Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Considering my options

Recently, I have been thinking about my career and where it is heading.

Having reached an age where I am obviously no longer considered "young" (of course, this is relative), I am having to consider what I would want to be doing for the rest of my working life. With the current practice of job-hopping (with the associated pay jump each time! )so prevalent, especially amongst the younger entrants to the working society here, it does seems that those who remain at a particular company for any extended period of time - this could range from anything more than 2 years, it appears - are being foolish by simply not making the best of the available opportunities out there.

Take for instance ,this "case study". This guys switches jobs every other year (ie. not staying in the same company for more than 1-2 years each time), and every time he does so, he asks for a 10-15% increment in his basic salary. Thus, with a short span of 5 years, he could possible have switched to 3 different companies, and his pay would have increased by more than 50%, excluding the increments he gets WITHIN each company during that period.
(With the annual increments thrown in, he could be looking at a 60-70% increase from his starting pay 5 years back.)

Another guy who stays on with the same company over the same 5 year period who have to get an average annual increment of 9% (!!!!!) on EACH year to match that 50% increase.

Tell me a company that gives 9% increment on a regular basis, and I'll be the first to jump ship. Honestly, that is quite unlikely (or impossible), unless you happen to belong to a group of privileged aliens whose job titles sound something like C-"something"-O.

Salary aside, let's consider if there're other reasons for one to be "loyal" to his/her company....

There scarcely seemed any these days. Like it or not, any profit-based organisation out there is as likely to retrench a long-time employee who's reached a...ahem.. shall we say, less-than-young age group, as compared to a younger newly joined member of the company. In fact, in many cases of restructuring, it seemed that those who have been with the company for more than 10 years are MORE at risk, possibly because these middle management folks are drawing much higher salaries compared to their younger counterparts. Com'on - employers are not stupid. If they're gonna cut costs, might as well hit where it matters right?

So much for the so-called "loyalty" to the company then. Apparently, this virtue in the good-o-days are worth even less than the metal they use to manufacture the plaques for long service awards (hey, metals prices has risen sharply these days okie..)

In many cases that I know of, it is NOT the monetary value, but instead the HUMAN element which serves as an influencing factor on whether the employee choses to jump ship or not. The human factor includes such things as:

1) company culture wrt the working relationships and politics in the office
2) sense of belonging and acceptance amongst colleagues
3) family-friendly company guidelines

Coming back to my personal situation, this is precisely what I am weighing these days - whether it is worth giving up a job at a workplace where I am comfortable at, with nice colleagues and an understanding manager, and which allows me time to spend with my family (esp. my little baby Kai kai); in order to take a plunge into the unknown, in search for possibly better renumeration and (almost definitely) better career prospects. The downside being, the new job may require longer hours and involve overseas travel, all of which would serve to deprive me of precious time I could have spend watching my son grow each day...

Gosh.. it's a tough call..

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Having read a blog entry by LS, I have some thoughts I need to get off my chest.

I think making music for enjoyment is very very different from doing a job (in the music industry). It used to sound like an ideal job, playing an instrument of choice (in my case, the guitar of course) and getting paid for it. 何乐而不为?

But in reality, things may not be so rosy (and simple). The fact is – unless you run your own music business (ie. You are your own boss) – you are being paid by somebody to a job = you are an employee. Your employer (be it a person or a organization) would expect you to fulfill certain KPIs; that is what they are paying you for in the first place. Miss or fail to achieve those KPIs? Out you go…

I’ll give an example, something which I witnessed firsthand…

GENUS used to have a passionate, devoted conductor, who incidentally is also the founder of the group. He’d spend hours and hours formulating plans for the next Genus concert, thinking of ways to make the performance successful. He’d arrange scores for the orchestra and for the small groups. He’d come up with money from his own pocket to fund the group for props needed for some of the more ‘exotic’ encore items. For years, he’d pay for the scores which the orchestra used in concert performances. Sure, he was paid an allowance ( I wouldn’t even call it a salary, since this is obviously a part-time thingie, and the amount is really not a whole lot), but basically he went way beyond what he was paid to do.
All these he did out of love of the group that he’d set up years ago, and the passion he had for the classical guitar.

After years of dedicated work, and for all his contribution and passion in the guitar music, he was shown the door. He was deemed to be not what the management wanted for a conductor. In other words, he couldn’t meet the KPIs, in their opinion.

In came a new highly qualified conductor (after a slew of mistake made by the management… but let’s not go into that), who on paper have what it takes to bring the club to a “higher level” and meet all the new KPIs set out by the management (which functions like a true corporate machine these day, linking group performances to gauge ROI and all). Being the professional and accomplished musician that he is, he makes sure that GENUS performs up to certain standards. Yet, one simply cannot expect him to do anything beyond his written agreement (contract) with the CFA management. He is paid to conduct GENUS, and to lead the group musically – period.

Compose a song for GENUS? Arrange some new stuff for GENUS? Forget it - 门儿都没!

What about my position, as a paid tutor for the group? To be brutally honest, I have completely given up doing any arranging for GENUS. For one thing, the management doesn’t give a damn. Worse still, who knows if they’ll later turn around and say that the music played by the group is sub-standard due partly to the arrangement quality!
Then, looking at how little the undergraduates themselves value our contribution (hell, we don’t even get a group T-shirt these days) to the group, I have decided that to put in any extra effort is a complete waste of time and effort. We don’t even get enough members to form a decent section for our weekly rehearsals these days!

我心想:算了吧! I am paid to teach technique (and conduct Sectional trainings) to the GENUS members (at least to those who bother to turn up) so that’s what I’d do. Whatever else I do is not necessarily appreciated by them anyway…

Some days, I face this internal 'struggle' trying to reconcile my role as a tutor (paid to do a job) and as an Alumni member of GENUS. I keep telling myself "heck lah..just do what you're paid to do. Dont be a fool and do something that is really 吃力不讨好". But as a long-time Alumni of the group, I'd really hate to see the group going downhill and eventually breaking-up completely. It's like having split personality! hahaha..

Anyway, just as LS has decided to put in his time and energy into improving Expose, I am channeling my time (and hope) into Guitaresque. We are not paid to run these group, but it is something we are passionate about, and that keeps us going.

So when LS says he envy his friend who left his teaching job to do music – as a job; I think: don't be too envious. Wait till those KPIs (set by the employers) kick-in… they are the sure poison that’d slowly (but surely) drain away the passion till there is none left.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pro-family Singapore? Hardly...

A recent letter writer to the Today papers spoke about having 1 month of paternity leave for Singaporean fathers.

I cannot agree more with this...

Being a new father (kai is coming to 6 months!!) myself, I really appreciate every moment that I spend with my son. Furthermore, my wife really struggles to take care of him whenever I am not around (either on weekday evenings or on weekends, when I am away for my guitar/cello classes). Having 2 adults around to "tackle" a baby is probably just about right - at any one time, at least one of us can spare some minutes to do our own chores while the other is on 'standby' mode to cater to his needs. Believe me - he needs almost constant attention now, since he is now starting to learn to crawl. :)

The unfortunate thing (i guess for many Singaporean fathers alike) is that our Government seem to think that the role of fathers is simply to bring home the bread, by working our ass off. While the mother is given 12 weeks of maternity leave (of course, that is VERY necessary, given that they have to go through the painful process of labour), the father is given a meagre 2 (or if lucky, then 3 - depending on your company policy) days...

For me, with a mere 15 days annual leave (that really sucks!!) I really cannot afford to take days off on a whim - if only just to spend some quality bonding time with my son. I need to "reserve" these precious days of leave for cases of emergency. With a 6 month old baby, you'd never know...

With the Government actively promoting couples to have more babies; family bonding, quality work-life balance, etc... it is truly ironical that we have so little support in terms of something as important as this. It's clear to many of us that our Government still puts more focus on economic progress and a person's "value" to the country's growth is measured PURELY by how much he contributes to the GDP (or maybe even the income tax that he pays :P ). That is why they are so hesitant to implement these truly pro-family measures, fearing the expected backlash from unhappy employers representing the large multinational corporations with businesses here.

That said, even for the Civic service (ie. where the government IS the employer) the paternity benefits arent any better.

At the end of the day, if the Singapore Government wants to put SOOOO much emphasis on economic growth, thus neglecting the negative impact on the Singaporean family unit, then they must be prepared to face a sustained low replacement rate as most couples would hesitate to have more than 1 or 2 children (if at all). Those parents who value quality family time and a good work-life balance will look elsewhere for this, as evident from the number of families who choose to migrate to other developed countries such as Australia, Canada or the States.

It's a sad reality we're facing in this country.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What a coincidence!

A photo of Kai and Matthias, taken when we visited Botanic Gardens some weeks back. Just happened that they were wearing the same t-shirt! hahah..


Nowadays, I often find myself wondering about this:

Why is Kai Kai able to cry and laugh at the same time???
(for that matter, babies are the only human beings able to do this strange 'trick')

It seems unthinkable that a person can be both happy and unhappy (or sad, angry, or any other emotions that runs opposite to the feeling of joy). But that's why Kai seems to be doing ever so often these days.

He can be happily playing on my lap in one minute, then in the next, he'd screw up his little face and start wailing.. about... something (?!!??! ya, most of the time, I'd have no idea what it is he's buay song about). Then, miraculously, my wife walks over and makes a funny face/sound at him, and he immediately responses with a bout of laughter (more like giggle). This lasts for about 3 seconds, before his face reverts back to the crying mode.

I find that really amazing.... how his emotions can flip like an on/off switch almost at will. Why cant us adults do that, I wonder?
For instance, when I'm feeling shitty and frustrated about something, it takes a long time for me to calm myself down, and regain my composure. It takes even longer to move myself to becoming "happy" again. I have always thought that is a result of lack (emotional) training - something which is related to a person's EQ.
(hahaha.. for the record, my wife is even worse at this compared to me! )

Maybe babies got very high EQ.

Friday, July 04, 2008




Tuesday, July 01, 2008


每当身旁的好友或者同事因为某种原因而离开,我总是有种难受的失落感. 好象自己的生活也因为他的离去而改变了不少. 而这种改变绝对不是种好的改变. 这是一种无奈的改变 - 象是生命里突然也少了一点色彩,一点欢笑.