Author Archives: Fluxor

It’s been a bit quiet here on EngineerBlogs lately. Everyone is no doubt busy with their real jobs, myself included. The reason is for me is simply workload. As an ex-pat, you are expected to communicate with HQ on a regular basis. The only ex-pats that don’t need to deal with such odd hours are ex-pat engineers. After being here for 2 months, I’ve only met 1 ex-pat engineers — a fellow from France that sits 10 ft. away from me. Every other ex-pat that I’ve met that does engineering related work are engineering managers, myself included. Unfortunately, the ex-pat high tech community isn’t all that large. So far, I’ve met an analog IC manager from TI and an IT director from Alcatel-Lucent. Almost everyone else works for companies noted for their mechanical engineering products — GM, Ford, Volvo, and a few other companies that cater to big manufacturing industries…

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Barring unexpected sad and tragic events, is there a situation where it’s appropriate to cry at work? In a male dominated engineering culture, is there a place for tears? Last week, a new hire on my team came on-board. At the end of the week, I sat down with this new hire for a brief one-on-one. I asked how the week was going and was wondering if there were anything that was needed from me. I made some small talk and when the topic of past jobs came up, I casually asked why this new hire left the first job. The answer: failed workplace romance. Awkwardness ensued, but I think only on my part. The topic then swerved to how life took a turn for the worse afterwards, etc., etc. The voice started to quaver. The muscles around the eyes started to stiffen, as if trying to hold back tears.…

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Three weeks ago, I offered one of my analog IC designers a 30% raise, hoping to entice him to stay with the company. Unfortunately, he’s still leaving despite our better offer than his soon-to-be new employer. Back in WTF #18, I mentioned that salary wasn’t the only issue and in fact, wasn’t even the main issue. He had other personal reasons to leave and I was trying my best to accommodate him. At the end of the day, I wasn’t able to convince upper management to make that accommodation. Hence, all the leverage I had remaining was money and my charming personality. Apparently, both failed miserably. Analog IC desginers are hard to come by in China. I’ve recently hired four and they weren’t exactly my top choices. But given market conditions, I’m forced to go with the traditional route of hiring those with good foundations and then developing them in-house.…

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Those damn overseas workers. Can’t they do anything right? Why don’t they follow the rules? Why don’t they follow instructions? Why don’t they complete important tasks on time? Of course, from my vantage point in China, those damn overseas workers are Americans. Sorry to generalize. Rather, that damn overseas worker is an American. He’s also a fellow manager with a few brand new hires in China. As managers, we are responsible to ensure that our new hires are equipped with an email account, UNIX account, access to various internal documents, a phone, and a computer on the first day. It’s quite easy. All we need to do is to spend 10 minutes on an internal website filling out some forms in order to make a formal request to IT. This manager has four new hires in China. Three arrived two weeks ago — without computer, without email accounts, without UNIX…

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If a scene like the one to the left were to present itself at your office, a few things might cross your mind. Your fellow co-worker is a lazy bum. Or perhaps he pulled an all-nighter last night. Or maybe he’s dead. But this scene is one that is quite common here in China. Literally, sleeping on the job, right in front (and sometimes on top) of one’s laptop is quite the norm. Not the whole day, mind you, but for about half an hour’s worth after lunch. Some schools here even impose a mandatory nap time after the lunch break. I wouldn’t mind taking a little nap myself, except decades of cultural training in Canada has left me incapable of sleeping at the office. First, I’m too self conscious. Second, I don’t have that internal clock well trained enough to wake myself up after 30 minutes. I may end…

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Although I don’t officially start work until tomorrow, I am in the office a day early to take care of some urgent matters. My first official order of business is to present a counteroffer to a team member who has just tendered his resignation. He has accepted an offer from some other giant multi-national to do analog design. I like to think that it isn’t an indictment of my management skills, and given the short amount of time I’ve managed the team, it shouldn’t be. Still, it kinds of nags at me at a semi-subconscious level. The IC design landscape in China is quite like Silicon Valley during the dot-com boom. Job hopping is common and unrealistically high salary expectations are the norm. Of course, what makes it the norm is that giant multi-nationals are willing to pay those sort of raises. In this particular case, we are providing a…

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A very happy fourth of July to my American friends, colleagues, and readers. On this most patriotic of patriotic days in the US of A, I am going to write a very patriotic-themed post on … Canada. The reason is simple. Tomorrow, I will leave this hockey-loving, maple-syrup-drinking, igloo-dwelling nation for one that produces no hockey, no maple syrup, and no igloos. Living and working in China will of course be very different than living and working in suburbia Canadiana. But more than lifestyle and cultural changes, a question that has come up in my mind is whether I should be working for “the enemy” at all. After all, China is seen by many in the West as their primary adversary on the international stage. One that sells cheap crappy goods. One that sells unsafe toys. One that unfairly manipulates its currency to maintain an economic advantage. And one that…

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As I prepare to make my final move to China to take up my new post, I needed a place to store of all the junk my family has collected in the basement over the past decade or so we’ve live in the house. What better place than to use my parents’ basement for the job. But before I could move my stuff there, I first needed to help my parents clear out all the junk they have collected over the past several decades. As I was rifling through this and that, I came upon a stack of notebooks. What’s this? US Navy documents? Hmm… And then the next notebook. And the next… And so on. Surface Warfare Officers School Command? This has certainly piqued my interest. For most of my father’s career in the private sector, he was a marine engineer, helping to build huge seafaring cargo vessels. Sometimes,…

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I’ve been away from EngineerBlogs.org for a couple of weeks as I’ve been traveling. I finally made it out of China, and it was about time. I flew directly to a country that shall not be named, except to say she is the top exporter of crude oil to the United States. But I didn’t linger long in oil-country, just enough to take care of some personal business before heading off to my next stop, America the Beautiful¬†and her Keystone State. For two straight nights, I had greasy burgers and fries for dinner and I must say, it felt pretty good. I’ve now returned to oil-country and will stay here a while before going back to China again. Despite my travels, one thing I continue to do is to interview candidates for our open analog IC design positions in China. I leave all the fancy questions, such as control theory,…

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One of the odd things I’ve come across walking the sidewalks of Shanghai are these peculiar ribbed designs on virtually every sidewalk I’ve come across. Here are a few examples courtesy of yours truly: These are sidewalks for the blind. Ribbed designs indicate a straight path while round bumps indicate a turn or intersection. It’s quite the sight as they’re not only put down outdoors, but also inside subway stations as well leading all the way to the subway doors. Shanghai is a fairly new city. It’s an odd statement seeing how Shanghai used to a stronghold of foreign presence after the Opium Wars in the 19th century. Still, much of Shanghai has been torn down and put up anew in the last decade. In trying to turn Shanghai into a modern and model Chinese city, someone (or some government body) had the foresight to think about putting these things…

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