Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Feeling underpaid ? Assess your actual value from an employer’s perspective

A lot of people would like to think that they themselves are underpaid, and their roles in the company are very important. However, your actual value may not be as high as what you perceived.

A logistic manager F from my ex-company, who was around fifty years old, was being asked to leave. He was being replaced by a thirty-year-old guy whose salary was just slightly more than half of what F got. Moreover, the new guy was able to work for longer hours. F may claim that he had twenty years more experience than the new guy, but in reality F’s experience may not be as valuable as he thought.

Thus, your actual value (to your company) does not equate to the amount of money you are drawing, or the amount of experience and qualification you possessed. Your actual value is in fact the amount of money your company has to pay for the next best alternative to do the job that you are doing. If you are a software developer drawing S$3K per month doing some software development, while an indian IT professional is able to do the same job at the same quality drawing only S$2K per month, then your actual value is probably only S$2K. If you are a manager drawing S$6K per month doing some project management job, while a young manager with 3 years of experience can do the same job at S$4K per month, then your value is actually being inflated. If you are just doing a data entry job, it doesn’t matter that whether you are holding a first class honour degree or not. The fact that you are handling a million-dollar project doesn’t mean that you are worth a million dollar. You are worth the amount your company has to pay for the next best candidate who can handle the million-dollar project equally well, or at least at a standard that your company is willing to accept.

So, by assessing your actual value, you can have a clearer understanding of your actual worth (in the eyes of your employer). If your actual value is higher than the salary you are currently drawing, then you probably are eligible to ask for a higher pay. If your actual value is lower than your current salary and you feel that your abilities are not fully utilized, then you may want to seek greener pastures or request for an upgrade of job scope, because it is very likely that one day your employer may realize they are paying more than they should for that particular job scope. When that happens, you may either be asked to leave, or have your pay stagnant for a long time. If your actual value is lower than your current salary and you feel that you have already applied most of your abilities in your job, then you should start to do something about your future rather than whining about being underpaid.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Seven habits of highly defective co-workers (3) – Mr KIA strikes again

I had several projects with Company Y and inevitably sometimes I needed to work closely with Mr “Know-It-All”, much against my wish. His boastful character had been quite notorious within the industry, yet he still managed to work his way up the corporate ladder.

Apparently in late 2006, my company was again engaged by company Y for this particular ad-hoc project which required us to do some enhancement on one of their existing software. This particular software was developed by one of their in-house engineer a couple of years ago. The engineer had left the company and there wasn’t any design documents around. The only thing available was the source codes (with minimum documentation) and the executables.

As usual, Mr KIA claimed that the task was very simple and he could have done it himself easily, if he wasn’t so busy. He tried to describe the software features to me, and told me that a large portion of the software was making use of a particular “D” library. I got the source codes, executables and some verbal requirements from Mr KIA, and proceeded back to do the enhancements. However, when I went back and browsed through the source codes, I realized that it wasn’t the correct version which I was required to do enhancement. The source codes that Mr KIA had given to me was in fact one of the earliest version which was very different from the latest one. Then I tried to run the executables and received an error saying unable to find a certain “O” library. I proceeded to download the “O” library from the internet and eventually managed to run the executable successfully. Apparently, the executable was the correct version while the source code was one of the earliest version. Thus, I was quite certain that the correct version of the software was making use of the “O” library and not the “D” library to perform the tasks.

So, I called up Mr KIA and informed him that he had passed the wrong source codes to me. Initially he refused to believe me but I managed to convince him when I told him I could show him the exact source codes that he had passed to me and verified with him on the spot. Then he told me maybe it was because there were too many different versions lying around and the previous engineer had a very messy way of organizing things. In order to help him identify the correct version, I told Mr KIA that the correct version was using the “O” library, not the “D” library that he claimed.

Then when I went over to Mr KIA’s office to collect the correct source code, Mr KIA said something which was out of my expectation. He said that the software was using the “D” library, not the “O” library which I claimed, and that I had given him wrong information to mislead him and wasted his time. Well, I was actually quite sure that the software was using the “O” library, but since I had not seen the actual source codes of the latest version, I couldn’t refute his claim that the software was using “D” library. Since the “O” library and “D” library are performing very similar tasks, normally developers would use either one but not both in the same software. However, I reckoned the previous in-house engineer may had rather weird preferences in developing software (due to the constant bad-mouthing from Mr KIA), so there might still be the possibilities that both libraries were being used. I did not wish to get into any arguments with Mr KIA and so I just kept quiet.

However, when I reached home and looked at the latest source code, I found out that the software was indeed using the “O” library only. There wasn’t a single trace of code that indicates it was using the “D” library, as claimed so by Mr KIA. Apparently, either Mr KIA could not understand the source codes and made a stupid and erroneous claim, or he just couldn’t accept being proven wrong and blatantly lied to me. Either way, I told myself, in future I am not gonna believe anything said by Mr KIA, and hopefully do not have to work with him anymore.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

I’d never thought I could do sales….

If five years ago anyone told me that I would be doing sales, I would probably brush it off as a joke. I had been a software engineer all my life, and the time I spent in front of a PC is much more than that of facing another person. Add to the fact that I am a rather introverted person, the scenario of myself doing sales is a rather unthinkable one.

When I first started my venture in 2005, my job nature did not really change a lot. Most of the interactions with customers falls on my then-partner K’s shoulder. I would only attend occasional meetings when technical details were to be discussed. However, ever since I parted ways with K in 2006, I had to do every single tasks all by myself, and that included doing sales.

I could recall the first few sales demo that I was doing, they were more like FYP presentation than sales pitch. All that I did was to illustrate the functionalities of my product. In my mind, I was thinking of quickly getting over with the sales demo and went back to do my development work. To me, doing sales was like doing homework for a subject that I disliked. As a result, there wasn’t much success in sales.

I remembered there was this incident last year when I was on my way towards a prospective customer’s office. Normally I would travel via MRT or bus to my client’s place to do sales demo. As this client’s office was some distance from the MRT station, I decided to walk from the MRT station to his place. However along the way, it suddenly rained heavily and most of the people on the streets ran to the nearby shopping malls to take shelter. Knowing that I was already running out of time, I decided to take out my umbrella and continued walking towards my customer’s place amidst the heavy rain. As I was walking, I noticed that I was all alone on the whole stretch of street. A sudden feeling of loneliness crept into my heart, and I started to wonder why I was doing all these when I can choose to have a comfortable and regular paycheck working in an aircon room. Why do I choose to face nasty clients when I can just concentrate on my software R&D, working as a software engineer? If my passion is in doing software, why am I doing sales and marketing?

As I was walking, my mind kept churning out new questions. I thought I already had the answers for these questions, but whenever a new storm came about, the ghost of uncertainties will come back haunting me. I realized that the feeling of loneliness will always be there, as I continued my journey in pursuing a dream that isn’t shared by anyone else.

In the end, I reached the customer’s place with my shirt all wet. I do not know whether it was due to the rain or the sweat for walking long distance. I managed to close the deal eventually, and sorted out how I should do my sales more effectively and efficiently in future, instead of running away from doing sales. Looking back, I would always remember those days when I braved through the storms in pursuing my dreams.

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