Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Final Reflection

As engineering student, class participation is almost an alien thing. I am glad my experiences in  ES2007 were different in a really good way.

Despite the small class size, we have students from quite a diverse range of background. I find my best learning experience comes from working with different classmates and understanding their perspective in different areas of work.

The next valuable lesson comes from observing how Brad delivers his ideas to the class. After my last Oral Presentation, when Brad commented that my pace was too fast, I initiatively noticed how he pauses naturally at different intervals to allow us to digest the ideas he just said. I find this practicing and observing flow a very good way to improve my presentation skills.

Finally, I am delighted to see how everyone in the class have bonded well together and was certainly glad to join in the after class lunch during the second half of the semester.

All the best to Brad and all my classmates! Keep in touch!:-)

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

My Reflection on Oral Presentation

Sometimes I wonder why I speak like a machine gun when I do a prepared speech. I was not surprise to get the same feedback for this oral presentation. My friend once commented that I am a rather impatient person after looking at my handwriting. Since then, I  see it as the root cause to my machine gun talking speed. The irony is that for impromptu speech, I tend to speak much slower as it takes a while for me to figure out the words to use.

One really good feedback I got from this presentation is to pause at suitable timing for my audience to digest the ideas I presented. Most of the time, I had been a demanding speaker and expect my audience to keep up with my pace and digest all the information I said. So the next time before I present, I will remind myself that patient is a virtue I must cultivate. My audience needs time, so do I.

For the ES class, I would say all my presentations have been relatively average. We all have likely made better or worst presentations in the past. I am still struggling to consistently duplicate those good presentations I had, but the advices in this ES course certainly gave me some key pointers to improve on. Moving forward,  I would need to find channels to practice oral presentation more regularly in front of different group of audience.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Evaluating Intercultural Behavior

The first time I gave home tuition, I pissed my tutee's father off because I rejected his kind gesture to get me a drink. He was a indian businessman, I was a 18 years old young chap. I know nothing about how a businessman build relationship.

2 years later, I completed my training and started work in the army. My direct superior was a army regular and also a friendly guy. One evening after a tiring week, he invited me and 3 other colleagues for a dinner treat. "This time," I thought to myself, " I will be more street-smart and just order freely what I want. He will feel good treating us and see us enjoying the dinner!" Looking at his expression when the bills came, I knew my hypothesis was wrong again. Later in the evening, another colleague told me that when the boss decided to treat us, we should return the kind gesture by ordering the cheaper items. I kept that lesson in mind.

After my National Service, I started work at a trading firm. My boss was a chinese from People's Republic of China(PRC) and surprisingly, I had a good rapport with him. Sometimes, I even helped his son with school work. In return, he often insisted on treating me to dinner in restaurants. I tried to apply the lesson I learnt from the past by ordering cheaper items but that pissed him off. Most of the time, he would take over the menu and make many extra and expensive orders. The result was a lot of food wasted. But he liked it that way and that confused me.

Later on, I had a better understanding of how people from different origins and culture behaves. To the chinese, "Mian Zi" (Face) and "Guan Xi" were the things they value the most. Not how much they need to spend on a dinner. To the indian businessman, its basic courtesy to accept the host's offer.

Now that I know these cultural difference, I have learn to be more flexible and conduct myself appropriately with people from different culture.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Application Letter

10 Feb 2013

Quek Yuen Xian
204B Compassvale Drive #05-415 S(542204)

Hiring Manager
Human Resource Department
Unilever Singapore Pte Ltd
20 Pasir Panjang Road, #06-22
Singapore 117439

Dear Hiring Manager,

Application for Unilever Graduate Program

I am writing to express my interest for Unilever Graduate Program after attending your recruitment talk at National University of Singapore (NUS) in January. I am expected to graduate from NUS with Honours in Mechanical Engineering in December 2013.  I am keen to start my career with Unilever because it is the world most recognized brand in innovation and sustainability. I am intrigued by diverse products in the area of nutrition, hygiene and personal care as well as the company’s commitment to corporate social responsible business operation. I would love to be part of this global organisation.

During my internship in 2359 Media, Singapore’s largest mobile consultancy firm, I was a mobile analyst and work closely with the business director on mobile application consultancy project for several MNCs, which include Singtel, Far East Organization, Capitaland and ESPN.  Through these projects, I have gained experience in using the latest technology and social platform to help companies engage with their customers more effectively and improve sale. I also initiated and took charge of an S$200,000 project for National Heritage Board where we researched on a new augmented reality technology that can be implemented in Asian Civilisation Museum.

In addition to my academic commitment, I have a strong passion for social entrepreneurship and was the committee member of YMCA NUS Social Enterprise department. With the team, I founded a social enterprise café that provides on-job training to beneficiaries with social needs. We were also one of the finalists for Start-up Singapore Social Enterprise Category. I am confident that the entrepreneurial skills and consulting experience acquired in NUS will put me in a good position to excel in Unilever.

Thank you for your time to review my application. I have enclosed my resume for your consideration and I look forward to a face-to-face interview with you to discuss my suitability for this program. I can be contacted at 96863704 or yuenxiann@nus.edu.sg at your convenience.

Yours Sincerely,
Yuen Xian

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Resolving Interpersonal Conflict

Dilemma in the workplace

Henry was a young Associate Consultant working for a Multinational Corporation. Six months after joining the company, he was assigned to take charge of a consulting project. As it was his first major assignment, Henry was determined to perform well. 

As a large part of the project involves conducting customer phone interview, Henry hired 4 temporary staffs for the task. He trained each of them for 1 week before getting them to start on the phone interviews. There was a tight deadline to meet as the 1000 interviews had to be completed in 1 month.

Things were going smoothly at first. The temporary staffs were efficient and the quality of their interviews were mostly decent. However, with 2 weeks left before the deadline, Henry realized that the quality of interviews done by the temporary staffs were getting unacceptable. Many questions were not completed and the number of interviews done per day were also much less than the targeted number. 

He called them to his office, with the intention to give them a warning on their poor work performance the past few days. Much to his surprise, the attitude of the 4 temporary staffs were indifferent despite Henry's emphasis on the importance of the project. 

Finally Henry finally realized the root cause of the problem. The 4 temporary staffs knew that with 2 weeks left before the deadline, Henry would not have time to sack them, hire new staffs and train them again. At the same time, they were not concerned as to whether the project could be completed on time. They seemed to be the one with a larger bargaining power. One of the temporary staffs Mike even argued with Henry that he was pushing them to hard. 

This situation put Henry in a dilemma, he knew that these 4 temporary staffs were capable of completing the targeted interviews if they put in effort. He needed to push them to work, but his previous approach had already strain their relationship and the situation would worsen if any of them decided to quit. If he chose to go soft on them, the quality of their interviews may not be acceptable. 
As a junior consultant in the company, he did not want to let his managers know that he could not even handle 4 temporary staffs well. 

Henry needed a way to work things out with his 4 temporary staffs himself within the next 2 weeks. What should he do?

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Why effective communication is important to me

Who do you think is more attractive?

Looking at this picture, the answer is pretty obvious. A lack of effective communicative skills for most professions is like a pretty girl being turn to an ogre and wants to find a husband; there is a huge hindrance to realizing your dream. In the fantasy world, princess fiona was lucky to find her true love despite being turned to an orge. In the real world, we are often not given many chances to show our true abilities. While being competent in our work is important, people generally will not put in much effort to find out about us. Our communication skills is what we depend on to present ourselves.

Effective communication encompass a wide range of skills. For this entry, I will highlight 3 areas which I believe are important and why they matter to me.

1. Public Speaking

This is probably how I look like the first time I have to make a presentation in front of a huge crowd. Public speaking is probably the biggest hurdle to most people in effective communication. Whenever I stood in front of a big crowd, a part of my mind just went blank. My heart starts beating faster, my hand starts to tremble, I either forget what I wanted to say or rush through all my sentences. Like what many people who face the same problem did, I used to tried my best to avoid all possible scenarios where I have to do public speaking.

At first, things worked out pretty well for me even as I continue to procrastinate in confronting my fear of public speaking. I realized along the way that I am relatively effective in presenting myself in small group setting, and often try to work in that context. As I get more comfortable, I started to have a belief that I could still achieve everything I want without confronting the fear of public speaking. I was terribly wrong.

As a engineering Student, I seldom need to present in class. However, I have a keen interest in entrepreneurship and took part in several programs in the field. During that period, I felt the result of my years of procrastination as I repeatedly have to do public speaking. I experienced first hand how being an effective communicator in front of a big crowd can be a great advantage. I witness different instances of how individuals are able to get more opportunities or sell their ideas after they learnt to be more charismatic in front of the crowd. Deferring to confront my fear of public speaking is like deferring many different opportunities in life.

As I forced myself to present more often, things got slightly better. There are many areas to improve on and I still feel nervous when I have to speak in front of a crowd, but it feels good to put in effort in confronting my fear. I wished I had started earlier.

2. Interpersonal Skills

The ability to work well with others is probably one of the most important skills in life. I am glad that I manage to have a positive experience in most of my past working relationship. Because of that, I always thought that I have a good interpersonal skill. 

During my internship last semester, I learnt more about what good interpersonal skill is. Being comfortable and break the ice with strangers during networking events, working with people who are much more senior, negotiation with clients/co-workers, these are all interpersonal skills that are important for many professions. 

As an introvert, I often prefer to do work myself. However, that is often not the most efficient way in doing things. It may require more effort, but stepping out of the comfort zone and engage in meaningful discussion with peers often leads to better result. I find a class like ES2007 a good place for students to learn to do so. 

3. Self- Confidence

I believe that learning the art of effective communication is like learning any skill in life, the more effort you put in, the better you get. And you become better at something, you naturally become more confident in your own ability. Since communication is something we have to face in our daily life, getting better at it certainly provides a good boost to our morale and confidence level. And these are two key ingredients to achieving all other goals we have. 

To sum up, effective communication is a set of skills that directly affect a large part of our life. Its also a set of skill that we can gradually improve with practice. In one of his bestselling book Outlier: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell highlighted that it takes 10,000 hours of practice for us to be really good at something. It is a pity that procrastination often delayed some of us by a few hundred hours before we finally get out of the comfort zone. The good news is, its never to late, or too early to start.