Why you will never be successful (Hint: it’s demographics)

It is all too familiar for all of us that work in corporate world. Career stagnation, underemployment and retrenchment come for you and people about same age as you. How come Baby Boomer have it so easy but for us, Gen-Y and Gen-Z, everything are screwed?

We can explain this thing by demographic trend. Currently what we have is something like this:

People born in 1950s                                              X

People born in 1960s                                         X        X

People born in 1970s                                     X       X        X

People born in 1980s                                         X        X

People born in 1990s                                              X

As you can see, during 1980s, there is fertility drop and most people have less children. This can be attributed to several things, like global urbanization, female joining workforce and hence having less children, wage stagnation and resource constraint.

However, as all of you know that ALL organizations are on the form of pyramid structure. For corporations, it will be similar to this figure:

CEO                                                                            X

Vice President                                                     X      X

Directors                                                            X     X     X

Managers                                                       X     X     X     X

Executives                                                  X     X     X     X     X

You know what this means? Ideally, when there is no demographic decline, there will be continuous expansion of companies because population keep increasing and hence it will generate demand for education, property, leisure and so on.

Even if you screw it in your career, it will be easy set up your own business and find someone which is younger than you and need a job because the number of older people is larger than number of younger people.

Those that works in big companies, they can take their time knowing that they are guaranteed promotion even with just moderate performance since companies will continue to have increasing demand and need to keep hiring junior staffs. Hence,

  • ALL people who worked for 2-3 years can promote from Executives to Managers
  • ALL people who worked for 3-6 years can promote from Managers to Directors
  • ALL people who worked for 6-10 years can promote from Directors to VPs

Now, when demographic is declining, there will be less demand for childcare, education, and property. As the result, companies’ sales will stagnant or even decrease and they will start to use all those nonsensical KPIs to retrench underperformed staffs.

Then, during demographic decline and stagnant revenue, the employment pattern will be similar like this:

  • ALL but one people who worked as Executives for 2-3 years will be retrenched and replaced with younger executives. One will be promoted as Manager.
  • ALL but one people who worked as Managers for 3-6 years will be retrenched and replaced with younger managers. One will be promoted as Director.
  • ALL but one people who worked as Directors for 6-10 years will be retrenched and replaced with younger directors. One will be promoted as Vice President

So, the only way to survive from this continuous staff trimming, if you want to work in big companies is to forsake all your free time including fellowship time with your fellow church members, family, and relatives, your leisure time and even your eating and sleeping time.

Even so, it will not guarantee success if there are exists people who are equally dedicated and talented like you pursuing the same thing. Journalists in mainstream media always tell you about success stories of the winner. But there can be only one CEO. Most of us will end as loser (if you define your success as becoming CEO of large organization).

The only realistic way to prevent disaster is to have large portion of population to invest in children and nature. Demographic decline is caused by resource constraint and hence we need to cultivate agriculture so that we have enough food for sustaining large population.

Also, it is better to avoid big cities because of horrible competition and working condition. The living cost in big cities can be 4 to 5 times more compared to smaller cities.

Such actions are more realistic than to suggest people to spend continuous 60-70 hours per week to advance their career (but it does not guarantee them even pay increase!)

 

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Be fruitful and multiply…but not at the End of the Age..

Yes, I used to be one of those conservatives that are convinced about divine mandate of be fruitful and multiply. Or if you translate it to current jargon, be productive in your work and then use that to marry a wife and start a family. This divine mandate has been common across people from all societies, including non-Christians, because it gives humans a purpose of life.

Obviously, some people chose childless life by choice because of devotion (to priesthood, scholastic pursuit, charity worker) or because desire to live the luxurious lifestyle (YOLO). But by far, the majority of humanity still choose the default life path of be fruitful and multiply, as commanded by God (Genesis 1: 28).

However, I have experienced the change of mindset. Especially after my departure from previous church which you can say a kind of conservative fundamentalist church. This opinion may not be thoroughly accurate but I think it is still thoughtful.

As I have realized now that in human history, there is a predictable pattern of rise and decline of the society. The rise of society is indicated by strong economic growth and job creation of all kinds (artisans, trades) and plentiful foods for all members of society. As a result, humankind has no issue in working on divine mandate (be fruitful and multiply) and our numbers have increased quickly.

Of course, as we know, it is the tendency of the humans to think that the good times will stay forever. People in next generation will still continue the lifestyle of their parents, thinking that it is normal thing to do. After all, we have no problems in our work and our marriage. Everything are good. So, what could be wrong? And furthermore, most fundamentalist Christians thought that it is God’s command to start a family.

I realized that there are a lot of problems with this thought. Firstly, from observation in real time and even in the Bible, it is very hard to find the command that is applicable for all situations.

For example, originally humans are all vegetarians because of God’s command in Genesis 1: 29. After the fall and the flood, God changed His command by saying it is permissible now to let humans eat other animals (Genesis 9:3).

Of marriage, Moses said that it is permissible for divorce by issuing divorce certificate but Lord Jesus override Moses’ command by saying divorce is not permissible at any case except death or adultery.

So, why do we think that somehow be fruitful and multiply is a sacred command that should never change in all situations? I understand that people will think it is like a slippery slope. People will think because of this way of thinking, people can justify their lifestyle by quoting Scripture out of context.

However, here, we have some parts of the Scripture which said that in some cases it will be disadvantageous to have children. Specifically, Jesus’ sermon about the End of the Age at Luke 21:5-37, in verse 23:

How dreadful it will be in those days (End of the Age) for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be a distress in the land and wrath against this people.

Here, Lord Jesus seems like declaring that having children at the End of the Age is like a curse. So, we can conclude that be fruitful and multiply cannot be applied in all situations because Son of God himself said that.

Of course, there is a practical reason and explanation behind God’s command. As you can see, the signs of the End of Age looks very similar to current world, just before economic collapse. Rumor of wars everywhere, people will love immediate gratification (money) instead of investing in long term (family), everything is unstable. If everything is unstable (including your employment), having family like a curse and nightmare.

Having said so, I still think I would not be childless. It could be fine to have one children but not more. It is merely to preserve the family lineage. But if you are childless and YOLO, you are not violating God’s command for that.

 

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Slavery and unemployment

I have a brief moment of contemplation yesterday and I decided to share it here. From the record in Book of Exodus, we can see that Israelite were oppressed by Egyptian king that was afraid about the success of ascend of Israelite as they multiply in numbers.

As you have already know, Israelite is assigned heavy workload to build ancient mega-projects. Capitalism in current era, supported by virtually every economically powerful around the world operate in similar fashion. Usually this story is analyzed in theological perspective as the illustration of Christ’s liberation of humanity from sins, but today I want to highlight it from economic angle.

Egypt at that moment is almost the same as United States in current world. The same as every powerful empire, it attracts people from everywhere to stay and make the living there. Never ending desire to have more grand projects create various jobs for stonemasons, woodworkers, artisans and so on. And it was done by cheap labors and slaves. In Egypt, it was Israelite. In United States, it is immigrants from third world countries.

Afterward, God with His signs and wonders has finally delivered them from Egyptians. But strangely, Israelite complained in the desert that: “…we remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost–also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic…”. Essentially, they carved economic and physical stability provided by their work in Egypt although it literally costs them all their time.

I can imagine this is no different for expatriates like me from third world who slaves here for 60-70 hours per week working for giant MNCs and banks with salary ranged from 7000 to 15000 SGD per month. We rather sacrifice all our times to give more power to the rich people because they give us money to buy nice food to eat and luxurious lifestyle.

Even though God promised Israelite that there will be Promise Land where the nature will do all the work and essentially less busy life, Israelite still complain for the simple life in the desert. From economic perspective, they think that being employed, even by pagan king, is better than being unemployed with the King of the Universe did all works for them (providing free food (manna), free heat (fire pillar) and free shelter (cloud pillar)).

This also seems dominant attitude to Christians. The combination of protestant work ethics, economic materialism and debt-based economic system causing everybody think that being workaholic is a virtue. So called Christians think that being able to work for pagan employers (Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Apple) equals success while it did not bother them that all those companies are founded by atheists/agnostics.

I do not say that you should immediately withdraw from society. But at least, for me, I have a lot of opportunities to learn about meaning of life when I am unemployed for 5 months in 2009. I learn many things ranging from theology, apologetic, politics and economics. From there, I can say that I have clearer worldview on how society works compared to most of the typical clueless Christians.

You can do adjustment of your lifestyle to make it not compulsory for you to work 60-70 hours per week to big companies. 15000 dollars per month is only required if you want to have a lot of kids and buy a lot of nice properties. Considering the cost is so high to your soul, you may consider MGTOW, YOLO or prepper lifestyle. After all, you know that societal decline is inevitable due to exhaustion of resources.

Do not let workaholic ridicule you. Your identity is not defined by your work alone, but by combination of your relationship with other people, values, lifestyle and abilities. And work is not equals virtue. If God let Israelite gone unemployed in the desert while He did all major work, neither do we will be sinful if we do so.

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H1 2017 life update (Part 2)

So, after all those activities, I still need to prepare my wedding on the end of this July. I flied from Singapore to Jakarta from 03 to 11 June 2017. I need to submit all necessary documents for civil registration. I and my fiancee went to our food vendor for food tasting together with my extended family.

And then we went to Ancol beach to do our prewedding photo taking. My fiancee was stuck in traffic jam and we started a bit late (around 11am) but after awhile everything was working fine. I am quite satisfied with the result but admittedly during night time the noises are quite visible in the photos. On the weekend, we visited my fiancee’s home to take picture with her dogs.

On Sunday, we have our last premarital counseling session with my senior pastor. And then, we went to my mom’s goldsmith acquaintance to collect our wedding ring. Unfortunately, the size still did not fit me and hence they need to enlarge the ring but I flied to Singapore that night on the same day.

During my leisure time, I also tried to apply to some job openings from Jobstreet as previously I have submitted my resignation from Hiend and my last day will be on 26 July.

I decided to quit because I feel that currently there is an oversupply of software engineer, business analyst and project manager in IT industry. All of my NTU friends from Computer Science and Engineering (around 20-25 people), around 80-90% of them are software engineers (although later some become business analyst, project manager and leaving IT industry all together).

So I tried to find non-software engineer job related to my specialization (like security analyst, consultant or researcher) but all of them have formidable requirements. I have applied to 7-8 job openings but no response after 1-2 weeks. There is also no confirmation from ADSC about their future funding or if I will be converted to their full-time staff after my internship.

Then, I begin to worry about possibility of financial issue after marriage after I declared my resignation. I am still currently studying part-time and my wife may also not finding appropriate job instantly when she moved to Singapore. But remembering almost sleepless nights during peak period last semester, I decided not to experience another two part-time jobs and two master modules. For me, being able to work for 8 years in Singapore is good enough already. More than that is surplus. I just leave this matter to God as it is already beyond my control.

Then, there is a job opening posted in NUS email. A professor who specialized in software security is looking for research engineer to do automated debugger for mobile apps security. Initially, I ignored that job advertisement for a week. But after no update from ADSC, I decided to try applying. Surprisingly, the prof responded almost instantly (within 2-3 hours). Within 2 days, I met with the professor and he interrogated me about my past projects and after that he explained several projects that he is currently doing. He asked me about my career aspiration to match me with available project.

In the second meeting with a PhD student and a research fellow from professor’s team, I expressed my wish to work on project related to malware detection and analysis. The professor said he may get the funding for such project in second year and he will work with industry partner (Kaspersky Lab, to be exact). If such thing happened, it will be good progress for my career.

Unfortunately, it is just two years contract (Although I think it is fine, since I considered this as entry level job in security domain…). Furthermore, with given salary, I am still able to feed my family, my fiancee and her mom. Given that, I am still grateful. Apparently, my career here has not ended yet. Hopefully, I can survive another semester. End of update for H1 2017.

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H1 2017 life update (Part 1)

After endless assignments, projects, paper submission and wedding preparation, eventually I have a time to write this update (Thanks, God!). From my previous post, readers would already know that for this H1 2017 I have two part-time jobs and two master coursework. I have not done such thing before so initially it seems so overwhelming.

So, ADSC internship turned out not so related with what I have expected. The project they are doing is more related to ICS (Industrial Control Systems), which I think to be more appropriate for electrical engineer instead of software engineer. There was not much coding involved. Basically, my main work during H1 2017 consisted of literature survey, developing attack model and solution requirement, setting VMs for simulation and deployed them into cloud environment (Google Cloud and Amazon AWS). However, I cannot complain because it is just part-time position. They have given me decent allowance (around S$700 dollar per month during study period and S$1,800 dollar per month during summer) and it greatly helped me to finance my wedding.

The sad thing is that most likely I cannot continue my internship into full-time position there. Until now, there is no confirmation on the project funding. Throughout 2-3 months of my internship there, there are around 8-9 full time staffs who resigned and they did not get any replacement. That included my teammate under the same project, who cannot find the job in Singapore and he need to move to Thailand (He got the job in Agoda). Another colleague has a financial issue because his child was not accepted into Singapore public school (Private school is quite expensive in Singapore – it will cost around S$1,000-1,500) and he and his family eventually relocated to Australia.

In the end, my supervisor and me submitted one paper for IEEE SmartGridComm. We will know the result in mid-July if the paper is accepted.

For my job in Hiend, luckily there was not much issues. Admittedly, my manager told me to do UAT or PROD deployment at the same time as NUS assignment deadline and it is really tiring to go to three or four places at the same day (ADSC office in Fusionopolis, Hiend office in Tai Seng, NEA in Newton, and NUS SoC for meeting with my group mates). I am supposed to have one project with Ministry of Education which need to be done. However, due to unavailable schedule, I need to postpone it after exam period.

One interesting thing is that when this project is signed I am in dire need of cash because of my wedding’s vendor payment. I am not expecting pay cut last year and I also underestimate my wedding cost. Hence, I requested my manager to give me the cash bonus first because the project has already signed-off and confirmed. Usually, I am only able to get my bonus after completion of the project. But, surprisingly, my request was granted and I am thanking God for that =D.

For my NUS coursework, I took two modules this semester – Wireless Networking and Advanced Operating Systems.

I took Wireless Networking because ADSC also has IoT project, which I am interested to do. The substantial portion of module content is related to hardware and physics. Some physical formula involved such as radio signal strength and energy capacity. I never have to deal with such thing before as computer science so it is some learning curve for me. Then, this module also has tutorial which need to be done and your attendance is part of assessment. The tutorial is done during working hour as this is undergraduate course. Hence, it is quite challenging for me and I never have a time to even take a look at the tutorial.

Furthermore, I need to deal with some teammates which seems do not have much appetite or time to do assignment properly. From my estimation, I need to do around 70-80% of the assignment and even then one of them cannot finish their part. One of them lied to say he has finished his part (data collection for Wi-Fi fingerprint at assigned public place) but the night before deadline he said he has not done it, because when he reached the place, he was running out of battery and did not bring any charger. During discussion, he also never present and even for presentation although I already told them the time and venue. Eventually, we have no choice but to report him to our lecturer (He actually asked us where is our teammate and we said that he is not contactable).

For another course (Advanced Operating Systems), I found it more beneficial as I learned about kernel and driver programming. Most of the time, we always coded at the surface layer using Java or C# and hence it is quite interesting experience for me. But last part of the module is very challenging because we are given research project (20% of the grade) and also driver development project (also 20% of the grade) and the deadline are quite similar.

Hence, I need to do a trick to complete those assignments on-time. The research project gave us option to find topics on either distributed operating systems, mobile operating systems and NFS (Network File Systems). Because I have done research project on static analysis of obfuscated code in Android platform for another module last semester and I got really good result (A+), I simply rephrased existing report and added some new contents inside (elaborate on dynamic analyzer). It saved me a lot of time. Otherwise, I may not able to get good result for this. Eventually, I still got A grade for this module =D. (Sometime you just need a bit of luck in life to have success…)

I will continue with part 2 sometime later

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