.

Having my business contacts’ profiles on LinkedIn makes my life so much easier.  I can access them anywhere, be updated of their whereabouts, and no more obsolete corporate e-mail addresses due to personal movements.  More importantly, I can choose to upload my business credentials onto my profile for selected access of my contacts, making self introductions less necessary in business meetings.  Face it, knowing that you have been in the field for 11 years and being no stranger to competitors’ business, a subtle message of “I’ll not be fooled” is sent.

Though for bulk of the last decade LinkedIn is filled with so-called headhunters and personnel agencies trying to extend their talent database.  It’s not that bad actually if you are keen in knowing what’s out there, though at times it can get to be a bit annoying.  It certainly saves time applying for a job through conventional means.  Instead of approaching a headhunter or placement firm, now they come to you, and they come from all over the world with the convenience of a global platform.

That happens of course, if you have put together an impressive and colorful enough resume on your profile that attracts attention.   Although it’s impossible to gauge what recruiters and employers are looking for in each and every job opportunity, a detailed and comprehensive write-up won’t hurt.  Unlike Facebook, you are responsible to manage your professional image in front of the world, and it’s worth spending the time to craft your message.  With the functionalities of the two social networks getting more and more similar,  it’s gratifying to know that none of your business contacts will see a tagged photo of yourself dancing drunk on the bar counter, appearing right under your career achievements.

Well, maybe not yet.

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What is outsourcing?  Many are familiar with the term, but few can cite specific examples in their space.  In fact, it is much closer at home than you think.  There is outsourcing in your office, your own business, and more often than not, your home.

Technically speaking, whenever you are paying for an external party to help you with a task, service or process that you would normally do by yourself, you are outsourcing.  Hiring someone on your payroll is not, since you are still owning the responsibility.  So when corporations are trying to concentrate more on their core business of making money, every one of them are outsourcing their support functions, or, non-core businesses, to external parties.

Some may claim that it’s the capitalist way of cutting jobs and pay.  Though I don’t support allowances of inefficiencies.  If we really have no clue how to design, build, manage and maintain the car park in our office building, what’s the point of painstakingly identifying and hiring experienced personnel, only to fire them after the facility is completed?  Instead of spending unnecessary amount of time researching for the right technology and systems, applying for the right permits, and running into hick-ups and delays of unknown waters, outsourcing the car park design, construction and management services to a professional firm in the industry proves to deliver much more precise results.  We are now outsourcing our non-core requirements or services, to a partner whose services are of their core business proposition.

The only so-called alarming trend nowadays is that more and more of our supposedly core corporate functions are being identified as non-core.  Corporations want to save costs, and they also want to protect their brand image.  Though it doesn’t really work these days as public opinion still goes after the cost bearing parties, corporations still find it better hiding behind the outsourced partner.  Certain obligations can be passed along, financially or legally.  For the last two decades or so, we are seeing payroll, real estate management, mailroom services, logistics, finance & accounting, IT, HR, legal, and of course, procurement, being outsourced.

The way I see this makes sense is that with external parties, we are harsh toward them.  We want accountability, crystal-clear processes and deliverables, and lower costs every year.  If they would have done it in-house, it may take considerably more time and efforts to pitch, convince, and motivate internal staff to “up their game”.  Plus, there is on average 30% additional HR benefits being invested on each employee on top of their salaries.  As long as a reliable partner can be identified, most senior corporate management think it’s just a no-brainer.

For employees, this is definitely a worrying trend.  None of our jobs are truly secure these days.  Thousands of professional firms are popping up every month around the world looking for services to take up for our employers.  Just knowing what our employers do as a business actually limits our career.  We now need to make sure we are truly functional specialists that are non-industry specific.  What about opportunities?  Yes, consider the option of moving into specialist firms or BPO (business processing outsourcing) firms.  Just google the area you are in and you will find tons of HR services firms, finance & accounting solutions, procurement services BPO centers, and so on.  The field really has changed, and so are the game rules.  Though the experience can be a lot more satisfying depending on the type of person you are.

Still wanting a comfy life with the security of a large corporation?  Make sure you are one of the best within your team, and target for the remaining few positions that are still needed to lead and manage your corresponding outsourced firms.  These positions are still critically needed within the headcount of corporations, because all of them will acknowledge that failing to sufficiently manage an external outsourced partner is always a ticket to disaster.

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Life operates in its mysterious ways.  You will almost never get anything that you are fixated at, and when you least expect it, things come knocking on your door.   There is no way around it, and you just have to make sure you are always physically and mentally prepared for the unexpected journeys in life.

We can plan all we want, and believe me I’m probably more logical and organized than I should have in life.  Yet when the circumstances in life ask you to take a break from your work schedules, relationships,  or longer term plans, you just have to take a big breath, get your gears on (and sometimes off)  and embrace what’s next.  The most important thing is to learn how to be content with what you already have.  Don’t be a whiner.

Bessie Anderson Stanley wrote a poem in 1904 titled Success.  I find it very fitting today.

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much;
Who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;
Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty or failed to express it;
Who has left the world better than he found it,
Whether an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
Who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration;
Whose memory a benediction.

 

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Political Brain-Washing? Really?

I’m a liberal, and I am definitely not a fan of political propaganda drawn up by the sometimes out-of-touch administration and its mothership.  Yet when some critics claimed that the latest talks of civic education planned to be rolled out in our primary and secondary schools are  “brain-washing tools” , I can’t help to think that the teachers perhaps need to develop better and more sophisticated rebuttals than that.

No I’m not that naive to think that the administration isn’t planning to spoon-feed our young generation of the glorious prosperity of our state, ever.  Every policy and every cent spent has an agenda, so the motive is definitely there.  Though I believe whoever finding the way to “brain-wash” our generations Y & Z through a few hours of public school curriculum deserves a Nobel price.

 

Today’s youth is rebellious in nature, and it is not necessarily a bad thing.  We have to embrace it no matter we like it or not.  They are independent thinkers, though some may argue the logic of their thinking.  One thing for sure, they will not take in any knowledge or thoughts as granted.  So what are the chances of having them brain-washed by the most transparent form of patriotic education?  Just look at the student riots everywhere from London to France to Seoul.  These countries have a much longer standing as sovereign states, and they are still struggling of social unity across the classes.  So what is Hong Kong afraid of being a territory known for our indifference in our nationality?

Come on, except the occasional declarations on immigration forms abroad, how often do Hong Kong people acknowledge our nationalities?  We distance ourselves from mainland China because we cannot condone the many backwards policies and practices in the country, but we want their cash and the related business and job opportunities.  We make an effort to explain to our foreign friends that we are from Hong Kong and it’s used to be a British colony, but we know it’s political incorrect to express any reminiscing sentiments over the colonization period.  We know we are led by the supposedly independent Hong Kong government, though it is so lame-ducked and out-of-touch with the general public that it’s just unfashionable to even be sympathetic with the unimaginable duty it shoulders.  So what’s left of us?  A bunch of incredibly materialistic citizens who will flock to wherever that brings us instant gratification.  In more cases than not, to Hong Kong, that means CASH.

That’s why if you think our youngest generation has not caught on with the trend, you are just kidding yourselves.  Instead of brain-washing through civic education curriculum, just dangle a big fat deck of $500 notes in front of them.  That will do the trick.

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My Beloved

Never underestimate the power of a song and its lyrics.  Last night I was watching a Taiwanese entertainment talk show featuring the local diva Ah-Mei, and by the end of her live performance I  found myself tearing up.  I then youtubed the song’s music video and ended up crying through the night like a pathetic loser.  Yes, I was utterly moved to my tears.

Although it’s obviously no fun at all seeing and feeling yourself aching at heart and weeping alone, somehow I find that it’s a blessing to have the ability to feel and get in touch with my emotions.  I have never felt more alive, and it can be endearing to express my vulnerability once in a while.

To all of you who have truly loved someone in the past, I dedicate this song to you.  Enjoy a good cry, and move on!

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If yesterday’s list of top companies for work-life balance seems to be a bit too narrowly focused for you, glassdoor.com has published their annual poll on best places to work for the year 2011, based solely upon the opinions and ratings of actual employees, instead of company financials or human resource indexes. 

So let the drum roll begin…

  1. Facebook
  2. Southwest Airlines
  3. Bain & Company
  4. General Mills
  5. Edelman
  6. Boston Consulting
  7. SAS Institute
  8. Slalom Consulting
  9. Overstock.com
  10. Susquehanna International Group
  11. CareerBuilder
  12. MITRE
  13. QuikTrip
  14. Shutterfly
  15. NetApp
  16. Trader Joe’s
  17. Goldman Sachs
  18. McKinsey & Company
  19. National Instruments
  20. Apple
  21. Analog Devices
  22. Northwestern Mutual
  23. Procter & Gamble
  24. BB&T
  25. Synopsys
  26. Chevron
  27. Scottrade
  28. Bristol-Myers Squibb
  29. MassMutual
  30. Google
  31. Travelers Companies
  32. Fluor
  33. Monsanto Company
  34. Publix
  35. John Deere
  36. QUALCOMM
  37. Morgan Stanley
  38. State Farm
  39. Adobe
  40. REI
  41. Salesforce.com
  42. Ford Motor
  43. Turner Broadcasting
  44. Genentech
  45. Intel Corporation
  46. American Express
  47. Nike
  48. Deutsche Bank
  49. Cummins
  50. Capital One

According to glassdoor.com, “the ranking is determined based on the results of a 20-question survey that captures employees’ attitudes about: Career Opportunities, Communication, Compensation & Benefits, Employee Morale, Recognition & Feedback, Senior Leadership, Work/Life Balance, and Fairness & Respect.”

Here’s what some employees said about the top companies:

“The energy and direction of the company! There’s plenty of opportunity to take on new responsibilities and build the future of Facebook.”  – Facebook employee (Palo Alto, CA)

“The company was founded on the principle that in order to succeed you need to treat your co-workers as well as your customers. This had led to industry leading salaries, benefits and a fabulous place to work.” – Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant (location n/a)

“Always interesting and challenging, hardly ever boring, never menial. Everyone here is super intelligent and motivated. They really take care of their employees.” – Bain & Company employee (location n/a)

Same as yesterday, I also have the privilege of working for one of the top 50 list above.  All I can say is that everyone go about answering these survey questions differently and they are highly subjective.   What’s important for you may not be what I consider a priority at this stage, and vice versa.  Nevertheless, it never goes wrong to select bigger and more established global companies to work for as they have a bigger brand name to lose should their value proposition, policies and governance are not up to par.  Bottom line is, I have never been shy about my personal belief:  I don’t look for a caregiver at work.  I look for a place where I can add value in return for a fair pay check, and I know that place will be challenging.  If there exists a workplace that is filled with love, harmony, unconditional support, tolerance and complete equal opportunities, I guess none of us would be needed and hired in the first place.

* Oh well, non-profit or religious organizations an exception, of course.

 

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Alright alright, don’t boo me.  I know work-life balance is a politically correct alternative way of saying “I’ve had it up to here!”.  Many people would seriously doubt its existence in the first place.  Come on, what do we expect?  Our employers hold the pay check, and they pretty much have the rights to do whatever they want with it, particularly in our neck of the woods where there are hardly any worker unions except flight crews and the government.  We suck it up, and live with what we got.  When we are about to get burnt out, we look for something else and if we are lucky, it’s the same old story all over again.

Nevertheless, I still check this list where employees are asked to report how their companies rate for balancing work with personal life, by glassdoor.com.  Here is the list:

  1. Nestlé Purina PetCare
  2. MITRE
  3. SAS
  4. FactSet
  5. United Space Alliance Ops & Processing
  6. Slalom Consulting
  7. Facebook
  8. Morningstar
  9. Susquehanna International Group employee
  10. Colgate-Palmolive
  11. Mentor Graphics
  12. Autodesk
  13. Sheetz
  14. Agilent Technologies
  15. Turner Broadcasting
  16. Dupont
  17. Southwest Airlines
  18. General Mills
  19. Biogen Idec
  20. Scottrade
  21. Chevron
  22. Synopsys
  23. MTV
  24. Intuit
  25. National Instruments

What makes the list?  Some examples…

  • free lunches
  • flexible work hours
  • concierge services like car servicing and laundry
  • 24 vacation days
  • bringing pets to work
  • sabbatical every 4 years
  • ease of relocation
  • lights off at 6pm

It seems that I cannot complain since I have worked for one of the companies on this list.  However, all I can remember is that everyone’s salaries was cut by 5%, and we were forced to take no-pay-leaves when the economy was bad.  I paid the dues, but never enjoyed the perks which were mostly applicable for our US colleagues, anyway.

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Multinational corporations rely quite heavily on external consulting firms for a number of reasons.  They need an outsider’s point of view.  They need experts with specialist knowledge on areas that can’t be found in-house.  They need to strategize privately and confidentially.  They need someone authoritative to back-up and conduct due diligence on something they have already decided to proceed.  They want someone impartial to make difficult and often unpopular decisions within the company.

No matter how many industry jokes there are about consultants (as if any profession is ever immune), one cannot deny the importance of at least one of the above reasons.  Corporations do not need to take time to pitch the change or promote the upcoming initiative the way they would proceed without the appointment of a consultancy firm, at least when the project is barely at its infancy stage.  Engagement is fast, cooperation is usually guaranteed much due to the fear factor, and in my opinion, much of the fees are also paid for the deflection of any future blame, should there be a failure of the deliverables.

So if there is money to spend that is authorized all the way from the top, it does sound like there is nothing to lose.

Well, that is rather a loose pre-requisite here, I admit.  Corporations nowadays do not have that much money to burn anymore, and every cent they spend is under close scrutiny by the shareholders.  Though consulting spend sometimes is considered untouchable or out-of-scope depending on the policies of specific corporations, I do get myself involved from time to time, as a procurement professional.  I am involved in the analysis and souring of consulting firms, through to the finishing touches of negotiating the terms, fees, contracts and team members to be deployed.   Realistically, procurement is only involved on engagements that are relatively less sensitive.  I still look forward to having myself signing a sacred non-disclosure agreement in order to get myself invited to negotiating a top-level super-sensitive consultancy engagement deal.

Why?  Consultancy engagements are lucrative, to say the least.  Engagements I have involved with start from a few million US dollars, easily.  No matter what the proclaimed return on investment is, it still constitutes a big percentage of discretionary spend to be forked out upfront.  We can attempt to build in all the pay-by-performance metrics all we want, but the truth of the matter is, if there is no one involved to conduct at least the minimum due diligence on the costing formula and the engagement brief, the company only has itself to be blamed for being ripped off, big time.

It’s always a sensitive area for procurement to be invited to the table, and that pitch may very well come from the consulting firms themselves.  In order to avoid the risk of conflict of interest, many consultancies could only embrace my presence to prove that they have nothing to hide – and that is the first and smart step.  Internally, when senior stakeholders are adamant about their preferred consultancy partner, I position my value as one who helps build structure, transparency, fairness and accountability to the engagement contract.  In more times than not, that equates to monetary savings, or at least money better spent.

Sam Reynolds wrote an informative article titled “Two Threats Facing The Consulting Industry” on vault.com.  How do MNCs deal with the imminent pressures of cost control in their needs of consulting help?  What is the future of the consulting industry in view of internal consulting units and consultant-managers?  Whether you are a consulting or a strategic procurement professional, Sam’s article is not to be missed.

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A popular mainland Chinese cable TV show that attracts over 100 million viewers per episode continues to strike up controversies across the country.   It is similar to a condensed version of “The Bachelor” where 24 eligible ladies express their interests over 5 bachelors in each weekly episode, with the bachelors making their ultimate decisions after a few rounds of shortlists by the ladies. 

The show’s popularity lies largely on the eligible ladies.  Most are attractive models, former beauty peagent contestants or from well off families.  Yet like any other reality shows, viewers are mostly attracted by the unrehearsed snappy exchanges on stage.  For this show, there are plenty of this, from the bachelorettes.

“Is it because I’m just too beautiful?”

“I just know you need a beating the moment I hear you speak.  Let me get a whip now.”

“Looking at you make me realize that coming to this show is both a game and a dream.  Now I’m woken from my dream.” (upon seeing a bachelor with ordinary looks)

“We have to face the reality here.  The reality is that men turn bad when they got money.”

“Why is it me again? Damn, all I want is a low-profile life!” (upon selected by the bachelors repeatedly)

“Your clothes are from the 1930s.  Wait till it’s the 30s to look for your wife then.”

“I want the elite of the men, the talent of the elites, and the prince of the talented.”

“Never know what wine feels like till you are drunk, what love feels like till you have loved, what wealth means till you have been poor.”

“A person with my beauty and talent deserves no one less than David Beckham.”

“This is a dead-end with utterly no future.  Any woman who choose to be with you will never find light.”

The most renowned and controversial quote comes from a bachelorette in front of a bachelor who loves riding bikes.  “I’d rather cry on a BMW than laughing on a bike.”

Due to the candid exchanges on screen, the controversial show receives continuous censorship by the national broadcasting bureau on their “materialistic” influences.  However, the 100 million and plus viewers who tune in definitely find something that resonates: the overwhelming craving of wealth in today’s China.  Worse yet, everyone want to take shortcuts.  If you can capitalize on your looks, bodies, youth and social status, do it before it’s too late.  There is this oldest Chinese saying, “Laugh at the poor but not at the prostitutes,” that summarizes this prevailing but wicked notion in today’s China.  Well, if we are talking about those who are too underprivileged to even make their own living, the measuring stick may need a bit of fine tuning.  Though for a substantial portion of the viewing audience, plus those of the wealthy middle classes here in Hong Kong, the alarming phenomenon of generations X, Y and Z circulates around the dream of falling into the comfort of wealth and security right after coming out of college.  Paying the dues?  Going after my dreams?  No, not for me, if there is a bigger meal ticket up for grabs.  Dreams are far secondary.

Then there is this outcry of eligible ladies in their mid 30s in Hong Kong who complain that they can never find their other halves because no one is good enough for them.  Sure they are super eligible.  Most of them have successful careers and are financially independent.  They look down upon on guys who are indecisive and aimless.  They look for men who are secure, even more financially stable, and to top it off, willing to invest in extensive amount of time and efforts to woo them and make them feel like goddesses.  That’s not a bad dream, but you would think all that education and life experience would have prepped them to be a bit more realistic and tactful in the lesson of mutual support and give and take.  Think about the competition, ladies.  Be vulnerable, for once.  It’s no business transaction.

It certainly goes both ways for sure.  Too many men refuse to grow up and prefer to forever stay in our childhood utopia of computer games and instant gratification.  That is alright as long as a secure meal ticket is on the table.  “No, I just want a job that doesn’t take too much work and effort.  I can live with what I make now.”  The only thing is that they don’t realize they won’t stay 30 forever.  There will always be younger, fitter, and more aggressive new generation coming in and grabbing your jobs, in a second.  What’s the future, guys?

When young attractive people are going on television not to showcase their talents but to participate in some reality dating shows, I’m not sure whether I should shake my head or applaud them for making a run of fulfilling their childhood fantasies.  For many of them, I suspect that marrying someone rich literally is the bedtime story read by their parents.

 

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I came across this interesting article on Men’s Health how some food ingredients can trick our bodies into not recognizing fullness, and we all know what happens after that.  We continue eating even after we have finished a satisfying lunch or dinner.  Men’s Health listed these 7 reasons from the book “The New American Diet” by Stephen Perrine and Heather Herlock.

1. You Drink Too Much Soda

Sodas and sweetened beverages contain high-fructose corn syrup, which according to new research from the University of California at San Francisco, can trick our brains into craving more food, even when we are full.  “It works by impeding the body’s ability to use leptin, the “satiation hormone” that tells us when we’ve had enough to eat.”

2. Your Dinner Came Out of a Can

“Many canned foods are high in the chemical bisphenol-A, or BPA, which the Food and Drug Administration recently stated was a chemical “of some concern.” Exposure to BPA can cause abnormal surges in leptin that, according to Harvard University researchers, leads to food cravings and obesity.”
 
3. Your Breakfast Wasn’t Big Enough
 
True.  A good breakfast drammatically cuts down my craving for a heavy greasy lunch.  “After following 6,764 healthy people for almost 4 years, researchers found that those who ate just 300 calories for breakfast gained almost twice as much weight as those who ate 500 calories or more for breakfast. The reason: Eating a big breakfast makes for smaller rises in blood sugar and insulin throughout the day, meaning fewer sudden food cravings.”
 
4. You Skipped The Salad
 
“…leafy greens…are rich in the essential B-vitamin folate and help protect against depression, fatigue, and weight gain. In one study, dieters with the highest levels of folate in their bodies lost 8.5 times as much weight as those with the lowest levels. Leafy greens are also high in vitamin K, another insulin-regulating nutrient that helps quash cravings. Best sources: Romaine lettuce, spinach, collard greens, radicchio.”
 
5. You Don’t Stop For Tea Time
 
Ok, easy.  They are not talking about those egg tarts, cakes and chicken wings you may be thinking about.   They are talking about actual tea here.   “According to a study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, people who drank one cup of black tea after eating high-carb foods decreased their blood-sugar levels by 10 percent for 2 and a half hours after the meal, which means they stayed full longer and had fewer food cravings. Researchers credit the polyphenolic compounds in black tea for suppressing rebound hunger.”
 
6. You’re Not Staying Fluid
 
Can’t be more true.  So many of us are simplying not drinking enough water.  “Dehydration often mimics the feeling of hunger. If you’ve just eaten and still feel hungry, drink a glass of water before eating more, and see if your desires don’t diminish.”
 
7. You’re Bored
 
I’ll be damned.  How many of us want to eat just because we hate to get back to work?  “Researchers at Flinders University in Australia found that visual distractions can help curb cravings. To test yourself, envision a huge, sizzling steak. If you’re truly hungry, the steak will seem appealing. But if that doesn’t seem tempting, chances are you’re in need of a distraction, not another meal.”
 
The book comes highly recommended from fellow readers.   Check it out even if you are not American – our diets are getting similar!
 

 

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