Monday, February 3, 2014


I'm writing this from the "lanai" of a sub-tropical island, listening to the ocean, and watching snorklers paddle around in a lagoon and listening to (apparently Russian, Chinese, and Korean) children play nearby.

Last week, I learned from my boss's boss that I had 48 hours to decide on what my next job would be after my assignment here in Asia ends. I'm reminded of my earlier post in 2011 about the Paradox of Choice. As you can see, I later changed my mind about the Asia opportunity, and accepted it. It's been a hard job. I've learned about myself, about my peers, my supposed friends, my true friends, and my colleagues.

My two options were:

  1. Hardcore technical leadership
    Lead a team building a next-gen product that will directly-attack a given customer need in the market. It is a "high value, high risk, high reward" technical opportunity, and requires working with several different parts of our organization, and other parts of the company. I'd take the role of team leader. One of my mentors told me that delivering on this project is an easy way to my next promotion. This job exists on PowerPoint only, but touches on hot technologies that are applicable across the industry, and make me much more "marketable." The team might evaporate in the next few months.
  2. Strategy and Change Agent
    Join a technical strategy team built up across our division (that spans thousands of people). Rotate among different parts of the division as a "change agent" applying the agenda of the senior VPs to rank and file engineers. First assignment: my own group. This job is definite, but requires me to "stay put" in the area, and prod on the residue left behind by the Dead Sea Effect, attempting to cajole, negotiate, or convince an organization VERY set in its ways to adapt to change. This assignment is a 'sure thing,' but has no specific product or technical deliverables.

I actually wrote down a pro / con list for each job, and after 36 hours of deliberation (including talking to several partisan, senior executives) I chose option #1. I immediately regretted that decision.

I'm reminded of the Paradox of Choice once again. Three days later, a colleague was publicly announced for job #2. Everyone was impressed. That could've been me. :-/ I wonder if I should've taken the strategy job just because it seems like "the point" for going on the assignment to Asia. It seems like the job that would most-maximize the time I'd spent here.

I'm still waiting on my management to set up a meeting to begin the "ramp up" process for the offer I accepted.

Someone told me to "take the definite thing." I wonder if I should've chosen option #2? Before I decided, DJ observed that I'd never have enough information to decide, and therefore I should "just flip a coin." ;-)

Of course when I get back to the US, I'll test the waters once again the job market, and see if two years of international experience changes things. ;-)

Gay Careerist: On the Power of Recommendations

One of my team members here is returning to college after several years in industry. He's a great guy, smart, and a capable engineer. Unfortunately he's rare, so he is overworked on this team. When he first mentioned going back to school, I encouraged him to consider what is best for him, and most interesting and stimulating. What would get him out of bed in the morning? Over the last nine months, he became progressively more serious about school, to the point that he is sacrificing his relationship with his wife and baby son (likely leading to a divorce). He wants to go back to school badly.

A few months ago, he asked me to provide a recommendation letter for grad school admission. I gladly accepted and after a few hours, had written roughly a page of content, complete with fill-in-blanks for the names of various schools and universities. My couple-of-hour effort apparently helped enough that he was accepted into two different graduate schools.

Some tips for writing a letter:
  • Tell specific stories, and provide substantive proof of the the supposed reasons the candidate walks on water.
  • Be Honest. If the candidate is a great team player, but struggles as a self-starter (i.e. a great follower, but a bad leader), state as much.
  • When considering the candidate, ask yourself: "Is this candidate the best (student, employee, team member) of his (class, organization, team)? If not, is he in the top 1%? Top 10% Top 20%? 50%? See below...
  • If you can honestly rank him or her in the top X percent of the group, great. Consider the reasons why he or she stands out. Use two or three of these to provide a foundation for your letter.
  • You will likely submit multiple letters to different organizations, focused on different topics. Write accordingly.
  • If you can't provide a good recommendation, politely decline. Don't lie or embellish. Your reputation is on the line.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Long Road

It's been a long road, getting from there to here. The last month has been remarkably hard. I completely lost track of the month of July, and simply can't account for my weekends or free time outside of work. I've found (I think) the key players on our team, and found (unfortunately) the dead weight.

The last two weeks of problems have been caused by the dead weight.

I struggle with how to correct this guys' action. He simply does NOT seem capable of doing the right things (for example, extract and run version X.Y of the product). He instead runs version (Y.X), or takes it upon himself to "work around" a problem in the completely wrong way.

We've lost a significant portion of our US team to layoffs or attrition. This will continue. I'm not sure if I'm better-off here, or back in the US. Either way, I just submitted my resume onto a cute, "boutique" talent matching site called White Truffle. DJ (we're still together, aww!) and I are both curious to know what will come of it.

I can speak a little Chinese! I can order in restaurants now, but am now encountering a new problem: I can start a conversation, but am (in most cases) unable to finish it. :-)

So that's it... it's 4:32AM, I've been awake since 7:30AM yesterday, and worked for most of the day (and night) trying to pick up the slack / assemble the team into something useful. This is about to get messy, and I'm about to experience a massive downsizing action from the inside. It won't be pretty.

On a brighter note, the company is flying me back to the US in November for Out & Equal! DJ and I are joking about whether we should go the conference as a couple.

I miss the early feeling of the blog, and the sense of discovery. It's my hope that I can rekindle that here, or on my "other" blog, somehow, without pissing off my few remaining friends.

Time for sleep. I apologize in advance for the poor grammar, lack of cohesion, and general rambling nature of this post.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

On Leadership

It's been a year since I accepted my "stretch" assignment to Asia! I'm certainly stretching. It's 3:15AM, and I'm still up, after taking two hours of Mandarin classes and working with our US team for a few hours. I believe that I've reached my "capacity" for work. In a given month, I can focus my efforts and attention in only a couple of places. Out of our seven separate teams, that means that a couple will languish without my attention.

I sense some friction from one of my US colleagues, also on assignment. I can tell that he's giving me the "cold shoulder." I know why; my team is faltering, and I've yet to course-correct effectively. One of our engineers, who we were grooming into a leader, quit last week, leaving a significant gap. This happened to coincide with a trip for his peers to the US, leaving us without skills in a key area. In addition, our project is quickly entering a "crunch" mode.

My immediate reaction to his dismissal is sadness / anger / frustration. I know that there is nothing to discuss; talking it out will do nothing. I think it's something I need to handle alone by reallocating people within our teams. Of course the managers that report to me disagree. :-)

It's time for me to start kicking ass. My Mandarin instructor informed me that in Chinese culture, a leader must be dominant and assertive. If someone brokers deals, negotiates, or in other ways is "soft," he is viewed as a bad leader, and loses credibility with his organization. I'm wondering if that happened to me.

My style of leadership has matured over the last year. When I started, I would make suggestions for things that should change. In my previous team, these suggestions were accepted as good ideas (where appropriate, or refined into even better ideas). In this team, any suggestion I give is ignored. Any order I give is followed, even if it's a bad idea.

I have only two trusted lieutenants, and I need at least two more.

Gay Careerist Tip: Surround yourself with those you trust. Don't try to do everything; when your team grows to a certain size, it is impossible to "save the day." As much as it sucks, they have to fail.

To summarize: It's easy to lead a motivated and smart team. How do you deal with the rest of the population?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Layers of Emotion

I've stated many times to my boyfriend that this blog exists, and even shown DJ clever tweets from the twitter account on the sidebar. He hasn't (to my knowledge) found it, however. If he has, he hasn't said anything about it. I'm wondering if it's time to show him the blog. I want him to read through the perceived ups and downs of our relationship, and what's going on "in my head."

I've been living with him for over a week. Over the last couple of days, I feel like I've opened up 100% to him, and him to me. We had our first real argument, ever. I've told him all of the secrets I could think of -- things I haven't even written on this blog. He told me secrets of his own as well. We even had makeup sex.

It was awesome. [five minutes later] Of course, psychology today says makeup sex is a bad thing. Hmm.

I had a talk with a friend about DJ's pot smoking. When I told my buddy that he's sometime smoked right out of bed, his reaction was a chuckle, followed by "He had a wake-n-bake? Ha." Things got serious, though, my buddy learned that DJ'd gone to work high. I asked what I should do, and he replied that it sounded like I'd already made up my mind. :-/

Honestly - I love him. I'm nearly-crying right now. I don't like this aspect of him. We have to talk. We're doing things with friends as if everything's fine. We're even flying to Orlando for a half-marathon in a week! But I feel like there's something bad festering below the surface. When he hugs me, I shrug away, and then warm up to him. I feel like I've put back up a series of mental barriers between us.

I feel like we should talk to a therapist. I've been to one before, when my dad ordered me to go after coming out. I enjoyed the experience, and miss having the opportunity to talk about myself without feeling greedy or selfish. I want us to have the chance to talk.

I can deal with the fact that he doesn't dust, or vacuum, or clean as often as I do. I can deal with the fact that my definition of "clean" is fundamentally different from his. I can deal with my definition of "good enough" being radically different from his. I can't deal, however, with him cheating on me with pot.