Category Archives: Career

New office, new job and the usual

Today is a historic day as it is my first day starting my job as a civil servant in the energy industry. In my whole career lifespan, I had always been in the private sector. My last job was in the dimension stone industry working as a so called Senior Business Development Manager (it’s a mouthful so I decided to call it SBDM for short) was not so fulfilling, partly because of a commitment issue by the directors and shareholders, but that is a blog post for another day.

My new office is gorgeous to say the least. It is not a skyscraper by any means but a cozy 7 floored building with a rooftop garden, rain catchment tanks and solar panels. It comes equipped with the standard facilities like clean bathrooms (this is a must for me, if it is not clean it is not a proper bathroom), meeting rooms, pantries, dining hall and a little theater for seminars, not movies I was told during the orientation tour, although I prefer the latter. The building itself is shaped just like a diamond, with the lowest floor being the smallest and the highest floor being the largest in floor space, hence the dining room, boardroom, top executive officers and theater is on the top floor. I will be writing another post on the building later.

The office space setup is conservative, unlike modern offices which has a so-called open concept where everyone is sitting together. I was given a private cubicle, partitioned almost like a small room with one open end and equipped with a bookshelf, closet, store cupboard, L-shaped desk, 3 chairs (all from Diethelm I think; I don’t want to bang my head under my desk just to check out its brand), a PC and a telephone. Personally, I never believed in open concept offices. For one, I will never be able to focus on work and second, I don’t fancy people poking around my things.

While waiting for IT to setup my email and login credentials, I started making friends all around. They are all wonderful people and ever ready willing to help. My superiors are kind to me too and I really appreciate that very much. I am still trying to get use to the new environment since I had been out of work for almost a year. But all in all I feel that I am able to get use to it.

I am pleasantly surprised as I studied my new surroundings. From the external, most of us (I won’t say all) tend to judge the efficiency, language proficiency and honesty of civil servants based on a few viral videos on social media. In actual fact our government departments have one of the most efficient filing systems I had ever seen. There are almost zero cases of missing documents and everything is in their proper places. Processes implemented are meticulous to say the least and there are clear signs on “zero gift policy” from outsiders. All of them can speak and write  quite well too. The organization has a vision and a mission, of which are being regarded with pride and perseverance.

I am posted to the Strategic Publications Unit under the Strategic Planning and Communications Department. I have zero publication experience, so I have to learn as I go along. I am sure I will be able to get all the help and guidance from my new colleagues.

I will take a deep breath and welcome my new beginning with an open mind.



I am Stoned Looking at Stones

Back in 2014, my friend HF called me sounding desperate. One of his right hand men in one of his businesses, dabbling in dimension stone (the ones you see on feature walls and kitchen and bathroom counter tops) left unexpectedly and HF asked for my help to take his place for the time being as a Business Operations Manager (BS Manager in short) and later as Senior Business Development Manager (SBDM). He told me convincingly this will be a platform for me to grow in my career and the stone business is very interesting and all that BS. Since I was idling (pun intended) at the time, I decided to give it a go since I had nothing to lose and much to gain (which proved vice versa later). Without knowing anything about the stone industry, I foolishly jumped in and in and in.. I was to shadow my boss and learn from him as much and as soon as I can.

I learnt a lot along the way in the stoned industry (typo on purpose). The government regulations are very strict in nature. Licenses and approvals are a must and me being the BS Manager, is my duty to make sure all of these are in place. I also traveled about 4 hours to and fro every other week to the stone quarry doing all kinds of things from operations to management. There is also the government departments that need to be dealt with. It was a one-man show with me being the only person running it. My designation on my name card says “Senior Business Development Manager”. I felt that my paycheck does not match the designation. However, I do understand this company that I am working for is a small struggling company, so I did not bitch much about my paycheck just yet. My intention was to grow with the company. There was a problem though. The company wasn’t growing at all.

I felt that there was a lack of commitment from the management to the shareholders and vice versa. There was no proper report structure so naturally the existing shareholders are jittery about additional funding. Once a reporting structure was established, the shareholders harp on the past where no report was given. So the funding never came. The bitter truth finally set in. The funding is never going to come from the existing shareholders. I realized this guys are entrepreneurs. They do not have the financial stamina to be in the stone industry. They are looking to make quick money and this is never going to happen in the stone industry.

So the management decided to look for external funding. Again it became my job to come up with forecast spreadsheets (which turned out to be spreadshit later) to entice new investors to put some money in the company but again this was a futile attempt because everyone I met in this stoned industry are a bunch of cunning and unrefined  personalities who only think about making the highest profits possible without the slightest care to preserve their integrity or their credibility and for that matter, the goodwill of the people around them.

What about my boss? He is an aspiring stone industrialist and he knows all the processes from quarry to ready built. Just like from farm to table. I admire his enthusiasm. He is typically a field guy, so staying in the comforts of the office is a big no. He can drive for hours and not get tired. He can feel every piece of stone slabs for cracks and fissures. He can talk for hours at end on technology to repair stone cracks. He had great ideas and dreams but without money, these ideas will just be idle talk. In 2018, when his enthusiasm burnt out and so did my paycheck, I decided it was time to leave.

What do I think about the stoned industry? It is not for me. I can’t be feeling every stone slab to see if they are smooth or not or to deal with people who think they can outsmart me. It is just too tiring. I must be getting old I guess.

Lesson learnt: In the stoned industry, you need to be a billionaire to be a millionaire.