June 22nd, 2008 — , , ,
I remember that my first class was titled “Introduction to American Business”. The professor is a Japanese Hawaiian named John. He was about 40 years old, medium build, and spoke English with a distinct Hawaiian accent. For international students , and especially me, the greatest obstacle is really the language. The professor speaks quite fast, and at first I could only understand about 50 to 60%. So I bought a small tape recorder and taped every lecture. After I got home, I would listen to it again. The contents of the lessons are not that difficult to understand, but my vocabulary was lacking, and I needed to look up many things in the dictionary.
My major of accounting belonged to the business school, and the Introduction to American Business was one of the core introductory courses. It didn’t have much depth, but covered many subjects. After completing this course, students are supposed to understand the basics of American economy and the main channels America uses for production and trade. Additionally, the students should have a bit of knowledge about international trade. The textbook was simple to understand and had a lot of pictures. Additionally, John was a very good lecturer and included many examples that applied to everyday life. For example, when he talked about supply and demand, he used Hawaii’s real estate market as an example. At that time, Hawaii’s real estate markets was one of the most expensive markets in the entire country. The main reason is that many Japanese people snatched up real estate in Hawaii. The yen was extremely strong and traded 80 yen to 1 dollar, and the Japanese thought that everything was quite cheap in Hawaii. They bought all things large and small including toothpaste and real estate. Additionally, Hawaii is a chain of islands, and did not have that much land. Building materials and labor also had to be shipped from the mainland and that increased the cost to build. Thus, there was a small supply and a huge demand so the real estate market boomed. When John talked about Hawaii’s pineapple industry, he said that it was a different picture. In the beginning of this story I mentioned that Hawaii used to have three large industries, one is tropical agriculture. The pineapples grown in the volcanic soil of the islands are large and sweet, and they used to be very popular. However, in the beginning of the 90′s, America was in a recession, and the labor in Hawaii was expensive compared to other tropical regions in the world. So the demand for Hawaiian pineapples fell greatly, and they were quite cheap around the islands.
I felt that the most interesting thing about American education is that the professors intentionally create an entertaining and relaxed atmosphere for the student, and doesn’t just lecture monotonically. It’s not like in China where the professors are supposed to talk, and the students are supposed to listen quietly and believe that whatever the professor said is true. Students in China learn by memorizing formulas and definitions, and then recite it all during tests. Here in America, the professors often put students in small groups so that they can debate amongst themselves and students are encouraged to have different opinions. Additionally, on the written exams students do not necessarily have to agree with a professor’s opinion in essay questions. As long as you have a great idea and great supporting points you could still score quite well.
At that time, the math classes I had to take were extremely easy. I think they were at the level of 10th grade math in China so I had no problems. However, I never expected that there is something in these math courses that could be extremely difficult for me.
As I said previously, the community colleges are established to provide the community with capable workers. So the math classes are not extremely difficult, but there are more hands on skills taught. One particular class required us to learn to use something called a “Ten Key”, which is basically a calculator that prints out a calculation. It is a pretty common tool used by most accounting departments. I have never used a calculator such as this in China. In fact, in China the accounting departments in my college years taught people to use the abacus. In my department there was a professor famous for teaching the abacus. He was always cheerful and unkempt and carried a giant abacus on his back. Then he would hang the abacus on the blackboard and calculate with one hand while he taught. I don’t know if the students learned anything from that guy or if they still teach that course, but in Kapiolani the lesson of the ten key was extremely useful to me.
At that time everyone was assigned a ten key calculator. The teacher told us to touch type and calculate results. Additionally, the teacher would record everyone’s time and give a score. Since I’ve never touched such a machine before I was extremely slow in the beginning. In my first test I only typed about 50 numbers in a minute, and I still had calculation errors. I was in the bottom three of the entire class even though my math scores were number one in another class. However, if I couldn’t improve my score in the ten key class, my entire GPA would suffer. My American classmates grew up with keyboards and they had no problems typing more than 100 numbers per minute, and I was extremely jealous. In order to catch up, I used any extra time I had and went to the Student Learning Center to borrow a ten key machine and practice. I practiced so much that my fingers hurt to touch any object. However, every bit of plowing brings an extra bit of harvest. My final score was that I could enter more than 160 numbers per minute and my accuracy was above 98%. So my final mathematics score was number one in the class. Many years later, when I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the world’s largest financial headhunting firms interviewed me and actually tested me on a ten key machine. At that very moment it was clear to me that my hard work was not wasted at all.
December 10th, 2007 — , , , , , , , , , ,
On Friday I performed an interview for my team at work. My job was to take the candidate to lunch and answer questions the candidate might have and attempt to assess his intelligence and “fit” for our team. This is one of those very rare interviews that actually turned out well and everyone who interviewed the guy liked him and we decided to hire him.
However, I feel like he may not join us because he is actually currently living in Austin, Texas. He said that he went to a nearby open house in Foster City and was shocked to find that a tiny townhouse less than half the size of his home in Texas is listed for $900,000. He used to live in Sacramento many years ago but the cost of living there is nowhere near the craziness of San Mateo. Then we chatted about the Bay Area in general and I said that I actually did some research on Texas and found that I could afford a 40% pay cut and still afford a better standard of living. He agreed with me, and I asked him if he would consider relocating and he said he would probably prefer telecommuting. However, after he finished his 8 hour grueling interview my team lead did mention that he would like all core members to be close to the headquarter and telecommuting from Texas is probably a deal breaker.
I imagine this is happening all over the Silicon Valley. There are a lot of great talent from other states that are interested in the companies here, but are totally put off by the cost of living and the cost of relocating. Additionally, I know dozens of people who are exiting this place due to the same reason. Even though I love the energy and dynamics in this place sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it. Yes, we do have fairly high incomes compared to the rest of the country, but with that we have extremely high taxes and a ridiculously high cost of living. When all the math is worked out, I think many of us who live in the Valley could have better lives elsewhere.
I thought that the job candidate is wise to investigate the cost of living before making a decision. I doubt that he is getting a 70 to 100% pay increase because Austin, Texas is also a very lively city with an abundance of jobs. On one hand, I do want him to join our team, but on the other hand I was honest with him and I want him to make the best decision possible for himself. I really don’t want him to join my company and then regret it and become grumpy!!
November 11th, 2007 — , , , , , , , , ,
So I haven’t written that much this week because I started a new job on Wednesday. So far it’s been going really well. I like my new coworkers very much and one of the company founders went to the same college as me. Well, actually a lot of my new coworkers are my former college classmates so it is actually quite fun. With this new job comes some new changes that I will write about in the coming months. For example, I will transfer out of my crappy former 401k that I described . My new employer’s 401k program is through Fidelity once again, and so I am a happy camper and I can roll all my 401k money into one place. Additionally, I have set up my direct deposit to deposit straight into my Vanguard money market account because I never really use my checking account except to funnel money. Vanguard’s direct deposit set up is actually quite cool and you can deposit your paycheck into any number of funds. Finally, I will need to make a decision on whether or not to exercise my vested options at my ex-employer. I do still have about 3 months to exercise my options and I am thinking of doing it in January so that in case I do trigger the AMT I would have to pay it in 2009 instead of 2008. By then, perhaps my old employer would go public (Hah! I wish). At this point, I think the options at my old employer is still worth exercising even though private stock is an illiquid asset. Besides those things, my pay schedule is now synced up with my hubby’s so monthly financial updates should be easier to manage. At my old company I got paid on the 7th and 22nd while he got paid on the 15th and end of the month. So that difference in pay schedule forced me to check our bank accounts every week.
Anyway, I think the hardest part about a new job is really just the first month. After that I can usually get into a regular schedule and comfortably finish my work. Right now I’m trying to get used to the fact that people on my team come to work even later than I do. On Friday I went to work at 11am and I was the first one there. I also got the last cube available in the entire office space and so I’m in the middle of a bunch of boxes and next to the IT lady who talks on the phone all the time about her kid and grandmother. However, that is all going to change soon because the entire company is moving to San Mateo in two weeks. I am looking forward to sitting close to my team and getting a newer office space. It is also ironic because I just left a job in San Mateo and I’m going to move right back. I will definitely see a lot of my old cohorts hanging around downtown San Mateo during lunch. It should be fun because I will get to introduce my new coworkers to the lunch spots I am already very familiar with and still keep up with the gossip of the old office.
On a purely monetary standpoint I am pretty sure that I would have had a higher salary in the next few months if I just stayed at my old company and gotten my yearly review. However, I felt like it was time to learn something new and move on to a younger company. The VP at my old company also tried to convince me that my stock options may be worth a lot even though I have very few shares. That may or may not be true, and I do agree with the VP that the company should do very well in the future. However, I think my current company has a lot more potential because it is younger and makes a great product. I really see stock options as a “possible bonus”, and I don’t count on them to make me rich. I just feel like I have to move on to stay competitive in the field of software engineering. I am really afraid of becoming one of those people that I interviewed who had 8 years of experience and didn’t know the basics.
So that’s what’s happening in my life, and I am pretty excited to do all of these new things.
November 8th, 2007 — , , , ,
Today I read an article about . The idea is pretty much the same as speed dating. Basically interviewers see as many candidates as possible in a short amount of time and give offers quickly so that they fill up positions quickly. I think this method makes a lot of sense and is advantageous to both the interviewer and the interviewee because it saves everyone’s time and offering quickly gives the company a better chance of snatching the candidate they want. For example, in my most recent job hunting experience the first company I interviewed at pretty much said that they wanted to hire me after two short interviews, but to satisfy the HR process they had me speak to three more people at a later date. They actually told me that the second round of interviews was a formality and that they wanted me to join their team. I thought that the second round of interviews was a waste of time but I still went because the company seemed nice. Actually, they could have just told me what their offer was after the first interviews and I might have accepted it. Because their second interview delayed their offer by a week I interviewed at another company and that company also made an offer, but it was within a day of the interview. The end result was that I went to the second company because it was much more interesting and I knew a lot of classmates that worked at the second company. Speeding up the hiring process really tells a candidate that the company wants to hire him/her right away, and it is to a company’s advantage to do this.
I havein the past few years and I have also been an interviewee on multiple occasions. Generally I know if I like someone within the first few minutes of meeting them. I have read that there were psychological experiments that concluded people make a determination on whether or not they like another person within the first few seconds of meeting them. Basically, regardless of whether you’re an interviewer or interviewee, there is no point in wasting time with people you don’t like. This is more reason why speed interviewing makes a lot of sense. It is advantageous to interviewees, too, because you get immediate feedback and you can either accept a new job or focus your energies on other companies. There is no point in waiting for a response for two weeks because your time is valuable. This is why I enjoy applying to small technology startups because the turnaround is very quick. Large companies are notorious for their HR bureaucracy and I have heard stories of people who were interviewed and never called back for more than a month. In my opinion job candidates should never wait for a response from a specific company and just keep on applying. Basically, if a company has a very slow moving hiring process then they will lose great candidates.
From my experience the companies that had the slowest recruiting processes are also the most bureaucratic companies. They are so overly organized that they’re disorganized. When an orgchart is thirteen levels deep there is bound to be a bit of chaos and frivolity. One example is an internship I had with a extremely large software and hardware vendor. The most ridiculous thing was that it took them a month to get my hiring paperwork done and then because they took so long my background check expired. Then I was required to go to a different campus about 20 miles from where I worked to get a keycard. Because of the long process my internship time was very short. When I finished the internship they created a position for me and wanted me to stay, but I chose to get a job elsewhere for obvious reasons. Then after I left it took them another month to mail me my final check. I had to call their payroll to demand it. This is a very well known company and that experience really put me off from working for extremely large organizations after college.
Anyway, I guess my whole spiel is that I am a great fan of companies that recruit quickly. Job hunters should definitely still research the companies that give an offer quickly, and if a company is extremely pushy that is not a good sign either. They should give you a reasonable amount of time to consider your options, but a immediate offer is always a good thing.
October 6th, 2007 — , , , ,
My mom is looking for a new position for the first time in ten years because her company’s sole client has been taken over by another firm. She asked me before if I have any tips on finding a job, and I decided to list what I learned in the past few years here in the Silicon Valley:
buy levitra — I think this is the most difficult part of many people’s job search. Some people are changing jobs because they hate what they’re doing, and may be looking for something completely different. Some people are looking for the same job, but with different types of benefits and hours. The idea is that the job seeker needs to clearly identify the endgame for his or her job search and build a profile of the ideal job. A person can only aim when a target is clearly painted and it is a total waste of time and effort to find a job you don’t really want.
buy levitra — After you work for a few years you will probably end up with quite a few ex-coworkers. You may not know all of them very well, but there has to be a few that you are on friendly terms with. Generally I ask for the contact information of coworkers I like when they leave my company. Recently a lot of them have been connecting with me on LinkedIn or Facebook. For the people that do not use these services I record their contact information in a text file. It’s very likely that some ex-coworkers are willing to forward your resume to HR, because a lot of companies have internal referral bonuses for successful hires. The world is a very small place, and I think the first place to look for a job is through people you know. Friends and relatives are also great resources for possible jobs. You can just send out a general email to all your friends and relatives and ask if there are any available positions that would fit you. I think it is to your advantage to tap your relationships unless you don’t want your friends and relatives to know that you’re looking for a job.
buy levitra — I have found that most headhunting firms that cold call me end up wasting my time. They often overstate the salary of the job they’re recruiting for and they’re more like salesmen that are trying to sell whatever person they can for a commission. Most of these “bad” recruiters don’t read your resume and do not match you to a company’s needs very well. For example, there was one day when I got three calls from three different recruiters trying to pitch the same position which I knew I was not a good candidate for. Though, many companies do hire their own internal recruiters and they are the HR department of the company. Those calls lead usually lead to fruitful interviews. So it is very important to identify where a recruiter is coming from. It is as simple as asking, “are you part of the company you’re recruiting for, or are you a recruitment firm?” There are very good independent recruiters and I have known a couple, but they really work on finding you a job that matches your needs and the jobs they present to you should already be something you’re interested in.
buy levitra — I think it’s generally good to group your interviews around the same days if it is possible. The reason is that if you interview at multiple companies on approximately the same day you’re likely to receive their responses at approximately the same time. Another reason is that you may be able to use less vacation days from your current job if you schedule multiple interviews on the same day. When you get responses back around the same time you are able to make more strategic decisions on what to do next.
buy levitra — When you look for a job online you usually use some job search engine and type in your desired job title. Make sure to try all possible variations of your job title. For example, my current job title is Release Engineer. Some companies also title my position SCM Engineer, Configuration Engineer, Build Engineer, Software Engineer in Release, Build Release QA Engineer, and some other names. The point is that you can’t just search for one job title because you may miss out on some positions that is a good match to your skills. Brainstorm a list of titles you may be called and start searching there.
buy levitra — Make sure you have at least two to three people that will vouch for your work ethics. If you’re pretty new to the workforce you should still secure a couple people that will speak on your behalf. You should inform these people that your job search may burden them with writing a recommendation or answering a few questions. This is courtesy, and most companies still ask for human references no matter how good you look on paper or how smooth you were in the interview.
buy levitra — It amazes me how many people I have interviewed had absolutely no interest in the companies that are supposed to hire them. If you are interested in a company you should find out some basics such as its location, its products, and its working environment. Such information can be obtained during an interview but a little preemptive research is always good. You may find out that a company is not really a good place to work or that its products are totally unappealing to you. If that’s the case then there is no point in applying and interviewing. If after your preliminary research you are still interested then you would have more to talk about with the interviewees. It is a win-win situation for you to do your due diligence.
buy levitra — It is a good idea to update your resume every six months even if you haven’t changed jobs. There may be new projects that you have done and new technologies you have learned, and your resume is a good place to keep record. Another reason is that when you update your resume in a website like Hotjobs or Monster employers tend to pick up on the update and contact you if they are interested. Make sure that you block your current employer in these services so that they don’t know you’re looking.
buy levitra — This is a must. You can prepare for your interview any way you are comfortable with, but you must do it. Your preparation could be as simple as reviewing your resume and remembering what you wrote. I say this because I have had interviewees who wrote a lot of things on their resumes they did not know anything about. Since tips for interviewing would take up an entire book I will not elaborate here. However, I have written an article on I have endured.
buy levitra — There may be rejections along the path of your job search, but the key is to just forget about it and don’t look back. There is no time to waste on being depressed about not getting a certain job. The same applies to your old employer when you do find a great offer. If you were jaded enough to search for a job in the first place then it’s probably best not to look back and go on to your new place.
Well mom, I hope you found this useful, and good luck on your job hunt. When you get an offer make sure to check out .