(This may be a long post with no particular theme, plus, the title is irrelevant. Be warned!)

It's been 4 years since I graduated from Uni, which is why I reminisce about those uni days of yore less and less. But every time I do, it makes me sad that I can recall less of it as the days go by.

Which is why I think I should pen down my thoughts here, in hopes that it will help me remember them. Why remember? Well, there were some good lessons learnt from those events, so I hope that I'll never forget them by putting them in writing.

If there's anything I regret not doing better of back in uni is keeping my records digitally in a more organised way. The one subject I regret the most not having kept in good shape are the notes from my Ethics course. Well, if it helps, there weren't actually many handouts that were available from the course anyway, because most of the lessons that 'struck' me were mostly those mentioned orally.

Let's give some background. The Ethics course in question (ELEC4112: Strategic Leadership and Ethics) was the only course I did in uni which touched on ethics. It was a compulsory module for every engineering student in UNSW. And by compulsory, it means some people don't enjoy it at all and will just meet 'minimum requirements' at best. For me, I tried my best. As it turns out, it was one of the courses I enjoyed the most in that particular semester. While some people call it 'dry', 'boring', 'abstract', 'so obvious' and 'totally irrelevant to me as a future engineer', I beg to differ. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I must say Dr Iain Skinner (the course lecturer) did a really good job at managing this course. You can read more about what the aims of the course are and what it entails here.

There's even the ELSOC (electrical engineering society of UNSW) wiki on the subject here.

Ok, let's move on to why it was a very good and eye-opening course for me.
Some people struggle in this course because phrasing arguments (as required in any ethics course) is not their forte (wasn't mine either). And a moral argument at that? Totally not easy. Ethics requires for a person to identify stakeholders and present arguments from a myriad of perspectives, which require some level of empathy, and a more objective view of the problem at hand. This is easier said than done, I think.
I remember one of the modules for the course was that on whistleblowing. And I'm like, I'm all for whistleblowing because hey, if you blow the cover on some misconduct or alleged unethical behaviour, how can that be wrong, right? But there are a lot of other matters at stake, like what happens to your relationship, or the possible consequences to you as an employee, or as a friend? Or to others whose livelihood hangs on the very business you may be destroying? Or, what if the whistleblower is 'blowing the whistle' as a revenge tactic, without having strong ethical grounds for doing so? How about.... if you're blowing the whistle on a multinational conglomerate, what makes you think you stand a chance on winning a lawsuit against a huge entity like that? Retaliation is a real threat, and despite having laws in place to protect whistleblowers, oftentimes it is much more difficult to enforce.
So now, would you dare blow the whistle? How do you overcome it, if you know for a fact that not doing so is tantamount to being as unethical as those you want to whistleblow against?
Tough questions, but why should you care? Since this course is aimed at engineers and takes an engineering spin to the topics discussed, it is real and pertinent to you because every decision made affects people, and you're people too, right? You design/create machines to help people, right? And ethics is a discussion that affects people, so why shouldn't you care?

But again, there is no hard-right or hard-wrong answer, but I believe every person has a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong and that these definitions of right and wrong are similar across the entire planet, in spite of our cultural/racial/religious differences.

There was also one ethics class that didn't quite have any engineering-related issues at hand, but it questioned the basic motivation that drives each and every one of us as humans beings: why do we do the things that we do?
I remember Dr Skinner mentioning something along the lines of 'the chain of whys ends at happiness' and it goes something like this. For example, if I asked you,
-why do you want to change jobs?
--to get that raise in my salary
-why do you want that raise in your salary?
--so that I can afford to buy more luxurious things, like that new car.
-why do you want that new car?
--Because I think I would enjoy driving that beauty and it would make me happy.

Another example:
-Why are you doing an engineering degree ?
--because I want to be an engineer
-Why do you want to be an engineer?
--because I like mechanical objects, the way things work.

Basically, the examples above tries to get to the end of the 'chain of whys' which usually always ends at the response that whatever it is you want to do, it is ultimately motivated by a belief that you'll be happy if you did whatever it is you do.
It may seem so simple, but it really summed it up well. We all really just want to achieve happiness.
Yes, you may want to win awards, earn a million dollars, but why? Why do you want that?
Because you believe it will make you happy. It's so simple.
Duh, right? But that phrase 'the chain of whys ends at happiness' (or something to that extent) really hit me, and it has stayed with me ever since. Maybe I did not need an ethics class to figure that out, but I'm glad someone told me in a succinct way that really struck a chord with me. And it happened to be at an Ethics class.

I could go on and on, but unfortunately (or fortunately for you reader) I have lost all my notes. All I can recall are the bits and pieces of those lectures which really made me think. (I admit, semiconductors and FIR filters didn't really make me think as hard as the ethics lessons did)
Maybe I'm more interested in 'the human condition' or 'socioeconomics' than I do with the other engineering courses. That's just how it was for me.

So what after all that? Well....Thought I'd share a few 'pearls of wisdom' here on my blog.
Oh yeah, and taking this ethics course improved my English by a lot! Writing engineering reports doesn't really help you explore your other vocabulary capabilities.
How and Why? Because of my Major Assignment where I wrote a story instead of a report. Email me if you're interested to read it.
I scored a Distinction in this course, but I can't say what I could have done better at (to have scored a High Distinction). The Final Exam? My team seminars?
Regardless, the lessons have stayed and I think that's the best outcome than any of those grades.

(I'm 2013 and late with this article)

I am part of this generation and this article resonates with me. I admit, I do feel unhappy at times and that the world of adulthood held so much promise that couldn't come true, as though I have been truly unlucky.
Fact is, happiness = reality - expectations, and my expectations were rather high. And also, this modern age of image crafting is not helping either.

Once again, an article that put into words a feeling that needed to be said. I can come to terms now.

And here's one more: http://waitbutwhy.com/2014/02/pick-life-partner.html

So today is Pi Day! Why? Because the date is 3.14 ...


This is a touching story of how unexpected some lessons on leadership can come by...
Change is hard and normally difficult to embrace whole-heartedly, but it is usually imperative that we give in to it eventually.

Of course, this is applicable to certain and not all circumstances (read: business and market demand).

Take the recent news of Nokia's acquisition by Microsoft:

Oh, such memories the look of you brings... though I never owned a unit of you before, it is such a nostalgic sight!
Recalling the good old Nokia 3310, that popular piece of robust telecommunication tool that should go into pop culture history books as being 'THE phone of the early '00s", it is sad how nearly two decades later, Nokia has failed to keep up with the times and continue to stand on its own two feet, ultimately being acquired by a software giant due to its failing circumstances.

Coming back to point of this post, change is the underlying lesson that Nokia has had to learn the hard (and expensive) way, as denoted in this article:

  1. To change and improve yourself is giving yourself a second chance. To be forced by others to change, is like being discarded.
While I am no business/economics pundit, what this statement means is to always give yourself a chance to change and improve. What is the point of staying the same and doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results each time, especially in a changing society like ours? That, by Einstein's definition, is insanity. 

Surely some change is good to embrace, given that you have take the time to evaluate how you will go about accomplishing that change and why it matters that you do. It is human nature to avoid experiencing pain, and, knowing how change would normally be quite painful, we tend to avoid it. But surely, no pain, no gain, right?
(Think of weight loss for health reasons; no pain (of exercise), no gain (in health) right?)
Similarly, any desire to change can't be without it's difficult actions to take, but acknowledging the benefits that one might gain from it that outweigh the costs, is already a good starting point.

I strongly believe that complacency will eventually lead to disastrous results, especially since being complacent means never changing anything you do because you feel (overly) comfortable. Perhaps that is partly what led to Nokia's failure, who knows? But the point is this: not making any room for potential changes you might unexpectedly face is already a bad sign. Example: If you assume that your company will always provide that fixed 5% salary increment for the next two decades, think again. Who knows if the company goes bust (possibly in part because of such a policy)? Who knows when the company decides to change its policies including the one that accords this provision in place of some 'new policy' reason (note: 20 years is a long time for things to remain the same)?
The point here is not that of being pessimistic and expect every good thing to ultimately end in a bad thing, but rather, always have a 'Plan B' in case things go bad, because more often than not, some things will, whether we like it or not.

However, this is somewhat like the phrase, of being "cautiously optimistic", which some finance publications like to make, but one that I disagree with. It is an oxymoron of sorts: how can one be optimistic if their minds are constantly fraught with all sorts of caution? It's contradicting, and is nothing like the scenario I described earlier about fixed pay rises. Why? Because a fixed pay rise has nothing to do with chance/risks that require you to make, therefore requiring one to be optimistic. But it does require you to be cautious precisely because it is beyond your control or choice, unlike when these pundits describe about buying/selling shares and making finance calls on your own volition.

Change necessitates action, but not all actions will result in change. 
And then, there is of course, some changes that aren't always good, like using synthetic materials (plastic) in place of more natural packaging, among others.

I hope the take-home message here is reached, and that is, expect change, and prepare yourself for it.