July 4, 2007

the rookie guide

continued from this post… this is gonna be long

So… the young and freshly graduated girl engineer was made to leave Company X last Friday, after only 2 months of working here (she was actually on contract, but my boss Paul decided not to renew/convert/confirm her employment). That has got to be a new record – I’ve never seen anyone got axed out from an organization in such a short period before. The previous record was held by a sleazebag manager. His record was 3 months.

Alright, you guys must be wondering now, what had she done to deserve such fate? Well, the answer is, nothing. She did nothing. We wanted her to do something, but she couldn’t pick it up fast enough and well enough. That’s what I told Paul a few weeks ago when he asked me if we should latch her up for the job. Little did I know that she’d be booted out THAT soon (I expected like, 4 – 6 months or something).

Perhaps I should be feeling guilty about it, but I am not. Her incompetence isn’t my fault. It was her shy and softspoken characteristics that relinquished her from that job. I’m not trying to say that being a demure person is bad but, somehow, that kind of characteristic does not go very well with positions like electronics engineer in Company X – which requires a great deal of enthusiasm and tenacity, which she grossly lacked of… amongst many other things.

You may say that this is unfair to her, because she was new and all that. But it’s the harsh reality of the working world. If you’re not right for the job, then you’re out. She was given the 2 months grace period to prove herself worthy, but she didn’t make it.

That’s why, I feel compelled to share something here in my blog, on what are the things that one should be looking out for when you’re in for a new engineer post at some corporation. Might be of use to some of you, I don’t know… (disclaimer: this is not a complete guide to success, but something derived from the mistakes that I’ve seen a lot of fresh grads committed – which I think is important enough for everyone to know)

- Be confident with yourself.
I’ve seen a lot of fresh grads having this problem – lack of self confidence. The new girl engineer is a perfect example (let’s call her ‘Ovum’ for convenience sake). Ovum could hardly look into my eyes when she speaks (my eyebags aren’t that scary, pardon me) and could not introduce herself properly. She would sort of go like “Hi my name is Ovum and I am from [university]. I just graduated and I don’t know anything.[sheepish smile]”.
That’s so wrong, people… Never ever think of yourself as inferior. Most management folks prefer someone who is independent and has the natural gumption to turn tables when deals go wrong. And you need lots of self confidence to do stuff like that. There’s a very fine line between being humble and a self deprecating retard, and you should know how to differentiate both. You’re an engineer, be proud of it and act like one. You need to convince your boss that he/she has hired the right person, not the opposite.

- Be interactive.
As I have hinted earlier on, Ovum is a very demure and quiet person. I once left her to handle an urgent (but simple) issue for me as I had to leave work to bring Regine to the doctor. She was with me throughout the whole technical experiment to troubleshoot an OS lock-up issue and I even briefed her on the details before I left – but she did not respond when some of the concerned parties started to ask about the details – which she was made well aware of. When I questioned her lack of response, she told me she was ‘freaked out’. o_O’
This can’t be right. You won’t learn a lot if your interaction with other fellow humans are limited to just getting ‘freaked out’ every now and then. You have to ditch that teenage Hello Kitty cutesy personality. This is business. An engineering job. People hired you here to solve problems, not to see you act cute like you’re in some pen-pal convention. Your engineering work will be useless if you are unable to effectively present your work to your partners/work-peers – doesn’t matter if you’re technically sound in knowledge. You need to keep your shits together and wake up.

- Have discipline.
Look, you’re new, inexperienced and you need people to train you up. The last thing that you should ever do, is to be a slack and convert everyone’s effort into waste. Be considerate, pay attention when others speak. Focus on your given goal. Work your ass hard to get into pace with your job. You should never get too engrossed with your personal stuff during work hours. They should needless to say, done only during your breaktime or at your own time. You should also never shirk. Shirking is for experienced vets that have everything under control (like me…). You don’t.
Ovum violated this over and over again. During the course of her on-job training, she must have sent like, literally thousands of emails and SMS’s to the outside world. Every 5 – 10 minutes, she’d either go to her ‘puter to reply an email or two… or whip out her cellphone and punch some keys. It’s fucking distracting and annoying. I don’t know what’s more important – her career? or some trivial banter she shares with her cronies through cellular network. Don’t be like Ovum. Be serious with your new found career.

- Eat the humble pie.
When you know you’re good at something, you don’t fucking brag or show it off by overcommitting your objectives. You ‘brag’ and ‘show it off’ by delivering results. Sometimes, it also helps by lowering expectations for your objectives and only to easily achieve it later. Action speaks louder than words. Eat the humble pie, motherfucker.
This should not be misconstrued as a contradiction to point number 1 above. Being an arrogant bastard and having self confidence is entirely a different thing. Humility goes a long way in corporate worklife. It makes people feel comfortable to work with you and that makes it harder for them to turn you down. When that happens, you’ve already won the first half of the battle to get your job done. This is also something that I’m still learning myself till this day.

- Work with people.
If you’re a misanthrope or an anti-social, you should probably look for another job. Like maybe a janitor or something, where you can get as grumpy as you want and nobody would give a fuck about you.
Working as an EE engineer is different from studying. You can be a one man army Rambo in your studies and still get good grades. But an engineering job requires you to work with people. A lot. Your performance will be graded through feedbacks from your work-mates… and if you piss them off, you’re fucked. And when I say you’re fucked, I do really mean it – that’s because your bonus, wage increment and future depends on this ‘performance review’… As you can see, this is much more critical than your stupid ass CGPA grading system. Just do it for the sake of survival… and you’ll be better off.

- Clean your mouth well.
Gargle, brush or chew. Whatever. Just keep it clean.
this is just a personal thing – Ovum has halitosis, and I got migraine almost everyday just by talking to her

Of course there are others like how to use that big piece of organ between your ears, etc. But I can’t be telling you everything, can I? Cheers.

michaelooi  | enlightenments  | 

22 Comments to “the rookie guide”

  1. TiBuN says:

    The last 1 I believe is the best, many ppl suffer from bad breath, which made them unpleasant to work with, because cannot have a long and steady conversation. Offering them fresh mint gum would be a waste of money pulak…

  2. d'Fish says:

    Im a high ranking manager in a company…wah talk big now… no no… actually i do exactly wat you said…. need to so to keed myself in good term with all my fellow staff and big bosses… tat how the corporate world is. humblepie is important…. get with the gang or get kick out!

  3. Je5sie says:

    Thanks for the nice tips, senior! I’m perfectly at the spot for your advices. Fresh engineering grad who has just joined a company for few weeks. I’ve learned that the word “freak out” has to be covered and camouflaged. No matter how “freaked out” you are, you have to give the other party a convincing answer. Gives you and your company a good image in the market. So I see the need to concentrate and learn as much as possible before suddenly a “freak out” situation happens. Therefore, I’m utmost agree with you that these 2 words are taboo, a big NO-NO in engineering field.

  4. Dr. Tan says:

    Thanks mate. Appreciated.

    For once this is a comment lacking in humour.

    Thanks, again.

  5. Sooi2 says:

    very well written michael, esp the part “have discipline”. ovum sounds like a real pain in the ass. a good riddance for sure.

  6. MT says:

    Bloody good post! Kudos Mike! :)

    But you know what man, you’d think this was the sort of thing that people should just know… But so damn many people don’t! Even worse is when you tell them and they go “Yeah, I know.” They obviously don’t! Because, this is the sort of basic necessity that will get you through work and life without getting unnecessarily roasted!

    About the CGPA thing, I have my personal share of experiences… Some of my uni mates had super CGPA’s, near to the perfect 4.0 But… their PR skills were SHITE! Can’t talk to people, act like arrogant prats, think they know EVERYTHING, etc…

  7. Little Ray says:

    Whoa. Thanks! This is like a walkthrough to the working world =P

  8. Primrose says:

    Haha, Ovum is a nice name. I suppose this applies to all, not just engineers. No wonder she doesn’t talk a lot lar. Maybe she knows she has got bad breath leh? BO got or not?

    My manager has bad breath. And I think she knows it. Everytime she speaks, she pretends to rub her nose and at the same time covers her mouth and instructs further. Maybe I should give her a bottle of spirulina during Performance Evaluation. Haha!

  9. deriku says:

    Most serious post evar! Thanks for the tips.

  10. mott says:

    bleh…halitosis..prob. she got rotten teeth leh..she shud see a dentist!

    Anyway, thot most grads are over-confident, the way they WHINE perpetually about not getting the job they deserve. ALL PRICKS I TELL YA! Piss me OFF ONLY!

    Sorry….reading this post, made my blood boil..the numerous times I had to put up such “Oh! I’m a g-r-a-d! I’m so g-r-e-a-t!” crap! BAH!

  11. kang_a_liu says:

    Agree with what you said. As a fresh grad engineer, all the points that you said, is not only for us to sustain in the working world. It is the points that cause us to get through the interview as well.

    From my “interviewing experience”, I can “feel” that humble, confident, work with ppl, able to communicate are those characteristic that interviewer are looking for.

    You are absolutely right.

  12. Din says:

    Dear Fresh Grads,

    Please print out this blog entry, and keep the contents in your mind from the first interview process right up to your first year in your new working position. The above points are good and valid and will help you in the course of your career.


  13. bongkersz says:

    a girl with halitosis prob? what a turn off yucks.. hmm,. should forward this post to all the fresh grads out there man. I think most of the fresh grads nowadays lack of PR skills. Textbook products, nothing else to offer other than a piece of paper with super great cgpa.

  14. Zer0 says:

    Fuh..Nice post!.Totally agree with all of the points.

  15. Jess says:

    thanks for the insight

    good advice i must say

  16. michaelooi says:

    People, these are just skimming-the-surface pointers. When you’ve worked long enough, you’d look back and see that these can be easily figured out with a little common sense.

    But we humans are like that – you never learn by just using common sense. You learn by making mistakes. I made a lot of mistakes (but still not a fraction as much as modern fresh grads nowadays do lah…)

  17. EF says:

    :) Your post is timely.

    I’m excited to start working. My apprehension keeps me awake at night, thinking how I will survive in a workplace that speaks a language I don’t understand.

    God, help me.

  18. cheayee says:

    OVum?? Oh My.

    i agree that she should be sacked. it will give her a wake up call and look at her weak points. I mean, if you want to be soft spoken, do that during a party or Speed Dating or something. But on the job, soft spokenness will not get you anywhere if there is a problem with computers.

    Customers are furious and are looking for an answer, and being soft spoken will just make them even more furious! At least show them you are willing to stay back over time and take notes or something. *SIGH*

  19. cuntfused says:

    good points. now, if only my trainees read this blog.

  20. megabigblur says:

    SO TRUE. The one thing you’re never really forced to learn in uni is “people skills”. (I mean, uni’s a good place to start…but you can still get away with being a prat when you’re just taking classes)

    I would have described myself as “shy” a few years ago and I’m still like that during my free time (hate parties etc.) but at work you have to learn to overcome that. And the best way to learn? FORCE yourself to talk to your boss, talk on the telephone to suppliers, knock on the doors of other departments’ offices when necessary…eventually the fear will go away.

    By the way, I think the way you come up with nicknames for your colleagues is dem farnie.

  21. tEo says:

    Haha…how apt of the timing of this post.
    I’m fresh grad and today is my first day of entering the working society. Will follow ur advice. ;)

  22. EinsamSoldat says:

    Mike will u charge royalty fee if I forward ur article to my colleagues ?

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