Friday, September 12, 2014

Some of the Things I would Tell the Sixteen Year Old Me

Hehehe, found a nice video by Anna Akana with advice that turned out to be pretty apt when the girl stuff is replaced by boy stuff (around the same contextual axis). Definitely made my day. Oh ... and yes, I'll send back a couple of tight slaps too if I could to my ridiculously naive 16 year-old self :)


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Academics and Alternatives

Discovered an interesting individual via a friend's Facebook link today. Ian Glomsky was a microbiology professor before he got disillusioned by the funding process, quit and is starting his own distillery:

http://www.vitaespirits.com/

My story is not at all similar to his - for one, I never got off the ground having remained in the highly vulnerable position of being a post-doc or contractual Phd positions. However, I felt a kinship to his story and how he felt toward the grant award process. I very much wanted to create scalable tools that were going to be useful to others in the HPC community. Instead, I was pushed into grunt work. The funding process for high performance computing where I used to work is adequate (I think) but no less brutal. This is the NPR story on which he was one of those featured:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/09/09/345289127/when-scientists-give-up

To be fair, I still feel that the scientific environment in the USA far exceeds that in Singapore. Here, an individual's interests and passions matter far less than what the government thinks you should do and what you can produce.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

"I Want Superstars!" a.k.a How To Be An Asshat of a Boss

I try not to frequent Facebook as much anymore, because some subset of the people I am connected to tend to post things that infuriate me. At this time in my life when I am in crisis, the extra stress just isn't good for me. Still ... sometimes I do need to vent, and so I am going to unload on this article shared by a particularly obnoxious, anal-retentative, haughty, douchebag of a friend-of-friends with whom I've crossed swords with on Facebook in the past.

http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/one-interview-question-that-reveals-a-superstar-job-candidate.html

To be fair to Mr. Kang, if what he needed from his new hire was to drive innovative new (and unknown) research directions in his company, then perhaps the qualities he was looking for in this "superstar" would apply - extroverted, self-confident, forward-looking, focused, and determined to get what he or she wants.

I question his methods however. There's self-confidence, and then there's plain rude. And he assumed his company is the one shining jewel on the hiring market. If I were truly confident that I were a good fit for the company, the most he'd have gotten from me is that I'd be asking just what that "extra something" is, since a matching skillset for the company isn't sufficient. I'd postulate that 90% of the candidates who "fold," do so because they are in the process of investigating if they would be a good fit for a company and had come to the interview to figure it out. If the interviewer thinks and says they are not a good fit, it is fairly rude to suggest otherwise when you yourself are uncertain. And then there are the other options on the candidates' lists. I think what Mr. Kang would have succeeded in doing is driving the other spectrum of talent away - the quiet introverted genius, no less passionate about and capable at what he loves to do.

And then there is this pattern that I recognize in some bosses - that of the asshat. Mr. Kang, given the way he presents his excuse for his want of "superstars" reminds me a lot about the mindset of many of the local Singapore bosses and hiring staff. These are the same people who will have no qualms working their "superstars" past breaking point, and then discarding them to pick up more "superstars." That is assuming of course these "superstars" do not successfully turn on their masters and dislodge them in this pseudo-Darwinian survival work environment. Even if he wanted me, I'd be rather wary of his intentions once the interview turns (as he puts it) "up the heat." I have been in situations where "the heat" got turned up arbitrarily and inexplicably, making no strategic sense where my group was concerned.

All I can say is these kinds of companies deserve the kind of people they will get - a mixture of loud hard-nosed individuals, and their victims. If they succeed, well good for them. Everyone will celebrate their success and pretend to claim it for their own, whilst a segment of their insiders will quietly curse those who would trample others underfoot to get at that success. Quite frankly, I want no part of that.