Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Great article in the Wall Street Journal this week about personal space and different customs in the business context. Here's a link and a brief excerpt...

Touchy Subject: Doing Business Where Hugs Replace Handshakes

When to hug, shake hands or cheek-kiss?

"When the first person kissed me on the cheek I was with another colleague from the U.S. and we looked at each other and we thought 'hey this is great,'" he said. "I remember it vividly."

Mr. White says he was particularly surprised by the gesture because it came from a woman. She gave him a peck on each cheek as she shook his hand. That encounter, contrasting with the harsh realities of the financial crisis his colleagues were facing, was Mr. White's first taste of the physical warmth typical to Brazilian business interactions.

For a traveler most familiar with the arms-length, lawsuit-wary corporate environment in the U.S., physical contact in the workplace will seem unfamiliar at best. But Brazilians are comfortable with contact; the issue isn't one of personal space or propriety for them. Instead, touching has to do with trust.

This was a timely article, as I was thinking about my going away party, and wondered to myself what's the best way to express my thanks to my friends and co-workers? A handshake? Seems too formal and sterile. A hug? My preferred option, but after doing my GTMS training, that could be grounds for sexual harrassment. It's too bad that simple expressions of gratitude can be so difficult in today...

I was reminded of my time in Belgium, where I remember my first experience of having to say goodbye to a Belgian co-worker who was leaving the company. Everybody lined up and they were giving her this two-cheek kiss, as is typical in Europe. When it was my turn, like a good awkward American, I stuck out my hand to shake her hand and said "good luck!"... to which she instructed, "No, first, the left cheek, then the right cheek". Lesson learned.

I hope there's a time in the US where greetings and expressions of thanks are no longer associated with legal risk.

Swag and fairness

You all probably know what swag is, if not, it's the small little trinkets that you get at recruiting fairs, like little pens, slinkies, plastic toys, (or in my company's case, plastic hearts) all printed with a company's logo on it. Stuff that's totally cool when you see it on the recruiting fair table, but totally useless once you get back to your dorm (or office). Stuff that's likely made overseas for pennies, and sold back here to college students and trinket collectors, who probably throw the stuff out anyways.

There's this law firm that we work with for our patents, and in the past, once our patents applications have been submitted, they send us a $5 amazon gift certificate for our work. Only $5! I've always had mixed feelings about this, because we put in a lot of work for these applications, I'm sure the company pays a lot of money for these applications, but for all of our work, we get a $5 gift certificate. Since this reward is so small for the amount of effort, I feel like it's an insult and would rather that they'd keep the money. (or maybe discount the company's price by $5). But on the other hand, I also realize it's a free $5.

Recently, I read an article in the Economist about some neuroscience researchers who looked at very similar behaviour in monkeys. (See link to the original Nature article) These monkeys prefer eating grapes over cucumbers. In this study, they had monkeys performing a certain task. Half of the group was given grapes as a reward for completing the task, the other half were given cucumbers. When the cucumber group saw that grapes were being given to their colleagues, they refused to perform the task and refused to accept the award. Sound familiar? It's almost like the monkeys had a similar feeling that I did when I received the $5 gift certificate, the reward is simply not up to par with the work, and they'd rather receive nothing than an insulting reward. (Link to the article in the Economist)

How does this two seemingly separate topics (swag and fairness) relate to each other? A few days ago, I received two packages (year-end gifts?) from this particular law firm... one was a nice hardback book, and another was a hand-crank radio/light/survival kit. The radio was definitely some very nice swag, definitely worth more than the $5 gift certificates and it made me think: are they trying to earn favor with us? Or is it simply a gift?

Monday, August 13, 2007

INSEAD - Almost there!

So, long time without posts. It's been a busy summer.. first I received notification on July 31st that I was accepted for interviews at INSEAD. Unfortunately, I didn't have to go to Singapore or France to interview. Then, two weeks later, I receive notice from the Dutch test people that I've passed! (or something like that). In their words, Wij zijn blij u te kunnen meedelen dat u geslaagd bent voor het Certificaat Nederlands als Vreemde Taal.... YAY!

Definitely lots of progress these past few weeks. Still have one more interview to go, and then final notification by Aug 31.... keep those fingers crossed!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

100,000 miles and still going strong

My car crossed the 100k mile mark, and I had to celebrate! It's not very often when somebody has the opportunity to take a picture of all the digits rolling over. I was actually driving on the highway when this happened. Do you have any idea how hard it is to take a pic with your camera phone while driving on the highway? Interestingly, after looking a the pictures, I realized I was going "slower than normal". And no, I wasn't going slow so there wouldn't be any photographic evidence of my speed! FWIW, the speed limit where I was at is 70 mph

I was really anxious as I got to the 99,999 mark... carefully looking at the odometer every few seconds, making sure I didn't miss the moment. Strangely, when it rolled over to 100,000, all the numbers were half-way stuck, and it didn't fully roll over until I got to 100,101. Here's the proof:

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

INSEAD Application Complete!

I know it's been a long time since I've last blogged, but I've been going crazy studying for applying to INSEAD. First it was studying for GMAT (which I had to take twice), then studying for the Certificate Nederlands als Vreemde Taal Test (Dutch Language certification), then at the same time, writing my application essays. I finally did all these things, and submitted them a few weeks ago..

Today, I get this very nice message from INSEAD

Dear kleecwru,

We are now happy to inform you that the elements of your application package have been checked through and your file is complete for Round 2 on the January 2008 intake. **

As per our Staged Admissions dates July 6th is the latest date by which you should hear from us. For more details on our Admissions process, please feel free to consult our website on the above link.

YAY!!! Now the waiting begins...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sushi rant of the day...

So I'm out recruiting for work, and some of my co-workers wanted to go out for sushi. (always a good idea when the company is paying). So, we go, and they sound like they know what's good, so I follow along. But, when we get to the restaurant, guess what they order? California roll, philly cheese roll, etc. Those aren't even Japanese! Especially since Japanese food doesn't have a tradition of using cheese! Do you think Japanese food would be given such american names? I don't think there's a "California" or "PHilly" in Japan. (granted, my co-workers were Caucasian, and they did eat an unagi sashimi, and tried one piece of saba). But they were both afraid of eating the saba (mackerel) because of the skin.

What really got me is how they sounded like sushi snobs, wanted to go to a specific place, and get really excited about eating California rolls! Don't make yourself look like a sushi snob if you're not going to order any real dishes.

For the record, I ordered: saba, unagi, spanish mackerel, tempura and green tea. Hope that makes me authentic enough. I tried one piece of the California roll (the one with cream cheese) and didn't particularly like it.

Edits: Thanks to my friends for corrections...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Strange Google Adsense ads..

So, sometimes Google's sponsored ads are really strange. I was searching for the proper usage of the Dutch verb worden when I saw the following ad below. Just what exactly is ebay selling here?? And why is the word hoe in the ad? I was searching for worden!!