Showing posts with label Work. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Work. Show all posts

Interview of Elon Musk at Code Conference 2016

When I wrote my post about my New Year Resolution, I mentioned that I had just listened to the audiobook of Elon Musk's biography.  Before reading the biography, I was vaguely familiar with this CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, but didn't really know very much outside of that.  But having read the book, Musk has become my inspiration.  What he's doing for humanity is certainly no fact, I would argue he has made a bigger impact in transitioning humanity from burning fossil fuels to using sustainable energy than any other one person.  However, that is not really why he inspires me so much.

How he truly inspires me is how he approaches life.  In the interview above (if you have the time, watch the whole thing!), about 13 minutes into it, he says, "Life can't be just about solving problems; there have to be things that are inspiring and exciting that make you glad to be alive."  I believe I'm the first person on the web to point out this quote specifically and hopefully, it'll be more widely circulated, because I think it's great.  Although I would have to say life is actually even more than just having inspiring and exciting things, I don't think it's too shabby from a secular perspective.  It's really about finding passion in the things that you do.

Ask yourself this, "In my work, am I just solving problems?  Or does my job inspire and excite me, and makes me glad to be alive?"  If the answer is "just solving problems", then maybe it's time to re-evaluate your career choices.  Throughout my not so long/short life, I've flip-flopped between the two ends of the spectrum.  On one end, work and career is really just a means to making a living; life is much more than that.  On the other end, work and career is a big part of my life and I should be doing what I'm passionate about.  I think I'm closer to the latter right now in my life.  It is true that without my faith, family, friends, etc., it wouldn't matter much what I'm doing, but at the same time, if I were stuck in a job I hated, that would be a fairly bad way to spend a quarter of my life.

Perhaps as I age and as my kids are starting to understand things of the world, I want them to be able to learn from me the value of hard work, to not be satisfied with status quo, and to know that they can do great things.  I'm still finding my way there and I pray that God grants me this wish.  I end with a quote from Pope Benedict XVI, "The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness."

Happy New Year!  Another year has flown by (sorry, a little cliche...)!  We are still expecting our little one to come, any minute now!

New Year Resolution
Last night, as we unceremoniously celebrated the new year, Renee asked me what my new year resolution was.  I gave it maybe five seconds of thought and then answered, "To exercise go to bed earlier..."  But I didn't really feel good about that answer, but I wasn't in much of a contemplation mood; so, I decided not to think about it too much.

Then, today, when I was at mass for the feast of Mary, Mother of God, as the father was saying his homily, my mind drifted (it never happens, I swear!).  I was thinking back to last night and then the answer came to me (it must have been the Holy Spirit).  As you have guessed, my resolution for this year, and probably for the rest of my life is the title of this post: "Live each day as if I had five years left to live."

It's really a spin on the almost cliche "live each day as if it were your last" motto.  I never really liked this motto, not because I didn't agree with it, but as a practical guy, it just didn't resonate with me.  I get it that the intent of this motto is for us to filter out the noise and live life to the fullest, but if one were to live this motto out literally, it would be quite disastrous.  First, if I knew I only had 24 hours to live, I'd probably call in sick, tell Renee to call in sick, take my kids out of school for the day, and just go have a good ol' time, before my time is cut short on this earth.  It wouldn't really work out if I did live out each day like that!

So, my version on this motto is really just to satisfy my desire to have more precision in the semantics.  And I do admit, it doesn't roll off the tongue quite as easily...

Why Five Years?
So, why five years, instead of two or ten or twenty?  Well, I didn't end up with five years due to any mathematical proof, but rather, I thought five years was a long enough time that I would have to continue with my day-to-day life, but yet, know that my days on this earth are limited, which is the more interesting part.  

This would change my behaviour drastically, because I know that in five years, my family would lose their primary provider.  Yes, Renee would be able to pay off the mortgage with the insurance pay out, but I would want them to be financially secure, even after that.  Five years is not a long time, but it's not a short time either.  I would work extra hard and in new ways to secure their future, in whatever form that may be.  Perhaps it's starting a business that can be continued even after I'm gone.  Or maybe it's taking some risks that I might not have taken were I to live to 85.

I recently listened to the audio book version of the biography of Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance.  It was an inspiring read...I've been telling a lot of people about it.  The one thing that I love about Musk was that after starting and selling 2 companies, with more than $100 million in the bank, what did he decide to do?  Start another 2 companies at the same time (SpaceX and Tesla), because he didn't want to just take it easy in life.  He wanted to do something great for humanity.  Perhaps I would aim to do something great for humanity as well.

What Else?
Of course, I would also love more fully.  Knowing I have only 5 short years to create lasting memories of their father for my kids, perhaps I would take my eyes off my phone when I'm with them. Maybe I would spend more time with them.  Or perhaps I wouldn't lose my temper so easily when they act like they'  Perhaps I would teach them more about God and about how one should live one's life.

Perhaps I would even tell my parents that I thank them and I love them more often (媽,爸, love you!).  Or visit my brother and his family more often.  Or take my in laws to dim sum more.  Perhaps, I would reconnect with some old friends and stay in touch with newer ones.

Lastly, perhaps I would love Renee more.  Instead of taking her for granted like I do all the time, I would appreciate all the little and big things she does for me and the family.  Perhaps I would take her out for sushi or go to see a romantic comedy at the theatres a little more often.  Perhaps I would love myself a little less and her a lot more.  Perhaps, I would start writing her love letters again.

And so, this is my new year resolution and maybe also my life motto...cutting out the noise and focusing on the essential.  It's really what is meant when people say, live life to its fullest.  Forget the useless office politics, toxic gossip, keeping up with the Jones's...and just live!
Today is a sad day for me.  I've been told that 9 years worth of engineering experience that I have under my belt is not good enough to allow me to obtain a license to practice engineering in Ontario. :(

As most of you know, I studied mechanical engineering at U of T, went on to a research master's there, and then worked for almost 8 years at ATS designing factory automation systems.  The job at ATS was a dream job for mechanical engineering grads, because it was one of the few jobs that actually allowed you to apply what you learned in university on your job on a daily basis.  There, I did cool stuff like designing high-accuracy placement machines, high-accuracy dispense systems, laser systems, vision systems, and applied engineering concepts like heat transfer, vibration analysis, dynamics, etc.  Today, I was told it wasn't enough.

Red Tape
It all began a few years back when I decided to go through the formal process of getting licensed in Ontario.  (I heard that one can get great car insurance discounts through Meloche Monnex when one is a member of Professional Engineers of Ontario!)  When I submitted my application, PEO had asked for official ID to verify my identity, which I believe included a Canadian birth certificate or a citizenship card.  So, I gave copies of my citizenship card.  My name on my file came out as "Kwok Tao Wong", which was my Chinese name, and I asked for it to be changed to "Felix Wong", which was the only name that showed up in a majority of my documents, including the citizenship card.  However, "Kwok Tao Wong" also shows up there, and therefore, PEO decided that it was going to be "Kwok Tao Wong" and nothing else, not even the other name that shows up on the same document.  Ok, so I decided I wasn't going to lose sleep over it, but my thought at that time was, "What am I getting myself into?"

It then took me literally a couple of years to finish writing my experience summary, which was meant to describe what engineering work I had done in my career.  When I submitted it for review as part of the Engineering-In-Training (EIT) program, the reviewers told me that the experience looked good, was applicable, but just make sure that more actual calculations were included.  So, after taking that advice to heart, I put in a number of calculations and I thought maybe I put in too much.  The summary was supposed to be 10 pages but I had 17, mainly because I held several positions and felt obligated to write a little on each position.  That turned out to be a fatal mistake.

I had worked at ATS for almost 8 years, nearly double of what I needed to obtain the engineering license.  I then moved on to Ainsworth, where I had worked mainly in project management and process improvement, which would not be direct engineering experience.  But because the 5 areas of engineering experience covered things like management of engineering, etc. I decided to write whatever was applicable.  The letter I got back from PEO said something to the extent of, "the majority of your work was in business operations and facilities management, therefore, we need to interview you."  My first reaction was, "Did you actually read my summary?"  How is 4 years at Ainsworth considered a majority of my work experience, compared to 8 years at ATS?  I was puzzled.

At that point, I had a bad feeling about the whole thing.  Ok, so the name thing was not such a big deal, but now, I need to go to the PEO office and make a defense of my experience.  I know of many people who have done much less actual engineering in their work and are walking around with "P.Eng." after their names.  Why was I selected to be scrutinized in this fashion?

Long story short, I presented at the interview a project I had worked on at ATS and shown my work including accuracy analysis, cycle time analysis, and a conceptual design for a cold staking station, but at the end, I was told that the type of work I presented was too elementary, like it was 2nd year engineering work, and did not have enough breadth.  My friends at ATS, please tell me what you do (and I did) is not 2nd year engineering work!  I felt outraged, but managed to keep my composure.  One of the gentlemen kept saying, "It's not enough to say I did this and that for 6 months, 8 years ago."  I corrected him, saying, "No, it's 4 years ago and I did it for 8 years."  Still, it went in one ear and out the next.

Alas, I think it was really my fault.  I applied for the license too late in my career.  The question surfaced at the interview and also at the EIT review, "You are not practicing mechanical engineering now, why are you pursuing a license now?"  It's a fair question for someone to ask, but it is not a fair question to ask when considering licensing.  I don't recall reading anywhere in the Professional Engineers Act or even in any of the documentation from PEO that the 4 years of engineering experience had to be current experience.

I feel that going into the interview, there had been some prejudice against me, because I was not currently practicing engineering.  Or maybe it's all in my head.  Maybe my written and oral communication skills suck and I wasn't able to convey that my work had indeed been engineering work.  Somehow, I doubt that...

Is There Meaning to This?
Is there any meaning to this episode of my life?  I don't know.  I just feel really agitated at the moment so much so that I had to rant here to let out some steam.  Do I really need a P.Eng.?  Hey, maybe not, since I'm not actually practicing engineering at this point in my career?  But I have this gut-wrenching feeling that I always get when I've been a victim of some unjust act.

There's a part of me that tells me there is a meaning to this episode, and I recall another instance earlier in my life.  During my 4th year in university, I had this great idea that I should apply to MIT for their master's program.  I had been at the top of my class and didn't think it was out of reach, but it was kind of an ego thing.  Wouldn't it be prestigious to say I graduated from MIT?  So, I went ahead and prepared for the GRE exam.  On the practice exams, I did absolutely great and had gotten really respectable scores.  Then, the day of the exam came around and as I sat in front of that computer terminal, I froze.  I couldn't get some of the answers in the test and got so discouraged that I didn't even choose to see my score.  Obviously, I gave up on those hopes pretty quickly.  Afterwards, I reflected on the whole thing and realized that the intention of applying to MIT was all wrong.  Maybe doing badly on the exam was God's way of telling me that that's not His way.  Perhaps applying for P.Eng. is a similar thing.  I really didn't need it, but boy, wouldn't it be nice to be able to finally call myself an engineer and to have a few more letters after my name?

For now, I think I'm going to say this is a conclusion of my attempt at getting licensed.  I have no desire to appeal the decision or to somehow obtain related experience in my current job that offers no such opportunity.  Perhaps, God will reveal the meaning to me in due time...
This post was written on September 30, 2015, while I was 25000 ft above ground over British Columbia.

I'm writing this on my way from Vancouver to Fort McMurray, on a small Bombardier Dash 8 prop.  Usually, I'd be fast asleep by now but because this plane flies at a relatively low altitude, the view outside the window is too beautiful to pass up.

View from the Plane Over the Rockies in BC

Fort What?
You're probably thinking either of 2 things right now.  Where is Fort McMurray or if you know where Fort McMurray is, why is he going there?  As the tourist's destination of choice in Canada, I'm flying there to...just kidding!  It's really for work.  In 4 days, we would have covered 3 cities/time zones (Halifax, Vancouver, Fort McMurray), but earned only about 1000 Aeroplan points.  :(  The nice thing about travelling for work is that it'll bring you to places you typically wouldn't travel to during personal travel.  The bad thing about travelling for work is that it'll bring you to places you typically wouldn't travel to during personal travel. :)

At Ainsworth, we've been working on the implementation of a new work order management system that is to be rolled out company wide.  We're a midsize company (not a household name, but we did build the electrical systems of Toronto landmarks such as then Skydome and CN Tower) with about 800 employees across the country and this software will affect a large majority of the company.  That's why we're visiting the different branch locations to show them what's coming down the pipe.  I'm the project manager for this project and we've got a top notch team, and am very grateful because the team makes me look good!

Hilarious Sign I Spotted in the Airport Washroom

So, WHAT Do You Do? 
Throughout my career, I've been plagued by uncommon and non-descriptive titles.  When people ask me what I do, I usually hesitate to tell them my title because of this.  When I worked at ATS, my title was Systems Designer.  Now, my title is Manager, Business Process Management.  As you can see, anyone's response would be, "so really, what do you do?"  So, I end up saying, "I design machines," or, "I'm kind of like an IT guy, except I don't know how to fix computers."  I can't say I'm an engineer because PEO will come after me so I'm kind of stuck (Hopefully by the end of this year, I can get my license...finally).

Working for a midsize company definitely has its pluses.  My boss is the CFO, which makes me sound like I'm high on the corporate ladder (except I'm not), and I get to interact with the President and Vice-Presidents on a regular basis, which would be rare had I worked for a larger company.  But the best thing really is that my work impacts the company and I feel empowered to make a real difference.

Shaping Your Future
One of the many things that I've learned throughout my short career is that if you want to grow in your career, you have to be proactive about it.  Even if you do good work and work hard, you can't just sit around and expect to get a promotion.  If you don't make it known that you would like to grow, your employer would probably think you're happy where you are, because there are many people out there who have no desire to progress, and you definitely don't want to be grouped in with them.

Sometimes, there is no room for you to progress.  Maybe your boss is the CFO and you're not an accountant!  There could be a thousand other reasons.  I believe you have to search within your company for a gap to fill.  Blaze a new path if one doesn't exist.  Of course, it's more easily said than done.  It takes careful planning and strategizing, and probably a lot of convincing before you are given what you want.  I'm really not one to give career advice, but these are my thoughts...what do you think?

"Ask and it will be given to you" (Matthew 7:7). It doesn't just apply to your spiritual life.  I think it applies equally well in your career.
I'm in San Francisco right now, on business.  It's my first time to SF, but I haven't seen much of it.  The 5 of us arrived Wednesday at 12:20 pm.  Got to the hotel by around 2:00 pm.  There was a World Junior Hockey finals at 7:30 pm EST (4:30 PST) and the crew wanted to watch the game.  So, we headed off to a sports bar and had lunch while we waited for the game to start.  Canada lost, by the way, 3-5 to the Russians.  The Russians scored all 5 goals in the 3rd period.  What a disappointment!

We stuck around for a bit after the game and left the bar at around 8:30 pm.  But since we're 3 hours behind, it was really 11:30 pm.  I was dead tired when we got back to the hotel.  Called home and talked to Renee for a bit.  Adele was sleeping, naturally.  Then took a shower and went to bed.

I managed to get up at 6:00 am (but it's really 9:00 am to my body) to prep for the customer meeting.  Went downstairs and had a pretty good breakfast.  We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Alameda.  Hampton Inns are usually pretty consistent.  They have good mattresses and a not-too-bad breakfast selection.  I had some scrambled eggs, sausages, and a waffle.  I'd stay away from the scrambled eggs.  I'm pretty sure they were powdered eggs.

The customer meeting today went quite well.  Hopefully, we get this job as it's a pretty big program, with potentially 3 to 4 lines down the road. you know what I do for a living?  Maybe I should elaborate a little bit.  My company, ATS, designs and builds factory automation for all sorts of manufacturers.  I'm not allowed to disclose customer names, but this particular customer makes medical diagnostic devices.  Our machine would perform the assembly of the components into the final product and put it into its packaging.  Eventually, you'd see these devices being sold at your local pharmacy.

I've been at ATS for almost 7 years now.  I really can't believe that!  It's probably the longest I have stayed anywhere, doing essentially the same thing.  Good thing is I don't feel like it's repetitive.  I guess that says something about the "enjoyability" of my job.  I'm happy with what I'm doing.  It's pretty much what I've envisioned to be doing when I went to school.  However, as with all jobs, I wished the pay was a little better (who wouldn't, right?).

So, I'll be flying back to Toronto tomorrow afternoon (Friday).  I miss Renee and Adele already!  There's a Chinese saying that says, "A temporary absence beats a new marriage (小別勝新婚)".  I guess that's true!  Anyway, this entire post sounds like I'm just thinking out loud.  Maybe it's the beer that I had tonight...
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