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Hello, I blog!

I write with no particular theme in mind, because I am random like that.

Oct
27 2010

Introspection

Been doing a lot of thinking recently.

After having worked full-time for close to half a year, my perspectives have changed greatly. I became more aware of what I was looking for in a job, while my limitations became even more salient through my own eyes.

I always thought I was invincible. I guess my reputation of being that “excellent programmer” and “awesome team member” people generally enjoyed working with back in university stroked my ego a little too much. I generally felt there was nothing I cannot do, and if I can’t – I’ll learn it, and pick it up in a snap.

As a result, methinks I bit off a little more than I could chew when I chose to be a part of this project. Other than being generally present in the social media scene (and doing part time social-media and copywriting for almost nine months), I hardly had any marketing experience. On the other hand, the job scope involved product evangelism through multiple platforms.

Thankfully, I had my programming experience to fall back on, and I ended up doing a mix of tech engineering and marketing. People tell me that being able to do multiple things is my strength – I could write, illustrate, design, code, photograph and conceptualize ideas.

Unfortunately, being able to do too much can also spiral downwards to become a weakness – you end up specializing in nothing. Basically, the jack of all trades but the master of none.

In the second month of my involvement, I was beginning to pick up the vibes. Unfortunately, I have a pretty strong intuition when it comes to picking up signals as to whether I am doing well, or otherwise. And I really hoped I would eventually prove my intuition wrong. The vibes told me that my capabilities were far short of what was expected, and that I’d better pull up my socks.

So I did. I picked up a whole new programming framework in less than a couple of weeks, when my past programming experiences involved little or no frameworks. I read up articles online and reference books on social media and marketing strategies (and applied theories). However, I soon realized that I was constantly playing a game of ‘catch-up’. And if I was doing that, it meant it was unlikely I were to ever significantly contribute something worthwhile.

I soon began to question myself and my abilities endlessly. Here I am in a startup filled with immensely brilliant people, all experts in their own field. They specialize in what they are doing, and they know their craft inside out. Me? I may be able to do many things, but my knowledge is at most surface level.

So, what on earth am I doing here?

I briefly brought up my thoughts to some of my closest friends, who told me repeatedly to stop being silly, that I was thinking too much, and that I had a ridiculously low opinion of myself. I hoped they were right too.

Unfortunately by then, my confidence was practically crawling on the floor – although my ego prevented me from admitting it back then. I really wanted to make a worthwhile contribution, for my presence to actually make a positive difference. However, I was usually struggling to play catch and quite a few times, ended up falling flat on my face. Either because I did something wrong, or produced something that wasn’t up to expectations.

Into the third month, I was beginning to pick up vibes that told me I could possibly be in trouble. I was becoming a bit redundant, and I was surrounded by people who could easily take over individual parts of what I am doing and do it ten times better.

The situation is much worse considering how I am a highly competitive industry. So it becomes a case of may the strongest win.

A couple of times, I have had thoughts of leaving. The team needs talented people who are skilled at their craft, not someone who simply knows the basics. The team needs people they can count on to surge forward in the face of stiff competition, not someone who has to catch up with the pace all the time. I was like a little dimbulb in the presence of all the bright souls around. However, I stayed on – ego strikes again, I suppose. Because leaving would make me seem like a quitter. And I am no quitter.

But the fourth month rolled around and I was beginning to feel really redundant. I mean, I was still contributing tirelessly. But I didn’t feel particularly useful.

It then dawned on me at that point in time that my ideal job has to go more than simply doing what I enjoy doing. I have internal expectations of myself when it comes to work, and I want to exceed them. I wanted to be a part of the forces that pushes things forward, and to make revolutionizing contributions and changes.

Unfortunately, I have way too many limitations in ability.

Limitations can be overcomed – that’s what I had always believed in. However, for someone with such a large ego to be suddenly aware of her multiple limitations, it was a bit too much to handle at one go.

Eventually, the inevitable happened. I was one of the first few to go when the team decided to downsize. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t see that coming.

Again, my intuition proved itself right.

I love my team. I am extremely proud of them and how far they’ve come. As for me being a part of it, I am uncertain as to whether I should be proud of myself or not because part of me thinks I don’t deserve to be there.

I still have faith that my knowledge and ability in multiple tasks will continue to be one of my strengths. However, this strength has to be fitting with the project I choose to work in. If a project involves a team of highly talented folks that are the best of the best in their individual fields, put together while complementing each other nicely, then chances are, I won’t fit in because I’d become redundant very fast.

Meanwhile, I’d try to put my shattered confidence together and continue to broaden my horizons in the world of marketing and social media in the coming months so that I can be my usual rockin’ self in the next project I join.

I had learned a lot in the past five months though. From work habits, to enriched experiences in my different fields – I had especially learned a lot about UX through one of my team mates, not to mention how my programming ability has improved by leaps and bounds. I had also picked up countless habits for creative thinking and idea generation. Oh and yeah, humility.

I still have a long way to go though. One can never be good enough. But I hope to get there.

And I hope the next round, my intuition will be telling me a different story.

Aug
01 2010

Love-hate relationship with the ‘Type A’ me

On many counts, I am exceptionally pleased that I have a Type A personality.

People with Type A personalities are known to be go-getters, and are seriously driven for success. Unfortunately, they can also come across as being highly-competitive – although it is an apparent necessity in today’s fast-paced world. They have extremely high tolerances for stress and pressure, which puts them one leg up above the rest because they are able to press on much longer.

But, it is also no secret that Type A people can end up being highly unhappy people (since they are very rarely satisfied). Plus, although it may seem at first that Type A people are pretty invincible against crumbling under stress and pressure – when they eventually do give in, they fall. Very hard.

The first time I discovered I have a Type A personality was way back in 2005. However, I did another online quiz out of curiosity and that seems to have changed.

Quiz results
Type A Personality test – my results.

Now, I am somewhere in the middle – or so the above quiz says. But I do see many signs of the Type A personality I’ve mentioned so much about manifesting like whoa on a day to day basis, particularly the past three weeks.

Most dominant is my attitude towards work. I set expectations on what I want to accomplish and complete by the end of each day, and I do everything within my means to meet those expectations, or even exceed them if possible. Assuming that I sought to complete tasks A, B and C by the end of the day, completing what I had set out to do puts my mind at ease – although I am largely indifferent or just a little bit happy. Doing all that, including tasks D and E will give me inexplicable pleasure.

But.

If I complete only tasks A and B and miss out C, I torture myself mentally. Not consciously, though – it happens without me realizing it. But seriously, dude – when I bash myself up mentally, I really mean a good, solid mental bashing.

It doesn’t help that I also have generally high expectations about myself on top of work. So, if I happen to miss the mark on any particular day, hoo boy! It doesn’t matter about environmental factors, or if anything major had happened in recent days that caused me to miss the mark. If I miss the mark, I miss the mark. (And generally, I pretty much pride myself in being able to get things done despite it all.)

Recently, I am falling short of my own expectations way too much. I have leftover tasks at the end of quite a number of days which accumulates, leaving my to-do list seemingly never-ending. I admit, loads of stuff have been happening lately (mostly health-related), but I don’t like to use it as a reason and pretty much chucked it out of the window as an excuse.

As a result, I’ve been mentally bashing myself up like crazy. Feeling as if I’m letting other people down only forms part of the reason. The most part is because I disappointed myself.

It’s damn bloody unhealthy, I know. But it’s difficult to stop.

My mind has been trained to think this way for the longest time, and old habits die hard.

It is amazing how I allow me to feel so bad about myself even without even receiving a telling-to. (And I know at this point, most of my closest friends who are reading this will be nodding their heads in agreement.)

If the above sounds seriously wacko to you and you are a Type-A personality, then I must say something is seriously wrong (with me, that is). If you have ways on preventing your Type-A alter-ego from taking you over, please share … because I think I seriously need it at the moment!

Jun
14 2010

Grey areas in perception

So, apparently I’ve been taking waaay too much chocolate during the last few days in Vancouver – no thanks to my aunt’s seemingly endless chocolate supply and not to mention how chocolate is really, really cheap here.

It was during two of these chocolate-gobbling sessions where I noticed that there are many ways I can perceive situations, especially concerning other people’s intentions.

Scenario 1
En route to Whistler Mountains with the rest of the family in a rented jeep, my aunt was passing chocolate supplies around as she normally would during a long road trip.

I received a packet of Maltesers (mmm, one of my favourites). In front of me, the younger cousin had just received a bar of Lindt 70% dark chocolate.

A coupla’ seconds later, the younger cousin turned around and offered to trade his chocolate with me.

“Brenda, you want?” he asked, holding out the Lindt bar. “I know that you love dark chocolate!”

I was really, really touched at first – because he remembered that I love dark chocolate more than any other types. (And men in general are really good at forgetting these things.) So I accepted the Lindt bar and began chomping gleefully.

Nomming my chocolate bar and gazing out at the scenery outside, it suddenly struck me that I had conveniently overlooked one fact – that the younger cousin hated dark chocolate, but also loved Maltesers … quite possibly more than I do.

So, there are two ways of looking at this.

A. The younger cousin offered his dark chocolate to me because he knows that I love dark chocolate and that I would definitely enjoy it more than he would.

B. He offered to trade his dark chocolate only because he himself hated it, and wanted Maltesers instead.

Mmm, something to think about.

Scenario 2
A continuation of Scenario 1. So, I’ve finished gobbling up the last bit of the Lindt bar just as the jeep pulled into the petrol station for a gas top-up.

As the younger cousin hopped off the jeep to the convenience store at the gas station for a top-up of munchies, I requested that he help me get another Lindt bar. Ten minutes later, he returned and passed me an extra-large bar of Lindt 70% dark chocolate, two times the size of the standard bar I was munching on before.

So I expressed shock, because I definitely couldn’t finish all of it. “It’s okay, eat it slowly,” was his reply.

Again, there are two ways of looking at it.

A. He bought the extra-large chocolate bar because he knows I love dark chocolate (as in, seriously!) and so, decided to get me a supply that can last me a couple of days at least.

B. He bought the extra-large chocolate bar because it was much cheaper to buy in bulk (or larger sizes), rather than a single, standard-size Lindt bar. So he saves money that way, just in case I end up asking him for even more Lindt bars.

If the above scenarios happened to you, which one would you choose?

For me, I chose option A for both – because despite how the younger cousin has his share of annoying (and occasionally, selfish – but who doesn’t?) moments, I know he really, really, really cares for me a lot and would basically go out of his way to make me happy.

If he is in the mood to, at least. Heh.

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