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Thursday, August 26, 2004 by sky

I have five gmail invites on top of that I have given to close friends. What would you do for a gmail invite?

As if this item is still hot, but who knows, some soul might just want a gmail account.

Career opportunities (the ones that knock you out)

Monday, August 23, 2004 by sky

Pushing the envelope on national industrialization with Philippines 2000 gone kaput when Erap assumed office, there is an influx of job opportunities where so-called export processing zones exist, usually south of Manila, or even south of Luzon. I have been working in the south for as long as I remember, juggling between Laguna and Cavite, making friends and decapitating managers along the way.

If you dream of offices with a view, and if you qualify tall cogon grass and Amorsolo-esque countryside as the view, then this is it, your dream job and your chosen career ladder is here. Not to mention that stepping on cow manure is part of the office shit that you'll be facing. For those who have graduated from an arts-and-sciences school or from a branch of AMA in your own province, good for you, there is an EPZ nearby that can hire you and you can even get out for lunch and catch some zzz's as home is just a tricycle-ride away.

But for those citybred rats from the so-called Ivy League of the Philippines (I'm washing my hands, I'm not dissing the guys from AMA or some obscure university. Equal opportunities for all, please.), getting a job in an EPZ is not an excursion to Matabungkay Beach. As if you would dress up in long sleeves and necktie for a job interview in Cavite which would take you a train, plus two bus rides, a jeepney and a kilometer on foot. Things to keep in mind if you want to be an expatriate in another province:

1. Ask if they have a Manila-based liaison office and if it is possible if you can be interviewed there. Or if you can be interviewed instead on phone, or via webcam. Most of these companies are high-tech anyway and it would be possible to take advantage of their facilities.

2. If you have a car, can borrow one, or hitch with a fellow applicant, do. Or let your boyfriend drive for you. These EPZ's are like residential subdivisions in the process of development in some unknown barangay but with lofty names such as Sulfur Breeze Industrial Estate or Mountain Smog Science Park. As been said, it might take you hell or high water to get there, and it's just the beginning. A car also comes in handy when going out, as public transportation inside is usually synchronized with shifts. You may need to hitchhike on hot concrete at worst.

3. Dress light. You wouldn't want to trek the dusty roads of Batangas in those stilettos or ride an ordinary bus in your Armani tie. Be appropriate when going to the provinces for an interview. Either people will suspect you to be a salesman, an attendee of some prayer rally, or you mistook prom night in August. Companies based in the province tend to be considerate, and some can be asked if you can come in jeans. As smog is practically nonexistent here, the afternoon sun of Cavite might activate the anghit in the chiffon-bloused you.

4. Travel light, and be discreet. Never carry a knapsack. Keep it as small as possible. An applicant who proudly says he is an applicant is a dead applicant. Some barangays are known to have a one-is-to-one ratio with respect to firearms. If you can, fold your resumes in little envelopes, or have them faxed. Promise to bring your requirements on the first day of office. Don't bring packed lunch or sandwiches as they may be subject to scrutiny by paranoid security guards. Candies will do as pangtawid-gutom. If you are desperate, slaughter the nearest pig from a kubo in the vicinity.

5. Be tolerant, be very tolerant of your fellow applicants (and sometimes, the parents who tag along). You and some from rival schools may be cooped in one cubicle while waiting for your turn. If either of you breaks the ice, be prepared to hear mindless chatters of how many companies have called them, or how this one company promises to train him overseas in Ryukyu Islands for a year.

6. Be prepared to wait for an eternity. If the HR staff says you come over at 10AM, you will be interviewed at 2PM. Ergo, cancel all your appointments for the day. Sometimes you will be asked to go back some other time because the hiring manager needs to take a leave. As a corollary, be kind to the HR staff at this point, and in your first days of office. Time your vengeance during performance appraisal by e-mailing the HR manager the horrors you experienced at the hands of her staff.

7. Say "yes" to the following questions: Are you willing to render overtime? Work on weekends? Be on call 24x7? Relocate nearby? They don't take note of them, and applicants always say yes anyway. The interviewers are the ones who wouldn't want to extend hours anyway.

8. If you can hitch a ride on the company shuttle, assuming you don't have a car and you got interviewed in the last hour of the shift, do. It's your passport out of terra incognita.

On top of these tips, do not forget that it's a job interview that you are going to. Not a prom, not a prayer rally. I assumed you did some company research, and brushed up on interview tips that you downloaded in Jobstreet. Don't belittle the interviewer if he slips on his grammar or demonstrates the pee-fee defect as not all promdi's are that way and not all are promdi's in the first place. You might meet him on your trip to the neighborhood grocery so be careful.

For love or for money

by sky

I've tried clicking on this link telling of a person who's found the right job for himself. Been trying all morning and until recently but only a blank page is displayed.

Either that person does not exist or there is no such thing as a right job.

At least, in the Philippine setting. I'm already in my Week 4 as the newest innovation engineer on the proverbial block and I still feel that I shouldn't be here in the first place. Not even sure if I should have taken engineering in the zeroth place at all. I wanted to be a physicist and I wanted to be a writer. Strangely enough, prolific writers within the scientific fold come from physics. Take Alan Lightman, or Baryon Tensor Posadas. Stephen Hawking did a good job in coming up with a bestseller, but if there is such a thing as a four-by-three-inch coffee table book, displayed and never meant to be read, then Hawking would be the first.

It's all a matter of survival. I fear that should I pursue a career full-time as a writer, I would be living on the streets first. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth thus the reason I have to take the daily grind for nine hours exclusive of transport time. There will be no stock options, no retirement plans, not even medical insurance should I develop carpal tunnel syndrome from too much typing or clicking. Not in the Philippines. Not if I am Jessica Zafra whose word is biblical. Sooner I might file for bankruptcy if there is such a thing in Manila that would officially declare me to be poor.

What's new, everybody's poor anyway.

Moving on, I want to take the challenge. That branch called quantum physics surely conjures romantic notions of Heisenberg's uncertaintly principle, potential wells, and the theory of relativity. I have to make do with Kirkendall voids, stress relaxation and the rules of Hume and Rothery and other laws of nature that are meant to be named after some scientist, and then followed. In that order.

I dream of it as a part-time job that will not make me scrape the bottom of the barrel anymore. And should I sell 14 million copies, like Douglas Adams did, I would not even wait for my Ph. D. anymore, but retire. And think of a sequel to make another 14 million. But not now, not yet. I still have to play the game and make sure that I play it right. I'll restate that: not at this moment, but in between, when I get a chance. My spoof on GMA and a fake Einstein Dream shows 0.05 milliliters of potential. Goody.

One qualm that I've been nursing if I take this step is how big the Philippine market is with regards to science lit. Most Filipinos are always afraid of hard science, and they diss physicists, mathematicians and metallurgists as nerds. Ever observed that? Cool means knowing where is the nearest Belo Medical Center. Nerd means calculating how many bars of glycerine soap can be made from a day's worth of liposuction at the nearest Belo Medical Center.

I fervently hope sci lit can be accepted in the mainstream as much as Valentine Romances. There's a glimmer of hope as I saw a ripoff of Stargate, complete with a rendering of the pyramid on the front cover, from the same publishers that brought Elena Cabral to the drawers of our househelps. In the first world, sci fi, sci lit, along with R&D, piano recitals and geodesic architecture, are exercises in culture.

I want to take part in the warmups.

I gotta new way to walk (walk walk)

Monday, August 16, 2004 by sky

...and it makes my spirit shine.

Since my manager said to take my time, I grabbed it by the neck, slapped it on the chopping board, pounded on it with a tenderizer, folded and rolled it over with a rolling pin. I've since plunked it into the oven pre-heated at 360 degrees, turning it from time to time and am waiting for juices to run clear by pricking it with a fork once in a while.

After two weeks of work in a new environment and a two-day orientation, my body is still sufferring from withdrawal symptoms: I need work! I want work! Come on, give me product introductions, let me make management summaries, get me on a transpacific bridge meeting. Let me finish a white paper in just 30 minutes which normally takes two weeks and ten team meetings to prepare. Let me read e-mails for breakfast, and follow up on night shift technicians for dinner. Let me dream about their performance appraisals and mumble who will get promoted and who will not get an increase this year.

Two weeks and the only serious job I have right now is a project plan that I pushed out when I had a sore right eye for five days, and all my supervisor said was to take my time even if that project has been pushed out by a quarter! Lord, please don't take my boss away. Not yet, not when I am still honeymooning.

You might say that I am in euphoria over my new work, ergo, my new lifestyle. You should have seen my first payslip. Not exactly dollar signs on my eyeballs but you must have heard the bling bling when I opened it. Oh am I so happy I decided not to take any cent from it. I want it preserved. I want to ogle my bank account with oohs and aahs.


I win some, I lose some. The cubicle partitions are shoulder-high--when seated, and the telephone ratio is four persons. Instant messaging is not allowed, and internet access is restricted. My boss is seated in front of me (fortunately he cannot see what I have been doing the whole day surfing and bloglurking) so I cannot make the telebabad to former officemates--typical of recent resignees. So for posterity's sake and for taking advantage of the free time, here is a list of what I have learned from a five-year engineering career (what career?), hopping from one job to another.

1. High tech, high expectations. You get a laptop equipped with the latest wireless technology. Ergo, you can connect to your office network anywhere there is a hot spot or a phone line, and if you are provided with a mobile phone, much better since you can access and be accessed anywhere. You don't have to worry about battery life since this is part of the package. Think of those ads of a laptop/mobile phone-toting executive relaxing under a beach umbrella or on a fishing boat. Wake up, Frere Jacques! You call accessing e-mails of a production linesdown while sipping a daiquiri relaxing?

2. Less people on the team, less BS. The proverbial broth spoils when there are too many cooks. The more attractive the perks of making the project, the more cooks want to get on your team. Little do they know that in the end, they look like flies swarming for cowdung.

3. Less procedures, less BS. Related to #2. Long staging time will also spoil the soup. You've heard of red tape in government. Now it's ISO 9001 and its horde of documentation eklat flooding the privates (pun unintended). Think of secretaries and managers who have been sitting all day come up with a brilliant idea of writing all the procedures on paper, served with a threat on the side: "Lagot ka pag na-audit yan." All for the sake of impressing a systemized structure.

4. The boss does not need to know anything. But you can at least make an impression. These days, thanks to the information avalanche brought about by e-mails, managers can only read, at best, the subject of your report. Or the beginning and ending paragraphs. Some do not read them at all but store them in a temporary inbox which will never be opened. Management By Walking Around (MBWA) is already passe since your boss may look low-tech, and even impress on higher management and his subordinates that he has nothing to do but PO (patay-oras or killing time). The "in" things are Management By Perception (MBP) and its hideous sister, Management By Humiliation (MBH) for the BFH (boss from hell).

5. Network, network, network. It's not just what you know, but who (or is it whom?) you know. Most of the time, it's the who part which lubricates the rusty wheels of working. You will never know when the guy from logistics that you cursed during a badminton tournament will be useful to you even if you are from the training department. Be sweet to the old lady updating your travel reports and she will be useful for urgent requests. These days, boleros can make it to the top. Some are lucky to have friends along the way.

6. Be paranoid. Andy Grove couldn't have said it better. Eyes on your back, especially if you are surfing. Be wary of the production operator that you missed out on meetings for one whole week. Bold people can be found in the rank and file and they will not hesitate to speak out their minds. She might squeal to your manager about the miracles you've been doing as the OIC.

7. There is life after a bad performance appraisal. You can even get promoted afterwards. Not all promotions are good--those promoted in bad times get half a salary raise, or even none at all. It's in the timing. Promotion will bring you more responsibilities but not necessarily more pay.

8. There is life after resignation. Sure there are withdrawal symptoms, but eventually you'll cope. Friends will always be there but don't expect them at the office to be on call.

9. There is life after work. And it starts at break time.

10. We are here for the money. Magpakatotoo po tayo.

Letting it all sink in

Wednesday, August 04, 2004 by sky

I felt like having a weeklong birthday bash but only five days short. So it's not really a weeklong activity but last-minute wellwishers still get out of their way to greet me. As expected, there's always the hirit of libre even from former colleagues--the price I pay for social capital and emotional bank account.

I am missing it all--the Wi Fi laptops, the cafeteria meetings--the meetings which fill my Outlook calendar to the brim, telecommuting, the one telephone per person ratio, the shoulder-high cubicles. Stretching at 9AM and 2PM. Friendster and MSN. Had my salary been mucho higher there I'd go back.

My last day wasn't filled at all with melancholia. When a colleague who's been with that company for seven years asked "Anong feeling?" which reminded me of Mel Tiangco interviewing the just-released Angelo dela Cruz, I responded "Wala." There really is no feeling, probably because I was too busy packing things and burning four years' worth of data.

Not even when the gang dined out last Friday--the pressure of my wife wanting me to go home asap was much greater than anything melancholy which may brew in our last hours together. Call me manhid. There is nothing to sink in. Probably when this next company opens up all the things to me in the next few days then something will sink in.

And my birthday coincided with my second day of work in a new company. And the feeling isn't even there! What great timing. If you still don't know, the second day of work is the most critical time in one's career. Compared to the first day when you are introduced to the members of your group, there's a pressure on the second day to be more accomodating, to know the names in your team, to be with them come lunchtime, and even to extend a few minutes more past the time off. Or, since there are no work orders yet, find creative use with your boredom. Like blogging.

Coincide that with the birthday and I felt butterflies the size of B-747's in my stomach. In terms of work I'd prefer to be left alone in the quiet but office chismis is my antidote from Ibong Adarna's ipot which turns me to stone for eight working hours five times a week. Through the years my PR skills have diminished and I'd much rather be an office furniture than a talking head. Take this from a conversation yesterday with another engineer that I am forced to have lunch with:

new officemate: "so when is your party?"
me: "di na uso ang party-party sa akin eh."
new officemate: "dito sa (office name) uso pa rin yan."
me: (smiles, then back to deadma mode. in my mind: "are we that close yet?")

So I may be a male-bitch but I choose the people that I can bank my social capital on. Like the general manager, or a next-in-line. And of course, true to my being makamasa, the rank and file. They are the ones who will run my evaluations anyway and therefore my stepping stones to success so if I step on them it should be at least less hurtful but with benefits.

I am not sure though when I will break from the suplado mold, which I usually do in some cases. Some instances it came back to me, good that I am a spin doctor too. It's only with the wife that I, caught with my pants down, would rather raise my hands and surrender. Or maybe I am much of a user who becomes friendly if I dig for a favor. Am I bad or what? Bad bad person you Buddy you.

With all this sinking-in stuff, this is what I think is the feeling: I feel like I am taking a very long leave from the company which, in syota-speak, is my first love. Someone I expected to last but did not. Someone that I will never ever forget, someone I hope I can go back to and be accepted again.


Tuesday, August 03, 2004 by sky

It's my birthday today.

Dali, batiin nyo ako.


Punch me, I'll bleed.


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