M.I.A.: Work Culture

First, read this tweet.

When the Wiggle-Room Becomes the Bermuda Triangle 

As social animals, us humans have an inherent sense of how compatible we are with others.  This compatibility does extend beyond the typical domains of romance or familial duties; we have a definite compatibility ratio when it comes to our colleagues at the workplace.

In today’s project-driven offices it is quite common for us to be communicating with coworkers in the next city over or even the next timezone.  Given this reality, despite the numerous advantages of instantaneous connections via the internet (Skype, WhatsApp, Email), colleagues often provide each other some wiggle room when it comes to responding back on tasks that aren’t red-hot, Priority #1.

Working in Pakistan there are times we are dealing with choppy internet, poor bandwidth and plain ol’ power breakdowns; to battle all this, Pakistani professionals make it a priority to build in a cushion of time/space to ensure work gets delivered on-time.  We also invest a hefty sum of money in back-up power and multiple internet service providers;  I would specially give credit to our independent freelancing professionals who maintain this high-level of responsiveness without the buffer of a mega-corp or the mega-corp budget.

Going back to the compatibility aspect, we usually have a good sense of who will not exploit the wiggle room given; until that wiggle room becomes the never-ending Bermuda Triangle. Something inexplicable happens and the perfect syncopation fizzles out into unanswered emails and missed deadlines.

I write this only to trigger a conversation about this phenomenon. What makes us, all of us, lose steam during a project? Is this an indication of poor leadership?  Aside from the obvious communication breakdown, are there expectations from the project associates that aren’t being met?  How to jump-start such failing connections?

Is this a failing of our national work culture?  Can work culture even be generalized to include multiple industries across a beautifully complex and rapidly metamorphosing country like Pakistan?

Note: I am sure I am not the only one who has experienced this phenomenon in the workplace. If you have any stories, please leave a comment or drop a tweet at @catalystwoman

 

Needed:Co-working Spaces in Lahore

My headphones are plugged in to what I imagine a shoreside picnic coupled with thunderclaps and slight rain shower sounds like. If you have ever wondered who is lame enough to actually use a rain sound app, that would be me. It can also be you, too, if you were camped out in a busy cafe in Lahore’s commercial district. 

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I’m attempting to stay focused on the upcoming meeting, while the couple at the table on the left has once again asked me for the wi-fi password.  Such interruptions, while normal if one is in the mood for people-watching or idle posturing in a swanky eatery, are frustrating if one is waiting to meet a client to finalize terms on a contract.

photo-1429681601148-75510b2cef43Office-less, officially, when it comes to our consulting work, my partners and I feel the need for a formal meeting room or conference room at least twice to three times a month. While that seems quite frequent, when we calculated the math, it still doesn’t make sense for us to invest in a permanent office in the near future.  Reasons being that some of us are still working traditional 9-5 jobs while others prefer the convenience of flex-time and telecommuting afforded by the consulting work-life.

What Lahore desperately needs is an affordable Co-working space which is open to all types of professional, techies and non-techies, entrepreneurs, freelancers, cottage-industry workers, bakers and yes, even musicians. 

What should the co-working space consist of? The usual, a conference room, a small kitchenette, desks or cubicles for hire by the hour or the day, reliable wi-fi/internet connection, a tv lounge/reception and a printer/fax machine corner to round off all the mundane necessities of grownup, office-life.

Let’s step beyond the vomit-inducing, Silicon Valley-esque marketing gibberish that immediately gets plastered upon the advent of a functional service idea.  This is not a recommendation for all of you sitting on your butts to open up 5 co-working spaces right across from each other in Bahria Town  and begin hosting ‘entrepreneurship workshops slash mentorship sessions slash fireside chats’  on the regular.  I am not claiming to be your guru for new-fangled business ideas.

What I am recommending is a more holistic, survey-based approach to solving challenges  your peers and neighbors are dealing with in your immediate vicinity. If you solve that challenge successfully, and lucratively, good on you!  If you fail to solve that challenge the first time around, no problem; you’ll have earned goodwill in the community. Rest your bruised ego, keep your eyes and ears open, and rise up tomorrow with the intent to put your education and initiative to good use.

Note: I have heard inklings of a co-w0rking space popping up in my hometown, but I’m curious if there are any others on the horizon. If you know of any, leave a comment or drop a tweet at @catalystwoman

 

 

Stranded in Career Hell?

Slowly but surely, your career search is starting to resemble the Sahara Desert *- miles upon miles of punishing expanse with no guarantee of relief. Interview calls that never arrive – CVs and resumes that illicit no response – the future looks bleak and lifeless.

The thirst is unbearable, the need to live, truly live and regain control, even for the simple things, paying the bills on time or buying your sweetheart their favorite book, has reached it’s pinnacle.  You reach for a glass of water only to find it empty – the last drop long evaporated in this never-ending summer.

CW Post sad kitty

Any hope of a viable career opportunity has long abandoned you. Panting, dusty, and covered with the stench of failure, you drop to your knees in the burning sand and squint upwards into the Sun.

Should you wave the white flag?  Settle for the ‘job-you-can -get’ versus the ‘career-of-your-dreams’?

Continue reading “Stranded in Career Hell?”

Work It, Girl: How Tech Has Changed the WorkDay

My browser is overflowing tabs with various articles covering the transformation of ‘Work’ in contemporary times. CatalystWoman I simply can not get enough of this discussion, and despite the different sources, these writings make up a vital dialogue about the future of ‘Work’.  All our academic lives are spent in preparation for our entrance into the workforce; if there is a revolution going on regarding the employment sector, it’s high-time that education gets a thorough appraisal.

Couple of questions:

How relevant is today’s college education?

Are universities teaching employable skills?  Or are they just pacing mechanisms so the job force can be refreshed in a cyclical fashion?

How can online-learning, Massive Open Online Courses and other cheap, digitally-empowered learning tools enable a young person to earn a living without a traditional degree?

Has technology completely rewritten the constructs of gainful employment?

Does telecommuting break the industrial-era confines of the 9-5 workday?

Can video-conferencing and real-time messaging FINALLY rid us of the excessive time-wasting corporate habit of Meetings?

Have the Millennials turned the corner on the traditional office with their adoption of freelancing? Or, is it more accurate to say that the Millennials are adapting to the weak global job market and growing consumerism by ‘going organic’, simplifying their lifestyles and hawking all skills available to make ends meet?

In attempt to find these answers or risk confusing you further, I share snippets from across the web:

Freelancing, contrary to popular belief, is not just restricted to stay-at-home parents and aspiring novelists; it is increasingly a deliberate part of many people’s work routine. Freelancing and it’s twin, Telecommuting, provide workers greater flexibility and varied projects without the limitation of geography.

With 83% of millennials claiming that freelancing is a cornerstone of their career strategy and the dramatic increase in funding of crowdsourcing-centric companies, could we be facing a 21st-century industrial revolution? A workforce shift this substantial has not been seen in 100 years and an Intuit report predicts 60 million people will be contingent workers by 2020. It’s clear that the future of work is changing.

Millennials are less concerned about job security or full-time employment, and more concerned about flexibility, adaptability and variety. They are leaving the full-time workforce to piece together a career path on their own.

Gigwalk

When we combine that sentiment with the constant push in America for entrepreneurship, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that millennials are more free-thinking and independent than previous generations. The idea of climbing up a corporate ladder seems so alien since so many storied companies have ceased to exist in our lifetimes and the process seems so divergent from actually improving humanity.

It also helps that technology has brought down the costs of building our own companies and service organizations. Today, anyone – not just millennials – has this alternative option of simply ignoring everyone and going their own way. The stasis of the world has been replaced with technology-based flexibility powered by the cloud and mobile devices.

Empowerment has a price though. If ever there was a debate to be had in this country, it is that the great projects of our time still do take significant teams to build. Everyone can’t be a founder. While we have a cooperative and community-oriented spirit, that doesn’t necessarily translate into wanting to join someone else’s startup or nonprofit. Indeed, we probably want to start our own.

The Millennial Delusion

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Shortening the work-week leads to more productive, engaged employees  and a dramatic drop in absenteeism- Now is anyone really surprised about that?

“Better work gets done in four days than in five,” he [CEO Basecamp] writes. “When there’s less time to work, you waste less time. When you have a compressed workweek, you tend to focus on what’s important. Constraining time encourages quality time.”

Is the Four Day Work Week Right For Your Company?

The questions keep on coming – as do the observations as we keep pace with the rapid changes in tech and the workplace.  As digital natives, will we be able to retain our hold on technology as a tool for completing tasks?   Now that is a question for next time.

“Stop Working Now!”

How I wish someone would have softly whispered that in my ear while I had trudged into the bleak, smoke-filled office as a young intern.  I kept thinking in my early professional life that work was meant to be unrewarding and I must persevere since I am ‘paying my dues’. While there are many ‘passion’ gurus who tempt the cubicle-weary to quit this very instant, there are few that sound authentic and present proof of their own success.

Interior Monologue: I gotta ton of passion but it ain’t gonna pay my rent!

If you have ever felt the same way, might I suggest checking out my friend Momekh’s philosophy of The Pro-Hobbyist. I recently asked Momekh to visit Information Technology University-Punjab (ITU) to share his unique take on the eternal debate of career vs. vocation. He led us through various real-life scenarios where regular folk, like you and I, could smartly convert a hobby such as baking specialty cakes or running a small farm into a source of  (sustainable) income. I am looking forward to the detailed workshop to find out more about Momekh’s take on the going solo-proneur.