Category Archives: work

Employment stress

My mom and I had a somewhat stressful discussion about the vagueness
of my employment. To wit: I know that I am going to teach, but I
don’t know under what terms or even how much I’ll earn. (Whoever goes
into teaching for the money is nuts, but it would help to know how
much rent I can afford!)

I guess what stresses me out is the fact that at 10:37 PM in the
evening, I can’t do anything to improve the situation, and all these
questions are making my department seem so bad. The CS department is
really nice (although a bit disorganized), although yes, I’m somewhat
peeved that they can’t really bend the rules for me. <wry grin>
Case in point: after bugging the finance department for a little over
a month, I’ve just recently been told that faculty housing is going to
be nearly impossible for me to get because I already have housing in
Manila. Makes sense. In fact, I felt somewhat guilty about having
stayed in the dorm for so long, taking up a slot that may have let
someone from the provinces study in Ateneo instead. The main thing
that stresses me out, however, is the possibly firm stance my parents
might have on the necessity of on-campus housing.

My mom seems to be softening a bit – she was offering to help me
search for an apartment or a ‘bedspacing’ arrangement. However, this
didn’t prevent her from checking with another school that was looking
for teachers (an IT school – I want to teach computer science, not
information technology!), which of course completely freaked me out.
I spent the next half hour having a nice good cry with my kitten. I
really, really want to teach in Ateneo because I’m more used to the
school culture and I’ll have a better chance of being allowed enough
latitude to experiment and possibly make a difference. I _hope_ my
parents won’t make me choose another school, but if they express
strong disapproval…

Another source of stress is the vagueness of the terms of my
employment – aforementioned lack of information about such basic
things as salary and job expectations. From the way things have been
going around the department, I’d probably do more than your typical
fresh-grad teacher. Me? Typical? But how does one consider these
atypical things, then? I already do the work gratis, but it would
be… somewhat nice to be appreciated, or… at least meet someone
else who is as into these things as I am.

Maybe I should just set my sights on the Most Outstanding Junior
Teacher award. I’ll need a lot of luck and practice to get that.

My mom basically thinks that they’re taking me for granted. I’m
supposed to be the best in the Philippines, but there’s a very, very
fine line between asserting that I deserve more than this… and being
completely annoying and arrogant.

All I really want to do is teach. And learn. And have fun. And help
other people learn and have fun. Not necessarily in that order.

Mental note: Be much more assertive.

How assertive can I get, anyway? <wry grin> I can’t very well
threaten not to teach in Ateneo, because everyone knows I really want
to do so. I guess the better approach would be, “Wouldn’t that be the
professional thing to do?”

Or something like that.


Update: Okay, now that I’ve gotten my employment jitters out of
the way, I can concentrate on preparing for class. =) I really, really
love our school.

Notes from software customization talk

I caught the subway and the bus for the first time on my way to the
IBM Center for Advanced Studies. Mark and I arrived too early for the
lecture, so Pierre Duez showed me around IBM. (I owe him a thank-you
note.) It’s a great building, with beautiful themed spaces (Asian,
English cottage, etc.) and game rooms (billiards, air hockey, table
tennis, computer games, gaming consoles). Neato.

The talks started at 11:00. Both presentations came out of term
projects in the requirements engineering course under U of T professor
Steve Easterbrook.

The first presentation was about cognitive anchoring bias in project
estimation, which is when our estimates are affected by the starting
number. High starting numbers result in high estimates, low numbers
result in low estimates.

The second presentation, though, raised goosebumps.
This-is-what-I-want-to-do goosebumps. Sotirios Liaskos talked about
goal-oriented software customization, using Mozilla Thunderbird as an
example of an option-laden program that’s hard to customize. I was
blown away by graphs of people’s goals and how those goals are
affected by the different options.

I found another name for what I want to do! =) Soft goal analysis.

I want to do that for tasks. I want to analyze the different
strategies people use and _why_ they use them. For example, why people
keep track of contexts, why people use dated or undated tasks… I
want to write something that will profile a person’s task-management
preferences and suggest software support. When people want to modify
their task management strategy, I want to suggest step-by-step ways to
achieve their goals.

So basically, I’m looking at:

  1. software support recommendations for task management strategies
  2. support for changing task strategies
  3. customization of task management software using soft goals (harder)

I need to learn how to do things like cognitive work analysis and soft
goal analysis while I’m here. I need to find other people who are
analyzing similar domains so that I can bounce ideas off them.

Here’s what I should read next. I’ll grab the URLs when I connect back
to the Net.

  • – readings in requirements engineering
  • Triggers and barriers to customizing software
  • User customization of a word processor
  • An evaluation of a multiple interface design solution for bloated software
  • Reasoning with goal models
  • Simple and minimum-cost satisfiability for goal models

People met today:

  • Ryan from the lab
  • Sotirios Liaskos, who gave the talk on software customization
  • Pierre Duez, person who showed me around
  • Leah, working on software customization of Rational software
  • Steve Easterbrook, professor who taught requirements engg and is now doing experimental methods for software engg
  • Jen, research manager for Pierre(?)

People heard about:

  • Eric Yu, in charge of the mailing lists
  • Alexei, who’s looking at goal models for business processes

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Surround yourself with exceptional people

Steve Pavlina advises people to surround themselves with exceptional people. It’s advice found in many self-improvement books as well, and something I firmly believe in. High-energy, successful, happy people around you will inspire you to be like that too.

It started with my family. My dad’s passion for his work taught me
that you could reach greater heights if you’re doing something you’re
passionate about. My mom’s books and stories taught me to appreciate
the business that supports and is built around such passion. My
sisters showed me what it was like to make your own paths and take
those adventures. My godparents showed me how wonderful a supportive
group of friends can be. My high school friends were also supportive
and inspiring, and they dreamed big dreams too.

I fumbled a bit in first year college because I was more focused on
fitting in, but when I went back to my roots and joined the dorm
network team, I found another amazing group of geeks. And I don’t
really know how we all got together, but the friends I made while I
was teaching totally, totally rock as well. We face different
challenges and we may not face all of them successfully, but I really
admire their attitude towards life. They are fundamentally happy.

I seek out groups like the Toastmasters. I want to be a professional
speaker, and being surrounded by people working on their communication
skills is absolutely fantastic. I love talking to people who are
passionate about teaching and research; they give me an idea of what
lies ahead. I am inspired by people who are making a difference or who
are working on doing so, like Lawrence Hughes and Maoi Arroyo in terms
of Philippine IT opportunities. I admire Mario Carreon for his passion
for teaching even as he gets heartbreaking results from students. I am
surrounded by excellent people, and the more I learn from them, the
more people I find.

Surround yourself with exceptional people. It isn’t easy. You can’t
just say “I want to get to know you” and leave it at that. A daily
“Hi” is much less effective than the occasional “I’d like to know more
about …” or “What do you think about …” that takes the person’s
interests into account. But you can do it, and you’ll learn so much by
doing so!

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The Power of the Human Spirit

Irine Yu pointed me to the speech delivered by Intel Excellence in Teaching awardee Dr. Josette Biyo:

When your job becomes your mission, your primary concern is giving your best in everything you do. Knowing that you have contributed
significantly towards the creation of a product which can make a difference in your company and the larger community is reward in itself.

We can make a difference no matter who or what or where we are. If we know _why_, then the _how_ follows. =)

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Squidoo now on public beta

Squidoo opened its doors to the public today. Open beta. Try it out if you’re into Web 2.0 stuff.

I’m personally a little underwhelmed, although I can see how something
like this might be useful for all the niche site probloggers who don’t
have their own server/space or who want to take advantage of extra
visibility through squidoo, although I’m not sure how much better that
would be compared to, say, making a new website that’s indexed by

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