Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

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