The BFF Boss Conundrum

Will you work for your BFF? If you ask me this a year ago, I’d say “Go for it! Why not?!”

I used to take no qualms in establishing friendships with bosses. However, recent events changed my perspective on setting boundaries at work. I had to learn certain things the hard way.

Here is a tricky real life situation. I was good friends with my boss at a project I took. I was really excited to take on the work with the assumption that the work load will be made lighter in the company of such familiar faces. I believed that the rapport I had with the boss of the endeavor will only spur us to do our best in the project.

Sad to say, the whole partnership ended up in a very painful falling out. Here is the biggest problem that besets overly intimate boss and subordinate relations: you cannot extricate job-related impacts out of the person’s life crisis.

I write this because I often write about my experiences at work and this is one of the biggest and hardest lessons I had to learn this year: never be too close to your boss.

Avoid working for a bosom friend unless you are sure that the friendship is worth the risk.

In my particular experience, a personal and life shattering crisis besest my boss at work. It came to the point where she was just coming to work as a shell of her former competent self. She no longer had the energy to spearhead the project whose deadlines continued to pile up. As a friend, I wanted to take on all the work on her behalf. As a co-worker, I was reeling from the difficulty of doing a job meant to be done by two people.

And here was the clincher: you will be cruel or a heartless bitch for calling her out. Because she is under such a bad situation, you will feel uncomfortable discussing the elephant in the room. The only option I felt at the time was to leave because I could not handle the unexpected crisis that steamrolled work operations. It was as if we were at the mercy of a personal crisis and I just chanced upon the bad timing of it all.

My love for her as friend eventually dissipated because of mounting disruptions at work. And even as she railroaded the team with the non-delivery, she refused to let go of the job because it was her way of earning money. iven the situation, it was hard to recommend her to other opportunities professionally.

I felt horrible for her but my compassion eventually wore off. Eventually I had to rescue the other subordinates from the mood swings and the horrible non-delivery of promised tasks. She started randomly raising her voice at people in the room and refused to seek psychological help even when it was clear that she needed to process her issues.

The irony was that I kind of had to choose between keeping my friend and keeping the deadlines on the job. I hataed her all the more for putting me in a position like that.

And after I made my choice, the very people I rescued at work ended up betraying me a month later.

Ironically, I was clear about personal and professional boundaries when I took over handling the project. And a month later, I was ofrced to let go of the project because of the blatant disregard for these boundaries.

Nobody won in this whole mess; everyone emerged as a casualty of not having simple boundaries established among the members of the team.

It was really awful to be put in such a situation. Nobody ever deserves to be in the crosshair of a painfully awkward professional and personal intersection such as this. And it is ten times much worse if the work is for a good cause and all the beneficiaries of the endeavor are suffering just because of personal differences.

It was a very humbling experience. It is one of the most painful lessons I had to learn this year and even when it is really difficult, I am thankful that it happened. At least, I will not forget it too easily or embark in another venture that will put me in a similar situation. I also realized my tendencies and what particular situations pushed me to my limits.

Apart from licking wounds and cutting losses, moving on involves acknowledging the lesson behind the painful experience. And may this blog post serve as a warning to people who are planning to make BFFs with their bosses. While some exceptional cases are commendable, it is not something I can really recommend based on my experience. I no longer want hard life lessons to be wasted. People tend to repeat other people’s mistakes because nobody bothered to write about it.

Hopefuly, this piece will warn a person who is about to commit this same mistake; posibly, a random stranger is in a similar situation and chanced upon this tiny digital space. My verdict: it is not worth your time, find other meaninful ventures that do not implicate you in a situation of choosing between losing a friend and losing your excellence in your job.

Ang Kumot na Maliit

There was only one lesson of life that I distinctly remember from a teacher that continues to influence me. It involved the metaphor of a tiny blanket.

I studied in a university where part of my tuition fees is subsidized by taxpayers’ money. One teacher admonished us to think of the country’s best resources as a tiny blanket. It is so tiny that it only covers a tiny portion of all the citizens who are seeking warmth. He continued to express that since we are the ones blanketed with good education, we have this inherent duty to enlarge the blanket or give back to others, to think of other people who do not have similar privileges and appreciate it accordingly.

I think about it a lot until now, as I see faces who are in airconditioned rooms and with twice a month paychecks but whine about how little they have. Sometimes I wear that face of ingratitude and entitlement. Shamelessness is so common, and so is indifference. I am more turned off by those who have been educated but act like scowling scoundrels. I feel sad because I see people who get handsomely paid for warming their butts and kissing ass and opening their legs. And in the streets I see people begging for bread, strangers in jeepneys and buses begging for assistance, and so much potential being wasted because the opportunities were instead given to myopic spoiled brats who cannot appreciate what they have.

Yes, underpaid as most professionals are, the supposedly matriculated, enlightened and well-fed segment of the population keep forgetting the value of basic needs like food, clothing and shelter. This country does not have that basic need met for every person. Some people sleep under bridges and highways, and make a mediocre paradise out of worn cardboards mounted on unsafe soil.

And all I see among the ranks of the enlightened are well-dressed brats who think that the world owes them all its resources. It is more disgusting than the filth of a taong grasa roaming near the urban rubbish.

I am just sick of all this entitlement. And the futility of the chase is nurtured unhealthily as they make status updates to affirm themselves, to make themselves look good and full, to belittle others, and to impress people they do not like.

I have the mental diagnosis but I find so much more people in my world who are really batshit crazy disguising themselves as normal and functional members of society. On the top of the list are this society’s topnotch ingrates who perpetuate the mindset of loving things and using people.

At this age, I was hoping to have more meaningful conversations. But little can be done if the other party prefers to wallow in the shit of his own making. I am tired of listening to educated brats’ self-invented shit because there are other more significant shit loads to be solved for the truly less fortunate and so few brains are being used to solve them. Because the privileged brains were too busy about the blanket’s thread count and stitching, bitching about what more they need to have.

Some people might even need to experience the real shivers of cold nights that other people are suffering to appreciate what they have. And a slap of cold words when aside from wasting their lives, they start to waste your own time just for them to vent their self-inflicted tales of woe.

And I always think of the tiny blanket as I try to move forward and snuggle in my sleep.

A Bunch
of Patient People

To say that I did not have a normal college or high school life is an understatement. I was already working as early as the age of 17. It was only a part-time stint for a publication but it helped me get started with my writing earlier in life. That was not really my first experience with having some form of enterprise. At age 15, I was selling food or baked goodies done by my mom to my classmates and teachers before flag ceremony because I liked the extra income and I was really proud of my mom’s empanada and pastillas. It was an odd thing to do as a private school student because most of them were well off, but I did those even when other girls laughed about it behind my back. Maybe that’s why I never really returned for high school reunions after graduation. There was little to go back to, except for a handful of friends I have made. I would, however, do my best to go back and judge events for my teachers who have been most kind to me that time.

Those things did not make me cool enough for my status-seeking classmates, but that’s fine. My mom was happy and I had extra money to go by per day. It is quite challenging to study in a place where all your peers have everything they need easily and more, and then you have to work for every centavo. Once, I won in a regional writing contest and my father, instead of being proud of me, did not allow me to go!

He opposed my writing interest saying that “There is no money in writing.” and he urged me to take Medicine. My aunt and I ended up doing some form of fundraising activity in high school just so I can buy my plane ticket to General Santos City.

I passed a pre-med course in UST but I did not tell my father. He likewise rejected my preference to take Creative Writing in Ateneo de Manila. I had a full scholarship in DLSU for Computer Science but I let go of it thinking that in the event that I lose my scholarship midway, I will not be able to enroll myself for the next trimester.

When I first got published in a lifestyle magazine four years after that episode of being stifled of my writing passion, I was able to prove my father that I was right about fighting for my right to write.

I started having a mind of my own, which brought them a lot of pain while I was growing up but a lot of happiness when I started working.

Things, this hard life had not given me so easily. But my situation has taught me to be creative and resourceful, and insightful in a way that a comfortable lifestyle can never give a person.

I think I never really flinched with humbling types of work if it means that it’s noble and if it means that it will help me accomplish something that will help me improve my situation. I have a pretty submissive personality so I do not see myself aggressively doing those door to door things that involve inviting people to attend seminars or making something useful like unique items that will sell like pancakes. I do promote products if I am genuinely convinced that it’s good stuff. I hate exploiting people especially when they deserve to get paid more.

I just pretty much used what was there while I was growing up. Once, I was even talked into doing cashier work for a supermarket during Christmas season. It was really hard work. I remember distinctly that unlike in office work, you have to have a very strong bladder to be able to survive this job. You cannot pee instantly as a cashier. There is this elaborate ceremony that involves closing the cash register and passing through those vegetable stalls and frozen food stalls before you get to the bathroom. You count every centavo in your cash register before you can lock it and go to the bathroom. Also, peeing comes in shifts. If another cashier is in the bathroom, you cannot go. You have to wait for her to return to her station before you can do your thing. If peeing is like a frigging wheel of fortune at 50 pesos per hour with zero benefits, those cashiers deserve more respect than those well-fed drones in air-conditioned cubicles who whine about not having their own computers or what-nots. I have never looked a cashier in the same way again after what I went through during that short time that I worked as one.

For almost a year, I taught English writing and speaking to Koreans and most of the students assigned to me were extremely hardheaded. I also experienced working in a call center where I gave up my hours of sleep to listen to irritated customers from the other side of the world who refuse to pay their bills and are questioning every extra cent on their billing statement. I deluded myself that night was day and day was night by shutting all my windows and painting the walls with darkest shade of hue. The bedroom was frigging sauna.

Some people who do not know me well may judge me to be a difficult person to deal with. But what can I say? Should I care about what others think of me with all these life considerations I had to take on early in life?

Life is already too difficult as it is. If someone thinks I’m insufferable, they can just deal with it. ๐Ÿ™‚

Most of the time, I had online rakets duing college days to help me have extra money while I am completing my degree in engineering. In retrospect, I think I was able to maximize the college life experience, although it did not involve me participating actively in organizations or having carefree moments the way other college students have.

At the time, I never really thought I’d become an engineer at all. The odds of me dropping out of college were greater than the odds of continuing my course. During a phase of life when you are starting to earn money on your own, sometimes the quest for acquiring a diploma becomes more optional than required for your life’s success.More than once, I have asked myself: “What is this piece of paper I am slaving away for?”

And like what most successful undergraduates will tell you, success is not directly proportional to the number of degrees you have finished.ย 

The ironic thing with my situation was that I was earning so much more with my part-time stints in college than now when I am working fulltime. It’s hard to take a paycut at this age especially when you know that you have more work experience than most of the fresh graduates.But the old experiences of doing odd jobs don’t count as a solid whole as added credentials engineering work because it was a sum of small and different parts of the work force.

As early as the age of 17, I know that everyone on earth who is employed is pretty much underpaid. And that I am part of that work force.

If anything, engineering work has provided me with a certain fulfillment that my other old jobs have not provided. The intellectual stimulation is good. I keep wondering what I have done in the past that made me earn twice as much. Since I got started in the work force fairly early, I learned about the harsh realities of the working world pretty early as well. But that did not make my adjustments after my license acquisition any easier.

I think that one disadvantage of working too early in life is that your tolerance for things lowers considerably. You had a head start, you get tired more easily later on with what you are doing because you feel the effect of prolonged use, of the grind…ย  And you cannot “unlearn” things you have learned the hard way. As early as age 19, I got scammed with a few thousand bucks for an online writing project. It was a large sum considering that I divided my review time for my final exams just to do those articles for that client.ย  I think by default I have come to regard most people in the work world with much suspicion. I tend to react when an HR offers you a ridiculously low job offer even when your credentials deserve more. I just tend to see things more than an average worker does, and I am surprised at how people underestimate the value of what they do.

I do particularly hate it when after you have earned your degree, some people think they have a license to treat you like a dog or puppy just because they hired you. I made it a point to evaluate the people I work for before I enter a job. And if there’s too much degrading or unjustly humiliating treatment in a system, I leave it without hesitations no matter how good it seems or how handsome it registers on my curriculum vitae.ย 

So, given that all circumstances of life are so difficult and I sometimes feel like giving up, what gets me through? What got me through those incessant nights at college where I was awake and hateful, wondering what this engineering degree will bring? What got me through those lonely days in high school where I did not fit in but I had to stay on?

One of the things that got me through is those visits at churches at night when words are not enough and I only had tears for my petitions. That’s one. That’s one but that’s not all, because Christ is felt more on earth when He is personified by people who live like Him.

What got me through is not my 140+ IQ level.It was not the awards that I got, or the acknowledgment I had for my work, or the things you find in my curriculum vitae. Heck, it’s not even in those spa sessions I manage to squeeze in when I feel like all hell has broken loose with school and with work.

It’s just, really, a bunch of patient people who believed in me, and a bunch of patient people who are smart and who work with me.

And now that I am working as an engineer, I still find so many difficult things that make me want to throw in the towel. Sometimes I second guess myself and think that I can no longer go on.

The pay in this country is not something you can rank as something that can easily help you build a family. But God has been good enough to give me a place of work where my bosses appreciate what I can offer, where they treat me like a human being, where they guide me with their rich experience in the industry, and where they encourage me to be more autonomous take more risks in my practice. They don’t blame me when I need to go to the doctor, the way some other companies do. They don’t take it against me when I have new ideas in handling a situation. They just primarily accept what I can contribute and accept that I am a human with limitations and not a machine.ย 

No job is perfect but it’s hard to find a job that has a built-in family in it, where you are not being exploited but instead being taken by hand as a respectable human being, or later on, as a partner. And I just spend this morning before I start working again to type that out so that job seekers who may be reading this post now will be encouraged not to settle for anything less when you are looking for a job.

 

You spend 80 to 90 percent of your life at work. You must make sure that you are happy at your place of work if you do not want to make your life a living hell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Price of Quality

More than taxes, skilled workers are confronted with a much larger and looming price that transcends everything else, and that is the price of quality.

So many people these days are so hung up on the idea of saving costs, sometimes to the point of sacrificing quality. Others enlist the expertise of someone to fix their problems but insist on getting a bargain price. And there are the insistent few who undervalue the worth of an expert’s knowledge, and insist a flat rate for working people with all levels of experience. These insistent people treat all guys as the same banana if they have the same job description.

If the cause is purely (100%) not for profit and conducted in the spirit of volunteerism, I’d understand the need to cut costs. There is such a thing as a labor for love. I admire the Red Cross and all those erected charitable institutions that have really noble purposes in them. I know of people who work there and I have genuine reason to admire them and offer what I can do for them, absolutely free of charge.

But if you use someone’s labor of love into a venture where you will gain a very large amount of money, I think it’s okay to give something back.

Some people may not agree with me. But if the work of the expert will become an investment for fairly large returns, I think it’s just right to have some form of fair compensation to the person who labors intensely to make it come about or at the very least, a token or a form of assistance or allowance that will ensure that the person will not be taxed too heavily in securing the resources of building the project.

This is why I totally admire organizations that have some incentive and reward system that allows them to appreciate the people who help them grow. Companies that have profit sharing for their seasoned employees and bonuses for every sale they make or client they satisfy are most commendable because they have the initiative to help their employees grow and gain with them.

This holds true especially if the expertise required to make things happen is not something that an ordinary person can do with a limited time.

How will you know if a person is an expert? If that person can quickly and efficiently do what the others cannot do on their own or the others will take a long time to do with the same speed and quality.

If the task is simple and any other literate Dick or Harry can do it, then there’s no need for expert compensation. If you are just being asked to shoot some emails and make phone calls to people, that’s pretty easy. But if you are asked to produce monumentally time-consuming things that require a lot of brain work, I think the pricing is substantially different.

Even with my friends, I feel ashamed when I ask for discounts for expert knowledge and skills that they have worked so hard to build. If they are good at what they do, I make sure they get the rate that they deserve or more. Especially if I am going to generate some profit out of what I asked them to do for me.

It is a sad and common culture of the modern times. It’s also the season and trend where people whine that they need experts at their bidding but are only willing to give the salary good for newbies.

And newbies end up with higher levels of stress as they make their mark, as they embark on their careers, as they begin learning the tools of the trade, because they are often forced to deliver what only seasoned experts can deliver.The experts sign and get the big bucks, and the newbie who wants to gain experience will work as a ghost for the expert for peanuts’ pay just to get access to the projects.

Take nursing graduates as a case in point. Most of them now are lumped in call centers because if they want to practice what they studied they have a few options: 1.) go overseas, 2.) pay a local hospital to give them experience, or 3.) take a care giving course to make them go overseas easier. (Oh wait, that’s just actually two options because the third option is a sub-option of going overseas.)

These days, it’s much harder to build a career than in decades past because they expect more from you and pay you so little. It’s a reality. I’m not referring to a singular instance or a single entity. It’s a general trend and reality that I have observed, and how this trend depresses me I cannot put into words. If you’re not one of the brainy moguls who run the world, you are just a natural casualty of this reality.

The truth and reality of the matter is that, if you are out to gain the necessary experience to get paid better, you will undergo a lot of stress and you will be the first to pay for the price of quality. But even when you have paid the full price of quality with numerous accomplishments under your belt or years of experience of getting paid coins, you will still deal with the issue of getting paid a bargain or insulting price for something you gave your entire life to build and hone.

I don’t know what’s more insulting, to be a newbie with peanuts’ pay expected to deliver work with an experts’ speed and accuracy or to be a really good expert who gets ridiculously low or no pay for the excellent marvels of your craft. It’s highly depressing if you are both, and for people with more skill sets to hone, it can happen.

First, you pay the price of improving your quality as a worker. Next, you make other people pay the price when you have become really good with what you do but you need to protect yourself from people who are only out for a bargain. There are no free lunches. Somebody always has to pay the price of quality.

In a fair and just world, the newbie pays for the price to improve his quality with years of hard work and the expert makes the clients pay for his quality. But sometimes the client refuses to pay the right amount and the expert is treated as a newbie who needs to pay for everything for experience.

What do you do when these things happen?

The best thing in a Utopian world is to walk out of that royal mess. But it’s not that easy to walk out on certain situations especially if they have inherent complications. You have mouths to feed, there is a ceiling to what you can earn in your line of industry, older people who are much better than you have settled for much less and we must carry the tradition, and embarking on your business or being your own boss requires a humungous capital that can get depleted if you make one wrong move without a cushion.

And we all know that the severe unemployment rates in the country can’t make choosers out of beggars. They either suck it up and accept the reality that they are as poor as rats and they cannot say no to a job that does not pay fairly because there isn’t much of a choice.

You sacrifice the actual worth of your skills to gain some stability or to gain something other than money.

And then people ask many people are so lethargic and gloomy these days, why there are so many crimes, why there are so many people leaving this country.I am not so surprised when these things happen. There’s nothing new about it. I’ve stopped watching the news for this reason.

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you cannot worry about intangible shit like self-actualization or personal fulfillment if you cannot feed yourself or pay your rent or take yourself from one place to another. You can’t think clearly on a growling stomach.

People who work overseas get times five of what the local workers earn here but no matter how many impressive things they show on their Facebook accounts and how they make their poorer local contemporaries salivate on their computer screens, I believe they’re still underpaid because they pay a lot out of their very lives to get paid a lot in that way. They leave their families and loved ones, suffer the painful discrimination and racism, and sometimes endure unspoken but imminently abusive conditions because they are not in their home territory.

What a charade this whole enterprise is. Some of us are just good at camouflaging what we actually go through, but whether you work here or overseas, it’s not easy. Some people just busy themselves so that they will not feel gnawing self-pity that has eaten up their common sense.

I guess what I am trying to say is that everyone (I mean everyone, with certain exceptions like 1% of the world population) who works with much commendable quality is generally, sorely underpaid, and if you try to make your rights known or get the value of what you are able to do, you will just get laughed at or deemed ridiculous and unreasonable by the people who support this culture of exploitation.

You’re a mean person if you try to assert what is rightfully yours because people are conditioned to be exploited in general. There are a lot of working masochists walking about and it’s either you join them or you get criticized.

So you either eat that reality for breakfast with such depression or subscribe to positive psychology which does not address the very problem at the roots. Now I know why my Philosophy teacher told me once that it’s a hard life to learn how to really think deeper than what the surface allows you to see.The realities you find can be deadly, hard to accept, depressing, and downright frustrating.

Still, I’d rather be meaningfully depressed than superficially content.

And while the world is so unfair, we all end up dead and you cannot bring all your extra money and/or misery. So it does not make much sense to worry about it too much.

It’s either you say yes or say no.That’s just how life goes these days.

So if it’s all meaningless, why write this 1,700-word blog post? I guess, sometimes, we write to reveal the tears that never reach the eyes.

When they say that you should find work that you love, it’s not an advice. It’s a necessity to keep your sanity.

 

 

 

 

 

Cool as a Cucumber

Somebody once told me that I needed more tenacity. Also, I have personally noticed that as a fairly emotional person (and such emotions fuel my compulsion to write with so much passion), there are many things that I need to consider. I write not about my numerous foot-in-mouth moments. I will write today about a tiny victory or success that I had in employing more tenacity and self-control. This a real-life lesson in the work world that I think will be useful for a lifetime.

It was late evening and I was working really late. For one, the sets were cluttered and my machine was failing on me. For some reason, a very terrible incident brought mostly by circumstances had me in a tough spot. But I was not allowed to retaliate or explain my side. I did my best to keep quiet about it. It was so hard, considering how I usually justify myself if I know that I am not at fault. But I somehow did it. Some saint in heaven who magnified patience must have lent me some. I did not cry or buckle, although I really felt like doing so. I just continued working and I gracefully proceeded to find a solution to a two-day old problem which could have taken half a day if it weren’t the set of circumstances I was handed that time.

As it turns out, maintaining a state of calmness (even if it’s just outward and you’re paddling hard underneath) is a good thing. I read an article that it warrants good health and it also avoids numerous unnecessary conflicts. Young as I am in the work force, relatively, this is a tough pill to swallow. I grew up in a school where people easily fights for their rights violently if need be when it is being violated.

As it turns out in the real world, sometimes you have to somehow accept having your human rights violated temporarily if it comes with a good cause or if there is a greater good involved. To balance, it is not an everyday thing but an occasional spat or taking one for the team, so to speak.

A tiny victory showed me that I am in fact capable of handling myself in this manner despite the common stigma of my diagnosis. Few people would know how difficult that exercise was for me, because mood disorders usually have that thing going where they cannot always control their thinking and behavior. I guess in some way, I must be doing something right because I sense some improvement and this tiny victory is a proofย  that I can actually stay on and practice without causing too much detriment to others or myself.

As a child, I had escapist tendencies and I used the world of books to shield me from the pains I did not want to deal with. Now, I still love reading books but I think slowly, I am becoming aware of how I should never escape when I can find solutions to problems. It’s a good trait to develop. I have seen people who are good living examples, and I am in a fairly nurturing environment (save for moments when a difficult client is in tow and is putting all his or her weight to conduct some power-tripping with their intelligence, position, or mental brilliance as an excuse). I just think that if all intelligent people throw their weight around, nothing will get done because everybody will just be busy enforcing their brilliance and intelligence to the point of not cooperating or giving way for far more important things like accomplishing a common goal that has some significance to the world.

The world has so many problems to solve, and honestly, an individuals rough attitude is super small compared to those big world-scale problems.

I guess it helps to control the ego that comes with being an individual when you know yourself and where you stand. It is not just knowing on a superficial level. But KNOWING really who you are, your place in the grand scheme, and its implications is something that ANCHORS you no matter what the circumstance.

Even if difficult people will tell you that you are worth nothing, you can’t do it, or that you are not meant to be in a certain place, if you know within your soul who you really are, it will not be a stumbling block to success. The world’s most insecure people are the world’s most difficult people, in my humble experience over the last few years of work life. It is because they are always on the run with their mind, always feeling morbidly insecure or lethargic about their existence. And it is this lethargy that they spread out to other people because they cannot give the happiness and good vibes that they do not have. The only question for a person who receives crap unfairly is this: Am I going to join the misery bandwagon? Or am I just going to stay cool as a cucumber.

That one time in a sea of foot-in-mouth moments, I actually did the latter. And I feel fulfilled and accomplished in a way that medals cannot really affirm, but this affirmation I gained is far greater and sinks deeper than accolades that we all like to hang on walls. I just know, deep down, that I’ve done the right thing and it was difficult exercise that was worth my while.

 

 

Making Sense (and Style) with Maps and Life

While I love words, one of the things that fascinate me in my practice as geodetic engineer is the visual analysis that I get from making maps. Maps bring me a different level of intellectual orgasm. I get a kick out of making maps that work, maps that aid in analyzing the appropriate recommendations to be made for technical projects, and maps that help make a difference in its own small way. With the advent of Google Maps, Google Earth, and Open Street Map, more and more hobbyists of mapping find themselves playing around with mapping activities like properly depicting the location’s details and studying trends that help plan for a better future. But despite the fact that it may seem like some aspects of mapping that can be crowd-sourced, I think some level of study, experience, and specialization is still necessary to turn it into a career. Relatively speaking, I am quite new to this and I still have a long way to go before I can call myself a seasoned mapping consultant. But I’ve already learned substantially and I think it’s worth sharing.

I just think that my course, geodetic engineering, is not as popular as other courses here in my country. But it is very interesting and the practice is quite multi-faceted. ๐Ÿ™‚

In particular, I find mapping to be extremely interesting because it is both a science and an art. It is the geographic canvas with which you can see the world as a whole or in its most fundamental units. To be good in mapping, you pay attention to details and weed out the garbage in data that does not make sense.

The science part is pretty straightforward among technical experts. For example, this week I was working on studying population trends among barangays in Metro Manila’s fringes. Observe the progression of Bulacan’s barangay populations from 1990 to 2010:

1990 Population

2000 Population

2010 Population

And this gets more interesting when you work with transport specialists who help make forecasts on which barangays will have bloated populations over the next ten, twenty, and thirty years. Suffice it to say that it was a very happy map-making experience for me last week. Note that there was hardly any data in Norzagaray for my maps. I figured that it was probably because Norzagaray is one of those places rumored to have a lot of dangers and few people are able to tread and collect data as safely as in other places.

It may seem all so nerdy, but I believe that mapping specialists are required to be gifted with the visual talent of making everything appealing. While the first set of maps I showed you are in shades of gray, I actually got to work with a client who liked girly stuff (!) and requested a pastel-colored set of maps for her use. Here’s a sample of the unrefined version of what I did for her. I had so much fun choosing colors. It was like choosing shoes, and choosing swatches for wedding gown motifs! ๐Ÿ™‚ย  This one’s on population growth, and you’d actually see where people are more keen on making babies. I just had to tweak the RGB values a little, but this is one of the versions I made:

2A_StudyArea_Growth Rate_2010_pastelversion

I think saying “I love my job!” is an understatement. I don’t just love it. I love, love, LOVE it! ๐Ÿ˜€ย 

Color distinction is pretty important when making maps. At first, I made the mistake of classifying it into 8 types. The map got very confusing; it was hard to differentiate the values in the thematic map as a result. For this, I used ArcGIS 10 software and most of the time was consumed in cleaning up the barangay data given to me.

The thing is, these maps cease to make sense if your data is lousy. So the database buildup is one of the most crucial things that a mapping person needs to consider first before thinking of color combinations, parameters, and layers. I think I had some trouble with the symbology at first. Basically, the appearance of your thematic maps and level of usefulness depends on how you can grab the most important parts of your database and turn them into something that your client can use in his or her project. Like what I kept saying earlier, it’s a science and an art at the same time. ๐Ÿ™‚

(It actually gets more exciting when you start making these polygons directly on a browser with good accuracy, something which I will probably blog about in detail later on as I immerse myself further in this very exciting endeavor. )

After storing these maps in my hard disk and as I organize my brain for my pending tasks for work, I keep looking at what has happened over the last few months of my mapping endeavors. It amazes me at how much I enjoy this. And I am grateful that I am gifted with the opportunity to help solve problems and do something that I genuinely love.

Everyday, I find myself looking forward to coming to work because there are more maps to make, more data to clean up, more interesting trends to calculate, and more problems to solve. And the people I work with are all so much better than me technically speaking, and everyday is a learning day.

And I even get to write about them in my blog. Isn’t that awesome? I think I am just in the perfect place, professionally speaking. I guess I am sharing my experiences here in my blog because I want to encourage the discouraged ones who may be actually trudging through a similar path. I hope it helps. I hope it uplifts. I hope it makes sense to pursue what you love or love what you pursue.

It’s okay to actually dream to have and make the most out of your skill set. I did not even have to give up my writing or my love for numbers to keep this mapping pursuit, which is both a hobby and a job. Hobby, job? It’s BOTH. The lines are all blurred because honestly, I find no words to convey my fulfillment and joy at where I am and with what I am doing now.

So, few people are able to appreciate how I love the things I do. Some people just dismiss it to pure unrelatable geekery. But I think it’s ok for as long as I am innately motivated to keep doing this. I cannot see myself doing otherwise. ๐Ÿ™‚ It sure did make sense (and style!) to me to be sure of who I am and what I want out of myself. It’s a liberating, enlightening, scientific, and artistic experience. <3

 

 

 

 

 

5 Important Things for Work (but are not visible in your CV)

At the time of posting this, I am already in my ninth year of work experience. I have tried a lot of odd jobs as a college student until I finally graduated and I got my license. I thought that after getting my license, finding out what I want professionally and finding my respective place in the professional scheme of things is going to be a piece of cake.

I was dead wrong. The jungle in the working world is more intense than the jungle that is UP.

As a freelance writer in college, I thought that I’d simply ditch my engineering degree to pursue my writing fulltime. As it turns out, I ended up loving engineering as much as I love writing. And I was, in fact, not mistaken to plug away all those gruelling hours of training.

After my board exam, I pursued a prestigious editing job in a publishing house, only to find out that I sorely missed the world of technical things and that the glamorous world of rubbing elbows with literary bigwigs did not turn out exactly to work well for me as I’d hoped.

I went on to the second year (post-board exam) with another job to pursue what I thought was something that can bring me back to a semblance of my technical roots with a heavy call to public service, only to be brought more writing work. For a large bureau, I thought it would open horizons for my career and perspective. But I ended up being boxed in as just another writer, with little room for what I can actually contribute. The things that mattered a lot to me in a job did not mean anything in that environment.

I thought it was THE ultimate job. A lot of people thought I was an idiot for letting that opportunity fly. But in truth, I was extremely miserable for a full year. It was a place full of potential for making a good impact with technical pursuits. But again, it did not turn out the way I had hoped.

I distinctly remember the heartache of lugging out my things and looking back at the tall edifice of that second job, feeling so much frustration. It has been nine months since that tearful night where I don’t know how to pick myself up after the big devastation of forcing myself in a supposedly relevant industry to my line of expertise. Turns out, the demands of the job was not well-matched to my existing skill set.

At the time, I felt like I never wanted to work anywhere else anymore. I felt like I lost all that I had inside even when financially I was gaining without burning my skin in fieldwork’s stinging sun. I did not know myself anymore. It was a crisis. And in that rock bottom, I revisited my engineering background and reconsidered it with a new perspective.

On more than one occasion, I thought of not using my engineering degree. But all roads ended up pointing to the fact that I was, indeed, cut out to be a practicing engineer. I had other opportunities in marketing, in editing, and in online ventures. I even had the opportunity to get rich quick. But I felt like something was amiss.

My curriculum vitae solidly states my credentials as an engineer, but it did not contain my apprehensions of pursuing this degree, the silent panic of living up to the title, the doubts, the micro-projects, the life priorities, the steep ladder of achieving this hellish degree, the trade-offs of not using my license for two years. It was only after six months of exposure to actual engineering practice that I became fully convinced that engineering is my field.

After nine years of taking diverse jobs as a freelancer, online writer, editor for textbooks, call center agent, mall cashier, tutor to Filipinos and Koreans, etc., I find that there are five things your curriculum vitae won’t tell outright about you but are really essential for job success:

1. The Level of Passion, Interest, and Tenacity You can Offer the Industry

There is no thermometer that can gauge your interest, passion, and tenacity. Anyone can pretend or feign interest in a subject during a job interview. It is quite easy to just put a lot of motherhood statements in your resume to impress the employer.

But you will only know how determined you are to succeed in a job if you are reporting to the office daily and you are asked to do things you like and things you dislike. If you still find yourself able to handle the unglamorous tasks and consider yourself a happy employee at the end of the day, you are in the job that suits you.

In my second job, my boss told me I needed a certain tenacity to tackle my deliverables. He was right. I was not willing enough to immerse myself in that world, in that industry. In this present job, I had been tenacious to the point of being overbearing without anybody dictating me to be so.

I was finally able to compare the last three jobs and I found that for the first time, I am in the right place. My passion, tenacity, and interest in what I am doing now is off the charts. And it shows at how I find myself wanting to go to the office even during hell days and overnight sessions for some nights. The bottomline: I don’t have to force myself to work hard. It’s just all there now and it fits, and I am thankful to God for that.

2. How You Treat Your Peers, People under You, and People above You

After years of working with people, it’s not their level of intelligence that leaves an indelible mark in me. I have known countless brilliant people who are really assholes. They say inappropriate things in a working setting, cause discomfort to their colleagues, find ways to put down co-workers to elevate themselves, use people and love things, harass rank and file employees or people they can bully, impatiently curse and badger until they get things their way, and basically make life unbearable so that they can thrive.

If you are a nasty person, it does not matter if you have a doctorate or if you are getting graduate studies in a foreign university. No accomplishment can ever erase bullshit in one’s attitude and personality. And sadly, the curriculum vitae is unable to smell the insidious corporate bullshit that wreaks its poison in the organization. Some people are just foul-mouthed, and there are few things on earth that can change the way they are. The most tragic part is that some organizations reward the worst personalities because they are good what they do. They make themselves indispensable at work so that people will be forced to keep them even when they are personally odious and unbearable.

3. Your Life’s Most Fundamental Professional/Personal Motivations and Principles

Some work tasks demand a test of your principles in life. It’s a question of how far you are willing to take this professional advancement. There are many shortcuts involved and while they are convenient, it is costly to your peace of mind. It can be as subtle as padding your resume to add “experience” that your position requires. It can mean tweaking a deliverable just submit it on time.

One of my non-negotiable principles is the elusive work-life balance. Work-life balance is buzz word, a catch phrase among corporations. But very few jobs have the real deal of work-life balance. Most are just lip service. You might put work-life balance as an expectation in your CV, but often the employer just ignores this.

4. Your Life Goals and the Perceived Interplay of Work and Personal Life

Willing to travel?

You can put that in your CV but you won’t be able to put all the details there on when you will get engaged, settle down, make babies, pursue graduate studies, or put up your own business. You can’t tell when your physical strength can hold out and when you will start using your health card more. You can’t tell when you really want to retire because chances are, employers won’t hire people who won’t grow old with them. This is why many people leave jobs after major life changes. Their jobs can no longer accommodate how their personal lives are evolving.

5. Your Most Optimum Work Environment

This is the trickiest mix of all. It’s the conglomeration of everything you are as a professional. After trying out numerous environments, I discovered some things about myself. Each job switch was an added insight on what works and what doesn’t. Some people are lucky to find the perfect job in their first try. But if you are like me and some others, the whole jungle of it takes years to maneuver. Job switching is exhausting though. It’s much easier to just spend some time after graduation to think long and hard about what you want professionally, make a few well-thought-of job applications, and stick to your game plan.

As a breadwinner, I didn’t have that luxury of introspection which led to an unwanted experimentation. As soon as oath taking season was over, I had to quickly get a job for my living expenses. But life is a huge trial and error system until you find what you were meant to do in this world.

I found out later that I have a threshold for overtime work, and this threshold only increases in things that naturally engage me. I also found out that I needed a place where my ideas are valued and considered, that I needed some normalcy but not to the point of boredom, that I do not like sitting in long boardroom meetings to speak on behalf of the organization, that I like working with computers on the sidelines with people who have the technical expertise to appreciate what I am doing, that I like working with real experts who are good at what they do and know how to teach it, that I needed a variety of things with significance to the greater scheme of things, and that I needed an environment where fellow workers treat you like a human being and not an output machine or a pawn to meet their professional ends.

I also learned about my limitations. I discovered what drives me or pushes me to give a lot of effort, and what triggers me to ditch a job no matter how prestigious or nice it is. I found out about my deal makers and dealbreakers, and this has narrowed down my options in a good way.

One would expect after college that these things I want are naturally found in any job, but they are not. You need to dig through all the corporate packaging to find what’s underneath, and determine if you like what you find after digging through.

A good marketer can sell feces and package it like chocolate, but you cannot survive long enough eating it without getting infected or turned off by its stench. In this world of maneuvering people and backstabbers and power hungry abusers, it is important to know who you are professionally and stay very secure in your position.

There are so many things college did not teach me that had to be learned the hard way. There are so many things a curriculum vitae and a corporate website will not be able to tell you as you evaluate where to put your energies.

But to survive in the quest for the right job, it’s fundamentally important that beyond building your curriculum vitae or resume, you know yourself well. Because if you don’t engage in the quest of knowing yourself beyond what your CV can reveal, you can get easily swayed or be just another drone or pawn in the corporate universe.