All posts by Donn Lee

My name is Donn, and you’ll find me working at the intersection of business and information technology, constantly looking for ways to apply IT to business and life to make things better. I’m a big fan of data analysis and its subsequent communication. It always gives me a thrill extracting meaning out of data through analysis, and figuring out the best way to present the findings for maximum impact!

On Nerdiness, Programming, and Cooking

The extent of my nerdiness was only realized this after reading the following excerpt from the book “Decisive” by Chip Heath (I find it a really good book, by the way):

In our quest to convince you of the merits of a process, we realize we’ve been facing an uphill battle: It would be hard to find a less inspiring word in the English language than “process.” It’s like trying to get people giddy about an algorithm.

…and vehemently disagreeing with it. Because I’m inspired by process (and systems; and the like), and get giddy playing with algorithms!

Programming and Cooking

I can hardly fathom  a more exciting afternoon than one in which after hours of programming, scripting, and coding that seem to be going nowhere, with the swish of a “compile and run” magic is revealed: the completed program; website; or basic scripting routine, coming together and working like a charm.

For non-programmers who are looking and longing for a similar experience, I say look no further than your kitchen. In cooking, a similar joy can be found. Many times I’ve found myself in the kitchen preparing dishes that look nothing like what they started with.

One of my favourite “how can this be that?!” revelations can be found in one of my favourite Chinese dishes called hor fun

Especially if it’s the first time you’re trying to cook it, almost all the way through to the last couple of steps where you pour in the cornstarch solution and the egg, you’d be questioning if it’s really going to be turn out like you think it should turn out to be (before that, the dish just resembles a really sad attempt at kway teow soup).

I find it a great analog to programming. Where you start off with various ingredients that don’t appear to mix together too well, and where you’re trudging through tough periods based on nothing but faith and the hope that it’s going to work out in the end.

It’s no wonder that many computer and programming books come with titles like “Recipes” and “Cookbook”.

Faces

It’s funny how life feels so different; how life can appear so different.

Depending on whether it’s The Public Face; The Private Face; or The Face that Nobody Sees but Ourselves.

This latter face nobody understands. Even those closest to us, who understand us in ways the outside world never would, never would. Only we would understand.

But even then, that’s not always true.

Creating on the iPad

Creating on the iPad… it’s just not the same as creating on the computer.

When on the iPad, I’m far more a consumer. Typing is laboured, and sharing isn’t as easy. If I see an image on Facebook or Linked In, and I want to share that with my Google+ followers, it’s not straightforward at all.

Consumption, though, is far easier. I read a lot on the iPad (it’s essentially replaced my weekly visits to the library); viewing images are a joy (whoever invented pinch-to-zoom should be knighted); and browsing through music on the Spotify app is quite the adventure.

The funny thing is that all this consumption without sharing irks me. Every time I experience something I like, I want to share that with somebody. Everybody. But because of the difficulty, I park it in my mind. I bookmark it. Tell myself, “I’ll share that later,” knowing full well it probably isn’t going to happen.

A look through my iBooks app shows pages upon pages of highlighted material and notes, all of which during the time of highlighting and noting was something I was just dying to share, but which I haven’t.

That’s why I’m bitching about it here, typing this on my MacBook Pro, with my iPad’s Spotify app providing beautiful background music.

GRAPH

I’m an analyst. I analyse.

Tired and socially exhausted after a very nice company dinner (a common predicament for introverts), I was looking forward to some me-time on the taxi home. But it was not to be — the taxi driver was a little chattier than I’d hoped.

Having seen me catch his taxi amongst a group of foreigners whom presumably were my colleagues (yes, they were), he was curious as to what I did — “what do you work as?” I told him I worked in the education industry, and briefed him a little on what my company did.

I then went into a little bit more of the specifics — what my role entailed (“I’m a sales/business analyst. You know… business, IT, data, analysis…).

But I saw he wasn’t really getting it (“you analyse?…”)

In the end, I went on to the fall-back option of saying, “I work in sales and marketing.” (I’ve faced this issue many times before. See my post “What do you do? I’m an analyst.“)

And he got it. It seems he got it real good.

A most unexpected look of shock followed by abject pity came over his face. “Boss,” he told me, “I used to work in marketing. But look where I am now.”

I noticed we were in a taxi.

“Boss,” he continued (“I’m a boss!” I thought to myself), “before I started driving a taxi, I used to work in marketing. Earning big bucks. Then my company restructured and I got retrenched. I earned too much.”

He paused, as if reminiscing of the good ol’ days rolling in dough, then said, “You know, in marketing, as long as you earn money by only talking, anyone can take over your place and do your job. Let me give you some advice: don’t just stick to marketing. Go out and learn more.”

I realised that no, he didn’t really get what I did (yes, I work in sales and marketing; but no, I don’t do “marketing” per se).

And I couldn’t help but debate in my head if he meant “sales” and not “marketing”.

My head pounded. Was it the wine? Probably not.

I half-opened my mouth wanting to say something. But you know what? He looked so happy (1) reminiscing about his glorious past; and (2) revelling in the present dispensing career advice to a chap who desperately needed it; that I couldn’t bear to break the spell by saying “you got it all wrong, sir.”

So I nodded in silent agreement, and promised to look beyond marketing. A promise made good as soon as it was made.

I’m an analyst. And I’m bloody glad I am.

Teach teachers, and business leaders, how to create magic

A lovely and interesting talk by Christopher Emdin on teaching. Although aimed at the teaching profession, I couldn’t help but see how what he mentioned about teaching teachers to teach was applicable outside the profession. It is a talk about engagement; about keeping audiences entertained; about connecting with audiences.

Those of us who often present in dry and boring business meetings could take a cue from him. “And with that market move, we are 95% confident that sales of widgets would be driven up by at least 10%. Can I hear an amen to that?!”