Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Employees role in Start up Companies

How sweet it is to start up your own company. You see yourself trudging down your office space, defining your own visions and rules, while trying to make profit out of something. But before reaping the fruits of your vision and labor, there are lots of hurdles in getting your start up company stable.

There's always the issue of funding, organizational structure and vision. But when everything's been organized and done, you still have to figure out your resources. One must consider that a start up company might have its excitement, but definitely has its uncertainties. That is why it is quite harder to attract and identify competent employees who are willing to go that extra mile to make things happen. After all, more sacrifices are present for employees in any start-up company as they would be more exposed to many changes and expected to accomplish more complex responsibilities.

Here is an interesting, and kind of a disturbing article about managing your employees in a start-up company. It may have its points, but the negative side overwhelms the positive.

For those who value work and life balance like me, well we might find this rationale kind of appalling.

In posted by Duncan Riley, Mahalo founder and serial entrepreneur Jason Calacanis has some interesting tips about how to squeeze every effort from startup company employees:

Helpful advice includes (including unsolicited interpretation by techcrunch/duncan Riley)

  • If you do meetings, have them over lunch, because you shouldn’t let your employees eat alone
  • Don’t provide people with phones, they can always use their own cellphones, and this saves money
  • Buy a decent espresso machine and provide food in the office, because you don’t want your staff to ever stop working, this way you keep them in the office every minute of every day
  • Buy people who work hard a computer for home, so they can work after hours, on weekends and public holidays
  • Urinary catheters are cheap, hook each employee up to one so they don’t waste minutes going to the restroom

OK, so I made the last point up. Here’s my favorite one though (direct quote):

  • “Fire people who are not workaholics…. come on folks, this is startup life, it’s not a game. go work at the post office or stabucks if you want balance in your life. For realz.”

Apparently having a life isn’t “for realz” in Calacanis’ playbook so a note to possible Mahalo employees: expect to check your family at the door if you want to go work for JCal. Up to 18 hours a day for $30-35,000 (what I’ve heard is the going rate for base Mahalo employees) , you’re never allowed to go outside during this time or have a proper break…. sounds like a great place to work.

I sense violent reactions. I'm sure you would've revised somethings...if not everything.
Here are my personal revisions:

Point 1: To have meetings over lunch
It depends on the situation. And generally this is unsettling especially if you still want to discuss business matters over lunch. You owe to give your employees an hour of peace to enjoy their meals. And anyways, it's more gratifying if the employees ask you out, not the other way around. A boss' presence might make them feel woozy. To have them over for lunch is great if you want their company, not their business analysis. Much better conversations if you treat them with good food!

Point 2: Don’t provide people with phones, they can always use their own cellphones, and this saves money
This could be understood. To determine the number of phones in the office, per person, depends on the job description anyways, but it's quite advisable to purchase at least 1 phone for one unit or floor for emergency transaction purposes.

Point 3: Buy a decent espresso machine and provide food in the office, because you don’t want your staff to ever stop working, this way you keep them in the office every minute of every day
A good espresso machine and food in the office are always appreciated, and sometimes needed. But this should not be used as a sole basis to determine productivity.

Point 4: Buy people who work hard a computer for home, so they can work after hours, on weekends and public holidays
Really absurd. Having a company phone is enough pain in the ass, but to buy them a computer so they can work after hours, weekends and public holidays, is way too absurd. I'm sorry, I won't agree with this.

Point 5: Urinary catheters are cheap, hook each employee up to one so they don’t waste minutes going to the restroom

Firing people because they're not workaholics can be seen in a different angle. There are good workaholics and extreme workaholics that are not healthy anymore, professional and medically speaking. Are they workaholics because of bad workload dissemination that often leads to health and creative problems, or they're just workaholic for innovation and development? These two causes might offer different results.

Employees, people are most the precious resources, and these resources are not machines. They need sustenance in other forms and other means. They need growth in other aspects of their life to usher growth in their professions. They are not easily decoded and programmed to work the way we want to the last detail. They may be exceptionally brilliant and effective, but they need to reboot and unwind. That's the price of getting good resources, and it's a price a start up company even has to pay.

The IT Profession as I see it

This is an information world. It's quite obvious that businesses in field of Information Technology have quite opened up. Every stable, global or local organization invests in their IT arm, whether it may be support, programming, applications or data management. Interpreting and maximizing information are just as important as managing and transmitting them through IT infrastructures.

In the years of our parents, as far as my parents are concerned who are now in their early 50's, one of the hippest fields back then were those to do with commerce. Of course, the medicine (doctor fields) are undeniably present in any generation, but in those times commerce education was most sought after. Marketing, Accounting, Business Management and all typical boxed up commerce courses were hot. Understandably it was so because it was the time when economy before started to take it's flight in a more encouraging perspective. New resources, business ventures and start up companies were at large.

Although there are still these revolutionized economics and commerce courses now, we cannot deny that the hip fields to be in these days are those in IT fields and nursing fields. But tackling IT fields specifically, everyone on earth today knows at least one or someone who is either a software engineer, developer, programmer, web artist, certified program developers and users and network engineers. According to AOL, they are have the most lucrative, in-demand and fastest growing jobs available, whether directly hired or outsourced.

It's amazing to think that organizations train non-IT graduates to be IT experts. It just goes to show that the demand is there and immediate and competent resources are needed.

It's funny that my father is one of the executives in the IT field. He is very knowledgeable and powerful in the IT industry, yet he is not in the technical side of it. He's in the marketing and management side of IT, and I would have to say it had made his life comfortable. Although he suffered great frustration that his eldest (me), is not interested in IT that much to make it a profession. He doesn't fail to remind me how easy my career growth would have been if I were in IT, both by the demand and his nurturing help. So, he just used his efforts and connections with his godchildren, while he sighs on my chosen profession in analysis and theory.

They say that the money, the career growth, the popularity and the global demand for IT are present. It's a no-brainer choice when it comes to a lucrative position. That's why countries like China, Singapore and India are booming with IT graduates. The Philippines are slowly catching up, despite still of the lack of skilled workers statistically, reported by the National Statistical Coordination board.

Almost everyone wants to know something about IT. Almost everyone would want get into I.T. But some just do not want to compromise. Aside from the lack of interest, wee hours in the morning, I wonder, if I.T. is really the best profession out there. It's all in a matter of perspective.

A person really needs a lot of interest and dedication to be in IT. It's a sort of field that doesn't really cater to much career flexibility. IT professionals are naturally detail oriented and process oriented. They literally manipulate systems and computers, that is why their train of thought should always be focused and systematic. Few have indulged to think creatively while dealing with daily IT processes. IT Professionals are also challenged to be always up to date. According to, IT professionals are worried about the future. And they should be. The competition is strengthening and companies would always want fresh blood who is willing to fuel innovation in the business. Even though IT professionals are getting more than enough compensation and prestige, their strive to climb a much higher ladder is more segmented and fixed. Not unless an IT professional is well trained, well experienced, has led in an IT innovation or certified, he/she might have a harder time climbing the corporate ranks. IT professionals also engage in being knowledgeable in commerce to keep them in a competitive edge. For IT, it's all about focus, experience, flexibility, love and creativity of being a certified IT professional.

It's a continuously challenging and demanding profession, and it's definitely harder if you just one just sees it as a paycheck. But there is no question that IT professionals are globally in demand right now. They might be the millennium's soldiers to usher infrastructure growth in whatever industries such as banking, health or recreation. But theirs is a rising community amidst the fast paced environment. The playing field and times have changed compared to the beginning phase of IT growth, it may be a lucrative and attractive job, but definitely beginning to be challenging or cutthroat.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

RP clinches top spot...again *Sigh

Republic of the Philippines is not only among most corrupt countries, but it's clenching the number 1 spot, garnering 9 points over 10. It is followed by Thailand, Indonesia and China. Some countries that are also noted to be corrupt, somehow improved their ratings. But Philippines still continues to dig a hole in that muddle.

We seem to be excelling in the wrong places!! If the overall award would be revised, we would've won grand slams year after year!

SEA's most populous nation and now THIS?!

Truly, it's not a surprise for any of us, but it's just hard to just laugh it off.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Born Genius of National Geographic

On a dull Sunday, I was flipping through channels to find a source of possible amusement. It landed on National Geographic Channel. It's not about a feature about animals lurking for their prey, which is a complex and interesting natural phenomena, or the mating rituals which are downright cute and syndicated. It's about the most, or one of the most important organs in our body...the brain.

Topics about the brain and its various functions in the aspect of our lives from motions to emotions, from intellect to creativeness vary to about hundreds. But this show has a particular inclination on the role of shaping ones 'brain' in the field of music. We know one or two kids, either personally or not, who are brilliant and child prodigies in music. You might be familiar through media about these kids as low as age 3 to 5 playing complex tunes and pieces on the sophisticated instruments such as piano, violin or guitar. My parents started enrolling me in Organ lessons when I was 9, which by standards is a little bit too late. I began self-studying and gained good playing leverage with the guitar when I was in highschool, backed up by self-study in harmonica. These are are purely for musical interest, but I was never near to exhausting my brain like these child prodigies.

In this National Geography show, it specifically tackles how in the world do kids ages 3-5 can learn how to play complex pieces...proficiently. We, being awed and speculative, can immediately count it as work of superior genes, or is it? How early should the child be mentally stimulated and would it be healthy if it's started in much earlier years? How powerful is the brain? And finally, Do Brains Mold Geniuses, or Geniuses mold the brain?

These mental questions that have been boggling science is taken into the light of music. Playing any instrument as we all know requires more than interest or brilliant hearing. It requires dexterity, mind and body coordination and the usual skills of decoding notes and quality checking. All in all it's a multi-tasking event. How can a mere three year old do that when it's supposed to be doodling around and only supposed to enjoy play-doh?

According to the show, kids' brains as early as 1-3 are very crucial and already in need for a mental stimulation. That is why some kids nowadays are being enrolled in a PREPARATORY to PREP School (Preparation to be prepared??), or enrolled in a normal music class. Some traditional parents might see brutality in this concept, but what they might be forgetting is that the brain is scientifically known to be massively powerful. Engaging kids in a form of mental stimulation at this early age will not only give them edge and redefined methods in learning, but it would also mold their future in life. As early as this age, the brain is such a sponge that it has twice more neuro connections than any average adult. Mental stimulation, according to the scientists, allows the brain to properly use these neuro connections well, and at the same time cut the neuro connections that are not needed, which if not done, might hamper growth and personality. A person locked up without mental stimulation in 12 years, may have already passed the window of mental opportunity, and acts like a mere 18th month old child. The mental neuro- connections the person should have developed 10 years ago cannot be easily developed, nor the neuro-connections that should have been cut off, that affect a lot of decision making and personality traits will now be hard to cut off.

Ushering mental stimulation in early years is important. In a case of this young chinese boy, Marc Yu, he has been immersed in musical training at the ripe age of 3. By then he has developed his hearing capabilities and mental capabilities to be able to show off playing complex pieces before the age of 5. Is he a genius to begin with or massive brain work is involved in becoming a genius? Some scientists argue that it takes more than interests or genes in creating geniuses. In fact, it takes a lot, and usually it accounts to the how conducive the environment and how stimulated the child is. They stress the point that a child should be exposed to mental stimulation at an early age. Second, a child must develop its "rage to master" personality, wherein the child does not wait for encouragement to learn or master a specific field. A straight student or a someone who is good with music or ballet, might be the best, but they shouldn't wait for coercion or encouragement to master their fields. They should be in a way "obsessed" to their own mental development. Third, some say genes may play a great part in it. But all in all, genius or not, the brains that develop and stimulated early fair better in life, than the average brains. Since their brains are exercised as early, they have more mental absorption, perception and capacity than their contemporaries who just stuck to watching cartoons and learning simple ABC's.

Just like what the renowned writer, Jessica Zafra, personally noted, that the brain is such a powerful organ that one should not think it is being maximized. In a lifetime, we only use a portion of our brain, thus not using it to its full capacity. So if you think you're having a hard time or an intense headache while solving math problems, concocting solutions and experiments or making proposals are indication that the brain is OVERUSED, well think again. It may grow tired from time to time and needs a little rest, but it is never maximized or overused like any other gadget. In this, I couldn't agre more.

Proper mental stimulation at an early age, might just sound attractive, but in reality it is proven to be a good thing, rather than an unnatural thing. This is just one of the facets of how powerful the brain is. That is why we should use it and learn how to manipulate it. So like you or me, who have passed the crucial stage of child prodigy, it is not an excuse to not exercise our brain. And doing our usual tasks at work is not enough. There are lot of ways to maximize this most brilliant organ. We should learn something out of the ordinary, read news and different articles. It exposes our brain and utilizes its other powers that have been slumbering for quite some time now. We may not be certified geniuses, but it's not a crime for trying to get there in our right. :) And to those modern mothers that might have practiced listening to music, reading, or engaging in mental stimulation as early as pregnancy, might prove them it does not take a genius to know that.

*Source: National Geographic:

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Jun Lozada's school hopping

I just read a news today about Lozada's current active politicking in schools. The picture shows that he is waving a CD, a compilation of his speeches, with a big smile as if he is the new breakthrough artist promoting his most sought after album. There's something wrong with this picture, I know it.

This country encourages freedom of expression. As humans we have to be heard, that is a given. But is it quite advisable for him to go school hopping in a frenzy succession? Is he a mere political distraction for students who have to focus on education? I think we, who are in search of truth and a better society, are grateful for his courageousness in testifying, but even a simple mamayan can suffer from "umay" about this continuous appeal to topple down the government. Solution should always be beneficial for all, and not a continuous form of nuisance. You know what, I put people, even kids who are in schools in very high regard. They are not oblivious to these issues. We already have media and I'm sure they are witnesses to the developments of the case. We don't even need to be glued on television. Just by observing what's beyond the comforts of our home is quite enough to know the country's present situation.

Every hindrances in traffic is minor, but there are instances when certain actions are put into a frenzy mode, just like school hopping. Frankly, it came to a point wherein it's distracting, it's utterly political and it's not something that could definitely drive action. Thinking for solutions, other solutions, seem to be absent and everything resulted to encouraging people to go to the streets. Support and cooperation will come in time, and not by being forced. Reminding can be a little bit of a nag sometimes.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Thoughts on being mugged

A colleague of mine suffered a very horrible Tuesday morning, horrible, not metaphorically speaking, but literally. She was mugged in a crowded train station in the metropolis, unknowingly. The culprit, expertly, opened her body bag amidst the squished people trying to get into the train. Then the culprit, who happened to be a professionally dressed woman, then meandered through the sea of people unnoticed when she got what she was looking for. However, this colleague of mine just realized her bag was open when she was already inside the train, and by the time she saw the possible culprit walking along the platform, the train already moved. It's a moment of suppressed scream as the buildings of Cubao, Ortigas cinematially crumble at your background. Life just shits on you sometimes.

She realized the only thing missing was her wallet. The wallet. The thing where people usually keep memories, important receipts, credit cards, atm cards and important documents even. Loss of daily minimal cash is frustrating, but not as frustrating and crushing than losing those financial cards, documents and memories. Soon you'll find yourself taking time to visit a notary office, writing letters called affidavit of loss, manually going to the main bank offices to arrange card replacements, and all in all...they're what you call the real HASSLES in life. IN between these efforts to get you back on track, you manage to utter curses and throw murderous thoughts which make you oh-so-negative. That is not something anyone needs right now.

Another colleague of ours even tried to comfort the victim in retelling this particular story wherein some snatched wallets are even returned to the owner. These 'miraculously salvaged' wallets are always found in trash cans by noble civilians or garbage collectors. Well, there's nothing much we can do about it now, but to wait. But living in the 21st century, experiences taught us not to hold our breathes in cases like these.

No matter how you try to be vigilant and aggressive, there will be times wherein your vigilance might wane down for a minute or for a second. Unfortunate for you if in those moments, sharks are lurking by. That is why there are couple of things that I would like to adapt or have already incorporated in my life, that might lessen the blow of being mugged.

1. Never bring large sums of money. Find strategic points or location in carrying your moolah till you reach your target money disposal. Extra vigilance is needed, no moment here to be overconfident. *(My version, I budget and never withdraw large sums of money. The money I have in my wallet are for daily expenses and emergency only)

2. Only bring 1 credit card. Credit cards are for emergency...emergency...emergency. It's not supposed to replace the power of your cash. That is why if you have 2 credit cards (Granted that they are active and clear), just bring one. In the event that you lose your wallet, you have extra credit funding, as you wait for your other card's replacement. You won't be left financially paralyzed or in the mercy of other people's loans.

3. Leave the most memorable stuff like pictures, ID's or letters at home or a shrine even, where you don't bring it along with you. In cases of loss or if someone steals your wallet, you won't get to cry over lost souvenirs and memories.

4. Do not...under any circumstances, keep a list of PIN codes in your wallet. Keep it in an excel file (office/home), cellphones are probable..or much better..find the effort to memorize.

5. Carry on a separate, unsophisticated coin purse. This will serve as your emergency money in going anywhere.

6. Do not panic. Curse if you must. Release your anger by ranting to an understanding friend, and tell the people who might get affected with this loss. OR! Rant to an officer or security guard maybe, that's even better, probably that's the best service that they could offer you..realistically. Find a way of release and not be consumed by it. You don't want those infidels to get a hold in your life.

May this serve as a reminder that we do not live on angel grounds. As much as we'd want to be carefree and idealistic, we have to accept that certain things like these happen. Accepting this dreaded fact is not equal to allowing yourself be the victim.

Happy March Everyone, may we all have a fun-filled, mugged free happy Summer!