Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tears

My tears meant that I am too weary.
I may be at the end of my strength.
But it doesn't mean that I surrender.
"Weary loads are meant for shoulders
 Strong enough to carry them."

My tears meant I am frustrated.
Over people. Events.
Twist of events. Events that get twisted.
But there is redemption in knowing
That fate has its way of righting wrongs.
It always does.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Love What You Do and Do What You Love

This blog is in celebration of my upcoming 15 years anniversary with P&G. I finished the blog earlier than my anniversary date though. This is also dedicated to the men and women of P&G that I have worked with, from R&D to Product Supply to SGO/AAIK. Our challenges and stretch goals will always be there but you have made each day at work a little better, brighter and lighter. Your stories at work are forever linked with mine. -- Armie


We have a bunch of new hires in the SGO organization this year. New hires make you realize how old you are in the company and all that drama. Newbees were asked to introduce themselves and say something (witty). We were amused how most new hires exclaimed that P&G is their dream company. But I had to smile. It was my dream company too. During my 3rd year in college, a keynote speaker from P&G was our guest. It was a very impressive and inspiring talk and it got me to aspire to work for P&G as well. Rest is history.

One of the new hires in our team asked me, quite innocently "Armie, if I want to be promoted to Band 3 does that mean I also have to work until 2AM?" (This was because they get emails from me written between 1-2AM in the morning.)

I had to laugh. Not at the new hire but at myself. Who indeed, would be up at 2AM? Me and someone else I know. And we are at same level. Thus, the new hire's conclusion.

So I answered quickly, "Oh no, no, no, no (and some more "no's")... it's just me and "this-someone-else" (not sure if being identified in a blog will be appreciated. or not.). I quoted examples of SNO folks who can be better role models of work-life balance. I obviously do not and have never belonged to that circle. And quite frankly, I had to say that with perverse pride.

And I continued explaining.... "I have been this way since I was a new hire like you. So its not a big deal."

Which got me thinking. That is so true indeed. And my mind went ahead to auto-rewind the memories. Tales of the workaholic is more like it.

When I was new hire in R&D, I spent one weekend prowling the libraries of University of the Philippines College of Science for magnesium soaps because we didn't have internet access then at the R&D G.O.

We did not have laptops back then too. We had this very slow desktop PC that eventually got upgraded to Pentiums and Internet was made available. You have to work beyond 8 hours to finish a report in case you needed more time unless you have a PC at home (I don't). We usually needed more time. In my case, I came back on weekends to work at the office to finish my technical reports and manual data tabulation. And it was not charged to O.T. (overtime) by the way. We called it O-TY (Thank You).

I even experienced spending overnight of Dec 23rd (going to Dec 24th which is Christmas eve in the Philippines) at the Makati office by myself. I was waiting for a shipment of powder samples from Belgium, due to arrive after midnight. I had to conduct an odor testing for the 3 samples (this was past midnight), and call my supplier's technical contact's home number in Belgium to confirm which sample passed the odor test, which they should be preparing to send for airshipment in time for my Plant EO (trials) after Christmas. We didnt have a lot of time then because CPS (project schedule) was well... accelerated as usual.

While still in R&D GO, I spent many EO days at the Plant that lasts 24 hours or more. Spent long hours at the hot and humid Plant Warehouse taking and measuring samples, lifting and moving the cases from the pallet by myself. Today, they have contractors who does that for them. I spent forever in the Plant if an equipment broke down during an EO and we decided not to go home until we produce something.

When I eventually moved to PS, my first engineering project was handed over to me in the middle of massive delays. My first day on the role, I had to be the messenger (to this big meeting) of the bad news of its delay. Needless to say what happens to messengers (yep, they get massacred). I took it as a challenge and brought the schedule back on track without resorting to crazy short cuts.

I started up a new making and packing line for this new product, in my 9th month of pregnancy, completed Q-run and close out one day before I gave birth. The AAI GM even visited us at the line during that 1st production run. I should have had my picture taken with the GM! At the hospital, while labor started, I was still on the phone speaking with the Making engineers while the pain started kicking in, on how to troubleshoot a batch with borderline color. They even suggested to name the baby after that variant (!) when they learned I was on the brink of delivering while they were speaking with me!

The most challenging initiative ever was the so-called EDSA project. All brands, all variants, all skus undergoing changes at the same time at a super accelerated CPS. We had to qualify and start up new machines, we had to do formula upgrade and packaging changes, had to qualify and start up an external contractor, had to modify machines etc etc. All the technical changes in this world. We did not have the luxury of time either. The technical teams were really fragmented then but this project brought everyone together. It brought out the best of everyone because nobody wanted to be the cause of failure.

If I add and narrate my operations-days experience we will never see an end to this blog. Suffice it to say that it was an assignment I tried to avoid, but it ended up to be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding of all. It wasn't the results and records that I missed most or was most proud of. Records are meant to be broken. But the road to get there, how I saw that it brought the best out of people, how the teams broke barriers and gave their best - were most inspiring for me.

As my mind made the involuntary mental rewind, all I can say was that "well, those were the days".

Many years after those episodes, it made it difficult for me to understand why folks surrender at an EO after 8 hours, why folks shy away from hard dirty work. Or why people dread writing issue sheets (my theory was because of this messenger-thing). I couldn't understand why they think an accelerated CPS will bring a nervous breakdown. Believe me, I've worked against the worst CPS of all time. Try launching four initatives in one quarter.

I also thought, our working style will never really change much in the course of years. This is true to me and after observing many people I have worked with, this is generally true. It is like your study habits. Or sleeeping habits. The difference at work is you actually get paid for it. Your work habit stays with you for life. It's in your DNA.

Where I am leading to from all these musings anyway?

It is true we choose how we work. We can work smarter. Or work harder. Sometimes both are necessary, really. We chose to have work life balance - we chose how we define balance and what we ought to do to achieve it.

My definition of balance really sucks, hahaha. I have to finally admit that I comfortably live a life of imbalance. With perverse pride. If it were not for a super supportive and understanding spouse, I would have been separated by now. When we were talking about favorite things, my little girl told me that she thinks my favorite thing is my laptop (I have two). She said this in a matter of fact tone. I am not offended or worried. And she does not say it with that make-you-feel-guilty tone. We have an extraordinary understanding of each other. She understands that my love for my laptop is the same as her love of soccer, scooter, monkey bars and bikes. It doesnt mean I love them less.

But one thing also stood out. I loved what I did all these years. I am a Process person by heart but I also took an adventure into the world of engineering, project management, packaging, operations and even some bit of QA and IWS. Time will tell what I think of Planning.

Loving what you do made everything far more easier.

You have to do what you love. And at some point, you have to love what you do!

 
The Weekly Ops Board Review. Becoming #1 is a daily commitment.

Believe me when I say we've done a lot more crazy stuff ... usually involved lots of dancing. arrrggh.
Our early years at the Plant. The original PD&A team from R&D.
 
My team organized and hosted the 1st Asia Packaging College.
Becoming Asia's best include paving the way for others to also succeed.

WPI Pillar Masterplanning Event
From invisible to invincible! Doing more with less effort! 
 Group Picture from the Last Ever R&D Offsite

Honoring the unsung heroes. The 1st Granules Golden Suds Awards Night.
An R&D tradition which I brought to the Plant. 

The self-funded Supply System Christmas Party

My Last Day at the Plant. Didnt want to say "Farewell" really.
You never know in this life.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice

Chicken Rice is best known for being the national food of Singapore. Of course, not to be outclassed, the Chili Crab is the national seafood of this island-nation.

I immediately loved Hainanese Chicken Rice. Love at first bite is more like it. The dish is downright simple - steamed or roasted chicken served with rice that has been cooked in tasty chicken broth, with siding of kailan leaves and ginger/soysauce/chili condiment to finish it off. My kids also love Chicken rice!

I learned that one of the famous landmark for Chicken Rice in Singapore is actually a stone's throw from Novena Square Office Towers (where I work) and from where we live. So it is quite downright ridiculous that it took me one year before I can finally savor the original Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice at Novena's Thomson Road.


Why? Because WNK is always packed with customers! The tables are always full and there is almost always a handful of locals and expats waiting in line at any time of the day. At first glance, WNKwill defy expectations -- that is, if you are geared to see a posh and polished, upbeat, airconditioned, dainty dining place in Singapore. It's not. Quite the opposite.


I had the chance to dine at WNK when friends from the Cabuyao Plant visited us last October. We arranged to have dinner with colleagues who have also worked from the same plant and given its proximity to the office, WNK was the place to be. It is a typical small-town, non-airconditioned cafe a la street-style with it's sidewalk dotted with round tables and plastic chairs so you can dine al fresco under the hot Singaporean sun (or humid nights). The roasted chickens are on display. in our country, this place is comparable to what we call as eatery, canteen or carinderia. As in.

I learned that while they are famous for the chicken rice fare, they also serve a variety of local food like deep fried baby squid, carrot cake (which is not a cake), chili crab (yum!), cereal prawns, etc. The chicken rice was divine and so was the sizzling tofu! We ordered whole roasted chicken served into bite sized proportions. I personally like the steamed chicken better because its flavors blend well with the generous condiments. I like to dab a dash of soy sauce and chili sauce and sprinkle bits of ginger onto the chicken.
Interestingly, Wee Nam Kee has a Philippine franchise which opened last year at upbeat Makati City. I saw the pictures of the oriental-themed interiors of WNK Philippines and I could not help but be amazed stark constrast versus the hole-in-the-wall ambience of its mother branch.

When in Singapore, or any other place for that matter, I recommend trying out local food fare from the small towns for that genuine local cultural vibe.