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Friday, July 29, 2011

Honey and The Money

50 Cent made the autobiographical Get Rich of Die Tryin' based on his rather troubled life (try getting shot nine times and survive to make a movie on it). Fortunately for a commoner, life is usually devoid of such extremities. We aspire and strive for what most want us to be and at times (very sporadically though) fantasize what we could have been. In this crude capitalist world of ours, we are constantly faced with questions that often end with answers that necessarily aren't what we signed up for.

Take career for example... for a man who wasn't born an Arab Sheikh or a Mogul Emperor, making something out of thyself has been a top priority ever since I developed a sense of life. As opposed to some who can just snore thinking life happens to you while you are busy making other plans, the question I've faced all my life is what? by when? instead of a more vague and casual let's see. The core philosophy during the schooling years it was study hard which progressed to be study hard, party harder in college and finally before reaching its current state of work hard, play hard. Although I slacked quite a bit during the study years, it was largely amended by the time I started to work. As a career choice, advertising seemed more of the underground genre than to the chart busting pop hits like Banking, Law, Marketing or even Teaching. But I was from a different school of thought, the one that played around 'its not where you start, but where you get at the end". And man have I enjoyed my last few years at work... being an adman.

But just as life isn't a bed of roses so wasn't bringing ideas to life. Unlike some of its more esteemed industry colleagues, Advertising as a service made far less money than a law or an accounting or even a management consulting firm did. It gets clearer once you realize that all major law, accounting or consulting firms are partnerships (i.e. McKinsey, PwC) while advertising agencies are mostly owned by holding companies (i.e. WPP). I knew what I had signed up for... and tried extra hard to make up the 0's that were missing. The incredibly flexible workspace, the always entertaining colleagues, the eccentric artists and the glamour of being an adman was simply too good to be true. While my friends were busy selling loans, developing annual sales plans or preparing duty rosters; I spent twice their time at work putting great ideas to good use. The supposed great ideas were not always great and involved a lot of smoke and holy water. I had almost forgotten the reason why we all work... the pay!!!

"Who needs money when life was already great, honey?" was perhaps the question that buzzed my head every time I was offered an opportunity to switch industry. Yet as I readied myself for the next big move in my life... all that's great seemed to be puny. The holy matrimony beckoned the colorful me and handed over a reality check on what life is all about. All of a sudden it was stability of the job and salary package instead of joy of work that mattered. How much? had overshadowed how happy?. And to top it all, bank statement had a greater influence than the amazing score in happiness index.

Men, in not so chauvinistic manner were just expected to be in the money-making jobs. Be it a banker with no life or a lawyer with no ethics; you are just to make money... everyday in every possible way. There lied no alternate to this 'common belief' even after having strong-opinionated and successful working women around. I had to work for I had to provide for a family and not for any of the utopian self-actualization or greater  self-esteem. Lost and confused, I tried to looking for a way out resorting to my fun-filled gang at work; and sadly I realized... if they could, even they would (move on). It was the bite in the back I was least prepared for, the choice I thought I would never have to make, the life I frowned upon!!! The path ahead was precise and concise, marriage is for the one with money...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I thought I was starting to love QUBEE

Qubee is cutting corners!
When I got connected to Qubee last year I was surprised how you can avail good internet service with low prices. I could play games online with friends living in Australia & the US. Qubee really meant business. The downloads would be done before I could think of others stuffs to download! I started thinking, hmm… this could be the dawn of quality-internet-service in Bangladesh, after all.

But guess what?... I was wrong, very wrong.

Before Qubee was flooded with hifi-hispeed-wireless internet loving customers who’d have the privilege to have an active internet connection almost anywhere in Dhaka and in most of Chittagong, it was actually going pretty good. However, now that it has more customers than it can accommodate in their fancy-sophisticated servers, it has started to cut corners.

Let me give you an example. I was using one of Qubee’s 512kbps unlimited internet connection (I honestly don’t understand the gravity of that since I’m not one of those computer geeks you’d find in universities). Nevertheless, I understand this much that when I want to download something, I see on my internet download manager, that the transfer rate is showing a constant transfer rate of 60kbps. Well, it’s not showing that anymore. Having noticed it for several days, I finally called Qubee. What they’ve told me drove me mad.

As they urge, I, apparently, download too much, and to facilitate other users in my area, they have reduced my download speed. I was advised to take it easy on how I use my internet! I’m sorry, but how do you do that? I’m on an unlimited plan allowing me to use the internet pretty much however I want it to. And they have only allocated 60kbps of their bandwidth to me on my contract, I cannot possibly exceed that no matter whatever I do. If Qubee wanted me not to use their internet service all the time they should’ve warned me in the first place. Now, I feel like I’m not getting my money’s worth.

Let’s stop bickering about this. We don’t have enough choices in Bangladesh, I know. But I’ll let you guys know about a jungle full of trees and insect where I used an internet connection that is in a different league! It was so fast that I almost fell asleep on my laptop downloading things. It’s in Chittagong, just on the other side of the Karnaphuli River. My question is, if people can have such hispeed internet connection in a jungle, why can’t they have something similar in the major cities, for example, Dhaka, Chittagong?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Having the PA factor

I am not sure if there exists any empirical human resource research on the skills and expertise of PAs (Personal Assistants) to the company chiefs in multinational organisations in Bangladesh or elsewhere. If there were any, I would have tried to find out if my assumptions regarding the skill-set of PAs are correct or not.

Due to popular beliefs or simple stereotypes of this being a clerical job, hardly any job seeker actively pursues the job of a personal assistant or prefers to keep this option lower in the priority list. Some also assume that this job is exclusively for female job seekers only and in a lot of instances, companies actively look out for all female applicants for such a position to aid the day to day work schedule of the head of the organisation. I believe very few PAs realise before they take up the job what kind of exposures they will get in the course of the assignment and the opportunities to develop their professional skills.

PAs seem to be the most privileged staff to be in the closest vicinity of the think tanks of the organisations. As s/he takes down minutes of important meetings and arranges schedules and activities of the chief executive, s/he notices the important dynamics that take place in board rooms. The way things are communicated, argued on, the rationales that lead to decisions being taken and the body languages of colleagues and counterparts – all are observed and recorded by none other than PAs. Moreover, they are the staff who get to observe the leadership brass from a close distance, often allowing them exposure to the thought processes and actions of an organisational leader – CEO. For a variety of these reasons PAs seem to be having a fast track route to developing core business acumen without actually having prestigious business degrees or actually having any real life business management experience.

Certainly the career growth for PAs might be limited – that is, its very unlikely that a PA, after developing business skills by merely being in the company of company heads, will be promoted as a CEO him/herself. But better still, there are examples that many of them have actually ended up being the owner of their own business ventures.

One of the TV programmes that I try to watch from time to time is the Apprentice, a show about which I have tried to convince a few friends in Bangladesh to emulate – without success. The winner of the last year's show was Stella English, who worked as a PA at a Japanese Investment Bank before being selected as one of the candidates of the popular British show. Similarly this year for series 7, one of the top four finalists in the process of becoming Lord Sugar’s business partner happens to be Helen Louise Milligan, who again works as an Executive Assistant to CEO.

Sure not all the fingers of the hand are of the same size, but surely having a PA factor can take you places and make you win big in business and in life.