6 Month Update from Switzerland

So, I just looked at the calendar and apparently I’ve been living in Switzerland ( Zurich -ish area) for six months. To say it has gone quickly would be the understatement of a century. I’m going to try and keep up with this blog more, but we’ve all heard that before. In case this is my last update for a while here is the just:

Work:

  • I am now a PhD student, still in engineering but much more science and research focused.
    • Surprisingly the pay for a PhD in Zurich is pretty generous so I’m still able to ¬†keep roughly the same quality of life I had in Singapore. With less eating out , pricey drinks and mall visits.
  • The transition back to being a student is still ongoing, I’m currently suffering a bit of a slump after an initial burst of energy when I first moved. Also, need to learn to self motivate again.
  • Work drama exists everywhere *sigh* but I’m working with a good group of people and the work itself is very interesting.

 

Life:

  • For the past 6 months I have been living with my SO (lets call him W) in a village outside of the city. Despite this being very cheap , its an hour away from work and I’ve found it very isolating. W and I have decided to live separately for a while and I have found an apartment in the city. I move in this weekend, woot!
  • While I am excited to move, the idea not living with my SO was a bit of an adjustment for me but here’s hoping its all for the best.
  • I joined a book club ūüėČ Other than that finding people is still a bit of a challenge. I’ve made a lot of friends at work but am still working on building up my outside-of -work friends, hopefully moving to the city will help with that.
  • No , don’t speak German. Yes, this fills me with guilt and yes, I am planning on starting lessons asap.

 

Switzerland:

  • Is awesome.
  • I have been skiing, hiking camping, swimming and kayaking. All of these things are awesome.
  • I bought a foldable kayak ( see link¬†) it is awesome. I am hoping that once I move to the city I can use it to commute/paddle to work via lake in the morning :).

That’s all the update there is for now. ¬†I really will try to update this blog more often, about more interesting , relevant expat-y things, like how to register and change address in Switzerland.

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Starting Over- Yet Again

Starting over yet again, today is my third day (ish) in Switzerland.

Or- should I say my first real day in Switzerland? I have spend the last two hibernating on my bed watching Netflix. Today- I finally ventured the three steps to the train station,  and payed the exorbitant 8 franks for the twenty minute train into the city. My mission: getting my bank account, residence permit, sim card ( cell number) and documents from my new job.

Three hours later and…. I have a new cell phone!

Baby steps. It might not seem like much and yes being able to open my bank account would have been great, but being able to text with friends back home and generally connect with the world is a good first step. In about 30 minutes, or more if I get lost, I will head over to my new office and pick up some employment documents ( also potentially meet my boss). This fills me with irrational terror. Ill get over it. Does everyone feel this way the first few days in a new country? Not sure, but it is pretty standard for me.

At the moment I am recovering from my mornings “adventure” by sitting in Starbucks writing this post. I used to be one of those people who judged Americans for going to Starbucks when traveling abroad. Now I understand. ¬†Sometimes, in order to be brave and venture into the unknown, we need to be able to retreat into the relatively known and constant world of Starbucks. Where the coffee is expensive and the wifi is free.

I have lots more to do and a language ( or two- Swiss German O.o ) to learn before I can be at home here. But for today, I got a Swiss number , and that will have to be progress enough.

 

Moving to Switzerland and Other life Updates!

First- Happy Holidays!

Its been a while ¬†since I’ve updated this blog¬†and a few things have changed. After one year in Singapore and almost two years at my job I am quitting and heading to Switzerland to get my PhD.

My reasons for leaving are many and the subject for another post. I left Singapore December 9th , almost a month ago. It was a bittersweet goodbye. I feel like I left the city just as it was beginning to feel like home. In large part due to the friends I had made there.  All things equal I would have loved to stay in Singapore for another year or two but due to job and life circumstances it was best to move on.

I move to Switzerland in a few days and start work/school a few weeks after that. I am mildly terrified at the idea of taking classes and being a student again but really excited to work on research again.

Ill try to be better about updating this blog from Switzerland as well as finishing up some of the posts I meant to write but didn’t in my last few weeks of freedom. Once again I’m starting the new year with throwing myself into a new round of the living -abroad roller coaster. Excitement and terror is always a great start for a new adventure.

 

7 Things Remember When You’re the Boss

I aspire one day to lead a team or teams of engineers. I hope that when that happens I remember the list below. Things that,as a lowly engineer, I now notice. Add your suggestions to the comment section!

1)¬†Respect your¬†engineer’s time.

Don’t pull engineers into long meetings with no resulting actions. Talking is great, but as an engineer its the ‘doing’ that is my job. Every minute I spend in a meeting is a minute longer I have to spend in the ¬†lab/fab/plant ¬†that night to complete my tasks.

 

2) Don’t ask for special favors.¬†

I often get asked for ‘just one or two samples’ for some random tangent experiment that a director on my project wants to preform. These requests are invariably made to me alone in a hallway rather than the bi weekly meetings I hold specifically to establish priorities and discuss results for my process. If there is a critical experiment, I’m happy to work on it, but often these requests don’t make¬†sense to perform¬†at the time.

I have a plan. My system¬†is booked for the next several months with that plan. Asking me to accommodate special requests is disrespectful to all of the work I have put into that plan. And often the results of these experiments aren’t¬†even shared. As a manager or managing direction I think it is important to keep this in mind, and when critical experiments come up , make sure to ask them in the proper forum and frame the request with the understanding that this will likely disrupt plans the engineer has made.

3) When you ask for special favors , explain the question , not the DOE.

The best person to design and experiment is the person who knows the process best. This is the engineer. Period. I don’t care if you were hot shit when you were on the ground 10 years ago.

If, as a manager, you have a suggestion for a DOE phrase it as ” It would be interesting/beneficial to show customers the relationship between defects and pressure, could you get some data on that?” NOT ” Run five samples between 12 Torr and 50 Torr and measure defects”.

The experiment will be done better because your engineer knows his or her process better than you. This also shows that you have some trust in your engineer (and is a good way to see if that trust is justified).

4) Be present but don’t¬†micromanage.¬†

In my opinion if you are asking for daily email updates from your team it means that you’re not present enough. I think ( and this might change as I have a greater understanding of management) that you should have a basic understanding of what your direct reports are doing on a day-to-day basis. This doesn’t mean taking their bathroom breaks, but it does¬†mean that if they tell you ” Aww shit the pump broke, no process today” you have an idea of how that will impact the overall process plan.

I’ve seen a lot of managers, especially mid-level ones get caught up in meeting after meeting with higher-ups. They then aren’t available to their reports and consequently when the managers boss asks them what is happening that day they have to scurry to ask their engineers. Set some time aside each day when you are at your desk and available to your engineers.

5) Not everything is an escalation. 

Just because your engineers talk to you about some weird problem they are having in lab or with a design, it doesn’t mean they need help. Sometimes people just need to vent , and sometimes people just want to bounce ideas off of you. This is not an invitation to tell them what they should be doing or take over their project. Rather its an indication that they think you are competent enough¬†to offer thoughts and suggestions.

And we engineers are nerds – sometimes something cool happens and we just want to tell other people how cool it is!

6) Give your people all the shit you want in private but defend the hell out of them in public. 

I’m going to tell you a story. One day a high level manager in my company complained because he saw several of¬†the hardware technicians outside taking an extended smoke break. He then went to the tech’s manager, I man I will call ‘Bob’, to complain that they weren’t doing their job.

Bob absolutely tore the shit out of the complainer. Saying essentially that his guys worked hard and deserved their breaks and that its not like the process engineers were any better ( his exact words were something like” Do I ask how often the process engineers check facebook in the lab ?!”). Now Im sure Bob talked to his guys and made sure they were getting their work done. And I know for a fact that he asks for a lot from his¬†team. But ‘publicly’ he defends his guys. Which means his techs don’t need to worry that their boss is going to throw them under the bus when things get hard.

Now a similar situation¬†happened with a junior engineer on my team. The junior engineer made a mistake that led to a lot of lost time. But this mistake had been approved by a large group of people , everyone (including myself) had missed it. All of¬†us were at fault and the junior engineer was the one who had realized the mistake and made it public. I sat in a meeting while a director essentially blamed the junior engineer for all of the issues. The junior engineers manager, lets call him “Tim” sat there and said nothing. It was bad.

Tim’s behavior essentially encourages his people to hide mistakes and bad outcomes because they now know that Tim will throw them under the bus as soon as they get bad results. Bad results and mistakes are part of the game. As a manager its your job to step up and explain this to higher-ups. You can give your people lots of shit later in private but in that meeting where everyone is coming down on your engineer for getting a bad outcome. That is your chance to step up and show that you are not a fair weather friend, taking credit for all of the successes but distancing yourself from the failures that are essential to that success.

7) When your engineers stop pushing back. You’ve lost them.¬†

Engineering is a creative profession. Most (good) engineers don’t do their jobs for the money. We do it because we get a thrill out of working out complex problems. When you take away all of the decision making and ownership and turn your engineers into yes-men who do only what you say, you have lost them.

Beware of the overly conciliatory engineer , she’s probably looking for another job.

 

Cat Cafes-Where you pay to be snubbed by adorable kitties.

Recently I had a free afternoon and decided to check something off of my bucket list.

I went. To a cat cafe.

 

Specifically I went to Neko no Niwa a cat cafe in Clarke Quay that charges $12 an hour with their adorable kitties.

How does it work? 

This was my first question. I was a little nervous walking up to the cafe since I really had no idea how that whole thing was supposed to go. I walked in the first door and waved awkwardly at the receptionist. She asked if it was my first time and when I said yes she gave me a sheet with the prices. On the other side there were pictures of all the kitties and a brief bio for each one:

I indicated that I would like one hour and the receptionist told me to take off my shoes and wash my hands at a sink they have in the entry way.You pay after yo visit the kitties but they print a receipt with you entry time and give it to you along with the menu above when you go in. ¬†You also have the option of ordering food or drinks , which they will then pass to you inside the cat portion of the cafe. I didn’t order any but they all looked nice and reasonably priced.

 

How was it? 

I have to admit I had this image of myself , sitting in a cafe, cat on my lap , writing this post. Sadly, this is not what happened. I forgot, that this is a cat cafe. Cats whose favorite activities are snubbing humans , sleeping and watching birds. In that order.

All of the cats were really well taken care off, they even had a private area where the cats could go if they weren’t feeling up to interacting with people any more. But basically I spent the entire hour taking pictures and petting sleeping cats. Who showed no interest in curling up on my lap.

 

There were darn cute….

Would I do it again? 

Maybe, if I am really desperate for cat company. But I think I will focus my energy on making friends with the neighborhood strays. They at least pay attention to you. It was worth doing once but probably wont do it again any time soon.

IMG_0077[1]

The neighborhood cat, I have named him Klaus. 

Here is a link to the cat cafe if you’re in Singapore and want to try it out!

Neko no Niwa