Sunday, 1 November 2020

Life as a Consultant

I've been working as a consultant for the past 8 years. There are many consultants in the world, and they do a wide variety of different roles. But my job as an engineering consultant is to advise clients on how to improve their processes, engineering design, and so on.

Pros of Being A Traveling Consultant

In terms of work, I am most blessed to visit so many companies, and people generously share information with me, broadening my horizon. The generous sharing was of course so that I can help them as much as possible. But, when can you go to people's control room as an external person, and get to look at all their standard operating procedures (SOP), their control panels? Few will get that opportunity. Because my consulting company has a wide variety of clients, I've visited so many different factories (producing the weirdest thing to the typical things) in so many countries. Many don't get so much exposure as me. 

Office politics is minimal. For our clients, I'm seen as an outsider, and well, there's no need for politics with me. In my company, I 'm rarely even in the office. There's little politics, apart from nasty emails from people I hardly know. I have little feeling towards nasty emails since I don't see the person writing it. I just interpret it as poor writing on their part. 

As a consultant, pre- COVID, it was a jet- setting life. While many financial bloggers are talking about credit card hacks to gain as many points to take business class (ok, not for first class though. I've never taken first class), I've taken my fair share of business class flights (Emirates, Asiana and SQ only actually) for flights more than 8 hours. Also, from the incredible amount of travel I have done (during peak period, I'm on the plane every alternate week), I have so many Krisflyer miles for upgrades to business class or simply free flights. No need any hack. But, I  started being sick of traveling in recent years. I haven't traveled for holidays for years. I had been clearing leave by staying home. I used krisflyer miles to exchange for ipads (and other stuff from Krisshop) - I know, people say it's get the least value per mile, but it suits me best.

From the many hotel stays that I had, I am able to exchange for free nights staying in suites for free. I've stayed in Le Meridien in Sentosa (good bye), and also W Sentosa's suite (go check out how much it cost) for free. I'm a lifetime silver member of Marriot Bonvoy and am midway to life- time gold. #notproudatall

Meals abroad are paid for. We don't get allowances for travel, just reimbursement for food, transport, hotel, airfares and other travel expenses. So, I have eaten loads of different great food. Hai Di Lao, Ding Tai Feng and so on? I've eaten them, overseas. Hairy crab? I get to eat how much I like, and it's not expensive in China (my clients will direct me to the right place). 

When I'm visiting clients based in Singapore, I take a cab to their factories. Grab points, comfort- delgro points? I have loads of them to exchange for my own free rides (e.g. when I need to go office, or simpy going out).

Of course, all this travel was pre- COVID. Now you must be thinking this is an excellent job, and you want to take it.  I've many friends who envy my job. But, I envy theirs.

Cons of Being A Traveling Consultant

I didn't mention the pros to brag. Instead, I want to show that for all the perks you get, there's a sacrifice to be made. It's just whether you mind the sacrifice. 

Firstly, health. When you are on the plane, do you know that you are subjected to high amounts of UV rays? In fact, while you are indoor, you need more sunblock on the plane (think- you are even nearer to the sun now!). When you are eating out so often, there is less control over the quality (and how healthy the food is). 

If you are not traveling, you get to celebrate birthdays, respond to emergencies, and so on. When you are overseas, it's hard. Even if you only have 8 hours working, the rest of the time you have, you can't go home. Yes, you can go round and see the sights of the country. I have been to Taiwan for business more than 20 times. Taiwan is great, many places to visit, but as a not very adventurous person, it's not so appealing anymore. 

Next, when you have kids, the time away from home is bad. To make up for the time I'm absent (and not able to teach them), I spent a lot of money on enrichment (which I could have taught). To manage the kids while I'm away, my partner give in to TV and screen time. 

So now, with COVID, there's little travel for consultants like me. Travel has been replaced with conference calls. For local clients, I still visit them. It seems I should like my job even more. You would say I should love my job now. 

But something in me wanted a change. Firstly, my company does not pay well. It justifies it with great benefits. But I prefer money.  My boss hasn't promoted me (ever since he had been my boss), and he'll tell me if I do A- Z, maybe the company will consider, but no guarantee. Then, they are thinking of sending us overseas, go for quarantine, then visit our clients. What are your thoughts on these? While it's not confirmed yet, to me, it's simply a matter of when. 

And I have my plans too

When COVID is finally under control worldwide, travel will resume. And I'm sure my company will make me travel every week to make up for the lost time. 

And for now, while the managers think of long trips with quarantine overseas, I want no part in it. Rather than stressing over what happens then, I bit the bullet.

Sometimes, we hang on to a job too tightly when it's no longer aligned with our values, thinking that we can't live without that job. But there's abundance in the world. There are many opportunities out there. It's just takes time and effort to uncover them. You just got  have patience and believe in yourself.

We have to let go of some things, so that we can let other things come. 


Saturday, 25 April 2020

This is what you can do during the circuit breaker period

In 10 days, the Chinese built a make- shift hospital in Wuhan to treat patients infected with the coronavirus. Take a look at this video, and the size of building! It's amazing how people can put together this massive hospital in such a short period of time.

Back home, Razer (isn't it a company that specializes in games) created a fully automated production line in Singapore within 24 days, which can produce 5 million masks per month, to contribute to the fight against COVID-19.

Back at your home, what would you create?

The capabilities of humans are enormous.

The human mind is amazing, but more amazing is the actions of humans. Put to good use, we can create wonders benefiting ourselves and others.

Your capabilities can be enormous too defined by your thinking and actions.

Have a great weekend.

Stay home, stay healthy, stay safe.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Why I am using my SkillsFuture Credit for LEISURE This Time Round

I was reading this article on TodayOnline talking about using SkillsFuture Credits for work training, but those on 'leisure' courses will not be judged. After using the credits previously for work-related training, I am so sure that I won't use them for any work- related ones. I will use them for LEISURE. And this is why.

Skills Upgrading on Work-Related Stuff

Beyond Bachelor Degree

For me, as an engineer, something that is considered work-related is related to what I am doing now which include hydraulics analysis, risk assessments, and so on. If I want to upgrade myself in engineering using the credits, most likely I'll need to go for a Masters or PhD. In my field of work, whether you have a Bachelor, or Masters, beyond your first job, there is no difference. And, if you have a PhD, the boss with the Bachelor or Masters will be wondering why are you here.

Upgrading Engineering Skills

The best way to upgrade is to visit e-bookstores to read books and journals/ magazines (since they are more up- to- date). Meet up with people from the same industry and talk about what's happening at work.

Codes and standards change from time to time. Courses take time to be created. And you may be better- off learning to read the codes and standards yourself, and interpreting them. Don't really understand, then Google is THE teacher. The forums are a great way to read up (though may have some errors since everyone is new right).

Staying to date with technology

In terms of staying up- to- date with techonlogy, as a consultant in engineering, I use a lot of software. My company laptop is filled with different Apps so that I can run a calculation to do some estimations. For the upcoming relevant trends in technology applicable to my field of work, I at most need to know what there are out there (and if they are going to replace me), NOT how to use. There are many software to do one thing that I'm doing. Give an example, I do hydraulics calculation (in layman's term, what this means is to ensure what ever you need to move through the pipe has enough energy to reach its end point). I can do the calculation using pen and paper (will take a long time for complicated stuff), or excel (take as long a time to set up all the equations for complicated scenarios), or with software. When I type in Hydraulics software, I have so so so many on the web. Is it useful for me to get to know more than the software my company is using --- NO! Honestly,with so many softwares, my company change one of another almost every year. What I need is the flexibility to use the new software. This involves sitting down to read the manual and fiddling with it. As I'm a user of technology, what's needed is to know what's available in the industry and what they do.

Upgrading softskills?

How about soft skills for my job? Well, there are people in my company who are doing courses such as MBAs. And the irony is that most people in the managerial roles (and those up- and- coming), do not have an MBA. Those taking MBA or have MBA are those in non- managerial roles (well for now). Well, for me, I get loads of client interaction (both locally and overseas). And you know what? If I need practice on soft skill such as negotiation, just volunteer to meet the more difficult clients and try it out. Read up from books if I need different strategies. Free course.

Other work related areas?

Engineering consultancy is a department in my company. It's not the core. My engineering services are rendered as part of a full package. So, I had previously done an Advanced Diploma related to the core of my company's business. If I want to do the "core", having the certs are definitely sufficient to get me a job in the "core area" in other company. But, I will be considered a newbie, and hence draw a salary of about $3-4 k per month. That's my starting pay more than a decade ago, do I really want to go back there? It's the same as now you get to use mobile phone instead of relying on the telephone for communication. Do you want to go back to the time of using telephone? If there's something about me, it's the refusal to take a step back.

So based on all the factors above, using my Skillsfuture credit for work related training will not bring me get me a fatter paycheck, produce more job opportunities that I want, or make me less susceptible to being retrenched. And if that's the case, why should I use my SkillsFuture Credits for Work Related Training.

More importantly, going for courses is not the only way to to upgrade skills. A lot of skills upgrading can be done by self- learning, or self- doing, and Partnering with Google.

This time round, SkillsFuture Credit will be all about 'leisure'.

Go,  Judge Me! =p

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