Tuesday, 13 December 2016

The Story of Art Nouveau

Interesting article I came across. The Story of Art Nouveau. The article traces Art Nouveau back to its founding in the late 1800s and explores many of the greatest works and artists from the movement. 

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Hotel Mougins

Hotel Mougins - This picture reminds me of a hot summer's day in the south of France - a truly Provençal southern villa!!!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Education Reform

This documentation is an exact and perfect representation and portrayal, in my opinion, concerning the world, economy, society, and education today. Be sure to check back soon, and subscribe to my blog for my upcoming article on education reform.

Monday, 11 October 2010

The Job & The Career

1.0 Situation
Economic-Crisis-92911 Allegedly, there is and has been [spanning the last 2 years] a 'so-called' economic crisis. I, fortunate as I am and as ironic as can be, was obliged [by society], precisely at the prime period of the crisis' existence, to seek employment [or as they say: job "hunt", since it is a brutal, grotesque process much to the likeness of hunting animals and killing fellow hunters with blunt objects for survival, and then having the animals eat you alive in the end].
My hunt, was long and arduous, 800 [yes, that is eight hundred] applications sent and ultimately denied/rejected [600 in Europe, 100 in Canada, 100 in Trinidad], and only a fraction of which would be listed in this post. I designed and conjured and manipulated an elaborate life plan [well not so elaborate, but solid enough for a guy who does not like to plan his life and would rather go with the flow of things]. I tried, and incorporated all avenues; I dropped job standards and killed dreams; I applied for high-level and low-level positions, public and private, big and small companies, and graduate programmes and full-time jobs.
In addition, I tried to accept [with a pinch of salt] all the advice given to me by online job blogs, job newsletters, family members, friends, fellow job hunters, and drunken men in bars. But alas, the system of things and the modern world has raped us all. The markets are saturated, the jobs are boring and overwhelming, and we are overworked and underpaid; we the hunters have become the hunted. We live a drone life dictated by a system that man created.
All rants aside however, my applications were not all in vain, since I did manage to gain several interviews, a positive indication that my profile and CV was not complete shit, and that the reason actually for the everlasting [gobstopper] rejections [in Europe] was indeed something external, namely:
  1. The [dreaded] Crisis.
  2. My Lack of Work Permit [sponsorship] & Employment law restrictions/deterrents.
  3. The Language Barrier [requirement for French native speaker].
Additionally, there were three levels of rejection:
  1. CV based / Online-Application based.
  2. Phone Screen Interview based.
  3. In-Person Interview based.
In this case, in Europe/France, companies rather hire local experts and not foreign graduates in order to save on training costs as well as to avoid the hassle of sponsoring work permits for candidates. I have had telephone screening interviews with the following companies, all of whom simply stopped the process of interviewing after the first phone screening interview ['Level 2' rejection], in spite of the fact that I was fully capable and qualified to perform the job, after learning that I needed sponsorship, and that I was not a native French speaker.
  1. Google Technical Job [rejected based on work permit status] [English interview].
  2. Accenture Paris [never returned] [French interview].
  3. Amadeus Sophia Antipolis, Nice [informal meeting resulted in nothing] [English interview].
  4. Three [3] other French IT consulting companies in the south of France who I cannot remember mostly because they never got back to me [quite unprofessional in my opinion] [French interviews].
I have had an in-person interview [in French] in the beautiful southern city of Bandol in France. The company was a consulting firm with headquarters in Grasse [the world's capital of perfume]. Dream-job? Maybe, but the woman never got back to me [again, unprofessional] [Level 3 Rejection], my guess: again because I had no work permit and I was not a French native. But the trip to the tourist haven of Bandol was worth it: the beaches were warm and sweet, French coffee at a roadside cafe with my girlfriend was warm and aromatic, and of course, the wine from there was simply splendid.
On my return to Trinidad I had several interviews as well [with the following companies], but for positions that were not exactly congruent with what I learned in my Master Programme [it was simply more technically-oriented, something I did not prefer but was willing to settle for].
Now this 'Level 3' rejection was not based on me 'failing' the interview, nor was it due to any of the three reasons listed above. Rather, it was based on the fact that the companies most probably found that the position was not a good match for my profile, I was overqualified, or they simply could not afford to pay a person with a Master degree. But I did not lose hope, for it is in times like these, when one is in his most desperate state, that one sees the light, and one develops the strength to move forward. To be even more cliche, as they say: "when it rains it pours".
2.0 Google
Google Arbitrarily, one day while wandering in the thick forest of the internet, I stumbled across a golden gem of a Job at Google. The APM: Associate Product Manager, according to Google's Job website is as follows:

The Associate Product Manager Program is an elite two-year rotational program, consisting of two one-year rotations, designed for top recent computer science graduates who are interested in exploring product development and leadership opportunities. This select group is given broad responsibilities, generous access to resources, visibility into Google's executive team and many opportunities to grow within the organization. The program combines on-the- job experience with additional training, mentorship, and support from current associates and the rest of the product team.

Perfect! It absolutely and accurately matched my IMMIT Profile: a good mix of strong technical foundation and holistic business approach for nurturing products at one of the most innovative companies in the world. Apart from the obvious benefits of working in Zurich, Switzerland at Google, the most desired place to work on the planet, I would have the opportunity to really make a significant change in the world. They were very encouraging toward young international graduates offering training, travelling, and socializing; however there is a price to pay, working in a cool office like that does not come freely.
The interview process is like nothing you have ever experienced before, it is not the typical, boring HR interview with questions such as "what are your strengths and weaknesses?" or "what did you do in your last job?" These are answers they can find by simply reading your CV; they want to really find out how you think, your analytical and logical processes, even if you are not going in there to program, you need to know how programmers think and how businessmen think and how to marry this data to create useful information to develop a product.
Google's Interview Process: [Steps of APM Interview]
Astonishingly, to my deep surprise, I was contacted for an interview with Google - the second time my CV has been selected for distinct positions - another confirmation that my CV is not the problem. Naturally, I was excited and motivated. However, the interview process for Google is an excruciating 3-4 phone interviews the last of which may be with Marissa Mayer, dubbed by Fortune magazine as one of the 50 most powerful women in the world and the youngest woman ever to make the list. Then, you may have up to six [6] in-person interviews. Anyway, some of the questions are listed below, to give those willing to apply a little heads up. Of course you cannot memorize an answer since they change the questions slightly each time; they only want to see the logical and realistic process in which you arrive to an answer, and not necessarily the answer itself. You may believe you could simply Google the answer but when you have 2-5 minutes to calculate the entire byte-space required to store all of Google earth satellite imagery; it becomes a bit more difficult. Feel free to post your answers to the questions in the comments section of this post.
  1. How would you calculate the total operating costs/expenditure of the website Flickr? Give me a dollar value.
  2. How much storage space would you need if you were to download all the satellite imagery of Google Earth? Give me a number [MB/GB/TB].
  3. Estimate the number of Golf balls which could fit in a minivan? Give me a number.
  4. Estimate the number of gas stations in your country? Give me a number.
  5. Estimate the number of small businesses in US?
  6. Technical:
    1. How would you describe a Recursive algorithm? Describe it to my grandmother.
    2. How would you design a program to build all 4 Tetris type blocks? Give algorithm. What if there were 8 types of blocks?
  7. Innovation [these were easy]:
    1. Choose a website/web-service/application that you like; what you like about it; what you do not like about it; how would you improve it; why.
    2. How would you design a mobile phone/application used for literacy of fishermen in India?
:| It would have been intense fun and accomplishment to work for Google, but unfortunately I did not make it though all the way. I underwent 3 phone interviews with questions of a similar nature to those above, but finally I believe the reason for which I was not accepted was that the job required very strong programming background and that was something which I had not done in a couple of years since university. I was also interested mostly in the business aspect of the development of the product and not so much the extreme technical element of the APM program.
3.0 The Art of Food
logo-subwaySo, a bit disappointed, I trekked on, applying, reluctantly in Trinidad  and willingly in Canada. Arbitrarily once more, one day while wandering in the thick forest of the internet, I stumbled across another golden gem of a Job at Subway on Caribbean Jobs. No, not a Sandwich Artist, but a Subway Business [Field] Consultant [click for job description]. This one was portrayed to be somewhat of another dream job with requests such as a willingness to travel 1-3 weeks per month as foreign development and international commitments dictate, and knowledge of French.
I was shocked that a company in Trinidad was asking for French knowledge and willingness to travel; it was almost as if everything in my life up to this moment was carved and moulded to fit this exact point, so I took it as a sign, and although the job had little to do with I.T., I applied, was interviewed [in a two step process: one with HR and one with the directing manager/development agent for the region], and I was offered a position.
They chose me amongst 70 applicants mainly because they wanted someone who spoke French :|. The decision to accept was a bit difficult for me since it would mean drastically changing my actual career path from I.T. and delving more into the business and core-logistics realm. Though, this business aspect of the job means that I would finally have the opportunity to really apply the knowledge I gained via IMMIT & IMMIT Courses: Logistics & Information Systems, Marketing, Strategy, Business Analysis, and Business Intelligence. Additionally, the job is not completely irrelevant to my 'career path', it's simply 'different', and I like 'different', since when something appears completely new and unfamiliar, it often encourages greater motivation and faster learning. It is my chance to learn and do something different.
I considered also the nature of the company: Subway is actually an extremely international organisation, very successful, standardised and structured and has that sweet hint of 'American culture' embedded in it - The customer service concept - [something which makes me reminisce about back when I was in New York, as both Europe and the Caribbean tend to lack it]. And why not? Why not Subway? There is nothing degrading [as often is the perception if you tell someone you work for Subway] about working for one of the fastest growing franchises in the world with approximately 33,586 restaurants in 92 countries/territories; the largest single-brand restaurant chain globally and the second largest restaurant operator globally. Additionally, the food [Quick Service Restaurant] industry is not exactly affected by the crisis; people always need food, and are striving for healthier alternatives; and Trinidad has the largest consumption of Subway per number of store locations per week in the world.
Optimistically, 'Field' Consultant would mean getting out of the office and interacting with people and places [something I prefer], rather than being imprisoned in a cubicle for endless hours. UniSub The job would involve monthly all-expenses-paid travel within the region & the Caribbean [places I have never been to, ironically] to conduct international evaluations and consulting: Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Grenada, Barbados, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, Martinique, Dominica, Antigua, Tobago, and maybe Guadeloupe; of course with company sponsored Blackberry, Laptop, and Vehicle. The cherry on top would be training at the University of Subway, how cool is that, they have their own university :). Finally, the environment there, thus far, is fun, young and dynamic.
Dream job? I think so! I am contented, and I accepted, mostly because one does not tend to see these types of benefits and atmospheres in Europe unless you are born into richness or are an old overworked expert. I just hope that I am making the correct decision to leave the blood-sucking, manual-labour, saturated, corporate world of I.T. In any case, in my opinion and in that of Mr. Nicholas Carr, IT Doesn't Matter...
My advice to Job Seekers, never give up your dreams, continue searching, adopt a temporary solution [job], and continue persevering toward your goals after you define them clearly and release them into the universe.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The Rut

I turned 25 today; twenty-five years of age; a quarter of a century. Some would say that this is a landmark in one’s life; a turning point; a mile stone. The only thing that this would seem to mark in my life at this moment is “a rut”.
A rut for those of you who do not know is a state of sexual excitement of male mammals. I wish it were this, but I refer to the other meaning of it: a settled and monotonous routine that is hard to escape; a narrow or predictable way of life or set of attitudes; dreary or undeviating routine. Another way put, I have become, as my cousin dubbed me, ‘the intellectual bum’; or said in a less conceited way [since I do not consider myself that much ‘intelligent’ compared to persons of superior intelligence]: ‘a bum with a masters’.
I left Europe in May of this year [after spending some time with my girlfriend], the ‘Euro Trip’ had ended or at least been adjourned [if one insists on me thinking positively], and I returned ‘home’ to Trinidad. Some may deem this to be a dream, to retire to the Caribbean after long hard studies, live on the beach, etc. However, the consequence and sentiment of that departure could only be described by any one of the following scenarios: 
  1. The Gambler: An excessive persistent gambler who had bet all his possessions [in this case my life], on one team [in this case Europe], and then had to watch all of that taken away, let me rephrase, ‘raped away’ from him as he loses the game [in this case not being able to find a job due to the crisis].

  2. The Roller-coaster Patron: An avid patron of roller-coasters who is compelled to experience bigger, faster, more trilling roller-coasters to maintain and preserve and enhance the trill, yet in the end the only roller-coaster he is offered is a merry-go-round in a fast food restaurant playground.

  3. The Junkie: A hard drug user who needs more and more in order to have a superior ‘high’, but in the end there are no more drugs, and he experiences the anti-climax, the depressive come-down to reality. [Ok, I have no experience with hard drugs but I have read about this].

There is a plethora of literature [BD1; BD2] existing to deal with ‘Birthday Depression’, apparently it is a common affliction [see youth & aging]. People in Trinidad do not really consider depression as a disease and you often receive various reactions [mostly abusive comments advising you to get back to reality and that there are people worse off] if you tell someone or even mention an inclination of it to them [see how to cope with depression]. Everyone has it [birthday depression], so I will stop complaining and throwing my tantrums now, since I know that many of you do not really give a flying-fragment about what I am writing about here. [But if you do not care about my personal life, then why are you reading my personal blog?] ... Hmm.
So there are several ways, I intend to deal with this ‘rut’, and this post would be somewhat of a personal rough draft of a life path planning effort; to some extent a new year’s resolution list except the list is composed of options not check boxes. It serves also an update to what I have been doing since I left Europe; as well as motivation/de-motivation and guidance for any one in a similar situation.
A lot of people [aka family], strongly believe that ‘staying home and job hunting’ means doing nothing, sprawling out like a promiscuous woman in front of the TV eating chips and doing nothing. This is a misconception! The job hunt is a full time job; and cannot be compromised by life-wasting dead-end temporary jobs at Mc Donald’s or in my case IT helpdesk support. One needs to dedicate full time to re-aligning goals, and getting back on or modifying the train track of your life’s path.
To get out of a rut the first thing you need to do is occupy your time with general none-routine goal-specific tasks, some of these include:
  1. Networking [ok this does not work due to the global infestation and proliferation of the concept; but it is worth a try to get back out there].
  2. Volunteering [really, this just wastes your time and effort without pay; but keeps your skills intact and helps with number 1]. 
  3. Socialization [this should help with number  1 and keep your moral up; but should not be done in excess, since it would also eventually become mundane and lose its appeal; or even begin to bring your moral down as you realise that everyone else in the club is younger and more care-free than you are]. 
  4. Exercise [this does not have a point but does help reduce the beer-belly you acquired from number 3; as well as keep your circulation flowing, increase confidence and blood flow to your brain so you do not become a depressive vegetable].
  5. Hobbies [this is gay, but it could help with number 1, 3, and 4]. 
  6. Projects [at this point your life is already becoming overwhelming with things to do, although people still believe you are doing nothing with your life, even though you are doing these things to keep your moral up so you do not die of depression]. In any case this could be a nice time in your life to start and complete certain projects you never had time for [building a dog house, setting up a website, writing a book, etc.].
Auxiliary to the above, the following specific semi-routine goal-specific tasks are compulsory and would include [see various jobs I could get]:
  1. The Job-Hunt: The job market in this era is utterly disastrous and the search is futile [we are being called the lost generation]. Yet still people [aka family & friends], either ‘falsely encourage’ you by saying “do not worry you will find something eventually”; or ‘further degrade’ you by saying “how is it that you did not find a job yet? Did you try the Gerpehner employment agency? Did you apply to this company that has nothing to do with your career path at all?”. In either case, I trek on, with the following main goals in mind [specific to my case]:

    1. Job in Trinidad: The Caribbean and more so Trinidad is rapidly developing in IT and technology, after all we have to maintain a certain service level in order to support the American tourists who keep us in their back pocket as a vacation destination. I have seen technology here that is not yet available in France and several other developed-countries [like 4G wireless internet]. Yet, the only jobs available here are IT support jobs, the technical ones where you get your hands dirty, IT helpdesk, networking, systems administration, or heavy technically oriented jobs [programming, advanced network configurations]. The content that I was privileged to in my Masters course, mind-stunning and revolutionary as it is, is not relevant, used or even applicable here. The IT manager job involves mostly ensuring that IT is supported and available for the company; the IT consultant job mostly involves network consultancy and [physical] system implementations or programming/development. As opposed to conceptual design and strategic planning; the abstract level of IT which I was prepared for is non-existent here; here, one has to get specific and specialized. They claim that we graduates are not specialized enough to have a technical job, yet not experienced enough to have a senior management job. The point is that people often tend to misconceive what IT is and what Management is. When one hears IT, they think “oh my god, technical, can you fix my computer?”, yet IT has much more to it that just that. When one hears Management, they think “oh my god, manager, how many people have you managed in the past?”, yet management can be much more to it than just managing people, it can be the management of projects, information, systems, innovation, the list goes on. I am in a predicament here, should I take a less than standard IT job that would push me drastically off my career path just to acquire money and networking opportunities for other jobs? Or should I continue searching for my dream job [retaining my ambition] in the endlessly fruitless global job environment? Finally, do not get me wrong, I love Trinidad and what it is, my culture, the people, the customs, the natural wonders in this country, but being on an island and a developing country on top of that can sometimes become quite boring and mundane and irritating, especially after experiencing and being exposed to what is really out there in the greater world. In addition, one can rarely contribute something revolutionary and globally in life from a country which no one in the developed world cares about. So a major part of my efforts go into getting back out there.

    2. Job in Europe: Ever since the crisis [which I think is totally over-rated], companies in Europe have pulled back on hiring, started firing people, and only hire the young graduates to pay them little and rape [abuse and exploit] them for 3-6 month periods, then fire them in order to hire another young graduate and start the process again.  This is done mainly so that they do not incur any risks [if they hire someone on a long term contract there are more risks involved to fire them in the case that downsizing is required in the future, as opposed to having many short term contracts for 3 to 6 month periods]. In addition, the world has become a saturated shark-pool of competition [everyone in Europe goes to school until the master’s level, it is the standard], where everyone wants to be the leader, the shining star and at the top of the corporate ladder [see A position of power]. One cannot be a leader without having followers, but in this scenario, even dropping expectations and aiming to become a follower is competitive, degrading, and fruitless.

    3. Job in Canada: Immigration was once an option for people, when the world was open, but it is a vicious cycle, the more open a country is, the more people go to it, and the more they have to crack down and close their immigration practices in order to control the population [for reasons of lack of existing jobs and accommodation to support the increasing demand]. Canada recently stopped the simplified and accelerated process for immigration of skilled workers in the IT sector since, the once exorbitant, demand has been satiated. The USA [the new world], once open to immigrants from all over the globe, now has one of the toughest immigration processes globally. In any case, Canada is a nice Finland-like option for me, I have experienced and adapted to the climate before, I speak a little French and all English, they are still a bit open to immigration, and there is easy access by flights to and from Trinidad [and even Europe]. I have sent my full application for immigration to Quebec to the Quebec Relations Processing Centre in Mexico about 2 months ago, no reply. How utterly depressing. :| 

  2. The Entrepreneur: The market is saturated. So one option may be to get out of all that competition and into a whole different category of competition: become an entrepreneur. I feel that I have so much potential inside me; I just need the right environment to nurture it and explode into revolutionary brilliance [ok, that sentence was excessive]. This however requires extensive planning, work, and capital [money!], not to mention a revolutionary idea that no one on this planet has ever thought about [highly unlikely, but an idea that could be localized to, say, one country where this idea has not been implemented]. If this idea just happens to have completely nothing to do with my career path [for instance, a bar, a restaurant, or an import-export business], I would definitely be discouraged by people [aka family] from following through with it. Conundrum.

  3. The Writer: In the Caribbean and Trinidad, any non-traditional or non-standard form of occupation such as an artist, performer, poet, or writer, is laughed upon, not taken seriously, and delivers no substantial tangible returns [money!], unless you work exceptionally hard while ignoring the social degradation and mockery around you. In any case, I could become a writer, since this is my passion; I enjoy writing and expressing my inner conscious and sub-conscious thoughts on life, the world, culture, and other subjects. I have several ideas for journalistic [non-academic] books or articles which I could write, however this requires time, composition [of mind and thoughts], demand for such thoughts, support, publishers, and money to publish, all of which I DO NOT have, except ‘time’. As you may have noticed also, from my writing style in this exceptionally long blog-post, that I have become quite the pessimist and perhaps even a bit bitter/vindictive. [This may have led me to treat some of my friends in less friend-standard ways; but that’s drifting on to another whole topic]. I was never really a pessimist, but due to the progression of the past few months [ever since my European programme ended actually], and the constant rejection from potential employers, and the departure from Europe, and the being in a distance relationship, and the subscription to the exceptionally monotonous, depressing accounts of “tales of mere existence” by my now favourite publisher Levni Yilmaz, I have become somewhat pessimistic. Of course, as with any entrepreneurial or revolutionary project, I should avoid procrastination and, in the words of my project management lecturer, “JFID”: Just F***ing Do It”.

  4. The System-Rapist: This is a person who rapes the system and finds ways around the conformist systematic world of things. I have done this to a certain extent, since both my undergraduate and graduate studies have been completed having being paid for fully by scholarship, I have seen Europe at a young age and at zero personal expenditure [something people spend their entire lives saving for], etc. There exists several opportunities out there to enable the continuation of this trend; however they are hidden and quite difficult to find. This is natural, since if they were easy to find, then everyone would be on this bandwagon. The other ways to get out there and delve into the world include:

    1. Graduate management trainee programmes [this is the most practical means of getting there without having to have extensive experience, companies train you to be a manager during 1-2 years while paying you as well, you are in a challenging and exciting new environment where your ideas are valued, with a network of other trainees with whom to socialize. It is however extremely competitive and is offered almost-only in Anglo-Saxon countries].

    2. Study programmes [fully paid study programmes, e.g. PhD, which offers the residence status, further education as well as money; though this is not really that practical at this stage in my life].

    3. Travel opportunities [we often hear about these ‘dream jobs’ to aid at a beach resort; or go scuba diving to accumulate biodiversity data in reefs off the coasts of Asia or Australia; or do volunteer work in Indonesia, or Cambodia. Interesting yes, but a bit expensive if you cannot seem to find the right exchange program to pay for you. Even if you do find that one, again, the competition is stiff, and they ask for specific experience in the particular field].

Of course in life, in this life, I believe that all that matters is the people around you and how you interact with them. The people you love and those who love you; your friends, your family, your girlfriend(s)/boyfriend(s), no matter what undesirable situation you are in, it should work out, or so they tell me. So, those are my options, these are my updates, such is my life.