Tuesday, December 1, 2015


At the workplace and the home, a reputation is something that differs significantly, depending on where your reputation is being discussed.

At home, my reputation is far worse than my workplace, although in many areas they are identical.

In the time that I worked at the educational nonprofit organization, I was first perceived to be a tech guy, one with a relatively high-efficiency mindset but perhaps a less-than-ideal arsenal of social skills. As time went on and my actual work performance came to light as I became more comfortable, that attitude changed. Now, the problem, or rather the credit of the workplace is, as I have said before, that it is very ambient towards people who prefer to work with an easygoing, hardworking mindset. Be that as it may, most of the workers there are very dedicated, and love work more than most other aspects of their life (helping kids, why not?) This rather made it easy for everyone to see me in my comfort zone, a situation that was aptly described by my supervisor's boss, more of a mother figure to the entire organization: "Saadman's a little kid on the inside."
Now, that single sentence may come with a plethora of negative connotations, but that's where the negativities ended. Other than the quirks of being perceived as a man-child and being disliked by my supervisor for being as such, I held a good reputation as someone who wanted to work, and wanted to be given more work to do.

However, it was a slightly different scenario with my family. At home, I was considered very irresponsible and crass about many things. Problem is, there never was much of an opportunity for me to experience any strenuous situation, given the protectiveness of my parents and how I was pampered as the only son of my father's side for 13 years. When my little brother was born, the expectation of being mature and a role model fell upon my shoulders out of the blue. This mismatch of expectations (at least, that was the case in my opinion) with my actual mental faculties made it a worst-case scenario when it came to fulfilling what was given to me.

I understand how the two present a dichotomy of how my reputation can vary, but that is how I perceive my own reputation to be. There can be no fixed truth to your reputation other than some aspects of it, such as your productivity as a person, or your creativity, or your tardiness, among other things. While I left work thinking I may have been responsible for a lot of damage to the project I was tasked with, I was given a glowing report by my previously-thought-to-be annoyed supervisor to the "mother" figure, meaning the founder of the organization, who promised me that my work had convinced her to welcome me with open arms should I ever want to join the organization. In contrast to that, my reputation to my family has not changed much, and I face the repercussions of that on a daily basis.

In conclusion, a person's reputation varies in accordance to the context of the environment she/he is present in. Reputation may vary across family, work, friends, and now even social media. Possibly, only your family really knows how you actually are.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Triangle Relationship

In most business transactions between large corporations, there will be individuals that are agents of both the supplier and the producer. One prime example of the principal-agent triangle that comes to mind is the role of the salespeople of a pharmaceutical company. In our country, the dynamic between the doctors, the medicine companies and the customer are vastly divergent to the dynamics here in the United States.

In our country, the salespeople of the company are the middlemen of the transactions taking place between the doctor/prescriber and the company itself. Ensuring that the company profits is merely a half of the full operation. The salespeople are also responsible for convincing the doctors that their medicine is better, more effective, or safer than the competitions'. Here, the agent, or salesperson must decide on whether to target the success of the company or the benefit that may come to the public by the advertisement of the product and the prescriptions from the doctor including that medicine. In the case that the medicine may not be as effective as its competitors, either option by the salespeople may result in the company perceiving them as having poor performance or the doctor being opposed to prescribing the medicine.

In most situations, however, the company receives feedback on the performance of the medicine and may try to improve its function.

The above was taken from my observations during a thorough tour of one of the larger Pharmaceutical companies in the area.

Friday, October 30, 2015


The example I will be using regarding conflict and its resolution originates from my former workplace. The situation was a tragic consequence of the unequal balance between responsibility and liability. To give a little background information, the nonprofit organization I worked for had a manager that was also assigned multiple roles to fill out. By that order, I, being the assistant manager, was given these roles in a less direct manner. Thus I was given, to a lesser extent, the responsibility to manage HR, manage the resources, take the accounting department of the firm and lead it, among other things.

The problem with this setup is that for a new employee, getting to know the roles becomes a hurdle when there are so many to be fulfilled. A major conflict that happened was in the making of the database of the clients of this organization. The office manager gave this responsibility to me with a time constraint of one month while she teaches me the way around. The idea was to store the information, that was on paper, to a database that can be accessed easily and shared. While the typing of the forms took a long bit of time, there was a lot of potentially important information on there. My manager wanted just the names and the utter basics for the entries. I argued against it, but being the new employee meant that I lacked the self-confidence it took to implement my suggestion. I conceded to her insisting and continued to create this rudimentary database while somehow managing to do my other responsibilities aside from this project.

Instead of gritty details, I would prefer to go to the end of this job, where the database crashed, in a sense. My manager had asked me to redo the database multiple times, entering information selectively based on the needs of the current situation. Now this meant that, if there were 200 sheets and she made me redo it four times, I have had looked through 800 sheets. The amount of work this gave me pinned me down and I was resigned to be suboptimal at my managerial and assisting abilities. My choice to avoid conflict had caused an office-wide level of inefficiency.

A month after the most recent, and most complete rendition of the database had been formed, a new employee had been assigned to be my assistant, or rather my equal. My manager had two subordinates, and this was because of my absence from the job between two semesters. When I returned, it was chaos. The database could not only be shared, it could also be edited without restrictions. A week later, the database crashed. It appears that there had been so many temporary renditions of my database that no one was sure which one was the original one. I tried figuring out what went wrong by talking to my manager, but it resulted in an argument that heated up really fast. At the end of it I became very uncomfortable with my existence as a part of the organization, and I ultimately left it.

The avoidance of conflict and attempting to fix the consequences resulted in far more damage than if the attempt at this particular innovation had never been attempted.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Teamwork and the Individual

The article poses some interesting concepts to think about, given some constraints. The conclusion was extremely amusing for me because I come from a background where the kids are always in cahoots with the experimenters and the results are always nearly identical to the claim made in the article. My opinion may be a bit more biased than others due to the economic environment I witnessed in the formative years of my life.

Back to the article:
While the case of the first experiment is fairly accurate in relation to real life, I was quite surprised when the second kid pulling the rope got 3 instead of 1. The concept of fairness becomes a moot point to prove in most cases. The ones getting more only share their wealth 75% of the time. It seems to me that sometimes, the case between the interacting parties is, "I'll share so long that I am better off than most." When I was in ninth grade, seven of us had teamed up to make a project that we were sure would win us the prize. Team efforts give out greater yields than individual achievements, but the yield is barely ever shared fairly, or equally. We made an operational electric car with parts from junkyards around the city. We won the prize, but only a few of us were ever able to use that distinction. Most of the credit went to the person who seemed to perform well in front of the crowd, despite his/her lack of ability or interest in ensuring the success of the project.

I agree with the article in the rest of its points, though. My skepticism comes from personal experience, and the collaboration experiment, if done with adults, may have varied vastly depending on the participants of the experiment.

Society and the economy really does feel like a giant machine with millions of strings sticking out of it. Some pull and get little, some arrive to the scene with a cup or a bag full of marbles, while others control what comes out of the machine, because, as the article mentions, they know the ones performing the experiment, and no matter how much the rest of the kids pull the rope, these kids will always get the most marbles.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


The Illinibucks concept can turn into a very vast conversation of theories about how they may be used. But I believe most of their use would be in terms of class registration and perhaps prioritizing appointments, such as advising, or, for a more far-fetched idea, time tickets.

Essentially, Illinibucks can be a sort of "premium currency" that students may use in a variety of ways to help them get ahead in many of the university services that may allow its use.

Setting the value of the Illinibucks would be done by the university, at a level that would not be so high that the students would hesitate to spend them in the hopes of being able to salvage the most utility out of such a valuable resource, nor so low that students fail to give any proper value to it and waste the currency on meager things. The resources that may allow Illinibucks must be well-thought out in order to properly evaluate its usage.

I'm getting to the point fairly quickly because an introduction on the possible uses of Illinibucks seem limited to the most obvious ones. If the University gave Illinibucks out like they did for Cafe Credits for dorm students, it may have certain benefits, but then people would stockpile them in the hopes of getting something highly desired at the end of the semester, such as for registering for classes. Now, in that case, I believe the problem would be everyone dumping the currency into classes, defeating the purpose of it, because if everyone has the same amount (like Cafe Credits, if we are to consider the fact that there is a set maximum and the university will follow that suit), no one can get the preferential treatment and get ahead in line. In that case, the system breaks down. The same goes for advising appointments if students have a preferred advisor, or if they really need an override and can convince the office to allow them to take a class. For this particular option, the rush to go all-in may not be an issue, since the supply of advisors is relatively large, with the peculiar exception of the CS department.

Now let's consider a case where Illinibucks are distributed at the beginning of the semester. This model would immediately break down considering that the timing of this distribution would coincide with last-minute registrations and restricted registrations. Regardless of the variety proposed by the university, the students would definitely concentrate on getting into classes. Its a question of survivability here, since not being able to take enough classes equals to not being registered as a full time student, and that is a nightmare.

The above two considerations were taken with the thought that the amount of Illinibucks being given to students would be equal. It would be interesting to see how behaviors change if the currency were given out differently according to certain criteria.

Consider if it was distributed based on the year you're on.
On one case, freshmen get the least, and the number slowly increases as semesters pass. I mention this because for a majority of freshmen (and I may be generalizing this), there is a broader set of requirements to be fulfilled in order to take classes. GenEds, prerequisites and electives are available. The demand for most of those classes are very high, but as there are usually more alternatives for freshmen, it may make sense to increase the amount of Illinibucks you have as you progress towards graduation. Students will have a lower number of classes that they need to take as time goes on, and the more specific the list becomes, the more important getting into those classes will.
On the flip side, if freshmen get the most, they gain an invaluable asset in registering for classes they are most attracted to, and will likely spend the most amount of Illinibucks behind, while seniors, on the other extreme, would opt to more carefully spend the smaller number of available Illinibucks to pick out their own most preferred classes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Team Success

In my college experience, there has been two notable teams that I have been a participant in. I will highlight the organization that I worked for (and have mentioned on multiple occasions in my previous posts).  This nonprofit was run extremely efficiently, and I attribute their structure of leadership (or rather, heirarchy) for their success.

The organization had a clear leader, Sally, the Founder and Director, with two particular positions underneath. The subordinate positions were the Office Manager, Leila and Program Director, Cornicha. I worked under Leila as the Office Assistant. Now this was almost identical to the leadership structure relating to Dual Authority from Bolman and Deal, but there was also another position taken by Taylor, the holder of the sole Accountant position that reported directly to Sally.

On with the operations of this organization, it is a small but efficient one. As I worked, it was clear how much was on the plate of every individual in the organization. I myself was tasked with the creation of the entire database system of the organization, so it turned out that our organization operated on a much larger scale than its employees can be expected to take. In reference to how the concept of an overwhelmed boss is described in the book, it is important to ensure that the assistants to the Director be as qualified, talented and as efficient as possible. Leila was almost a human machine, giving most of her time of the day behind the desk and on the field (field being the schools that we operated in). Under her was myself, and under me were the Site Leaders, the employees that worked directly with the schools around Champaign and its students. The daily reports from their sections were given to me, though I was strictly told to pass them on to Leila. It totaled to about 20-30 reports every single day. These were taken, evaluated, and corresponding decisions passed to Sally.

On the other hand, more long term operations were handled by Cornicha, under whom were the Site Coordinators. Now this bit may be confusing to draw out, but a single Site Coordinator was responsible for about 3 Site Leaders. The Leaders reported to the Coordinators in real time, while the overarching reports were given to Cornicha by the Coordinators. She would then make decisions regarding the monthly or weekly programming of the schools and pass that information on to the Coordinators.

All that data went to Sally for finalization. The  reports from both Leila and Cornicha, along with the accounting reports from Taylor went to Sally for finalization and approval. Among other things, Sally's responsibilities included dealing with grants and setting up partnerships, which happened almost semi- regularly.

Now it is easy to infer where the most pressure exists in this style or leadership in this kind of organization. Despite the incredible amount of data and information involved, Sally has managed to stay on top of all the events that passed in my time with the nonprofit organization. One may attribute this to the expected talent and experience of the head of any firm. Along with this, the two second-level employees of the organization help greatly in ensuring that the Director can manage everything happening with the firm without being overloaded and making bad or slow decisions from being under the influence of professional pressure.

The principal reason this team of around 20 employees successfully expanded their organization is largely due to following the terms of Katzenbach and Smith's features that distinguish high-functioning teams. As I read up on the particular traits, it was amusing to find how well all of the points clicked with the performance and environment of the organization.

Once highschool was over, everyone in the organization jumped to expand their field-trips and plans for the next academic year. From planning to gathering the required resources (be it anything from food to other grants), the team took the opportunity of the increased time till their summer program began to plan out way ahead of what may be considered necessary.

Now a habit of the entire organization was to list out, in colorful, often childish ways, the goals for the week, or month, or period of time in question that required certain things to be done by the time it passed. It was a constant source of motivation as each assigned role was ticked off and entire pages were discarded as the goals written came to fruition.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Hold ups, opportunism and bad choices

Taking a leap at any opportunity is an action that is filled with uncertainty. Given a situation such as a job, an interview, or anything else that may have an adverse effect on the person making the choice. Very recently, there was an incident where I felt like I had to make a decision. They say that hindsight is always 20/20, and in light of my current circumstances, my decision was a regretful one.

Earlier this year, I was working at a nonprofit organization. My inspiration for getting the job was more financial than anything career-oriented. The position was part-time and payed a little better than minimum wage. As a student going through college with family funding, I thought this decision to be a good one; it was a minuscule way of paying my family back for the exorbitant amount of money they were spending on my education and the high hopes they had for my future.

The interview went smoothly, and I was given the job until the end of the semester. I would have to reapply once the schools around Champaign finished summer vacation and began the new school year, but I was glad to have been given the opportunity and responsibility to work with such people. People who are very different in their lifestyle and work ethic from myself.

Since sophomore year, I lost all my passion and drive to excel in any endeavor, and being surround by a crowd of antitheses at my new job was a wake up call for me. It opened my eyes to the circumstances of my colleagues and inspired me to give it my all in both the office and in all my classes. Unfortunately, running after your aspirations is easy, but keeping up with it is a far more difficult sprint to win.

As time went on I realized that I was torn between work, studies, and familial responsibilities. It became a chore keeping up all three, and I feel very fortunate to have been given circumstances where I was able to juggle that trio. I may have not been able to keep up with everything in my optimal capacity, but I was happy that I didn't allow myself to give up.

I started out as a model employee, being up-to-date with everything going on and volunteering for difficult, time-consuming projects. My initial surge of efficiency impressed my supervisors, and they decided to pile on the tasks on me as the months passed by. Near the end of the semester, I had become much slower, and my performance had taken such a dive that I felt as though I was a burden to this organization. Despite these thoughts and the disappointment I thought my supervisors must have been going through, I carried on working to the best of my ability.

My employer suggested I work for the summer as well, and she offered to increase my wage. My familial responsibilities had inflated massively between the spring and summer semesters, though, and I was intimidated by the seemingly daunting task of a 9-5 job while maintaining both a summer course and a new life.

This intimidation came to a breaking point when a new employee came to work one day. This individual was working better than me in every aspect of the job, and in the time between the spring and summer that I was not allowed to work, this person had been employed in my place and had, unfortunately, made a mess of some of the most important projects that were given to me.

My supervisor expected me to work with both my new colleague and the Manager at the office. Two weeks passed before I found myself frustrated at how lost I felt. The company was going through a transitioning phase, and soon we would be moving to a new office. My emotions, coupled with the amount of work that was required for a successful transition, broke my resolve to be a part of the organization. I felt as though I was dragging everyone behind, and decided to quit.

My employer offered me a different position where I could work from home. I declined and told her that I had to concentrate on my education and admitted to feeling like I was being a hindrance. A month after my departure, billboards of the organization popped up all over town, and their new office was a much larger, more sophisticated one - a testament to the astounding amount of work and determination from the employees.

Given a few more weeks, I believe I could have been a part of this transition. It seems as though everything that was keeping me from working smoothly has disappeared, and the new environment is even more successful than the last. I believed my resignation to be the better option, or rather one which I considered to be the ethical one, considering my feelings at the time, but I feel like I let go of an opportunity where I could work in an environment that supports individuality, where my supervisors were more like elder siblings and the founder of the organization was more like a mother figure than a boss. I doubt I will find a job even remotely similar to that anytime in the future.

While this may not seem like the perfect example of taking an opportunity, but if you think about opportunity, it comes down to a choice: A or B. More likely it is to either go for something or draw back from it. Drawing back from my job feels like I missed an opportunity that was golden, one that may not arrive on a silver platter like it did once before.