Thursday, 22 May 2008

Starbucks, please control yourself

I am writing again in response to Bert Hart, The Genuis of Starbucks' New Wi-Fi Strategy. I also would like to announce that I am officially a member of Brazen Careerist (look right). Clap clap clap! Although it is not a-million-dollar deal or something, but I guess big things happen one step at a time.

Bert said:
Starbucks has announced that it will be providing 2 free hours of consecutive wireless internet use per day to customers who use their Starbucks cards at least once a month. Translation: if you have a Starbucks card, which is free, and you drink at least one cup of coffee per month, you can go into any Starbucks in the world (by the end of 2008) and use the internet for 2 straight hours without being hassled by baristas or blocked out of the network.

I always go to Starbucks because I like to write and do works on my laptop outside. I would easily drink a cup of coffee per month and can afford the Starbucks card (anyway, it is free..LOL)

But I really hate it when they want to limit only 2 hours for the Internet use. So, if I drink 2 cup of coffees per month, am I eligible for 4 hours use? And is it like redemption thingy, like after I use the 2 hours connection, I have to drink another coffee to redeem 2 hours more the next day? I just wonder at what kind of stunt they are pulling. Kind of like Strategy A: we can get sales of 10 cup of coffee more per month, Strategy B: we can get each of the stupid people (I really do not know how many) to buy 1 more cup of coffee per month.

I really hope they would not implement that kind of control. I love Starbuck for the environment and the fact they are everywhere as I would not want to drive 10 km to get coffee. The coffee is great, but not the best so far. I prefer San Francisco’s actually.

Anyway, why they do this maybe due to 2 reasons:

First, from what I read in “The Undercover Economist” book, we are actually paying premium price for our coffees at places like Starbucks because of they are providing us with the environment. It does not cost them very much to make the coffee actually. So, I guess they are trying to say to us that we are not paying enough for the coffee because the coffee price actually includes the place where we are sitting (up to how many square feet we occupy), air-conditioning, the nice music and most of all, the Wifi-connection, which was introduced much later. So, it is another way of saying, we should pay for the Wifi connection because when they calculated and came out with the price for the coffee, they have not taken wifi-connection into consideration. So, assuming I am Starbucks top executive, I would think, how do we make our customers pay for the Wifi? If we increase the price for the coffee when the coffee price worldwide is not increasing, customers will f**k us. So, we have to be “creative”.

Second, I think it is a strategy from preventing people like me who usually hang out in Starbucks for more than 4 hours with just one cup of coffee (yes, I am cheapskate but at least I buy at least one cup. Size of Venti some more, what do they want?). Of course, by being there for more than 2 hours, the only thing they lose is another customer who can order a cup of coffee (yes, 1 more cup in sales) and sit at the place I am sitting. Place rental is always not cheap.

And remember the letter the Starbucks chairman, Howard Schultz sent out to warn of “the commoditization of the Starbucks experience”. He mentioned about “Push for innovation and do the things necessary to once again differentiate Starbucks from all others.”

Now, what an innovation Starbucks comes out with.

On additional notes, I just realize Starbucks is called Starbucks and not Starbuck, without the s behind. It really means that they are out not just to make one dollar or just an amount of money from you. They want lots and lots of money from you, your parents, your kids, your friends and whoever you know.

Getting Things Done Using iGoogle

Erik Folgate from Brazen Careerist shared a useful tip on Getting Things Done Using iGoogle. I found it to be really useful after trying it for more than a week. You have to believe me as I have used all sort of tools to keep track of my task lists ever since I read the Getting Things Done book but to no avail. So here am I again, giving another shot to keep things organized and tracked properly.

Here is a funny product tour for iGoogle. I really love Google products!!!!!



I manage to improvise a little bit on Erik's suggestion. Here are my suggestion.

1. For the "Get Things Done" tab, include also "Gmail" widget, "Yahoo Mail" widget or whatever mail you are using. Email usually serves as the inbox for tasks also, so it is right to put them in that tab.

2. You can also add "Quotes of the Day" widget also. This can cheer you up a little while you are gazing at the task lists each day and wondering how can you complete all of those. Hakuna Matata!

3. "Remember the Milk" and "Google Calendar" widgets are pretty useful but I found "Google Notes" to be dissappointing. I hate the structure of the notes and the fact that the display is bad. I need to literally scroll up and down each time to see all the notes. For that, I substituted it with a "To-do List" to keep the list of the notes. I use notes only to put some reminders like what I am waiting for and what I need to buy.

4. I also added a "Reading" tab where I have all the widgets for reading RSS feeds from local newspapers. Try to keep the reading list to the minimal so that you would not be too overwhelmed.

5. Lastly, you may also find the "Beauty Tip of the Day" widget to be quite inspirational. Example: "Be careful the environment you choose for it will shape you; be careful the friends you choose for you will become like them." William Stone

It is always good to feel beautiful each day.

Hope you find this to be useful.

Monday, 19 May 2008

My Profile

I recently came across this wonderful site, Brazen Careerist , a network for young and vibrant bloggers who have the following tag line:

A Brazen Careerist knows that defining your own career, finding the right field, and pursuing it are key ingredients to a fulfilling life. Like the tag line suggests, when you define your career on your own terms first, you control your life.

Great and sound like what I am doing, I thought to myself. After reading through some postings and enjoying them, I decided to join the Brazen Careerist Network (***I am really getting more serious in writing***).

In no less than a week, Ryan Paugh, a community relations coordinator for Brazen Careerist and also a co-founder wrote to me. He said he recently checked out my blog and is very impressed. He thinks I would make an excellent addition to the community. ( Clap Clap Clap!!!)

Then, came the part where he inquired about my age. He explained that the community consists of twentysomething professionals. Because they are trying to keep that niche, they only allow twentysomethings into the community.

Oops, I did not know that is the one of the criteria to join the community. It makes me feel very old. It is not Ryan's fault anyway because I always feel old. Anyway, I just turned 29 this year. I am not sure whether I can still consider myself a "twentysomething". I still remembered an episode in Ally Mcbeal where she said turning 30 is “worse than death”. I got to like Ally Mcbeal show because I kind of connected to her in a very weird and age phobic way. I do not know why I understand the age-phobia thingy back then when I was still in my "early twenties". But I think most of the Brazen Careerists would not understand that. Also, I doubt they have watched Ally Mcbeal before (not really in their era).

The website did say it is an online career center aimed at Generation Y . Call me stupid but I just got to know from wiki that Gen Y are individuals born from 1983 to 1997. So, that does not include me, sadly. Anyway, since it is "aiming" at Gen Y and not really "originating" from Gen Y, I guess I may still stand a chance to become part of the writers community. Or, I am consoling myself and trying to numb the sadness of approaching thirties. Or, maybe I should just start a new community for thirtysomething people.

Anyway, I decided to give it a try and wrote a reply to Ryan. Since he also said he would like to hear more about myself and ask me to share anything I like, I took the opportunity to write my profile. I hope to sell myself a bit there (***see, I am really getting more serious in writing***) . I also updated my profile in this blog. It is a bit different from the profile I sent to Ryan because this blog only allow up to 1200 characters so I have to amend it. A bit stupid but I am still grateful to this blogging tool anyway.

Oh, by the way, I cannot help to highlight all the age-specific details in this posting. But please do not be afraid, I welcome people from all age to comment in my blog. Gen X, Gen XXX, Gen Y , Gen Z or even people with no gen are truly welcomed.

Anyway, here is my reply to Ryan.

Hi Ryan,

I just turned 29 on April this year. I hope I am still qualified to join Brazen Careerist. I am very impressed by the articles and bloggers in Brazen Careerist community. It will do me proud to be part of the team too.

I think I have a lot of things to offer to the readers in career, life, personal development and relationship. Let me put in it a more dramatic way about me. I have gone through hell to find heaven. That is also a statement I started with in the current book I am authoring. The book is about relationship and I expect it to be published in a year from now.

In career, I have much to share. I started my career as a programmer and I managed to climb the ladder and become an IT Manager within 6 years. Thus, I have almost 3 years of management experience now.

Surprisingly, my biggest change in life happened within the recent 6 months. In the span of 3 months since November last year, I gave up my job at the local IT firm and my relationship with my boyfriend, both which wear out 6 years of my life.

Finally, I decided I had enough of the 9-5 job, the off-balance and unorganized life, dealing with office politics and hypocrites as well as living my life struggling to make ends meet. So, I quitted my most recent job and remain employed for almost 3 months now. I am going to start my own business in IT very soon. At the same time, I am also looking to start my career as a writer, expanding myself from being just a blogger. I am also fed up with mixing with the wrong crowds who are negative and do not have the right mindsets to be successful in life. So, I also have major changes in friendship and most importantly, my mindsets and habits.

I am embarking on a new journey to chase my dreams, so to speak. But the greatest thing of all, I already found my greatest dream – love. I am planning to start my family soon with a man who taught me about unconditional love and who has changed my life forever. He is also my ex-boss in my last company, my mentor as well as my walking dictionary and wikipedia. He is the smartest and craziest person I ever see in my life.

With enough said, I really think I have a lot of things to offer to the fellow readers. It is also a path that I passionately and relentlessly pursue.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Dare to Change

When I resigned from my first job, the Director of my IT department warned me against the danger lurking outside. I still remembered his words after 7 years. He said "It is a jungle out there". I thought this to myself. I rather be in the jungle than be inside a cage. I was very excited to face any challenges out there.

However, I moved from one cage to another. And then came the best part of all. I moved to a setting bigger than a cage.

And that would be a farm. Yes, a farm. So, I had the chance to be with a bunch of farm animals (figuratively speaking, of course! Please excuse my snobbery, my dear ex-colleagues). There are headless chicken, lame ducks, black sheeps, guinea pigs, sly old foxes and so on in the farm. But I saw mostly dogs. Not only dogs are dogs but they worked like dogs and look dog-tired at most of the times too.

Wait, that must include me too! I was the dog. Woof! Woof! Oh, I just remembered, I was also been called a Lame Duck once.

The farm is comfortable and realistically as simulating as the outside world, except it is not. There are greeneries, flowers, waters and everything we need as a farm animals. There are gates which protect us from the outside jungles. Everyone works strenously (wait, not everyone!) and innocously (in the surface). Again, the it-is-a-jungle-out-there sentiment is preached most vigorously. While food are fed to us, we are reminded that in the outside jungle, we need to do hunting on our own and most probably we would be starved and would not survive.

Indeed, it is true, but only for the one apparent reason. We are not trained to hunt at all!

And wait, it is not true for the part where people cannot survive outside. In fact, they survive better because they become stronger.

I have ventured out and I survived. So are the many people I know. Of course, there are bruises and scrapes here and there. But these are all invaluable life experiences.

So, why do most of us afraid of change? Previously, I was immoderately guilty of this. Otherwise, I would not be 7-years-late to venture out into the jungle.

In retrospect, I was being too safe, too afraid to fail and to lose what I have built. I understand this now - You don't win big by playing not to lose.

My ex-boss actually made a bet that I would not survive in the new company (the jungle) for more than 3 months. That was a classic attempt from him to dissuade me from venturing out, despite rigorously instilling the doubts and fears in me.

Although I left the new company after 4 months, I never regret the decision to venture out. In fact, it was the best decision I ever made in my life. The only regret - I was immeasurably late. I wondered at the chances that had passed by, the other different knowledge and experience that I could gain. But there is no use to ruminate all these.

I have to admit life at the jungle is hard. Sometimes, it is deadly dangerous especially for people who do not know how to hunt.

I fell down. I cried. I was crushed.

But I was also awakened. I learnt new things and I found invaluable things like love, genuine trust and respect from people and a new way of looking at life and work.

Mostly importantly, I have the greatest experience in my lifetime. From what I learnt from one of my favourite book, experiencing is the secret to success in life.

It is not the child who is taught about love but the child who has experienced love that grows into a healthy, happy and well-adjusted adult. Our present state of self-confidence and poise is the result of what we have “experienced” rather than what we have learned intellectually.

I have dared to change. For that, I stand tall for myself.



Sunday, 4 May 2008

My Life so Changed

Some of my friends are wandering how I have been for the past few months or weeks. It seems like I had disappeared. The fact is I have not been very active in hanging out with friends and ex-colleagues lately. There had been many changes in my life and I wanted the time to rediscover and re-organize myself, and to rebuild the confidence. I think everyone needs to do that at some points in their life, especially after going through some crisis.

Anyway, things are getting better. The dark clouds are moving away and I am once again clear-minded about what I want in my life.

If anyone of you is going through uncertainties, my only advice to you is to continue to believe in yourself. Have FAITH.

So, I wanted to share some of the things that I have written, which I never have the courage to publish. Initially, I feel like this kind of posting will make my blog looked like a diary, which I do not really want. However, from the survey I put out in my blog, I found that most people want me to share my life and work experience. So, I guess, this may be acceptable.

My Bad Habits- written on 31 March 2008, modified on 4 May 2008

More than eight years ago, I stepped into the work life at the age of twenty. Young, in-experienced and with only my diploma in IT as my qualification, I got my first job at a local securities firm. The starting paid is RM1500. It was considered a very good paid at that time as Malaysia had just recovered from the economic crisis late of 1997. Back then, I juggled between long-hours work and part-time study for Degree.

Through the years, I worked hard to acquire knowledge and experience. I rushed through most of the days with never-ending piles of works and I managed to climb the career ladder.

I achieved excellent results in study. I was the best PMR and SPM students in secondary schools and I got first class honours for my degree. I was promoted to manager-level job after 6 years of working as programmers in my third company, which I have worked for total of 6 years. I had 6-years long relationship with one that I thought was the love of my life, but the one who I could not bring myself to marry. I bought my first property more than 3 years ago. I have friends whom I hanged out and a few close friends whom I shared my feelings and thoughts.

My best friend was my notebook. I almost brought him everywhere I go, even sometimes on vacations. I declared myself a workaholic.


While everything seemed like heading to the right directions, I was actually heading to my own doom. And believe me, this is not an understatement.

In many ways, I found that I was living in a virtual reality, where things look good on the outside, but inside was empty.

I mixed with people who are no better than me. When I was in doubt in myself, they made me more doubtful by giving me negative advices. I could not blame them, though because I had made the same mistakes and I vowed not to do that again. Sometimes, our parents do that too. Like when I went swimming, they asked me to be careful of not to get drown. When I went diving, they would alert me about the possible tsunami. Of course, beneath the advices was the care and love. However, at most times, such advices did not make a point especially when you were already determined to do it. It just creates doubts and fears in you.

The property I bought more than 3 years ago was actually a bad decision. The developer was going to build another phase in front of my unit which, most probably blocked the city view that the tenant should be enjoying. I spent quite a lot of money there also on the renovation which never seem to be completed as I encountered some really bad contractors, one of which was a friend of my ex. So, finally, I decided to let go my pain and sell or rent out the unit.

So, I found some money and lost some. I have been cheated money too, by the closest person you ever imagined would cheat your money. Worst of all, I also been cheated my opportunities with false promises and empty hope.

And I let go of my relationship of 6 years. There were all the obvious reasons for me to have done this earlier, but I just ignore the signs and continue to pull through a bad relationship, where your loved one never really did care about you, although he pretended to be. And I had, all this while, used my works and activities with my friends to nullify the pain. Some people who knew of this break-up were actually very surprised and most could not see the reasons behind and straight away assumed I was doing a wrong thing. Of course, all people in this world had a ways for seeing and assuming things in conventional way, even without knowing the real stories behind (I intend to share these stories someday in a book). Anyway, let bygones be bygones. I am happy that I find a great love in the end, something that I have always wanted – happiness.

On my career and personal development, I had to rebuild myself because all the years of rushing through works, I actually ignored some basics and habits that caused me to be very inefficient. I have to re-organized myself and reset my mindset and habits.

And finally, I am ready to move on with 3 focuses in my live path:

  1. To start a family, a happy family. Be a loving wife and mother.
  2. Work using my talents, and redevelop myself into a person with better skillsets and efficiency. Change my bad habits.
  3. Realize my longer-term dream like authoring a book. Yes, I am starting to write a little bit on this now.

My Bad Habits- written on 03 February 2008

I have not been writing any post lately, at least for a month now. For these periods of time, I was in a busy journey of rediscovering myself.

I have ventured into a new world - a totally different new world to me, a beautiful world so familiar to whatever I ever dreamt of until it feels like I may be dreaming. But in fact, I am living yet again. I found a new love, a new career direction and a new dream. Everything is as real as breathing. And I am still breathing each day, and being thankful to God and my love one for that reason.

But there is one thing that is risking things that I am having now. That is my bad habits. And I realize how critical it is for me to change. And I really want to change. Otherwise, I will continue to hurt people who really care about me. And for that, I get every reason to brave it out though.

Because of my bad habits, I turned the world upside down for my love one. I always got him into deep shit just to protect me and to give me chance to learn and change. And that, I am very grateful to him, yet it is so painstaking for me to hurt the one I love, like hurting myself. And I do not know why I kept on doing it again and again. Keep on giving myself excuse. I felt so helpless because my habits control me and not the other way around.

And today, I vowed that this all have to stop. All my bad habits had to stop. I am in different environments now. I need to change my mindset and behaviours to adapt to the new environment. No more excuses for me when I fail. Not more repeating my mistakes again and again.

How many lessons I need to learn in order for me to change?

The answer is no more lessons.

Image courtesy from www.sxc.hu



Efficiency

I came across the following story which provide a valuable lesson on efficiency.


The story of ''Masha and Sasha'':

Once upon a time, in a little village, there lived a dry-goods merchant who had two apprentices, Masha and Sasha. After six months, Masha came to the boss and said, ''Boss, I've been here just as long as Sasha, but you pay him two rubles a week more than me. That's just not fair.''

''You may be right, my boy,'' said the kindly merchant. ''So let's see what we can do about it.''

''Look out the window, way up the main street, almost at the edge of town. What do you see in the middle of the road?

''A peddler,'' Masha said, ''with a horse and wagon, coming this way.'' ''Very good. Go see what he's selling.'' Masha put on his cap, ran out of the store, up the street and came back in about seven minutes, with this report: ''He's selling linen.''

''Hmmm,'' the merchant mused. ''We're running low and could probably use some. Ask him how much he wants for it.''

Masha ran out again, came back in three minutes this time, because the peddler was continuously moving through town, and provided this information: ''He wants 100 rubles for each bolt.''

''Not bad,'' the merchant said, ''but I don't know how many meters to each bolt. Go find out.''

Another run out and back, and a minute later Masha brought back ''50 meters per bolt, Boss.''

''That's not bad. But how wide is the cloth?'' Another trip, another run - this time in the opposite direction, because the peddler was by now heading for the outskirts of the village - and Masha has discovered that the goods are 60 centimeters wide.

''O.K., Masha. Take a well-earned rest. But first, ask Sasha to come in.''

When Sasha entered, the merchant posed the same problem. ''Sasha, do you see the peddler who is just leaving our village? Go find out what he's selling.'' Completely out of breath, Sasha returns 10 minutes later. ''Boss, he's selling linen, and we're really short in this material. He has 50 bolts for sale, each one two-ply, 60 centimeters wide, 50 meters per bolt. He asked for 100 rubles a bolt, but I talked him into letting you have them for 92. He's unloading downstairs.''


This reminded me of the intense sessions I had with my mentor. He would bombard me with all sort of questions on my tasks or reports. When a question was asked, acting like Masha and giving answer like "Let me check and get back to you" would get me an F in the my report card.
I would then have to acknowledge that I was unprepared and were not efficient enough. Attention to details are crucial. There must be enough homework or preparation done. After several mistakes, eventually I learnt and I always be prepared.

A manager would always prefer someone like Sasha instead of Masha. And, of course, Sasha would be compensated much better than Masha because she is much more efficient and intuitive. Sasha is result-oriented while Masha is task-oriented.


On the other side of the coin, the wife of the author mentioned a contradictory outcome to Masha and Sasha in today's world.

''In today's real world,'' she sadly suggested, ''Sasha and Masha would both be making the same salary. Union rules, tenure, Equal Employment Opportunity and all sorts of governmental regulations would insist on it. Not only that, but if one of the two boys has to be fired, it won't be Masha. Count on it. He doesn't pose a threat to the boss's position!''

Times change. And with it ''the moral of the story.''


I agree it is very true also, especially if Masha is a good player of corporate games /politics or Masha's boss is very much the same.