Who We Are Versus What We Do

As we get older and meet more people, the way we identify with others often times ties in with our occupation or what we are studying in school. I understand this way of getting to know people is part of networking, but it shouldn’t define who we are. Even when people are on a date and introducing themselves, a lot of the time people will introduce themselves and then lead the introduction on who they are with their profession.

In a sense, society set us up for this method of defining who we are. Some people still have last names that are based on the sort of work their ancestors did. This practice of labeling people based on their occupation does not correctly define who they are, it only tells us what they do for a living. Just because someone is a professor, an engineer, a doctor, or a lawyer, it doesn’t mean that is who they are, it only shows the surface of who they are. Our profession is what we thought we would be interested in working in as a means of providing for ourselves and our families. What sets each and every one of us apart from another person in our profession is our hobbies, personality, character, and opinions.

Who we are is more accurately defined by our moral character, what we believe in, and what we’re interested in. When people are asked to introduce themselves or tell someone about themselves, people seem to forget about this. In a lot of the interviews when I asked the hiring manager about themselves the resultant answer would be professional, which is understandable. But when I ask some of my friends how they see themselves, a lot of them still define themselves by what their studying or what their occupation is. To go beyond that is hard for them to communicate. In part I think it’s partly due to our lack of openness in this society and it’s why I decided to point it out in this post. By being able to define ourselves, we are more able to connect with people and build stronger relationships.

In either case, how you want others to see you is entirely up to you. In some settings you may not feel comfortable exposing too much of yourself which is fine, but when you don’t know how you see yourself, there’s a problem. If you’re one of those people who don’t know what you want, like, or who you are, then take the time to ask yourself these questions. It’ll help give you direction and allow you to pursue the things you want.

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Taxes, Their Effect On Your Budget

This week I finally got my time sheets processed and saw the resultant pay slips for the scheduled payments. I was quite shocked by the amount of my paycheck (33%) that ended up going to taxes, social security, and various other fees. It isn’t that it’s any surprise, I had income tax calculated for federal and state before I accepted my offer. But actually seeing it and feeling the sadness that comes with knowing Uncle Sam has come to collect makes it feel more real.

So how does this affect my budget? Well, my coworkers who get paid monthly say they miss being paid weekly and that being paid weekly allows you more financial flexibility. In my opinion, it’s all the same. So what if you get paid weekly versus monthly. At the end of the day, you’re still getting paid the same amount, just at different times. Rent is still due when it’s due. Bills, mortgages, and any other monthly expenses also come once a month. What really matters is that you don’t spend more than you make, and that you save some of what you make for a rainy day. As long as you have the discipline to differentiate between your needs and your wants, then the frequency of your pay makes no difference. What does matter is how much you pay in taxes and maximizing your deductions so that you aren’t paying more than you have to.

I know that sounds bad, but honestly Uncle Sam will just collect later on. The first piece of advice is putting aside money in a retirement fund. For me, my company offers 401k plans with vested matching up to a certain point. I hear I can also buy an IRA account. All of these things help me save money for my future in addition to reducing how much money I end up paying in taxes right now. What hurts the most is being a single full-time worker. For those of you who don’t know, single people get taxed the most. By putting aside money for retirement, I will be reducing how much money I have to spend now. This means that although I’m making more than I’ve ever made in my life, it doesn’t mean I will be able to go out and buy whatever I want, when I want. I still have to have a fixed budget for going out, food, and commuting expenses. In addition to these, I need to subtract the costs of rent, utilities, and other monthly expenses that come on a regular basis. As much as I would like to think I have a lot of extra money, Uncle Sam haunts my wallet in another way, college loans. After all these things are considered, I don’t have much money on the side to splurge with. So in the end, the lesson is to outline all your financial obligations, investments, and compare that to what you make. Only after seeing the big picture will you understand how much money you have left over to save or spend. Up to you.

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Office Clown, What’s New?

This post is just a quick update on how I’m doing at my new job.

So it’s now halfway through week 3 at my job. I think I’ve established myself to be one of our office clowns. Overall I think everyone has fun in our lab when we aren’t stressing over a deadline or a spontaneous requirement from our managers but I will admit sometimes I’m a little over the top with my jokes. I don’t go far enough to break any rules, but yeah sometimes the joke just goes a little too far. Oh well, it’s all in good fun.

In terms of my responsibilities so far, I have one project assigned to me for now as I train. From what my managers and coworkers tell me, I should enjoy the light workload while it lasts because soon I will be juggling many responsibilities at the same time. On the other hand, my coworker who is now a manager, tells me that I will indeed be traveling once I get my new projects. This bit of news is exciting for me because I’ve only been to Taiwan, Indianapolis, and California in my life. Hopefully the places I go to will be fun and I’ll have time to explore, but either way, it’s still an adventurous activity to look forward to.

In terms of what I do outside of work, I’m back on my weight lifting routine. The only unfortunate part about moving is that I had to transfer my Gold’s Gym membership to my friend and sign up for 24 hour fitness. The quality of the gyms differs by quite a bit. For just a little more, Gold’s offered towel service, more up to date machinery (cardio and weights), larger quantity of weights, and overall it looks better in terms of decor. Instead of lifting in the afternoon, I’ve been lifting before work with my coworker. I’m also trying to figure out when the basketball courts are and aren’t busy so I can spend some time tuning my game before trying to play with people I don’t know. Other than that, I’ve been trying to make new friends at work as well as reconnect with friends from college who are still in the area. Either way, life is pretty busy now that I a full-time job.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment.

Society’s Moral Fiber, Change

On Monday one of my coworkers said something interesting that addressed two interesting topics. The first was how the way you look at current events changes when you become a parent and the second was about how society’s moral fiber changes. This post will mainly address the second topic primarily, but if any parents are reading this, I’d love to hear about how their views changed by comparing how they looked at things before and after they had kids.

Society’s moral fiber is a very interesting topic because the easiest way to see this change is through the change of style of women’s clothing. I’m not saying it to address anything in a sexist or negative manner, but the change over the last 100 years basically shows how society changed what they accepted over time. In the beginning women were basically wearing large dresses that covered up the majority of their body and swimsuits were one pieces. Now, we see little girls in mini-skirts, spaghetti straps, and women on the beach in bikinis.

The way this topic came up was because one of my coworkers mentioned how she wasn’t really bothered by Miley Cyrus’ behavior. My other coworker quickly asked her how she could say that when she had a kid. He asked her how she would feel if she had a daughter doing that on stage for the public to see. Her response was that society was coming down too hard on Miley and that no harm came from her performance. His final response was that there was no apparent harm, but it could set a precedent that other people base their decisions on. Given enough time, this precedent could lead to other more vulgar performances. His summary was, society’s morals change slowly over time, the change is so slow that people overlook how much harm this change can cause, at the end of the day if it isn’t stopped now, then society lowers its standards, resulting in comparably low moral fiber.

In a sense I do agree with what he is saying. I don’t have a problem with fashion because at the end of the day it’s another form of expression. I must admit I am not in favor of Miley’s decisions, but it’s her life, her image, and ultimately her freedom of expression. Ultimately I feel that society is ever changing. What we agree to one day may not be the same idea, action, or policy that we agree with in the future. The results of our approved standards or moral fiber is what we as a society must deal with whether they are positive or negative.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment/share your thoughts or experience.

Workplace Shenanigans – Drawing The Line

So I’ve officially been working for two weeks now for my company. Overall I get most of what I’m responsible for as well as the structure of our team. What I really enjoy about the people I work with is their lightheartedness and their work ethic. In the middle of this week I realized how much more time my lab puts in compared to the other programs in our company as I was looking for supplies in the building. If it wasn’t for the group of playful people I work with, I don’t think I’d be able to stand the long hours and high demands our program has. So what’s the point of this post? Well, with all the jokes that we have going on in the workplace, I figured this post would highlight where we draw the boundary between when and where joking is acceptable and unacceptable at work. I must admit I am still redefining the line in my present environment, but there are still set cases.

The Obvious Do Nots:
In the presence of upper management, executives, and visiting clients there is zero tolerance for joking around. This is a very simple and obvious thing to say because at the end of the day the relationship you have with these people needs to stay strictly professional unless they are the ones crossing the line. Even if they cross the line, you shouldn’t take it upon yourself to exhibit similar behavior.

The Grey Area:
When interacting with your team lead, your direct manager, and other leads within your team there are times when it is okay to joke around. These times are around lunch, towards the end of the day, and at workplace gatherings. Beyond these times, it just depends on the people you work with. For me, my managers and team leads are a bit relaxed, but I can always tell when it’s time to be serious and when it isn’t. What I’m still getting used to is the running jokes that the team already has going and if it is even appropriate for me to get involved. In either case, there’s a time to laugh and there’s a time to work seriously.

The Bottom Line:
At the end of the day most managers don’t care how you go about your work just as long as there aren’t any complaints and that you get the job done in the time you promised. You as a professional working in a professional environment need to remember that you’re being paid to generate results and represent the company in the face of the client. In doing that, there are times where you need to do what you need to do to please the client. If anyone reading this watches Mad Men, then you know a little bit of what I’m talking about.

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Learning With Limited Resources

So it’s been a long time since I was last put in a situation where I had very little if any resources to learn something new. Presently I am once again in that situation. This post is directed more towards college students and young professionals like myself who have been far removed from this type of situation. Why does this matter?

First off we need to recognize how much technology has spoiled us. With the internet and Google readily available, the majority of what we need can be looked up. Whether you’re in high school, college, or working, most of what you want to know is online. The only exceptions to this case is when the subject you are researching is proprietary knowledge or knowledge that hasn’t been developed, organized, or published yet. Prior to the internet, everyone’s resources came from books from libraries nearby. Even when you had the book you need, the time it took to read through it and find what you need made learning very difficult. The time and effort back then compared to now is pretty significant, it highlights how the pace of life has changed as well.

So what does that mean for us? Well if you’re studying engineering, science, or plan to work for a private company, odds are the details regarding their products are proprietary knowledge that many people don’t have access to. How are you expected to learn then? Everything goes back to the basics. Asking good questions and taking notes. Why do I write a post that is ultimately summed up by these two actions? Because many of us stayed quiet in class or didn’t ask too many questions. If you’re still in college, start asking questions to practice speaking up. If you are working, don’t be afraid to ask questions, managers prefer you speak up when you don’t know something rather than waste too much time trying to figure it out.

In my case, I have a team of experienced coworkers I can fall back on. I still prefer to learn by trial and error so I only ask when I am really stuck. That may or may not be the case for you, but at the end of the day, just remember that not speaking up annoys managers more than asking a question.

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MLK’s Dream, Stalled Progress

This morning when I was waiting for my orientation to start, I saw a TIME magazine with Martin Luther King Jr’s face on it. I decided to read the article One Dream. In the article, the author describes how MLK’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech came to be, how his vision was a spark for change, and how the progress from that change is still a work in progress.

The most interesting thing about the article is it only addressed the issues that African-Americans face in society today. To a certain degree I understand why that is. African-Americans face the most negative stereotypes in society today. They are one of the most harassed minorities when encountering law enforcement. Society itself also tends to behave differently around African-Americans thinking they are criminals or less educated. For the most part the civil rights movement did have a positive outcome. But the progress has seemed to stall. The blatant racism and hate crimes are rare occurrences, but Americans still have issues with all minorities.

I have no problem with the author’s focus on African-American civil rights because of the magnitude of the issue in our country’s history, but to leave out the issues that all minorities face in an America where the minority’s voice is louder than ever is just a shame. African-Americans aren’t the only ones who’ve suffered racism in our country’s history. Mexican Americans/Latinos/Hispanics deal with just as many social stereotypes as African-Americans. The likelihood that they are harassed by police is close to African-Americans. Asian Americans face jokes about their last names, eyes, and accents. Everywhere you turn, what may seem like a harmless joke about race is actually a form of racism. Even if you have no malicious intent, telling these jokes only tells others that racial stereotypes are funny.

The likelihood that these stereotypes go away is very low, but being aware of the things we say, do, and think about minorities is a step in the right direction. What we need to remember is that America was built on the backs of immigrants from all over the world. Every race/ethnicity has just as much of a right to be in America as the others. No one ethnicity was the sole reason why America is as successful as it is now. The true meaning to being an American is about coming together and working for a better future for ourselves, our children, and our society.

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Social Life Issues

So now that I’ve finished my first week and have had the chance to meet most of the people I’m working with, I’ve started to question how I’ll make new friends in this area I moved to.

First off, most of my coworkers are married and in their high 20’s and low 30’s. That age gap is pretty significant because it means that we’re in different stages in our lives and here’s why. Most of the people on my team are newly weds with babies on the way. They have new houses that they’re busy renovating as well as the struggle of balancing work and family time. If they aren’t newly weds, then they already have young children and a spouse that they have to spend time with. This means that when it comes to a young guy like me, their interests and my interests don’t overlap. 

The second issue with my current environment is the amount of time I stay at work. From 8am to 8pm I’m stuck at work in my lab or running around the building checking things. The only time I really have to be social is the couple of hours I have free after work and the weekends. What ends up happening after work is yet again a problem with everyone I’m working with being married. No one is free to go out and grab food and drinks so I end up just making dinner at home and sleeping a little after. Rinse and repeat and that’s my life so far.

The final issue is the lack of exposure to other teams at the present time. My job involves testing in my lab with very little interaction with other teams because that’s what our managers and leads are responsible for. Sure I’ve met a few people outside of my team, but I see them maybe once a week. So when it comes to who I’m exposed to, it’s the same 12 people everyday of the week. 

So what do I do?

 

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Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat

So I’m writing this after a 12 hour day. Please bare with me if this seems like a mindless rant, but it’s really more of a reflection about how full time work in test engineering is drastically different compared to unemployment and being a student.

As a student your job is to go to class, study, and do homework. While I was in college I did IT work for school as well. To a certain degree I did my job as a student with a class attendance of about 70%, studying around midterm/final times, and cranking out programs a day or two after they are assigned on top of my 14 to 18 hour work schedule. Back then the only stressful times were exam weeks. Other than that I was pretty care free and spent my free time playing basketball excessively, working out, and messing around with friends.

As an unemployed college graduate, life is boring. You can’t really spend money because you don’t have an income. You’re day is mainly consumed by your job hunt. If you have free time ideally you should be working on projects that help expand your portfolio, learning new things to expand your skill set, and doing practice interviews to get you in a more comfortable state. For some people you don’t necessarily need to follow my example, but that’s okay because part of job hunting is to just stay patient and not lose confidence.

As of today I’ve already worked 42.5 hours on my first week. Tomorrow is Friday and I’m guessing I’ll still put in 10 hours. That clocks my week in at around 52+ hours. My routine this week has literally been wake up, shower, eat, clean up, go to work, work til lunch, 30 minute lunch, work til 6pm+, go home and eat dinner, sleep at 10 and repeat. Today I got home at 9:30pm, there isn’t really any time for me to relax so I’m writing this post.

When they say to enjoy your youth when you’re young, they weren’t kidding. Enjoy life while you don’t have too many responsibilities because once you start, it’s very hard to find time or resources to push those responsibilities aside.

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Reflections On My First Day

Monday was my first day at work. I am writing this at 11 pm and scheduling the posting to be released on Tuesday. Anyways, Today was my first day working full time for an engineering company. At the present pace I’m working, the 40 hour work week will definitely not exist.

Training
Aside from the hour I spent with HR, there wasn’t really that much time put aside to train me. Most of what I was told was mainly outlines of how we go about setting up our equipment so that we can simulate the environment it would operate in. The rest of the day’s information came from answers to random questions I would have while working on something or observing a certain task. Other than that, they threw me into the lion’s den and told me to go at it.

Tasks
For the majority of the day I spent my time setting up a test rack. There were a few hours where I was just shadowing one of my co-workers while he prepared for a dry run. Other than that I was just high cost physical labor. I didn’t mind the work because it was an easy way to break myself into the work environment as well as get to know my fellow teammates. We got free lunch today because a client was scheduled to come in but cancelled last minute. Tomorrow I will be spending time hooking up the test rack to our power supplies and watching whatever happens in the lab. Next Monday will be new hire orientation. Our company only had five people brought in this week so they wanted a bigger group for the orientation session.

Looking back
A ten hour first day wasn’t what I had in mind going in. In truth I don’t mind working long days. I think my body just needs to adjust to this system as well as get used to waking up at 6 AM and not having the option to nap when I want. I also think I need to bring in some sort of caffeine to fight off the morning drowsiness. Overall I like the people I work with. They’re all a lively bunch which is interesting because sometimes there’s down time but having them tell jokes or workplace stories really helps pass the time while we’re waiting or working on something else. There was mention of giving me more responsibility in a week or two over certain projects, but I think by that time I’ll have seen enough and taken enough notes to handle that. Until then, I’ll just keep learning.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment.