Food-tography Obsession

Masago = yum

Random Observation/Comment #259: I have been filling my void of writing here with status updates, tweets, buzzes, foodspotting food pic descriptions, yelp reviews, ted comments, and check-ins.  I guess the micro-blogging world has made me need the long streams of consciousness a bit less necessary. Of course, the daily dairy still lives on, yet there’s less of this (whatever this is) going on.  It seems less important when I usually talk about these subjects to the people I see and converse with in real life (woah… what’s that?).  I guess there are only so many people I can speak with, and only so many people that can tolerate me rambling on… fine, you convinced me. I’ll write more.

The sense of taste is such a beautiful thing.  When I was growing up, I would scarf it all down without a thought of the intricacies, but now it’s a little bit different.  After my mom trained me with her specialty home-cooked meals, I have tried my best to break down every taste into its ingredients and cooking style.  I try to recreate the masterpiece meals and I brainstorm about the secret technique or ingredient that brings it all together.  It helps with cooking, as well as, getting to know my meal better.

Every dish is art – in its preparation and its complex combinations.  When I watched Ratatouille, I related to the visual fireworks of tastes with every bite and chew.  Sweet, spicy, bitter, tangy, salty, and fruity only start the categories.  Once you pay attention to eating enough, every vegetable and every cooking style of dishes becomes its own taste.  We can then start to build our web of similar dishes in our mind and create our personal palette.   The consistency and the emotional rollercoaster of every meal is an adventure for me.  There’s just so much I haven’t tried yet that I feel like I must expand my palette and share what I’ve learned.

So what’s up with this food-tography obsession? I think it’s just the logical progression of 8MP cameras on smart phones, being stereotypically Asian with photography, and living in NYC – the best place to review restaurants.  NYC is home of all the Mom and Pop shops with every cuisine you could think of around every block.  I am immersed in culinary genius and I plan to take advantage of it.

The beauty of it all is that anyone can take pictures of food.  It’s so easy when you have smart phone cameras on macro mode with dual LED flashes, and an app to easily upload your food pictures to Foodspotting.  I guess the only thing you’ll have to get over is the ridicule of being a total geek.  After you’ve shed the sense of humility (or embraced the awesomeness), it’s actually quite fun and addictive.  You also start to become part of a global community of foodies.

I’ve been trying my whole life to slow down the world and remember everything in more detail – why not start with what I eat?  I think we’ve added that flare of art in every aspect of our lives enough to not just eat to live, but live to eat.  It doesn’t just apply to food…

~See Lemons Hungry

In Loving Memory of Goo Jerng

Classic Goo Jerng Look

Random Observation/Comment #258: For my funeral, please have an open bar and lots of badass pictures of me traveling around the world and eating awesome food. You can also photoshop my head onto that painting of Lincoln riding a bear.  Oh yeah, and please no priest…

Those summers in Pennsylvania were so nice.  I remember my little chubby potato body and chipmunk face waddling around my aunt’s house finding things to do.  I’d wake up at 8AM every day to take a walk with Goo Jerng at Long’s park.  He’d always encourage me to jog while he did his routine mile walk around the lake – sadly he’d always beat me in the end because I’d be too sweaty and distracted by feeding the squirrels and pigeons.  I never saw him with a cane – he’d just wear the same sweater vest and tan flannel fedora and take his time enjoying the air.  I wish I could go back in time and spend those times talking to him about his life instead of just running around chasing animals and imaginary friends in tag.  I’m sure he would have told me the most kickass stories about the Korean War, toughing it out in the US, opening one of the first local Chinese restaurants, or working at a university.

He taught me how to play the Star Spangled Banner on the organ that one summer. I guess I wasn’t a prodigy.  He’d also play the oldest karaoke songs to keep me in the loop of the oldies (whatever that means).  I knew soooo many old karaoke songs – probably more than any 12-year-old should.  Edelweiss was his favorite.  Moon River wasn’t that far behind.

He taught me how to dance – or rather, tried to teach me how to dance – the Waltz and some other oldies. And who could ever forget the “Teen Gow” and “MahJong” nights?  We spent one summer making cheat-sheets on those index cards that are probably still in that box.

I had visited less and less for holidays due to college exams and personal trips, and the travels to see them had become more of a huge family cook-out.  Goo Jerng would be that silent admirer, probably taking a nap during the preparation of the food and probably listening intently to all the conversations around the table during the meal, or probably just spacing out and enjoying the food. And then after the meal we’d just sit around and watch some TV at really low or really high volume.

When we’d get there on those Saturday mornings visiting for holidays, I’d always have two constant things: 1) the most amazing congee in the world in front of me (that keeps getting better and better, by the way), and 2) Goo Jerng sitting in the same seat, holding the same mug with the green stripe, having his hair combed perfectly and giving a friendly grunt hello.  He’d offer some peanuts to add to the jok and then ask about the drive from New York.  What else could you say but “it wasn’t too bad…”  It was a routine, but what a routine I will miss.

I wouldn’t say Goo Jerng was a big part of my life, but that’s not what life is about – it’s about the little things.  It’s about his sweater vest and that mug. It’s about his constant need to have a plate of rice with every meal.  It’s about remembering he loved to eat “yea see lai yow bao” and remembering to buy it for him in Chinatown on the way.  It’s about hearing his deep voice talk about something he loved.  It’s about the smell of… whatever that smell was.  It’s all the little things that I will miss…

What will go on my mashed potatoes, oh, gravy master? By far my greatest loss in the ordeal. It will never be the same without you. Mashed potatoes will never taste the same.

~See Lemons Love and Miss Goo Jerng

Core Skillset

That's business coffee

Random Observation/Comment #257: “Life does flash before your eyes when you die. It’s called living.” Health and happiness.

Let’s be honest – I’ll always be an engineer and a geek.  Nothing can undo what Cooper, A.I., robotics, and Anime has done to me.  But there’s something that I felt was missing from my bottle cap collection and food photography obsession – physical communication.  Haha, I kid. Luckily, as with any weakness, I sought to squash it by throwing myself in the deep end and seeing if I could float.

After some research and personal trial-and-error, I’ve narrowed down a few skillsets that anyone of almost any profession, should possess:

  • Consider the Business Strategy – When you think about a project, always remember the bigger picture and know why you’re doing it.  Take some sort of ownership instead of just being a contributor. Every team member can have great ideas, and they shouldn’t just think of these solutions from a narrow and detailed perspective.
  • Communication – If you don’t convey the message, and convey it clearly, who will? I can’t read your mind… Deliver a clear message and be able to speak, not politically, but diplomatically.
  • Critical Thinking – With any project, show that you’ve given it some thought and approached the problem from all angles to solve the problem.  Show your work.
  • Manage and Lead Change – “Change is the only constant.” Take the opportunities to fill the gaps. Trust me – the initiative always helps.
  • Develop others and delegate work – Don’t just be a manager of tasks, but also be a good mentor that considers their team as friends looking out for each other’s best interests. It’s important to be able to also develop other leaders and expand your skillset without feeling threatened.
  • Understand Financial Metrics – It’s not necessary to know everything about finance, but at least know some basic things like Return on Investment and Benefit Cost Ratios because everything dealing with corporations and business will boil down to something financial.  Be able to think from a business perspective and speak that abstracted managerial language.

I think out of all of these, communication is by far the most important.  It’s probably the broadest one that applies to almost everything in life.  If you can speak without financial jargon, speak without technical lingo, and speak without BS, then you’ll find a nice middle ground where you relate to your audience.

Step in their shoes, use analogies, and then convey, not just features, benefits, dollars, advantages, etc – but convey the personalized solution.  Once you can see that person’s value system, then you’ll be able to speak their language and connect.  Obviously, everyone is different, and you can’t just bucket people into personalities, but just be observant and listen.

Now that you’re aware of it, just practice. Explain a database to a grandmother.  Explain a CD player to a child born in 2000.  Explain quantum mechanics to a psychology major.  Explain love to anyone.

~See Lemons Improve

What Tech Leaks Do to Consumers (like me)

You're almost at the end of the hall...

Random Observation/Comment #256: Technology will always be my passion. Always.

I want a tablet. I’ve wanted one for a very long time and I have kept very closely on techmeme, techcrunch, engadget, gizmodo, mashable, and androidandme to get that holy grail advice of when to buy something that won’t be obsolete in 2 months.  And that was actually the problem.  The general consensus almost urged me to “Wait until X comes out.”  Or better yet, “X looks like it’s coming out in 2 months and it will change everything.”

All this leaked tech information is lovely – It’s just awesome peering into the future and day dreaming about when everything I own can be integrated the way I want it to.  Yet, these leaks all fuel my dream and make my reality so dull.  I get frustrated with only relatively old devices because of 2-year contracts with these giant telecommunication asses. All these companies are siding with networks from T-Mobile vs AT&T vs Verizon vs Sprint, and honestly, the consumer doesn’t really care.  We just want good service and cool smartphones.

It’s not the fact that I don’t want to spend the money in getting a new phone or tablet or cool geeky thing; it’s the fact that I don’t want to spend the money in giving away my old device.  Hardware is going crazy jamming quad-core into a super-duper phone when software can barely keep up.  I feel worse than my Dad waiting 3 years to buy a flat screen TV, and then after the purchase, continuing to read up on the TVs afterwards thinking how it would be if he would have waited a few more months.  Maybe I can tie it into relationships, but I probably shouldn’t go there.

I think this will always be the consumer’s psychology and hesitant mindset when dealing with any product lines of release. The only difference is that companies hiring really expensive advertising and marketing companies to push products do so in a very deliberate way.  They plan and spread the releases just the right amount of time apart to make profits until the last moment where they slash prices with the expectation of releasing the next upgrade to that product line.  Unfortunately, this marketing scheme blows up when you hear about the iPhone 5 six months too early and start dreaming about how awesome that will be and how much it will revolutionize everything.  Of course you’re going to wait with your crappy phone just a little bit more…

So what is the solution? I think the only way to do it is to plan the leaks. Buy the blogs. Buy the underpaid blog writers. Pay off the reviewers.  It sounds terrible underhanded and sneaky, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s already being done.  Just Kidding! I think it’s an unwritten rule (or maybe written somewhere) that bloggers should not tell consumers what to do.  They need to be objective with facts and let people come to their own conclusions about devices.

The truth is: advertising is replaced by peer reviews and whatever comes up on the first 5 searches of “best DSLR camera” in Google.  So the only thing to do is make an amazing device and don’t flood the market with so many choices.  Good for you, Apple.  It works.  Your loyal iPhone 3G fans will switch to iPhone 4. And those same iPhone 4 fans will switch-over to iPhone 5.  And by the time this happens, you just took over the world within 2 years made smart phones accessible to everyone.  You did what hybrid cars could not. You did what 3D TVs can’t.  And you’ll do it with your pretty round edges.  Now, just let telecommunications come back and lay waste with their limited bandwidth and vice grip dragging us around by the data plan (a.k.a. balls).

~See Lemons Still Buy It

Android OS Next Names

Genius!

Random Observation/Comment #255: I am such a geek. Not a nerd or a dork… As I discussed in an earlier post, there are differences.

Developers have an odd sense of humor. We add a little bit of personal color into our projects where we can. For example, I used to name my login machines after final fantasy 6 characters.  Those little cookies really keep us happy and make us smirk in the background.

Android’s OS naming convention seems to follow the dessert snack naming.  Usually, for versions, you work up the alphabet.  They started with “C” for cupcake as “A” and “B” are usually alpha and beta, but I have a feeling they saw Apple and Blackberry as a bit of a motivation.  Here is the list of the Android releases so far…

  • V1.5: Cupcake
  • V1.6: Donut
  • V2.0: Éclair
  • V2.2: Frozen Yogurt (Froyo)
  • V3.0: Gingerbread
  • V3.5: Honeycomb
  • V4.0: Ice Cream (rumored)

And because I’m a geek, here is the list I just completely made up for afterwards:

  • Jellybean;
  • Key Lime Pie; Kiwi; krumbcake; kookie!
  • Lemon cheesecake; Lime
  • Maple Syrup; Marmalade; Milk tea; Mocha; Marshmallow; Meringue
  • Napoleon;
  • Oatmeal Raisin Cookies; Oreos!
  • Pudding; Peaches and Cream; Prickly Pear; Pina Colada, Pistachio; Plum; Pumpkin Pie; Pecan Pie; Peanut butter cups
  • Quiche;
  • Red Velvet; Rice pudding; Rocky Road; Rum cake;
  • Sorbet; Syrup; S’mores; Scones!; Strudel; Sundae; Soufflé; Strawberry Shortcake; Sherbet
  • Tart; Tiramisu; Toffee; Twinkie!; Tortes
  • Unicorn…
  • Vanilla fudge
  • Whipped cream;
  • X…mas
  • Yogurt; yummy yummy
  • Zeppoli; Zelten;

Well, that was fun. Feel free to add more suggestions.

~See Lemons Geeky

Dear Dad: How to Retire

Open the window to new possibilities

Random Observation/Comment #254:   “Oh, how time seems to sneak by… Babies you once held in your arms can now teach you how to use facebook. “  –Clemens Wan 1/12/11

Dad, I sometimes forget that you and Mom are not super heroes with the power of knowing everything.  I sometimes forget that your current phase of life is the first time you’ve encountered it.  Just because you can tell me so much about the path growing up, doesn’t mean you know what should happen next when you’ve raised kids and look for the next steps.  In fact, it must be very weird looking at your past accomplishments and trying to evaluate your life.  I know it’s not so easy when most of the memories are chopped up into holidays and free Sunday afternoons to get some of your own time where you read some news or took a day-time nap.

But regardless, there are enough mediocre memories throughout your life to make the good memories extra “good.”  There is enough of a routine to really highlight those incredible moments of pride and happiness.  I hope you hadn’t followed the routine too closely to have time pass by too quickly.  Work has always been something you selfishly slaved away with to keep the family afloat.  And the truth is that the family thinks you need a vacation.  You’ve spent all this time in America saving money, but for what reason? Yes, you can say that you did it for your kids, but we’re all grown up now. Didn’t you invest in 401k to take it out later?  I think now is a good later.  And if you think some of the money will help us buy our first house, don’t you know you’ve already given us the best gift?  It was the gift of a great childhood and awesome supportive parents.

You’ve always taught me and Angus to work hard and be responsible so that we wouldn’t have to worry about working so hard later on.  As the black sheep, of course, I’ve always chosen the fun path and never worried about that whole financial stability part, but I know that the only reason I could do this was because you spent the past 35 years supporting the family and really being the best father.  You taught your kids to be clever, not just smart. You taught us to think from all angles to tackle all problems.  You taught us to learn from our own mistakes and especially mistakes that you’ve made in the past.  And we’ve grown. We’ve experienced. We’ve lived gratefully with the gift that you and Mom gave us.  It is now the time to check off this accomplishment and go to the next.

Whenever I think about getting old, I always think about the Bucket List.  It inspires me to keep goals in check, and make sure every year moving forward is a productive one.  The advice I can give for retirement is to sit down and write down these goals.  Whether it’s being able to travel Europe or fix the house, now is the best time to plan it.  Share the list with me and Angus and we’ll make it happen.

Whatever you do, though, don’t put “the company” thought on the list because it’s a waste of youth.  Spend the money on a nice vacation instead.  Pick up a hobby and reach the less work-focused goals.  This is kind of like a mid-life crisis, but you’re actually encouraged to feel young.

If you ever run out of ideas, here are a few of mine that are relevant to you. I have taken into account health concerns and areas of interest.

  • Travel more into the city with Mom
  • Travel around Europe with Mom
  • Take more cruises and taste different types of food
  • Collect postcards and send them to me and Angus during your trips
  • Get better at ping pong so we can buy a table
  • Drive more cars by renting them by hourly rate. (Alt: Buy GTA5 with a steering wheel set-up and play some video games on the weekend)
  • Start playing mah jong again
  • Go fishing with Terry in the summer
  • Hold shabu shabu parties more often
  • Go to cooking school and cook Mom a meal
  • Learn Mandarin better
  • Get in touch with old friends and visit them

As always, health and happiness.

~See Lemons See Parents Happier

Why a Business Analyst?

this is my business analysis skills

Random Observation/Comment #253: The advancement of society is a ridiculously complicated and an intriguing topic.  Think about the billions of individual minds teaching and learning new things in order to contribute their piece for finding something… or something else… or whatever it is – that is, if there is a goal or meaning to life.  In any case, society evolves and advances, not because of individuals, but because of teamwork.  Therefore, in order to facilitate teamwork, effective communication is crucial.

Why did I choose to be in a Business Analyst role even though I have a heavy (underused) technical background?  It’s simple – I like to expand my comfort zone by putting myself outside of my comfort zone and then getting comfortable.  Let’ start from the engineer’s dilemma.

I’ve always had people tell me I’m book-smart, but not street-smart.  It really bothered me.  They said that I didn’t bring out the “effectiveness of the whole group.”  I’ve heard I could do great things, but it doesn’t count if I can’t elevator pitch it or paint the picture to the correct audience.  In engineering school, you don’t always learn these things.  You may emphasize the gruesome details, yet it seems like you’re just being pushed out there so you can make someone else look better.

If it’s not obvious already, here is the summary: If you don’t know how to represent yourself and your work, someone will do it for you.   The delivery and the convincing sales part is 80% of the product. My lack of awareness for this skill was my biggest short-coming, and it was obvious to me that something needed to be done about it. Around 2nd year of Cooper, I tried to become a social engineer.  I was competing on the bell curve with some of the most brilliant minds I’ve ever known – do I just put my head down and study my ass off to get the +0.3 to my overall GPA? Or… do I be awesome.  I chose awesome.

From then forward, I piled on the interests and hobbies.  It didn’t really matter what it was, it just needed to keep me occupied.  I chose traveling over money. I chose study sessions over libraries. I chose projects over exams.  I started making a path instead of following one.  And most importantly, I started listening and observing more than talking and studying.

So why did I choose the business analyst part instead of the programming one?  I wanted to listen, observe, brainstorm, analyze, and then reiterate with a whole new perspective.  I like the idea of turning objectives and requirements into ideas and concepts.  I like following those ideas and concepts and building a product that satisfies the objectives and requirements.  I liked learning more about the bigger picture and understanding more about office politics.  And most of all, anyone can write a web application that shows a combination of complex database queries – it’s been done a million times – but I would be underusing my opportunity if I didn’t experience the communication issues, teamwork, and full project lifecycle.

There is a difference between contribution and ownership.  I understand now that knowing the technical skills without the social ones will only help me go as far as contributing. If I want to own it, I need to know all the perspectives.

~See Lemons as a Business Analyst

Reflecting on 2010

cartoonish. i like it

Random Observation/Comment #252: Writing these year-end reviews always put me in such a good mood.  It enumerates and puts meaning to my accomplishments.  It gives me a burst of motivation to complete my goals list.  It lets me reevaluate my progress and recreate a new list of things to do the next year.  It gives me at least a direction to walk in this ominous path.  Try it – it will free you.

2010 was a different year for me. Compared to last year, I had not done as much traveling or photography, but I had worked on different parts of my personality. I have become more social and tech involved with a greater focus on relationships and learning. In this past year, I visited Cozumel, Key West, Miami, Marseille in France, Cinque Terre in Italy, Florence, and Rome.  I saw her again.  I wrote a few more entries consistently involved in career advancement. I attended at least 50 after hour drinks and networking events, meeting with around 20 valuable mentors.  I became technologically synced.  I learned much more than I once knew about relationships.  I learned to cook better and ate new dishes that were purposefully tasted for the purpose of cooking it at home.  I went sky diving and had the most amazing feeling of euphoria. I helped Komtra get their produced CD recognized and put online.  I helped design and write Ryan’s comic book.  I got into rockclimbing and bought shoes for it. I took the CFA with a certain level (haha) of studying and commitment.  I learned a bit of French and improved on my Japanese. I took pictures for 10 iClick photography events that became published on internal sites.  I made a second home.

This year was really more about career and girls.  Although every year is usually about girls, this one was a little more in depth with the drama portion and finding one that would actually fit into my bigger plan.  Everything seemed ridiculously complicated, but it was probably much easier than I made it.  There were a lot of great memories and a lot of inside jokes that never faded.  My eyes were opened into much more independence and it let me glimpse into a world where my parents were free of the burden of guiding me through everything. I hope they know my decision was made to help them use their time more creatively.

To continue with my tradition, I’ve set up new goals, aspirations, dreams, and fantasies for the next year.  Most of them are revised and redefined.

Goals:

  1. Stop procrastinating – become much more productive
  2. Learn to write more in Chinese
  3. Learn to speak fluently in Japanese, Mandarin, German, and Spanish by 25.
  4. Review more restaurants
  5. Cook more complicated meals and pair with items that complement each other
  6. Finish comic book
  7. Finish writing Love with an Expiration Date eventually
  8. Add more to my bottle cap and labels collection of beers
  9. Finish my side projects list (top secret for now)
  10. Have 50 friends use my pictures as facebook profiles
  11. Travel to Machu Pichu, Hawaii, and Iceland next year
  12. Continue to collect memorable quotes from amazing nights
  13. Make a second home
  14. Stay true to the promises made
  15. Get six pack abs – for reals this time
  16. Become a better public speaker
  17. Create a reputable online identity
  18. Keep a scrapbook of all memories

Aspirations:

  1. Get Engaged and make a plunge towards commitement
  2. Find a career with flexible hours, low stress, and high pay (maybe this should be a fantasy or at least a dream)
  3. Publish a book (autobiography, memoirs, novel, etc)
  4. Make money from photography
  5. Get an MBA
  6. Save someone’s life – change it for the better forever
  7. Beat Edmund in a game of Table Tennis
  8. Own a walk-in closet of suits (like Barney)
  9. Go restaurant reviewing with my brother – he drives the nice car and I pay for the meals
  10. Work for Google

Dreams:

  1. Visit all 7 continents
  2. See all 7 wonders of the world (all of them listed on Wikipedia which makes them like 50 based on different organizations)
  3. Travel to at least 50 countries (currently at 17)
  4. Make my first million by the time I’m 28
  5. Eat at almost 80% of all restaurants in The City
  6. Early retirement
  7. Make a living traveling and writing
  8. Learn to fly a plane
  9. Own a house that I’ve designed (I would build it, but I’m afraid it would fall down while I sleep)
  10. Become as influential as a professor – possibly become a professor
  11. Change the world with something
  12. Get on the Colbert Report
  13. Travel to space – weightlessness would be cool too
  14. Bar owner where all my friends would drink for free

Fantasies: (All new sorts of ridiculousness: see past few years of entries for other funny ones)

  1. Have Force powers of persuasion
  2. Host a TV show about Engineers selling out to Finance
  3. Have my own theme music wherever I go
  4. Open a mashed potatoes restaurant
  5. Live GTA video game in real life for one day without consequence
  6. Be the only one who could lie in a world that everyone tells the truth
  7. Understand women
  8. Control an alien and essentially have mind-sex with animals so I could control them with my pony-tail
  9. Speak to animals in a romantic comedy movie with Scarlet Johanson
  10. Be the Barnacle and Suit Up all the time
  11. Drive a car that transforms into a robot alien with Megan Fox being my girlfriend
  12. I got it! Slick Shoes!
  13. Wear glasses that can disguise me between my split normal and super hero life style
  14. Roam the desserts bringing a book out West. I am badass with a machete and partially blind.
  15. Win “So You Think You Can Dance” and have girls (and probably guys) swarm me
  16. Car chase driving an Aston Martin

As always, Health and Happiness, my Friends…

~See Lemons Look forward to 2011

Top Presentation Tips

billowing curtains in the window. Classic.

Random Observation/Comment #251: The number one fear in the US is public speaking. Number two is death. This means that in a funeral, you’d rather be in the casket than performing the eulogy.

Ever since that embarrassing speech during high school, I’ve made it my duty to prevent future occasions of embarrassment. I tried my best through public speaking workshops and getting myself out there as much as possible, but it didn’t really work that well. And believe me, I’ve been to a lot of presentation workshops – a lot of them – but the most important ones were very interactive with real-time feedback. (Actually, the most useful one was backpacking in Europe.)

To prepare for an important project at work, I had a 360 speech evaluation class, which inspired me to write this entry.  This 2.5 hour class of 5 students was basically a full analysis of good and bad habits with real-live feedback on improvement and next steps.  I wanted to highlight this class because most workshops I take on public speaking are usually with a large crowd and repeat a lot of obvious, but unpracticed items of focus.  It doesn’t always give hints that apply to me, as my strengths and weaknesses may be different from others.

The main goal of the workshop was not to make an expert speaker overnight – it was to pinpoint one or two habits that could be improved upon or unlearned, and then give tips and tricks to work on this after the workshop.  I found this particular format especially useful because it kept me focused on the big ticket items that would make the most difference.  For me, it was my vocal variety and energy.  I didn’t know this, but I don’t act enough in my speeches. I need to practice on speaking with more deliberate gravitas and bringing the audience into my story with pauses and enthusiasm.  My voice just needs the deep projection from the lungs that delivers the overall message with strength and authority.

The best part of the workshop was the 360 review with the camcorder.  We introduced ourselves and did a 30 second speech in front of the crowd. Right afterwards, we watched it again and specifically pointed out the positive and negative points with specific focuses on things to improve. Immediately afterwards, we did the whole thing over again with a focus to improve that one or two major points.

Anyway, here were some of the main weak points and recommended solutions:

  • I am afraid to be judged in front of everyone, so I get nervous.  This happens to everyone, but the real key is to know what you’re talking about extremely well and then stop caring what other people think about you and your image.  I was told not to pretend that everyone is naked, but to pretend that I’m naked.
  • I fidget a lot and I don’t know what to do with my hands. Stand with feet shoulder width apart, properly planted with a strong posture – do not lean to one side.  Straighten the spine and speak with the air from your chest cavity instead of your throat so you can project your voice – what sounds like screaming is really a normal voice. Use your hands in a natural manner and especially think of ways to emphasize the content in your speech.
  • Some people say I sound childish in my speeches. The childish or high school tone naturally comes when people end with a high tone. In this case, everything sounds like a Blonde question when it should sound like firm statements.  For example, saying your own name should end in a low tone with a strong, clear, and audible paced voice.  Use words that represent your level of professionalism and avoid using too many filler words like “umm” or “like” by completely pausing and gathering thoughts before speaking again.
  • I don’t have enough energy in my speech so it doesn’t sound genuine or convincing. This is very common, but it can only be improved by copying the emphasis made with acting.  If you can, take an acting course. If not, listen to more audiobooks and really listen to the pauses and tones to note how they tell the story and paint the picture with using all of the punctuation.  Practice this while you tell stories at the dinner table or with a group of friends.
  • I have trouble making eye contact because it’s really weird with my Asian culture. Get over the Asian culture thing – it’s not rude to make eye contact. It actually seems like you’re lying and deceitful if you don’t.  During a speech, try to segment your talk into conveying particular sections of the speech as ideas to one person.  Once you’re done with an idea, make eye contact with someone else around the room and convey the next idea.  This should be around 3 or 4 seconds per person.
  • I spend too much time thinking about the next thing to say to pay attention to these little tips and tricks. To improve upon this, you just need to know your material better. Either do this, or make the presentation techniques second nature.  If you are engaging within a one-on-one conversation, you can basically mimic this in front of people once you get over the whole judgment thing.

The best advice I had was to actually practice these techniques in everyday conversations. Try to tell more stories in front of your friends and be more social. This will help you with the eye contact and confident tone of voice.  Once you get a hang of that, try to add some vocal variety and use some hand gestures or impersonations to get the idea across.  Also remember to remove those “umm”, “y’know”, “like”, “but… uhh…”, and “so…”s in normal conversation – instead, fill them with pauses and think of the next thing to say without dragging the sentence onward.  I never said it would be easy.

If you want to improve, listen to audiobooks, watch TED talks for amazing presentation deliveries, practice with friends, and join Toastmasters. Oh yeah, don’t forget to backpack through Europe J.

~See Lemons Learn to Present

Networking No-no’s and Yes-yes’s

Through the light

Random Observation/Comment #250: When you grow up, why does it feel like there are so many fewer hours in the day?  I can barely do anything, yet I still want to do everything. Productivity-wise, this sucks.

Networking is one of the most important (if not the most important) parts of expanding in your career.  The one thing that I found consistent after speaking with 50+ business professionals (and walking through their career paths) is that they all stumbled upon a series of opportunities that brought them to their current job position.  At least three-fourths of these opportunities started from networking contacts that recommended them as a good candidate for an open role.  Even if it’s not to specifically advance through other firms, it could have been getting major projects recommended by your manager.

In order to be good at networking, you need the following traits:

  1. Act symbiotically. Do not leech. This wouldn’t even need to be mentioned if you treat network contacts as friends and trusted advisors instead of ladders to take you higher. If all you do is take (even through knowledge transfer), you will be quickly weeded from the list.  Just think about being on the other side: What obligation does your contact have to help you? Perhaps they feel special for being picked as a mentor?  Perhaps they’re just friendly and want to lend a helping hand where they couldn’t get one in the past?  If you haven’t talked to your mentor for a year and you’ve kept them out of the loop of your life story, they will probably respond and ask how you are, but in the back of their mind think: “What does he want?”  Nobody wants to be used, at least not in an overly obvious way.
  2. Be consistent. Do not change your career and life goals every time you meet up for coffee chats.  This is the one I have most trouble with because I am ADHD about hobbies and interests.  I’ve narrowed them down immensely, but I’ve always wanted a broad set of interests, and whenever something interesting comes around, I veer off for a few weeks digging deeper.  I guess this is also a part of my personality, but if you don’t tell your mentors your goals, they can’t really help more than giving some advice and paying for coffee.
  3. Be aggressive and genuine. Do not be pushy or overly direct. If you’re the one who has the ambitious dreams, and essentially your mentor is helping you find your way, you have absolutely no right to demand anything, ever.  Accommodate to their busy schedules and do not continuously ask them if there are any opportunities within their group or firm to essentially get you a job there.  This is especially a no-no if you haven’t gotten to know this person as a friend or trusted advisor fora few months.  The most you should do is plant the seed, which brings the next one:
  4. Give them something to remember. When you remember someone – it could be anyone – how would you describe them to your friends?  Is it positive? Is it a physical description? Is it a goal-driven description when it goes more in depth?  Is it interest-driven?  What’s even more important is to make a big enough impression as to connect the thought of you to the thought of your career goals.  This allows for the mentor to think of your name when they hear an opportunity that you may be interested in.  For me, I want people to remember my traveling and engineering/research background.  It’s unique and if it comes up, I’d hope that the mentor would say “hey, I know someone who has this background – I could ask him.”  Figure out that image you want to portray and make sure that impression is realized.

In my mind, the most ideal way to get a job through network contacts is being clear and transparent with your reputation with your networks, and then simply planting the seed of having interest for a career movement.  Highlight it for 10 minutes and get some feedback.  After that, just keep common topics and a friendly smile.  The return may take a few months, but it’s not supposed to be a hunt.  It’s supposed to be natural.

~See Lemons Just Make Friends

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