Category Archives: About Me

Getting Caught Up in Our Own Worlds

It’s easy to get caught up in our own world and the challenges we face which could lead to thinking we are the only ones who are going through difficult times. Sometimes, we might think we’re the only ones who are working after hours and the only ones who must face so much work for the inadequate resources we have. This could lead to thinking we are unfairly being asked to take on the burdens of our organization on our own. This kind of thinking happens when we don’t take the time to connect with other folks in other parts of our organization. In IT, we are often asked to work after hours and weekends because that’s the only time when we are given the opportunity to do some maintenance work  and not disrupt the work of our customers during business hours. I personally don’t do much technical work anymore given my management role but for years, I worked after hours and weekends to complete parts of my job. There were times when I got frustrated but there was one thing I did that gave me perspective about my situation. It’s a practice I still do today – talk to other folks in other units in my organization about the challenges they are going through.

Admittedly, there have been times in the past when I have over-valued the importance of my role in IT when it comes to providing services to the students and to the campus community. As an IT organization, we’ve been able to create significant systems that have been able to improve the efficiency/effectiveness in how the staff do their work. We’ve also created systems that helped students learn and assist them in their lives outside the classrooms. As the dependency for technology grew the last few years, so did the demands on IT. At the same time, the resources to meet the demands have not been able to keep up. This is the daily challenge I face now as the director of my IT organization. It’s daunting, indeed.

However daunting my challenges are, it’s when I speak with other colleagues in our student affairs organization that I gain perspective on how my challenges compare with others. As I am reminded, we are all facing a not-so-unique challenge of too much work, having to deal with much more complicated situations but with not enough resources. But, on the other hand, I am also reminded that I don’t have to deal with the aftermath of tragedies, not at the personal level at least. When I speak with my colleagues, I am reminded that they are the ones that must make the calls to parents to inform them their child just committed suicide, or they must be the ones the campus community must look up to as the strong ones to lead them through a crisis when they themselves are suffering at the same time. It is during these conversations when I am reminded that as challenging as my job is, I cannot even imagine the impact of my colleagues’ jobs must be on them. I am dealing with computers, they are at times must deal with human tragedies.

 

 

 

How I Lost 20 Pounds in 3 Months

For the last three months, I committed myself to losing weight towards better fitness and as a challenge. In the past, I had gone through two separate personal challenges when I ate at least 1 salad for a meal/day for 100 as well as 40 consecutive days. I had set out to lose 20 pounds by the July 31st when I started on April 28th. I did meet that goal one day later than I had planned, but nevertheless, I consider it a successful attempt. This post is about some lessons I’ve learned the last three months that contributed to meeting my goal of losing weight. Overall, I needed to have the motivation and attitude to want to lose weight. I also needed some support, strategies, and tools to lose weight. Wanting to lose weight without the tools and strategies to go through the process and vice versa would not have worked.  What I will share below seem to be common sense and they are. The key is to actually committing through the process. Here are some lessons learned:

Find motivations/inspirations that will drive you to start and maintain your effort. Why are you trying to lose weight in the first place? For me, it’s because I hated hearing my doctor tell me I have to lose weight every time I went for a visit. He warned me about potential health issues if I maintain or increase my weight. I also got tired of not being able to find clothes that fit me. I just didn’t like the way I see when I looked in the mirror.I remember Anthony Robbins, the author, write something like “people will only change  because their situation is so painful they want to change or the perceived benefit of the change is so great they want to change.” In my case, I found my situation “painful” enough for me to change.

Find supporters. My wife’s support was key in my weight loss. She and I love to eat and try new food. She can also cook some amazing dishes I request. These dishes are not always healthy but nevertheless, she accommodated my requests. We both committed to changing our eating habits which involved some extra work and opting not to eat what we had enjoyed. For one, she prepared fruits and vegetables which I brought to work for snacks. She also prepared breakfast (scrambled egg white with spinach) I ate before leaving home. This was in place of donuts and pastries I bought at work. While we both enjoyed eating rice and desserts, we chose to minimize the portions we ate or just stopped eating them altogether. During the last three months, we rarely ate rice and even if we did, it was measured so that it was no more than 1 cup per meal.

Develop strategy. Maintaining a sustained effort, which includes daily routines, in the last three months was key. As mentioned above, I was mindful of what I chose to eat and it required some preparations. When my wife and I wanted to eat at restaurants, we looked at their menu online first to plan what to order. Also noted above is the preparation of healthier food to snack on throughout the day. I also found opportunities throughout my work day (and weekends) to have some physical activities. For example, instead of sitting at my desk during my lunch break, I would walk around the campus and go to the beach. Instead of driving to meetings across campus, I opted to walk instead. I also went to the golf course, either just by hitting some balls at the range or playing a couple rounds of golf with some friends. In short, I ate more of the right food at lesser portions and committed to more physical activities.

Use tools to support your effort. I also used Weight Watchers system and its mobile app.  Weight Watchers assigns a number of daily points to use and different foods have corresponding values based on their nutritional values. For example, fruits and vegetables are worth 0 points while meat, pastries, and processed food are worth more. To me, Weight Watchers is more than being aware of what I ate but rather, it was a behavior modification system. By keeping track of what I ate and also guiding me towards food that are healthier (and smaller portions), this changed how I viewed food in general. Another app similar to Weight Watchers is LoseIt! This app doesn’t assign points but it does count calories for the food you eat as well as calories lost from activities.I also use my iWatch and MapMyWalk mobile apps to monitor my daily activities.

Don’t expect results overnight. I didn’t see much result the first week or so and I almost gave up. I didn’t lose any weight that first week and I became discouraged but my wife kept on encouraging me to not give up. After the second week, I lost a couple of pounds and that gave me some hope and motivation to continue.

Have fun doing it/Don’t suffer (too much). To be able to sustain an effort that is not easy to do for an extended period of time without having fun along the way probably doesn’t work. In my case, I made a game out of the process. If I knew I had a planned big dinner, I planned what I could eat during the day so I don’t go hungry and still save my points for dinner. I do have to mention one significant change I made is that I began to snack between meals. When I felt hungry, I ate fruits, vegetables, or cinnamon rice cakes. I’m not sure if this change resulted in how my metabolism works.I also kept track of my activities, such as number of steps for the day, and I tried to meet the goals I had set for the day. As mentioned above, I also started playing golf more or just walking around the campus more often as I knew these activities contributed to my weight loss. A side benefit to these activities was that I felt mentally better. I used the time to relax and think about ideas and dream about the ideal future for my wife and me.

My motivations and the methods I used worked for me though it may not work for you reading this post. So, find what works for you using the general advice I shared.

 

 

 

Feedback: The Motivation Behind Them Matters

There are a couple of mentors I have come to trust in my career. That I trust them is based on the many interactions when they’ve shown me that when they provide me feedback, they come from a right place.  What I mean by “a right place” is that the feedback are genuine and they are to help me become a better professional and as a person. My mentors are honest with me and they can offer their observations about myself I may not want to hear, but nevertheless I readily accept them.  What I’ve come to realize is that the intent (perceived or real) behind the feedback from others do matter in terms of how well they are accepted. If one is to be effective in providing feedback to others, we must earn the trust of those we are seeking to provide feedback to.

While feedback about my performance/behaviors sometimes do hurt, I still seek them as I think in my role as a leader, it’s important for me to understand how I am perceived by those I lead and I serve. Just recently, as a part of a departmental survey about my department’s organizational health, I included a couple of questions about my areas of strengths and improvements. I presented the result at our department meeting and I thanked my staff for providing me helpful recommendations on how I can be better.

I’ve received feedback in the past when I’ve had to question the motivations behind them. There have been times when I find out the “friendly criticisms” were based on professional jealousy and less than noble intentions on those providing them. It’s unfortunate that I became skeptical about the feedback I receive from these individuals who broke my trust. I’m still open to them and I do consider them, but not to the extent I do with my trusted mentors.

Trust is a key component that must be considered as part of an effective professional relationship. The effectiveness of the messages we provide to others and the actions we take not only depend on the manner we express them, but also on how others perceive our level of trustworthiness.

 

 

 

 

Complexity of Identity and Appearance

The saga of Rachel Dolezal and her claim to be an African American despite her upbringing reminds me of a couple of learning experience about the complex issues behind identity and appearance. Her appearance, which seems to have changed to what could be considered African American features, is one aspect that is really interesting to me. This post is not at all about Dolezal herself and neither is it an analysis of why she chose to pursue her life the way she did. But, I referenced her issue because it reminds me of two experiences related to identity and why I am now more careful to assign a person to ethnicity/race based on their appearance.

When I was a discussion leader for an international students’ First Year Experience course at UCSB a couple of years ago, I made the mistake of assuming one of my students was from Japan. In my eyes (very subjective eyes), she “looked” Japanese. So, I asked her what part of Japan she came from. Her response was, “I’m not from Japan.” From how she looked at me, she seemed offended, so I apologized to her for making that assumption. She then explained to me that she is from Chile and she considers herself Chilean. She spoke fluent Spanish and told me she doesn’t know any Japanese.

I also have friends who are South African Indians. Their families have been there for generations and they themselves grew up in the age of apartheid.  If I had not known this prior to meeting them, through my wife, I would have assumed they’re from India. Luckily, I did not make the same mistake of asking them how India was, since I think they’ve only gone their to visit.

On a related note, I wonder how the adopted children (African-Americans) of friends of ours (Whites) will identify themselves growing up.

Race, culture, and ethnicity from what I’ve learned are social and political constructs. So, who decides and defines who belongs to a certain race/ethnicity? Is it by appearance? What if that person doesn’t conform to what is generally attributed features of a certain race? Is there a formula to determine which group a person should belong to? What about a multi-racial person?

Clearly, I don’t have the answer to this, but rather more questions.

 

Head Scratching Incident at the Golf Course – Is It About Race Again?

It seems silly for me to be complaining about this given where this happened – at a golf course. It is a privilege to be playing a sport/activity that costs quite a lot of money. So, in that sense, I do recognize the socio-economic privilege I hold. But, this incident I will share below is one of those head scratchers on how I am treated in a certain way. Maybe it’s all in my head, but experience tells me, probably not.

I was playing golf with a work friend of mine. He’s one of the top administrators on campus and he’s white male. We were riding on the same golf cart. At one of the holes, one of the golf marshalls approached us from afar and asked if one of us had left a golf club. As I looked in my bag, I realized that it could have been one of mine. I responded, “yes, I think it’s mine. Does it have a blue/black grip?” He responded with “where did you leave it?” I responded with “I’m not sure. ” I also provided him with another piece of detail about the club. He still had that look like he didn’t believe me based on the look on his face and he wasn’t going to give it to me. It is that very moment when the thought of “if I’m white, would he be asking all these questions?” My friend, after noticing my reaction, immediately said something like “I wonder if you’re white, he wouldn’t have done that to you.”  Again, it could just be all in my head, but it’s these kinds of moments that trigger some thoughts about other incidents in my life when I wonder why I’m treated differently.

We actually wanted to do an experiment to see if the same marshall would react differently if my buddy had left his club and how he would act when he returns it to us. But, we continued to play on.