Tag Archives: Reflexion

Inbox Zero

This is an apology to all the people who have sent me an e-mail over the course of the past 5 months and have not received the response they expected in time. I was swamped at work, with my PhD project, IEEE activities and other challenges in my private life. But now I am on top of things again. I’ve reached “Inbox Zero”.

inbox
With it comes the “Mind like Water” state and I am now ready again for your e-mails. Let’s see how long it lasts ;)

Listen to Fred Hersch

You have to watch this youtube video:

To me Fred Hersch’s version of “Both Sides Now” is profoundly beautiful and touching. It clearly stands out compared to the millions of stimuli that I get on a day to day basis. When I say stimuli I mean everything ranging from music, photography, writing, management presentations, engineering solutions, mathematical equations to coffee table discussions. In my quest to understanding “Life, the Universe & Everything” I can’t resist to ask: “Why?”.

To tell you the truth, I don’t think I have a way to test my answers (hypotheses) in a “true-or-false” manner. However my intuition at the moment tells me this:

  • Technique. You have to be in control of your fingers to be one of the top piano players in the world. Interestingly I don’t think you have to be in total control, as in all points in the four dimensional “what finger, what key, what intensity, what time” space. You just have to cover a big-enough, interesting-enough subspace, which is a challenge already.
  • References. “Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell is considered a master piece in its own right. Not only has it proven to capture people’s minds, but for those who know it already, it will most likely trigger positive emotions instantaneously. Similarly Fred Hersch’s interpretation is firmly rooted in the tradition of Jazz, which provides another huge set of references.
  • Story Telling. From the first note to the last Fred Hersch takes you on a journey that is logical from one note/one phrase to the next and that is holistically consistent in a way that it captures your imagination throughout the piece.
  • Personality. Both what he plays and how he plays it screams “Fred Hersch”. Even if you would transcribe his music and have it played by some random, classically trained pianist, it would probably lack some important characteristics.

For lack of scientific methods, I can’t be sure that this list is correct or exhaustive. But what I can say is that I find all of these qualities in Fred Hersch’s “Both Sides Now” and that I should certainly make sure they are in the random coffee table discussion to make it just as beautiful and touching.

I am from Europe

“I am from Europe” is a phrase that I’ve found myself using quite frequently lately. I don’t just use it because Europe is much easier to explain than ___________ (fill in any European country you can think of), but because Europe is more than that.

I mean of course the statement is true from a geographical perspective, but then again it is more than that. Europe for me is the notion that there is this geographically large region that is so diverse in terms of culture and lifestyle but that still shares a set of unwritten core values, that every one of us can relate to and rely on.

I am aware of the stereotypes that all of use have. Germans are overly correct, the British can’t cook, Polish people are ueber-Catholic, Greeks are lazy and Spanish men are macho men on siesta. However if you dig deeper, if you are willing to immerse yourself in one or more of the “other” European cultures, you will find that there are more things that we have in common than those that separate us. – I mean except for the French, who I never really liked or understood. But then again, they enrich our union as much as you and I do.

Sometimes I am wondering what Europe must look like from the outside. Probably like someone suffering from Schizophrenia. Someone with so many voices inside and no clear, single voice to the outside. But that is alright, because when it comes to the important issues, everybody can and should rely on our common understanding. We do believe in human rights, in social welfare for those who need it and in an economic system that encourages everybody to thrive based on his or her personal talents but one that should leave nobody behind.

From the inside it is probably a little bit like marriage. – There are good times and bad times, and things are far from perfect. Every now and then we are put on trial, and at the same time we often don’t appreciate what we have because of the union. But even if one party has to give in and do something that might hurt, we are better off as a union.

At the end of the day it comes down to this: I am in awe of what Europe is and more than that of what it can become: A super-powered peace-keeping instrument and a diverse, flourishing system with shared values and the inherent ability to see challenges from multiple perspectives. It’s now on us to act and voice our vision for Europe, so don’t miss the elections http://www.elections2014.eu/

Food Porn For 30 Days

Today’s my birthday.

Your birthday is kind of like your personal new years eve. A moment when you review the bigger picture, reflect on the past and the future and make resolutions.

I am not good at resolutions but the 30 days thing has worked for me. So here’s my new challenge: Knowing that I do often eat/drink way too unhealthy stuff I’ll take a picture of (almost) everything that goes into my mouth for the next 30 days. No I’ll not include water too often, and I’ll feel free to skip anything that has 50 kcal or less.

If everything works out you should see things pop up on my newly created pinterest board soon. Happy eating!

Happy Eating

Decluttering #p30.2014.2

This time the next 30 days will be about subtracting rather than adding.

My life has become pretty cluttered again. Too much stuff around. Too many things – including skeletons – in my closet, too many things on my table, too many random folders on my computer, too many empty boxes in the basement … way too little focus on the important things.

Every day for the next 30 days I’ll clean up some of that mess – sometimes with before after photos, sometimes not.

Blog Post #30

The goal was to come up with a blog post every day for 30 days. Well, I didn’t blog every day, but in the end I wrote 30 posts, which concludes my experiment. There were days without blog posts because either I didn’t have anything to say, or because I decided not to publish certain things. What can I say: I will not continue to blog that regularly. Not only because it takes a lot of time, but also because it feels way too self-centered. Still it was a good exercise. Here’s a list of all 30 blog posts:

Good thing: now I’ll have to find another 30 days project ;)

HR – follow up

I’ve started writing about it so I should finish it.

Where we left off: I had a job interview last week and I was expecting an offer in the next couple of weeks. Guess what: I received an offer today. And it did not come via a professional employer organization. No: Infineon made a valid, legit offer that truly is worth a thought.

In terms of money the offer is neither particularly good nor exceptionally bad.

Knowing what kind of salary to expect is one of the hardest things. Nobody in Austria really talks about their salary so you mostly rely on what friends tell you, internet research and what public research institutions pay (which has to be made public, because of transparency). Here are some examples of how I evaluated Infineon’s offer.

I have friends (also PhDs) working at Siemens VAI who earn about 5% more without the all-in option that Infineon has in all its contracts. The all-in option in Austrian contracts means that overtime will not be paid, as the salary is said to cover any overtime already. You would have to fight really hard to get rid of that option and accept a reduction in salary of about 15%. As 5% is not that much, it really comes down to the question of how much overtime you are expected to do. -> Neither good nor bad.

The post-doc position that my friend Reinhard has at university comes with exactly the same salary (according to the collective contract of the Austrian university system). My adviser also offered me a position as post doc, but I don’t think that the university landscape is for me. At any rate: -> Neither good nor bad.

Some information about what PhD graduates earned in Germany in 2012 can be found at http://www.ingenieurkarriere.de/_library/content/download/obj2407_Einstiegsgehaelter_fuer_Ingenieure_2012.pdf – Being  just a little below what was the 50% mean tells me: -> Neither good nor bad.

It comes down to this: I will not sign that contract right away (as I would have if the offer were really outstanding) but I am also not going to turn it down. Starting in mid-March I will start looking for other options and when I have a range of offers, I will sit down to do my pros and cons list. The fact that I could put to use my knowledge in the probably most efficient way will be on the pros side and the salary will not be everything as long as it is above my personal limit of … well I am not going to share that number.

Actually I will not share any other information about my job search on this blog from now on. With HR being good at googleing these days, I guess it is safer that way. I am still glad I blogged about this first job application as it helped me bring order to my thoughts, realize what is important to me and define what my limits are.

HR

All names in this post have been changed.

Recently I blogged about jobs at Infineon. I was eventually pushed to submit a job application by an engineering manager – let’s call him John. John is a great guy. He and I had a couple of discussions before and what I have been doing at uni for the past 5 years is exactly what he’s looking for. – Sounds like a win-win, doesn’t it.

If only I wouldn’t have to finish my PhD first, do all the things my adviser still wants me to do and engage in a serious search for a job. Guilty as charged, I have submitted the job application because John asked me to and not because I am really looking for a job – not before May 2014. His argument was that they would take the position away from him if nobody applied and that the whole thing going through HR would take a couple of months anyway. – I was invited for an interview by HR a day after I had submitted my job application, which was today.

On the bright side I’ve only had one interview so far, so I considered it good practice! The one I’ve had before was at age 16 and they totally screwed me: paying me minimal wage for programming php and mySQL. Fun fact: the HR head of that big company told me they can not pay more because I have no formal qualification. I do now realize that me knowing php, mySQL and HTML was a qualification that nobody at that big company had in 2000, so they really needed me. I was not aware of that and apparently negotiation skills were not one of my strengths at age 16. Actually my boss back then proposed a pay-rise later, without me even asking for one.

So here I was again: age 30, another HR interview, biased and suspicious. There was limited time to prepare myself: I watched youtube videos and read some articles about job interviews, but nothing can replace the real thing.

My verdict: Turns out HR interviews are still a pain in the ass. On one hand they try to make you a little insecure and on the other hand it feels like brainwashing.

The interview started off with Ms. Johnston mentioning that she had had interviews for that one position all day. – Good for her, still I don’t buy it that there were many applicants better suited for the job than myself. You might call me presumptuous, but my job for the past 5 years mostly was about building and analyzing radar systems using THEIR chips, which are only available to exclusive customers and us as research lab co-funded by them.

Obviously the interview continued with the standard questions. “Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years from now”. “What would your current boss say about you”. “Name 3 of your strengths and 3 of your weaknesses”.

One of my current colleagues who is quitting his PhD, lets call him Dave, had his interview in the morning, so I knew exactly what was going to come. When Ms. Johnston asked the “boss question” I answered: “I was waiting for this one, because I’ve heard about it from Dave”. “Oh … ah … that’s not on purpose … interviews are usually tailored individually”. I didn’t say it: “Yeah, right”. I went on to analyze what my boss would probably say based on tasks and responsibilities he would transfer to me + the awards that I have received. I ended with: “If you’d really like to learn about what other people say about me you have the unique opportunity to go and talk to people within this company such as Steve, Ann, Donald, … who I have already worked with and who know me for years now”. To which she responded “Oh, really … well … I did not really want to know what other people say about you, but what you think that other people might think, which indicates what you think … “. Again, I didn’t say it:  “Yeah, right”

The whole interview triggered questions: How honest should you be? What should you say? What should you rather avoid? On one hand everybody has blind spots and they are not the things that you want companies to know about. On the other hand do you really have to be honest about questions like “How many applications have you submitted?” Or one of her first questions: “Why did you apply?” – “Because John asked me to” which I of course replaced by “Because I’d like to put to use the knowledge I gained during my PhD in an optimal way, and because you could offer me exactly that + you could benefit from that! – A potential classical win-win”. Should you share your family plans?

The second part of the interview was what some of my friends describe as brainwashing, with mostly Ms. Johnston talking. Of course they offer great benefits, like day care or an international school for their international employees and so on. If you dig a little bit you will find out that most of them are only available on their main campus in Villach (=about 3 hours drive from Linz) as it would not pay off to install them for the 90 employees in Linz. They have a global salary system which is called the “Infineon Global Scale”. Ms. Johnston also spent about 5-10 minutes explaining possible career paths at Infineon and that they have successfully copy-and-pasted the IBM system (of course that’s not the way she put it) with “senior engineers”, “distinguished engineers”, “Infineon fellows” … Good for them.

The meeting concluded with Ms. Johnston telling me that in case of an offer I will hear from them via e-mail in the next couple of weeks.

My best guess is that there will be an offer that is well below what I stated as expected salary. In addition to that they may try to employ me through a professional employer organization, which is what they told Dave in the morning. This is where the real negotiations will start.

At any rate I will apply for more jobs and have more interviews before I sign any contract. For now I am thankful for the experience that I gained through this interview. While job interviews are not fun, they are required and the more used you get to them, the better.