2016 Retrospective


Looking at previous posts, it looks like I haven’t gotten any better at updating.  The last one was in January of 2016, I guess with this current post, I’m effectively doubling my post count for the year! Hurray!

2016 has been a very mixed year for many, and mine is no exception.  It was my first full year at a real job (outside of consulting), with many things as I expected but many more being different.  Working at Twitch has been very.. interesting, shall we say.  A fast growing company trying to mature and scale processes/technology in order to support more growth down the road, you inevitably run into many conflicts and not all of them are easy to solve.  Fortunately most of the folks that work there are genuinely interested in the space, and are more than willing to roll up their sleeves to get things done right.

Having left my jet-setting lifestyle behind in 2015,  the only trips I took in 2016 were of course family related, to Toronto and to China, both of them with my wife and Matthew.  For a first timer flier, Matthew performed exceptionally well on the plane – the only hard part was adjusting to the jetlag when he doesn’t want to go to bed until 2am…

The trip to China was equally uneventful on the plane.  He slept quite a bit, and was generally very playful and easy to handle when he was awake.  We got all of our luggage and made it to my aunt’s house with very little trouble.

China itself was quite the cluster though.  Shanghai was ridiculously warm even in September, and the air quality wasn’t great.  Although it didn’t get quite as bad as the winter time in Beijing as some of the more recent news articles coming out of China shows, I did start coughing a lot more and we pulled more black stuff out of Matthew’s nostrils during his baths every day.  Compared to Shenyang though, Shanghai was a walk in the park – Shenyang used to be one of the major heavy industrial cities in China, and as such the air was noticeably worse than Shanghai.  However, I did have the best 羊肉串 and 鸡肉串 there, so I won’t complain too much.  The pollution combined with the ever-present smokers/second hand smoke, I’m quite glad that my parents left China some twenty years ago so that my son can grow up in a smoke-free environment with clean air.

Looking back, there are only a few things I regret about 2016.  One is the fact that I  didn’t fully utilize the time I got back from not traveling so much.  Instead of spending 15-20 hours traveling a week, I grinded League and Clash Royale instead, sometimes into the wee hours of the night.  And I have nothing to show for it except for a Gold Border and some screenshots of my 4K trophy achievements.  Without the hotel room service and the ease of access to a gym, my workout routine has diminished to the very very occasional hike and badminton with friends.  Both of these combined with sitting lots at work led to some undesired health issues, something that I aim to address in 2017.  The other, being related to time, is that I didn’t connect with my friends nearly as often as I wanted.  I feel like the only occasions when I was able to meet up with friends were at our friends’ weddings.  Now that Matthew is older and we can reason with him (somewhat), I’d love to take him out to meet/re-meet all of my friends, whether they have kids or not.  There are just way too many friends in the Bay Area that I don’t see nearly enough and it’s time to put an end to that!

So, in conclusion, 2016 was a pretty good year, but 2017 should be much better because I will force myself to utilize my time better.  I’ve uninstalled Clash Royale (gasp!) and haven’t touched it for a few weeks, hoping that it will stay that way.  Now that I’ve grinded to Gold 5 in League over Christmas, I will limit my game time to FFXV instead – a game that’s single player, non-tilt-inducing, and I can pause anytime I want.  I will start some runs and exercise routines so that I can mitigate the risk of future health issues.  And I’m going to organize some gatherings!  Folks who like dim sum, hiking/badminton, or hanging out with a toddler – hit me up, I’d love to connect and do stuff together in the new year!

Happy New Year everyone!

 

 

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New year, new beginnings


Hello 2016!

Nothing quite like a notification from WordPress telling me that I have posted all of 1 post in all of 2015 to inspire me to do better than last year.  In fact, by the time that this post gets published, I will already have matched my output from last year!

Much have happened in the past couple of months, and in 2015 overall.  The biggest changes are definitely the fact that I had a kid (baby boy named Matthew 峻麒 Chai) and leaving my consulting life behind (hopefully for good this time) and joining Twitch.

While I think each one may warrant a long post on its own, these two things are very related and I feel that it would not do one topic justice without talking about the other, so let’s discuss them together.

The baby

As many people told me, having a baby is a game changer.  It was, indeed, a game changer – a life changer, even.  The moment I had him in my arms for the first time, I looked at Vicki and we were both like, holy crap, we made him.  Gone are the days where we can do whatever we want, whenever we want.  Our schedules now revolves around the baby, and this was true when Matthew is born and is still true now that he’s almost 9 month old.  (Although I would have to say that the schedule now is much more regular than say, a few months ago)

One wise man who entered fatherhood not long before me told me, when I asked for his advice, that there is no such thing as quality of time, especially with a young baby, and that you get quality from the quantity of time spent.  No truer words have been spoken.  (and Glenn, if you’re reading this, you should one day show LG the e-mail you wrote me, he will really appreciate it)

The first month flew by, and soon enough I was back at work, resuming my weekly flying routine that is my consulting gig.  Fortunately for Vicki and I, her parents came over to help her during this period of time, and we were able to manage with their support through much of last year.  However, I still missed Matthew every time I left home and despite all of the technology available for facetime, etc., it just wasn’t the same as holding him in my arms and watching him react, and playing together.

As Matthew grew older and became more interactive, it was even more evident that I needed to spend more time with him.  Some weeks when I came back, he’d take a second before recognizing who I was, and that was not what I wanted, at all.  I knew something had to give, so that I can spend more time with this little guy.

The job

I initially started my search internally for a study in the bay area, so that I can be home every night and see Matthew.  I soon realized that the possibility of this were highly unlikely given the fact that 1) I have focused most of my work within Operations, and there was very little local Bay Area Ops related work and 2) The core network I have established as a result of the Ops related work tended to be in the Midwest and Northeast, and I had no local support network.  Plus, even when staffed on a local study, there are no guarantees that I would be home for dinner anyhow.  As such, I started looking for external opportunities within the Bay Area, and contacted many of my former classmates/colleagues who are in those companies.

After e-mails/phone calls with numerous folks, I narrowed down to a short list of about 5 companies, and initiated interview processes with all of them.  Twitch was the first company to complete all of the interview processes, and made an offer.  I was quite happy with the offer, plus the location was in downtown SF  so I didn’t have to relocate or have a long extended commute down to South Bay, and here I am.

It was actually the only company where I didn’t have any existing contacts working in, and is perhaps the most non-traditional of the exit paths coming out of McKinsey.  I actually just saw the posting on LinkedIn and wrote the cover letter in 10 minutes and submitted it in.  Funny how things just works out like that.

I’m quite excited by the change: it allows me to spend time with my family, and provides a regular schedule without the constant anxiety of what I need to focus/work on next.  It also allows me to combine my passion for gaming with work, something that is rare and was the driving factor behind me choosing this offer over other opportunities.

Out of habit, I checked my e-mails this past Sunday night, and no work e-mails!  Gone are the days of Sunday night anxiety, gone are the days of prettying up pages that no one will see (though I will miss VGI…), and hello to gaming lounges, start up perks and kick ass gaming rigs, I mean, work computers!

 

Hello again 2016!  It’s gonna be a great year!

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回顾2015年第一季度


听着音乐,开车回到机场。 肯德基郊外的风景很美。 看着那些马儿和牛儿悠闲得吃草,走步,我的心情和它们一样的好。 今天是我在这儿的最后一天。 对于咨询项目来说,一个半月说长不长,说短也不短。 但这六个星期里发生了太多太多的事情了,所以请容我慢慢道来。

最大的一件事情,就是Vicki成功完成了移民面试,并和她的父母从多伦多搬到了三番。 如果当初知道这样子办移民需要两年的话我早就会申请,或者干脆让她早点过来办。 尤其是她怀孕以后,更是添加了一个时间限制。 他们过来让我们所有人心里都放下了一个大的包袱。 要知道,如果再晚两个星期拿到的话她就不能飞了,孩子就要在多伦多生,说不定我也要重新再找多伦多附近的项目,对我事业长期发展也不是很有利。 也许有很多人不知道,但是我和Vicki从认识,到相爱,到结婚,我们一直是两地的。 甚至我去读研究生,毕业以后的第一年,我们还是过着两地的生活。 今天我终于可以对世界宣布,我们总算在一起了。 这次没有要再回多伦多,亚特兰大,纽约,或者任何其它的地方的日期。 不用看着日历过日子,但我们仍然会珍惜每一天,因为我们知道,这样子的日子已经过了十年了,接下来就要好好弥补过去没有在一起的每一分钟。 我们的家在三番,对,我们的家! 从小就开始漂泊,国内小学没读完就去了瑞典。 在斯德哥尔摩六年级才读了一半就去了加拿大。 多伦多刚有了些好朋友却搬去了美国完成高中。 在亚特兰大大学四年以后去纽约,蒙特利尔,多伦多,然后去波士顿读研究生。 虽然不敢说一辈子都不会去新的地方了,但是我终于有自己的家了。 不是豪宅,但是舒服。 不是很大,但是温暖。 我们的家。

说到家庭,我们即将要添加一名新的成员了! 第一个孩子,我们非常盼望。 虽然家里会有她的父母帮忙,但心里总会有点紧张,怕有任何事情没做好。 再次得感谢我的那些已经当父母的同学们和同事们,给我们很多的建议。 更有一位同学写了一篇两三页的文章传授他当父亲以来的所有经验。 有这些朋友们我真的感到非常的幸运。因为这个孩子的到来,也让我在选择项目上有了很大的方向性。

说实话,我当初接这个项目的时候并没有任何的打算,完完全全的就是因为呆在beach时间太长了,而没有短的项目让我上。 听说这儿的客户很友好,工作的事情也比较清晰,只需要我去执行就可以了。 我对自己说,也就是四个星期,估计再差也差不到哪儿去吧。 那是六个星期之前,前两周EM问我可不可以再延一下,经过老婆的批准我就再续了两个星期。 我在这个项目中不但帮客户做了许多他们二三十年来一直想做,却因为种种原因没有完成的事情,而且再一次感受到人和人之间的那种温暖。

或许是我运气比较好,总是碰见好的客户,我上个客户在我最后一天给我办了一个Surprise baby shower,送了我一大堆小孩子的衣服。 今天我走的时候这里的客户们送给我了一件肯德基大学的篮球t-shirt,更是给了我即将出生的孩子一件小的UK衣服和一个UK奶瓶。 前几天我告诉他们这是我最后的一个星期因为我得回去照顾待产的老婆,于是昨天我被一群大妈包围着,听她们争先恐后的给我传述她们对于怀孕生小孩养小孩的方法和经验。 我觉得这才是最真实的。 有时候我们太急于达到我们要求的目标,无论是KPI还是deliverable,却忘记了在这个过程中我们是在和另外的一个人或是一群人打交道。 也许多花那么五分钟和他们侃大山看起来是浪费,但当他们了解你的背景,你的个性以后他们会变得愿意帮助你,即使不是他们份内的事情。

但这个项目也不是一帆风顺的。 老天爷在这六个星期里就给肯德基来了两次暴风雪。 我去的第二个星期,就有了一次二十多年来为由的大雪暴,一天内下了将近一英尺的雪。 应该是一个半小时的路花了我三个多小时。 快要到客户,只剩下五英里的时候车轮打滑,车子失控,我撞进了路边农田的篱笆。 因为我开的不是很快,所以没有太大的损伤。 车子还能开,我就开去客户后再去机场换了辆车第二天继续上班。 后来我才知道我的运气有多好。 两个礼拜前一个以前在这个公司工作的人也是开车,失控,撞进篱笆,然后篱笆的木头直接刺穿玻璃,当场死亡。 我得知后手脚冰凉,开始后怕。 幸亏我开的不是很快。 幸亏我撞进的篱笆中间不是木头,而是铁丝。 幸亏,幸亏。。。 在我们赶时间,匆匆的过着日子,完成下一个任务,争取下一个升职的时候,其实慢一会儿并不是很差的选择。 人生一辈子也就那么几万天,终点都是一样的,与其着急的赶去,不如好好的享受这旅途中的所有一切。

这正是我接下来准备做的事情。 还没有确定下一个项目,但是已经开始找了。 反正无论如何不会出差,因为这个时段小孩任何时候都可能出生了。 出生后好好找当地的项目。 特别的期待他的出生,长大。 所有的人都告诉我这是人生的一个重要的里程碑。 他们都说我们的生活因此会改变。 我相信。无论是白天逗小孩玩还是半夜换尿布喂奶,让我慢慢享受未来的每一天。 🙂

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Now an official homeowner!


New house! Yay! Yes I realize this post is long-overdue, but things have finally settled down between the house, work and tenants and I wanted to document this important milestone in my life.

Vicki and I started looking at houses online back in June and July just to get a sense of the market. The Bay Area housing market is absolutely crazy, there’s simply not enough supply coming onto the market, and every house gets multiple offers. We decided to take two weeks off in the beginning of August to look at houses, with the worst case scenario being that we would need to try again later in the year. As luck would have it, we did find a few we liked, submitted offers for two, and our second offer was accepted!

One of the reasons we really liked this house was the space it offered. It’s relatively large for a San Francisco single family house, with plenty of bedrooms. Since it’s just Vicki and myself right now, we saw the potential to convert downstairs into a separate living space with minimal work. After finishing the work in a few weeks, it was then onto us to look for the right tenants to move into our house and become our tenants/neighbors.

The SF rental market is also crazy, did I mention that? My first posting is right before the school year started, and there were about 10-12 parties interested, mostly students. We missed the timing on the students as the work was complete mid-September and we were looking for people starting October. However, we lucked out and had some Stanford grad students respond to our posting! Vicki and I were super excited and they were too about living in the city, and the arrangement was super awesome. Still experimenting with this whole homeowner/landlord business, having to learn to install a bunch of things as well as fix stuff around the house, but so far so good.

The house definitely ushers in a new era so to speak. But more great news is yet to come… =)

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MacroRecorder Review


Ever find yourself in a situation where you need to do some repetitive tasks?  They happen to be moving stuff across different programs, different windows, etc., and you can’t just write a macro in one program (e.g. Excel) to handle it all?

Enter MacroRecorders.  These nifty little programs are awesome in that it quite literally records every single motion you make, whether it’s a mouse movement, keyboard stroke, or combinations of both.  I was able to try out the free version of JitBit Macro Recorder a few versions back, and were quite pleased with the functions and capabilities.  I’m writing this review selfishly so that I can get the newest version for free to handle some additional tasks.

The tool is simple to use and get started.  You simply hit the record button, do what you need to do, and then end your recording.  Now you’ve got a small program that you can loop over and over again if you so desire.  The small caveat to keep in mind that it’s tracking move and keyboard movements, however if the buttons that you’re trying to click every single time is in a different position, or if you need to enter different responses each time, then the simple recorded macro won’t work well for you.  One trick I use is to have the beginning of the script to have some default actions that will streamline the process, i.e. maximize the window, scroll to the top so the positions of the buttons you’re trying to click can be in the same place.

The other good thing about the macro recorder is its ability to run at an accelerated speed (i.e. 2x, 3x of the recorded speed).   If you’ve got some complicated task that you need to take time to record, you can run at an accelerated pace as long as the program is able to catch up.  Typically it’s not an issue but one should be careful when dealing with web browsers as sometimes the internet speed can disrupt what you’re trying to do.

Overall I love having a tool like this handy just so I can automate any process I’m planning on doing more than a few times.   Would love to get my hands on the newest version to test and see what’s the latest and greatest.  Link to the Macro Recorder page.

Will update review once I get the new product.

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Re-posting for a friend


Some of you may already know that my friend Ashleigh is going through a challenging time, to say the least, after finding out that she has inflammatory breast cancer.  This post is dedicated to her and her family.  

 

For those of you who don’t know, Ashleigh is the most positive, energetic, and spirited person I know.  We first met when we interviewed for LGO together, and virtually a little bit before that on business school forums.  We were both super excited about LGO, the experience, and at the same time wondering whether our consulting backgrounds would prove a hindrance in our admissions or our family situations would allow it to work.  We jokingly refer to each other as twins because we both went to Georgia Tech during the same years, studied Industrial Engineering, went into Consulting for four years, and then did LGO together for two more years. (although we didn’t know each other until the LGO interviews!) One of the first things we had to do when we found out about our team assignments were to give ourselves a team name, and of course Ashleigh pushed for the idea of naming ourselves Team Awesome which everyone loved.

 

To describe Ashleigh as awesome is quite the understatement.  Not only did she manage the LGO workloads with Sloan workloads, she also represented LGO in so many other ways that I am still amazed till this day.  

She represented LGO in the Sloan senate in all four semesters, even taking time to participant during our internship, bonded with the ’14s during the summer, participated in so many C-function dances I can’t even count, including the ones after she had Noah!  On top of that she helped to organize many of the East Gate gatherings for our class, our team, and you can likely spot her at the Fort Awesome gatherings as well.  

 

Knowing Ashleigh’s accomplishments, I know that Ashleigh will overcome this challenge as well, and that this will be another chapter in her unbelievably amazing book of life.  Ashleigh, if you’re reading this, know that Vicki and I will always be there for you and your family.  We believe in you, Ashleigh, because, well, you’ve already done so many seemingly impossibly things, what’s another? 🙂  

Link to Brad and Ashleigh’s blog below:

http://myjourneywithibc.blogspot.com/

 

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Facing adversity


My engagement manager and one of the engagement directors had a not-so-pleasant encounter near the beginning of the engagement, and have been exchanging bites back and forth over E-mails ever since.  The storm has been brewing for several weeks now, and it finally came out in the open today during our team talk.  I had advised the EM prior to the talk to tone down some of the comments, but things still got quite confrontational and did not end on a very positive note.  There was so much drama in the meeting that I felt awkward being a participant.

It very much reminded me of a time back at Deloitte when I had a similar encounter, though not directly confrontational, with one of the Senior managers.  I remembered that being one of the toughest times I had at Deloitte, not from a knowledge or expertise perspective, but from a relationship management perspective.  It was one of those situations when you can do everything right but still not be rewarded for your performance, and for people who are typical overachievers in consulting, a very bitter pill to swallow.

The EM asked me for advice after the encounter and I gave him the advice that I would’ve given myself three years ago: take a step back, make amends, and build a stronger relationship coming out of the conflict.  There is a saying in Chinese, 不打不相识, and that’s perfect to describe this situation.  There are still a few months left on the study, and fighting a losing battle will not only cost him his career potentially but also drag down the team, the study and affect the client.  I told him that I had a similar experience and that you will grow and mature from each one.  

I know that because I grew from my experience, quite a lot if I may add.  As I look back, there are many times I’ve found success: when others created opportunities for me, and also when someone or something created a significant barrier for me to overcome to become successful.  I remember all of those times, but I especially relish the memories of the hard-fought wins, and those are the stories I’m most proud to share with others. 

To all the readers out there, including myself in who knows how many years, as you think about what it is that made you successful, be thankful not only to those who have provided you with the opportunities, but also be grateful to those who created obstacles and challenges for you to overcome as well.  For without a healthy dose of both, you wouldn’t have grown into the leader you are today.

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