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Work/Life Balance Discussion – A Privilege?

This is a post reflecting on this concept of work/life balance and how my upbringing  in an immigrant working class household whose father worked three or four jobs to support his family, shaped how I view my work and life.  It also led to me to thinking on whether this discussion is in itself a privilege afforded to those who have enough financial resources to have this conversation. This reflection is a result of observing conversations about this topic and wellness on social media amongst a group of student affairs professionals and at the same time painfully watching the devastation brought on by the typhoon in the Philippines and watching those lucky enough to live through the typhoon go in survival mode. This post is by no means a commentary on other people’s thoughts and their definition of proper work/life balance as ultimately, work/life balance is a personal decision. For me, I grew up thinking I’m fortunate to have a job and I do what I need to do to succeed, including working long hours, more than anyone else, to be able to be considered equal to my peers.

When my family and I immigrated to the United States, my parents, who are both educated in the Philippines, took jobs at the mall. My dad worked as a janitor and my mom worked at a pizza place. They needed to get the job they could get to support us. When I was in high school, they established their janitorial business in addition to their full-time jobs and my dad also mowed lawns. I don’t remember having any discussions about work/life balance growing up. This is the environment I grew up in. It wasn’t as if we were poor, maybe we were middle class, but certainly did not have the material belongings and other opportunities my wife and I could fortunately afford now. So, thinking about how I grew up, I ask these questions – do folks who are working in manual labor, working two or three jobs at minimum wage, ever have discussions on work/life balance when they’re trying to feed their families? How about single parents who need to work more than 8-5 to survive and at the same time must schedule their lunch breaks to accommodate their children’s activities? How about folks who are just trying to get jobs?

I’m not saying folks work/life balance should not happen because it definitely has real implications when it comes to mental/physical well-being and relationships. I do wonder if this discussion in itself is a privilege not afforded to all.


Professional Development – A Personal Choice and Commitment

CPA-career-developmentThere was once a time when I’d get frustrated about the lack of opportunities to travel for conferences or trainings. I used to think about “what could have been” if I had only continued my education and pursued an advanced degree. Frankly, I decided to make a personal choice to stop complaining about the opportunities I don’t have and start thinking about how I could develop my own professional development. I stopped depending on others to provide me these opportunities. I welcome them when they are offered, but I no longer wait for when those opportunities happen to come by. Continue reading

What’s The Point?

I was in a meeting once and in in the midst of several conversations about a topic, a colleague respectfully asked “What’s the point?”. That question re-oriented the conversations to the purpose of the meeting. Sometimes, I think we lose sight of what we’re trying to accomplish in the first place because we are too busy focusing on the details or get distracted with the tools that we use.

One topic that could benefit from someone asking “what’s the point?” is the use of technology in education. Introducing technology in the classroom because it seems everyone’s doing it or it seems exciting is probably not the wisest decision to make. What makes sense is to use technology to enhance or support the teaching/learning process.

In our work, losing sight of our role and how we contribute  towards the goals of companies/institutions can lead to siloed thinking or distorted view that other folks should serve us, instead of providing service to others. Sometimes, we need to be reminded of “what’s the point?” — why we do what we do?  Effective leaders can provide context of why we do what we do and how we fit into the larger picture

Next time you get frustrated or feeling unmotivated at your job, maybe you should gently ask yourself “what’s the point of what I do? What is it that I contribute?” I hope in asking these question, you do find some good reasons as to why you do what you do.


Reframing Our Professional Purpose

frameAbout a year ago, I wanted to attend a student affairs technology conference that did not necessarily focus on IT (application development, networking, security, enterprise software) but rather on topics like social media, engaging students with technology, and digital identity. I shared my hope to attend with a colleague in IT and the response was “that’s not what we do. That’s what the other departments do.” I would say, given my job description and what I would consider the role of traditional IT, my colleague is correct. Traditional IT is seen as a utility and what we do is implement/support systems. We enable student affairs departments as well as the campus to do their business functions.

How I view my position in  student affairs IT is a little different. I see myself as a student affairs professional serving students through my work in IT. I see myself as a member of the university community, and not just an IT employee. Because I see myself as a student affairs professional, I also view myself as an educator, a student mentor, advisor, and advocate for their success and I’ve demonstrated these through volunteer positions outside my formal role in IT (First Year Experience teaching assistant, organizational advisor, applications reader). Given this perspective, I saw the conference as an opportunity for me to learn about technology-related  topics and to understand the perspectives of student affairs practitioners. It was my opportunity for me to understand the purpose of why we, in student affairs IT exist.

I also wrote this blog post about my view of the role student affairs IT should play. As I mentioned earlier, IT is traditionally seen as a utility provider. I would like to think that given the significant role technology plays in student affairs and in the lives of our students and other customers, we need to be viewed both as a utility, providing the infrastructure needed (network, servers, hardware, software) as well as partners in defining how we can use technology to transform how we do business in student affairs and on campus.

We have formal job titles with given job descriptions and we get paid to perform these responsibilities. I think it’s important to re-frame our purpose beyond what is listed as job responsibilities on our job descriptions. Our organizations, as they exist,  probably need some examination to determine if we are current with the times. We need to go beyond the boundaries of what we see when we come to work everyday. We are a part of a bigger system.

Ultimately, we need to ask bigger questions beyond what is it that we do. We need to ask the questions “what is our ultimate purpose?” and “why do our roles exist”?

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Routine for Work Week Preparation & Review

My work week starts late Sunday night. This is the time when I compile weekly status reports from my managers and when I prepare my own status reports to my supervisor. Preparing the reports may sound tedious and bureaucratic but I’ve come to value the time I spend working on them. Why? Besides the obvious intent of communicating what’s going on, I’ve come to look at this time doing this seemingly menial task as a time for reflection and getting some sense of what’s going on not only with projects but also with my staff. This practice has become beneficial to me in that when I walk in to my office Monday morning, I have a better expectation of what’s to come ahead the next few days. It also sets me in the mindset of seeing the big picture instead of reacting to issues that may come my way in reactive mode.

I end my work week setting some time on Friday afternoons (or when my work week ends) reviewing how the week went and taking some notes on what I need to do for the next week. I value my weekend spending time with my wife or with my hobbies. I’ve found this practice of end-of-week review very valuable in keeping my mind away from work. Admittedly, even during weekends and while at the golf course, work-related ideas come to my mind, but I don’t spend too much time thinking about them.

Do you spend some time preparing and reviewing your work week?