Category Archives: Advice

Life Lessons #002: Teamwork in companies — not wanted by managers 

I used to work in an advertising company in the Greater Vancouver, Canada, area. I started out in the customer service department before moving into the training department and got a nice trip to the Philippines out of it. 

But what I would like to address in this post is the fact that “teamwork” is not wanted by managers. 

At this company, the customer service department was managed by someone named Kiran. He was a bright guy, charming, and ambitious. He was the one who hired me, and we got along very well initially because he recognized my work ethic and ideas. I was helpful and professional when dealing with customer service issues. I did a great job for him.

Eventually, I realized he was more interested in building cliques in the office and he treated me as someone who could solve his problems and help him look good — but I was never one of “them.”  I was always an outsider and was kept around only because I worked hard and I worked smart, and I got work done and solved his problems. That’s what bosses want. 

There are many stories about the cliques, which I’ll save for another time, but for now I’ll talk about the one in which he was a manager who didn’t believe in teamwork. 

One day, a manager from the sales department came into the customer service department to talk to Livia, one of the customer service reps. Apparently, Livia had not shown proper etiquette while on the phone speaking to a client, and the sales department manager came in to discuss this with Livia. 

At that time, there was only myself and Livia in the room when the sales manager came in. I didn’t think much about what the sales manager said, because it sounded like good advice and something valuable to learn from. I’d worked previously for St. John Ambulance in their customer service department, and we (ie. that department) used to receive all sorts of helpful suggestions from other managers in the organization. 

Back to this advertising company… like I said, I didn’t think much about it other than just some friendly advice. But after the sales manager left, Livia (who was hired the same time I was) threw a hissy fit. She didn’t like to be told what to do. I tried to calm Livia down by giving her a pep talk. I said just treat it like it’s constructive criticism. As I was finishing my talk, Kiran walked in. Livia, naturally, complained to Kiran about what had happened. I interjected and said I tried to calm Livia down by saying for her to take it like constructive criticism and move on from that. 

Kiran, to my surprise, said, “No, DON’T take it.” He had a scowl on his face and was agitated. I was surprised because Kiran’s role was manager and he wasn’t acting like one. He wasn’t even in the room to witness the incident and was quick to make his own judgement based on what Livia said. Okay, perhaps there’s some history between him and the sales department that I didn’t know about, but still… 

Kiran then proceeded to say that NO OTHER department is to come into our department and tell us what to do and what not to do. He even added that if anybody from another department came in and wanted us to do something, ie. help out with anything, say no. Just make an excuse not to do it, ie. We’re busy, etc. etc. etc. And if you offered or volunteered to help out another department, and somehow ran into difficulties, that would be your own fault and Kiran himself wasn’t ever going to bail you out of such a mess. Livia was happy that Kiran had her back.

But think about that last part for a moment: So, we’re all in the same organization/company and we’re supposed to “hate” other departments and not work together? Sadly, Kiran wasn’t the only manager to say this. I’ve heard this sort of instruction from other organizations I’ve worked for, too: Do not agree to help another department when they come asking for help

I would like to believe that this is stuff you probably just see in movies or TV dramas, but it actually happens in real life too, which is very unfortunate. 

With that same company, it was about a year later when there was a business trip to the Philippines, and I was one of the staffers requested to make the trip. I didn’t want to go, but I was told I had to go. 

To make a long story short, by that time I had been promoted and was no longer in Kiran’s department, but I was still reporting to him, ie. he was still my immediate manager. During this trip, each department was supposed to put together some sort of performance for the clients. I was not involved in the performance part of the trip, but, again, I was with Kiran’s group. 

There was a list with the order in which each department was to do its performance. The company’s Director of Operations, Hillary, asked me to let Kiran know that she wanted the order of the performances changed, which impacted Kiran’s group. (I don’t remember exactly now, but Kiran’s group was supposed to go later than scheduled.) Okay, so I went to Kiran and relayed the message. Kiran snapped and said something to the effect that I’m on his team, not Team Hillary. If I wanted to be on Team Hillary, I might as well not be on his team. I was taken aback and tried to explain I was just relaying the message, but that fell on deaf ears. 

I didn’t think anything of it at that immediate moment, but Kiran essentially was done with me. He refused to speak to me again the rest of the trip. Every time I was around, he had a scowl on his face. Every time he was talking to others, he was his charming self. Okay. Whatever. 

I was just the messenger. But again, I was used to this sort of thing. Growing up, I had experienced the same sort of thing with my parents. I would be a messenger to deliver some “bad” news. The recipient of the news would snap and accuse me of being on that team and not this team, etc. etc. etc. I was used to it. So, when this happened in a professional setting, I guess I was unfazed. If this could happen at home, it could happen anywhere else. 

Back to the Kiran saga. When we returned to Vancouver a few days later after the business trip, I had it out with him in the office. I was no longer going to be treated like I was a slave. When he made an unreasonable request in the office from that point on, I stood up to him and said it was not reasonable or acceptable. 

From an employee’s standpoint, my response would be labeled as me being disgruntled or uncooperative. But if you looked at things from my point of view, I was always being cordial and cooperative but there has to be a limit in terms of how poorly bosses treated me. That behaviour exhibited by Kiran during the latter part of that business trip made me not take him seriously anymore. In fact, we had several disagreements in the office after that trip. I was not going to be bullied or treated like a second-class citizen just because he no longer liked me for relaying a message from the Director of Operations.  

We still hung out for lunch at times during work — and there are more stories about that, too, some of which were unpleasant — but I no longer took him seriously. More on that on another post.

Life Lessons #001: Peers around me care only about celebrities

Well, I’m going to try and write down my thoughts and life lessons learned through interactions with those around me.

In the city where I currently live, the sports radio market has taken a hit over the past few years. It really doesn’t and shouldn’t come as a surprise if you consider how the radio industry has gone — in fact, when I interviewed a radio veteran from Southern California back in 2019, he said the radio market, regardless of what city you’re in, is on the downside and has been for a while. He should know. And I do believe what he said.

Now, when the local sports radio market made massive changes over the past couple of years, radio veterans in the city and listeners all seem to be caught off guard. Well, I don’t think it should come as a surprise if you stop and think about the trends. But I digress. My point is fans were outraged and attacked the corporations which made the decisions — without realizing these types of firings occur in other industries without much fanfare. Without people caring.

Back in 2016, I was teaching mainly in the late afternoons and evenings so that I would have time to write during the daytime. One day, an acquaintance told me that a school downtown was hiring for substitutes and encouraged me to contact the director, Simon. I did. Long story short, Simon hired me that March to be a regular instructor. One month later, he pulled a dick move by hiring a friend’s friend and told me he was firing me, effective that afternoon. It was a Friday afternoon.

I was stunned. Simon then threw in the kicker: Another teacher was taking two weeks off in May and Simon wanted me to cover those two weeks as a substitute. Talk about a dick move. He hired a friend’s friend to take over my position, and then had the audacity to ask me to be a substitute for two weeks for another teacher. Being a gentleman, I accepted (not that I needed that job, but I was being professional and kind).

When I told peers that I had gotten fired, all of my peers virtually acted like they didn’t care. It was all, “Uhm, thanks for sharing that, but I’m actually busy and can’t listen to this story” or “Okay, I’ve heard enough and I know where this story is going…” That’s how peers reacted. What, just because I’m not a radio person with a cool job that people think it’s not outrageous how I was treated? Is it like, say, a radio personality’s job is way more important than a teacher’s?

I soon realized why Simon did this. I was called in virtually every week after those two weeks filling in. One Thursday it would be a different teacher having a dentist appointment and I would be called in. The next Monday it was someone else who had a doctor’s appointment. The next Wednesday it was something else. I literally filled in every week from May to the end of August.

So that’s why Simon fired me — he knew I didn’t need the job and that I would be reliable to come in as a substitute on short notice. But I wasn’t prepared for the next incident.

He called me into his office on one of the days I was substituting. He said they were having a TYCP course starting the next month, and he needed me. I made the arrangements to have time off and be ready for that course. All along, he assured me the class was happening. Then, the Friday before the class was to begin, he texted me to say the class was cancelled. They originally had four students signed up, according to Simon, but now it was zero because everyone dropped out.

No big deal. The funny thing was that the following Tuesday, another teacher was sick and I was asked to fill in. I came in and looked at the noticeboard. I was filling in for Riley’s class. Then my eyes suddenly noticed a TYCP course on the noticeboard, with the names of four students and the assigned teacher, Monica, someone they had just hired. (Obviously, having been there every week as a substitute, I knew everyone there, and when I saw this new face, I went up to introduce myself — and Monica acknowledged she’d just been hired.)

So, Simon was a liar. That’s, again, something I would tell my peers … but then again, since I’m no radio personality or famous person, my peers wouldn’t care. So I didn’t bother sharing this incident with them.

But c’mon. What kind of boss does that? If he had been man enough to say, “Okay, I actually decided to hire someone else to take that class, so, sorry I have to say I can’t use you,” then it would have been fine. But to lie to me and say there was suddenly zero enrollment. What a gutless dick.

I would think these things happen in other industries. They happen without much fanfare. And, of course, if I discuss this, peers would think I’m bitter (I’m not). Or that I’m disgruntled, etc. etc. Of course, when these things happen in the radio industry, people are ready to attack those corporations.

Go figure. Lesson here? People around me — my peers, that is — don’t care about me. They care about celebrities and others in high-profile occupations. My job, in their eyes, is nothing. My story, for them, is not worth hearing about.

I get it. And I accept it.

So they say, “Go Google that #@!”

In the latest episode of the podcast, I shared with the guest host a story about the time when I interviewed a former athlete who told me to “go Google that @#!#” in response to a question about a game in which his team won.

This reminds me of a recent incident when I expressed frustration in using a new system to a colleague. This was a fellow whom I respected — and, in fact, I had written two glowing recommendation letters for him for professional reference purposes recently — but what did he do?* No, he didn’t say “go Google that @#!#!”

He came close, though. He essentially told me off — in a condescending manner — commenting that the system was “pretty easy.” But the tone was definitely condescending. I was disappointed that he would react that way, especially since I had just written those letters for him. I guess you just never know.

*I even personally spoke to the two places about him, giving glowing verbal recommendations. Both places were extremely interested in his services, but he decided to brush them off — despite the fact he had asked me to get in touch with them in the first place. I’d even shared teaching resources with him umpteen times. Never again. But come to think of it, I should have known better. When I told him a couple of times about my podcast, he didn’t show any interest or give any words of congratulations or encouragement. His only response was succinct: “I only listen to Tim and Sid.” Okay, whatever.

The K.P. Wee Podcast, Episode 6: Profusa CEO Ben Hwang

The K.P. Wee Podcast, Episode 6: Profusa CEO Ben Hwang

Ben Hwang is a former Los Angeles Dodger batboy and for the past nine years has been the Chairman and CEO of Profusa, a biotech company based in Northern California.

His career in the science and technology space spans over 15 years, and has served a number of leadership positions such as Head of qPCR Platform and President of Asia Pacific at Life Technologies, and Vice President and General Manager of the Asia Pacific Region at Thermo Fisher Scientific.

From 1984 to 1990, he was the Marketing and Promotions Manager for the Dodgers.

Ben discusses his time in baseball and shares the lessons that he learned while in the Dodger organization as well as tips for those who would like to get into the game. He also discusses how the lessons learned in baseball are applicable to life outside of sport.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • [2:10] An introduction to Ben Hwang
  • [6:28] Ben’s experience working for the Dodgers
  • [11:53] Profusa’s mission
  • [16:14] Three key lessons Ben learned in baseball that are applicable to life in general
  • [22:07] Ben explains his motto: “Don’t be afraid to put your name in the hat.”
  • [26:04] Ben on his attempted bid to purchase the Dodgers in 2012

Key Quotes by Ben:

  • “Those years were so much fun that my biggest fear in my teens and late 20s was that my life would have peaked by then. How much greater could your life be as a baseball fan to actually be on the field playing catch with your heroes and putting on a Dodgers uniform?”
  • “We are the sum of all our experiences, and I don’t think a day goes by without me being grateful for the experience that I had in baseball and at Dodger Stadium.”
  • “Professional sports creates a work ethic that is second to none.”
  • “The advice I would give to anybody who is considering a career in any industry, or any discipline, quite frankly, is: Don’t be afraid to raise your hand. The worst thing that could happen is that they say ‘no’. The best thing that could happen is that you get the chance to prove yourself. The most likely thing that would happen is, you just earned the opportunity to articulate your passion and your ambition to somebody who may not be able to help you immediately, but may help you in the future. So, yep, throw your name in the hat every chance you get.”

For more information about Profusa, please check out the company’s website: https://profusa.com/

If you enjoyed the intro music, please follow Roger Chong on Twitter/Instagram: @chongrong 

For the book referenced in the podcast, Tim Madigan and Fred Claire’s “Extra Innings,” please visit https://www.tinyurl.com/FredClaireExtraInnings

The K.P. Wee Podcast, Episode 7: Former Dodger General Manager Fred Claire

The K.P. Wee Podcast, Episode 7: Former Dodger General Manager Fred Claire

Fred Claire is a former General Manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers, a role he held for 29 years from 1969 to 1998.

Following his time working in professional baseball, he started his own business management consultancy for professional sports and entertainment.

He is a founding partner at Scoutables.com, which offers daily scouting reports on every player in Major League Baseball based on recent performance.

Fred shares memories from his Dodger days and offers advice to students and other young people who want to get into sports.

He also talks mentorship and discusses his new book with Tim Madigan (which was released in July 2020) titled Extra Innings: Fred Claire’s Journey to City of Hope and Finding a World Championship Team.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • [2:52] Fred on his passion for mentorship
  • [4:10] Getting started in the sports industry
  • [6:58] Practical steps young people can take to find a mentor in the sports world
  • [9:02] Fred’s encounter with a young Tony Robbins and his brother
  • [13:44] Trading players as a General Manager
  • [21:44] Fred on the Dodgers’ incredible attention to detail in every aspect of training
  • [25:44] How Fred figured that the Dodgers would win the 1988 championship
  • [28:10] Fred’s cancer journey at City of Hope—the story behind the book Extra Innings
  • [34:35] Parting advice to students and other young people on chasing your dreams

Key Quotes by Fred:

  • “Whatever I can do to help others, guide others, educate others, and inspire others—whatever it is—I get great satisfaction from that.”
  • “I’ve always been struck by people, including professional baseball players, who simply had a determination that they were going to reach their goals, and may or may not reach it, but at the end of the day knew that they did the best that they could.”
  • “Words themselves carry great meaning. It doesn’t have to be receiving something in return, because what I found in life is that, many times, those things come later.”
  • “I think it’s a fair statement that the Dodgers have invested more money and more people in analytics than any team in baseball.”
  • “Never, ever be afraid to get a second opinion. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to help a number of people get a second opinion at City of Hope. I just think that’s so important because one’s life can be at stake.”

Follow Fred Claire on Twitter @Fred_Claire / Connect with Fred on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/fred-claire-1605a01

For more information about the book Extra Innings, please visit https://www.tinyurl.com/FredClaireExtraInnings

If you enjoyed the intro music, please follow Roger Chong on Twitter/Instagram: @chongroger