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Simple ways to land a job as an undergraduate during a recession October 12, 2010

Posted by reachkevinwang in Education, Reflections.
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I am currently involved in a mentoring program with a local university where I have the opportunity to provide career and academic guidance to senior undergraduate university students.  After a few meetings with my mentees, I have noted a recurring theme that I would like to highlight.

Similar in a siloed corporation, the modern post-secondary school system is also segmented and disconnected.  Teaching staff focuses purely on injecting information into students, and career services focus purely on marketing students to the industry.  However, there is no concerted effort in helping students to articulate how to use the knowledge learned in class in a business setting.  This was evident in the fact that my mentees all seem to have mastery of their respective class material, and yet unable to articulate how their knowledge will benefit the company that they are applying to.

Having good grades alone might just be enough in landing a job during a boom, but with the fear of recession constantly hanging over the market like dark clouds constantly hanging over the city scape in Vancouver in September, employers simply expect more out of their new junior hires.  I think this is actually a good thing.  It forces everyone to be better, or else…

Pessimistic views aside, I believe answering these 3 questions will help an undergraduate student to dramatically increase their ability to land a job with any company:

1. Think about how you can relate your school work to the business that you are applying to.  How can you solve their problems with your skill set?
2. If you were to run the business yourself, what kind of problems will you encounter?  How would you proactively address those issues?
3. What makes yourself different from everyone else who is applying? How can you show your personality through the interactions with a particular firm?  What are the key human qualities that you would like to highlight?

“Universal Values” in China? October 10, 2010

Posted by reachkevinwang in Cultural Diversities, Reflections, Social Issues.
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This post might offend some people…

A lot of debate has been generated over the latest Nobel Peace prize recipient Liu XiaoBo.  Clearly it is the latest message that the West wants to send to the Chinese government, that it should adopt the concept of “Universal Values”.  The previous one was granting the peace prize to Dalai Lama.  Other than some publicity, can this award actually do anything tangible in influencing the Chinese communist party?  I doubt it.

I think that while the phrase “Universal Values” is a “universal” idea, how these ideas are expressed and actualized differ from culture to culture.  A close analogy is that while the concept of “beauty” is universal, the expression of this “value” is different from culture to culture.  For example, the western concept of female beauty could be a skinny Victoria secret model, while in some African countries the concept of female beauty is some one with an elongated neck that’s forced by metal rings.  And interestingly, westerners accept this particular “interpretation” of beauty as “cultural difference”, and not bodily mutilation.  How ironic.

I think the underlying debate here is how a country should be governed, and the answer invariably depends on what the “strategic objective” of that country is.  In the case of China, it clearly has the potential and wants to become the world’s number 1 superpower, and the government will most likely do whatever it takes to achieve this goal.  The key of achieving this goal is unity of its people, voluntary or forced.  I have to say that sometimes an authoritative approach is needed, because it enables decisions being made and consensus achieved.  Critics can simply look to the European Union as a counter example of the socialist governing approach: while being a good idea, satisfying and uniting the large number of cultures in Europe is simply impossible.  Or, the economic downfall is another great example of where the democratic governing approach can falter: In the US the government arguably reacted too late because Congress and the Administration can’t reach a consensus.  However, China was able to respond much more swiftly because the communist government was able to make decisions and respond swiftly.  It was the decision maker.  It didn’t need to consult anyone.  I’d say that’s pretty effective.

In personal management, a popular thought is that you should work on yourself, and not apply value judgment upon others.  Why couldn’t that concept be applied to governing a country?

The best definition of “Confidence” I’ve ever heard… October 24, 2007

Posted by reachkevinwang in Reflections.
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It’s from a friend of mine, Grace. She said “Confidence is a sincere belief that you deserve to be there”. I couldn’t think of a better definition than that…

Just a few words… October 18, 2007

Posted by reachkevinwang in Reflections.

Learn as much as you can, but hide as little as possible;
Create as much has you can, but consume as little as possible;
Take as much responsability as you can, but keep as little recognition as possible.

Why am I in Healthcare Vertical Marketing? The “intersection” of Healthcare, Engineering, and Business October 8, 2007

Posted by reachkevinwang in Healthcare, Reflections.
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Someone asked me why am I doing what I’m doing right now in Healthcare Vertical Marketing, and I responded with the following “essay”. 🙂 A bit long but I think it helped me to organize my thoughts on this issue a little bit.

I often question myself what do I really care about, and I’ve discovered that I really care about the general happiness of people. Healthcare has a tremendous amount of influence of people’s happiness on a very fundamental (physical and emotional) level. You can have all the money in the world, and have the coolest gadgets, but if you don’t have a good health then none of those would matter. This is the primary reason why I wanted to be in this field. But then I asked myself, as an engineer, how can I get myself involved and play a meaningful role?

In today’s age, healthcare is getting so much attention because the general population in North America is getting old and more people have started to rely more on healthcare, but it is suffering from far too many problems. Most hospitals still use paper patient records; the administration costs are rising sharply but the wait times at clinics are longer than most people could bear; and since the U.S. have a for-profit healthcare industry, there are always problems related to equality (so are all people getting the fair treatment that they deserve? What about the people who can’t afford health insurance?). A good movie to check out is “Sicko” by Michael Moore, which highlights some of those issues. These issues exist not because we don’t have good medicine and skilled doctors, but because the healthcare systems are generally inefficient. So, these fore mentioned issues are not really medical problems, but engineering and business problems.

Biomedical or bioinformatic engineering is a field where you are using engineering to solve healthcare related issues, and creating real business benefits in the process. Some example projects are designing better MRI machines that will reduce the scan time or designing electronic patient record systems that will help doctors manage patients with chronic diseases, so they can reduce their administration costs. These are examples of engineering projects that reduce inefficiencies in the healthcare field, thus generating real business value as in dollars saved and higher customer (patients) satisfaction. I like to call these examples the “intersection” of healthcare, engineering, and business.

I wanted to be in the “intersection” because I know that I’m not a lab scientist, who can perform life science experiments all day long trying to find a cure for a disease; nor do I feel I’m the type of engineer who build really cool gimmicks but has little practical value ( No offense to those who do that. I have great respect for them. It’s just not my cup of tea); and while I like people and business, I don’t want to completely abandon my technical skills.

Right now I’m in the Healthcare Vertical Marketing department at TELUS, so I’m more on the business side of the “intersection”. We have to research and understand various innovative engineering technologies that were created for the healthcare field, and think how will they generate real business value for the healthcare professionals, who are our customers. That’s why I say I’m working at this “intersection” with my job.

On the price of education October 6, 2007

Posted by reachkevinwang in Education, Reflections.
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I often ponder on the question how much education should cost, and how much of it should be made available for free. Most of us are very used to the idea that quality education are pricey, but the question is what is an acceptable fee for whatever education that you are seeking? And can you find something cheaper will generate a great ROI.

In the past year I’ve noticed that inexpensive, and even free education materials are readily available if you look for them. On the other hand, you could be paying a fortune for something that you can get at a bargain price.

Attending a private presentation training seminar V.S. Joining a Toastmasters club

A private presentation seminar will cost you about a grand for a few sessions and you might only get one or two tips from the instructor; Joining a toastmaster club only costs about $40 per month, but you get the access to a wide network of excellent public speakers, a rigorous program, and valuable feedbacks from your club members.

Getting a traditional M.B.A degree V.S. Directed self-learning and a challenging full time job that you enjoy

This is a debate that existed since the day when M.B.A degrees were created. Some argue that you don’t need a M.B.A to be successful, and others claim that these three letters behind your name make all the difference.

One thing for sure is that thanks to technology, business education materials of all levels are more readily available on the Internet than ever before. Here are some world-class business education materials that are free or can be obtained at a fraction of what a M.B.A. degree would cost:

Personal M.B.A.

Technology, Entertainment, Design

MIT Open Course Ware

Stanford on iTunes

Purdue Online Writing Lab

How about learning from these materials and internalize the ideas and methods that were presented, and apply them to your regular day job? Wouldn’t this give you a chance to work on some real world problems with world-class perspectives as opposed to hacking through academic material? The best part is that you even get paid for doing the former.

Another hidden benefit of these materials is that by examining them in detail, you can definitely get a feel of what you can expect to learn at a M.B.A. school, and decide whether what you will learn and who you will meet are worth the big price tag or not.

Reading about how to lead and attending leadership courses V.S. Rolling up the sleeves and lead a not-for-profit organization

Leadership is perhaps the topic that is most studied, most emphasized, but least understood in the world of business. People think that you can learn real leadership skills in a corporate environment, but I would argue otherwise. In a corporate environment, your subordinates listen to you because they have to; In a not-for-profit environment, the hierarchy structure does not grant you any power what-so-ever so you don’t really have subordinates. The only way that you can get things done in a non-profit environment is through personal persuasion. And the ability to use your influence to unit others moving towards a common goal is precisely the essence of leadership.

Reading everything I’ve written again, I can conclude one thing from all these observations: The more proactive you are in a learning process, the less expensive the process will be, to the point of zero cost.

Inspiring work… June 5, 2007

Posted by reachkevinwang in Reflections.
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is something that moves me emotionally.

Toastmasters Club President June 3, 2007

Posted by reachkevinwang in Toastmasters.
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This is the most challenging organizational task I’ve ever faced. A TM club president’s job is to hold the executive team together, to provide support for members, and to work with the area governor.

Two days into the job and I’ve already learned a few lessons:

1. Protect ideas while in transition. Make sure you get as much information as possible from the exiting execs.

2. Start grooming people early. Look for your legacy as soon as you take on your task.

3. You have to set clear goals and expectations with your exec team members.

I’m sure there will be more lessons to be learned, and I will be jotting them down on this blog.

Next steps:

1. Establish a GTD system on line to track tasks.

Response to “Evolution and Revolution as Organizations Grow” August 24, 2006

Posted by reachkevinwang in Reflections.
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    A few weeks ago, my manager sent everyone on our team an article that he studied at Queens MBA. It was written by Prof. Larry E. Greiner of Harvard Business School. In the article, the author presented a model of the progression of changes many corporations undertake as they evolve. Apparently, the essay was a classic and it is been regarded as a must read for anyone who studies business.

The growth curve of corporation that he presented can be found here. His model consisted 5 stages of evolutions that corporations go through, and the triggering events (revolutions) of those evolutions. Interestingly, he left the question wide open for the audience to answer as to what can happen after the last development stage, which is the “Collaboration” stage.

In my humble opinion, I think one possible outcome of the next observable Evolution after phase 5 is “Conglomeration”. The triggering Crisis would be the “Identity” of the corporation. And the preceding Revolution would be the process of separating different business units into different “companies”, bearing only the original “corporate brand”.


The crisis of “Identity” arises when the company becomes so large that it is having trouble identifying its mandate or vision. One good example is Microsoft’s recent announcement of its transformation from a “software company” to a “media company”. There is no doubt about the fact that people at Microsoft are smart, efficient, and collaborative. But the company is so big and diverse, with products/services in business, consumer, and entertainment markets, that it was having trouble figuring out what exactly was the company vision. The vision of Bill Gates was pretty simple back in the days when he was starting out, and it was to put a personal computer in every household. How time has changed!

Other examples of these companies include GE, IBM, and Siemens. In terms of operations, GE Healthcare is so different from GE Energy because they serve two completely different markets. In terms of corporate culture, GE in Europe is very different form GE Canada because the local cultures of the two countries are not the same.

When the differences between a corporation’s subsidiaries are international, cross-cultural, and cross-market, one of the solutions is to make them independent. For example, GE Energy might be financially linked with GE headquarter, but in terms of operations, it is completely on its own.

I don’t think every company ends up in this phase of growth. But based on my observations, I feel that most companies do follow this pattern, if they pass phase 5.

Vancouver… June 27, 2006

Posted by reachkevinwang in Reflections.

The City

No wonder it has been rated as the top city to live in the world: Even the local university, University of British Columbia has a free beach and a golf course right next to the campus. 🙂 Jokes aside, my first impression of the city is very positive. The weather is much milder compared to that of the east. Even though it has been hot for the past 3 days, there was no smog. There are breath-taking sceneries around the city, as it is surrounded by the Rocky mountains. When I come to think of it, the only city that comes close to matching Vancouver in terms of beauty, is probably Lausanne in Switzerland. I am looking forward to the Canada Day weekend, when I can explore the city a bit more.

The Job

I am with the Business Transformation team at TELUS communications, Vancouver. The team is really a group of internal consultants who help different business units improving business efficiency by developing IT tools. The team members are mostly new grads from Canada’s top universities, who have compsci or engineering background. The BT transformation initiative was actually launched by a systems grad, Kevin Salvadori.

I think this is a brilliant idea. It is very difficult to compete in the telecom carrier business on product and price, particularly in an oligopoly market such as that of Canada. By bringing in new people from outside who can offer fresh perspectives, TELUS can compete on internal efficiency and innovation. At the same time, the new grads receive a great exposure to different business units, gain leadership and business skills, and develop professional contacts. After about two years, TELUS can hire these grads for full time positions, knowing that they will have a high rate of success within the company. It looks to be a mutually beneficial opportunity! I am pretty happy with what I’ve seen so far, and I am looking forward to make the most out of it.