Friday, July 22, 2016

Book Review: Breakout Nations by Ruchir Sharma



As part of an International Marketing Management course in my MBA program, I had to read "Breakout Nations" by Ruchir Sharma. While the assignment was only to create a PowerPoint presentation, I decided to turn my presentation into a narrated movie.

I thought this turned out well and might do it for other books I read. I think it would make a good series, especially I read a book every few weeks or per month.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A dinosaur in corpse paint



I'd like to see a dinosaur in corpse paint.
I searched Google images for one and I couldn't find it.
What a wonderful world we live in.
Whatever I imagine, I can type it in and have it appear.
If it already exists.
But a dinosaur in corpse paint doesn't exist.
According to google.
It should.

If I was a dinosaur, I would be all about black metal.
A giant meteor is coming and we are all going to die.
Shut up, dude. No, it's not.
Hundreds of millions of years later, you are correct.
Boom.
Imagine you were born right after the meteor hit.
You don't even get to live in the time when being a dinosaur was cool.
The peak of dinosaur death metal.

Darkness envelops the Earth.
Life as we know it is gone.
Death. Death. Death.
Everything around you is dying.
The sky is dark. Plant life is dying.
Even the pterodactyls no longer fly.
There is plenty to eat among the dying.
Soon they will be gone.
And you as well.
Death. Death. Death.

Are there any dinosaur themed metal bands?
Metal bands love the apocalypse.
Dinosaurs lived through an apocalypse.
One day they might find this blog post buried in amber.
Resurrect it with shards of its HTML DNA.
Rebuild it like the 6 Million Dollar Man.
We have the technology.
We need the page views.

And with that, it's time to retire for the eve.
2 scoops of mental musings and a tablespoon of insomnia.
But still no dinosaurs in corpse paint.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Tired of instability



I'm tired.

I'm tired of instability. Tired of not knowing what the future holds. Tired of trying to figure out what's next.

In 2013, upon returning from Afghanistan, I decided to start a second master's degree in Business Administration. I was tired of working for the Department of Defense, tired of hopping from contract to contract, and tired of working in a world where your employment hinges on a budget, not on how effective you are. The Department of Defense doesn't have profitable years or not-profitable years. They don't "sell" anything. If you are on a contract, working harder rarely means job security. If the government ends the contract with your employer, you are out of luck, no matter how well you did.

I was tired of contracts ending.

So after an 8-year break, I went back to school. It was difficult. I had never taken Accounting or Finance and I was trying to understand them at the graduate level. Management and Marketing came easier to me, but anything with math or numbers was a struggle. After 12 years in the Intelligence Community, I was not used to thinking mathematically.

But I pushed through. For over a year, I spent money I made in Afghanistan on my new degree. It was an investment in myself. It might have been tough, but there was hope at the end of the tunnel. I was off in a new career.

I wasn't sure where the MBA was going to land me. I didn't know anything about the corporate world. All of it was new. I didn't know about balance sheets or financial statements, marketing plans or margins. I didn't understand the speed of business nor it's dog-eat-dog environment. I had no idea where I was going, I just knew I was learning new and interesting things.

All along I hoped I could take my past experiences - experiences in analysis, research, and geopolitical understanding - and apply them to business. After I finished my first year of school work, I started looking for employment. I was open to any idea than combined what I knew with what I was learning.

I was open to finance and intelligence, marketing and intelligence, process analysis, cyber and intelligence, business strategy, corporate intelligence, and any analytics job. As I progressed and learned about these and other fields, however, I realized some career paths might be mountains too high. Some wanted experience I didn't have, while others required courses that would have caused me to slow my degree plan drastically as I would need to focus on one difficult course at a time.

In all, from February 2014 to July 2015, I applied to over 150 jobs. Some local, some national, some lower-level, some management. I had maybe 5 interviews. No second interviews and no job offers.

I was tired of applying and getting nowhere.

But I had time and I had money. So I wasn't panicking.

With that many applications and little to show for it, I realized I needed a change in job-seeking strategy. I was going to network. I was going to meet as many people as possible and be seen and tell people who I am and what I can do. At the same time, I was going to finish the last year of my MBA.

The strategy paid off in May 2015 when I met a military professor who saw my background and was interested. He offered me a great position, great hours, great pay, and a great opportunity to learn academia from the teaching side. I was interested and jumped on it. I was also able to work on the six classes I had remaining.

Before he could hire me, however, I had to wait for a budget opening. As I mentioned before, just because you provide value, if the government budget says no, you are out of luck. I don't think any other organization works like that.

Meanwhile, after my lease expired in my cheap apartment in August 2015, I was homeless for a few weeks. Luckily, I had friends who offered me a place to stay. But it was one of the most frustrating weeks of my life as I waited for government money to be free so I could sign a new lease in the cheapest apartment complex in Tampa. I felt like I was getting nowhere.

I'm tired of getting nowhere.

Finally, the government freed the funds to hire me. And for six months, everything was great. I was getting a paycheck. I was going to school at night. I had a place to live. I was even putting some money away in my retirement account. I also started my own LLC and wrote for a market analysis blog where my research was mentioned by elected officials.

Life was good.

Then, in February 2016, the contract ended.

I'm tired of contracts ending again.

While working, I was able to put away enough money to fund my final four classes. I even registered for the final project needed to graduate. The countdown began for graduation in December 2016.

If I could only make ends meet until then. Then I would be free to move and leave Tampa if needed. Not that I would want to leave since every job report says Tampa is one of the most growing cities in Florida. It is a great place to live and I have met many amazing people here. But if my skill set can't help any employer here, it might be time to look elsewhere.

What is my skill set? That was something I had to determine. What was I pitching to employers that I could do? What did I bring to the table and why should they hire me?

I came to the conclusion my skill sets depends on the industry. If applying for a military/defense job, I bring years of experience, analysis, research, and organizational understanding. I also bring all the government clearances I had in the past.

If applying for security/investigations/compliance jobs, I bring research, geopolitical understanding, and analysis.

If applying for marketing strategy or market research positions, I bring years of analysis, research, storytelling, and creativity to the table. I am flexible, agile, a good communicator, globally-minded, and a solid team player. All the things business articles say businesses want.

I'm tired of what I read not reflecting reality.

Now I am finishing my second-to-last class before graduating. The pursuit of an MBA has been an amazing journey that has taught me so much about the business world. But right now, I'm not sure it has been worth it. I don't yet see a payoff at the end of the road. The doors they said it would open remain shrouded in a fog of career ambiguity. They are not only not open, I'm not sure where they are. It's tough to knock when you can't find the door. Then you hope you are knocking on the right door and that someone opens.

I'm tired of doors not opening. I'm tired of not knowing where the doors are.

During the last few months, I've felt like a rat trying to find cheese in a maze. Or like Alice trying to make her way though Wonderland. Or Dorothy journeying through Oz. I have been networking and networking, bouncing around like a hot potato trying to meet the right person who can provide me a key to a position. I've met many people with great ideas and great advice, but they always seem to lead to another locked door.

I'm tired of locked doors.

Especially in the government sector. At least until a new budget is released in October.

The problem is, I can't wait until October. Similar to 2015, I have a lease expiring and no income to find a new place. I could again lean on the kindness of friends to provide me shelter so I can continue my education. Again, the search for a place to live supersedes the job hunt. I think that's Maslow's Hierarchy in proof.

I'm tired of not knowing where I am going to live. I'm tired of surviving on the kindness of friends for a roof over my head. I'm tired of being the only person I know with 15 years experience and 1.5 master's degrees without a job or a place to live.

I'm tired of being unemployed.

This isn't a problem of keeping up with peers, some of whom have great jobs and great homes and great families. This is a problem of making a decision to go back to school that seemed good, but has yet to payoff. This is a problem of working hard and finding nothing in return. This is a problem of not being able to progress without always trying to figure out the basics.

This is a problem of instability.

I'm tired of instability.