So many things have happened in the past several months and many things I’m really grateful of. I’ve got through my defense last month. I’ve gone through to two job interviews, both gotten through referral from friends. One offer was on the table and I took it. This implies that I’m going to move from Kaiserslautern to Munich in the end of March. Very excited with the (hopefully positive) change of routines.

In the mean time, I have to publish my thesis, write another paper, clean my apartment, send out cancellation notices, and finding a great place in the very competitive housing market of Munich. Quite a challenge which will involve traveling to Munich several times before the actual move. At least no flights and jet-lags are involved.

Drawing a Parallel between Google and Jakarta

Recently three senior guys at Google, Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle, published a book titled “How Google Works“. As the title suggests, this book explains the thought process behind running Google as a company. It is a terrific read, regardless whether you’re a business man or just some guy looking for work (-> pointing to me <-). What's surprising for me is that there are similiarities between the general concepts written there and what drives the current government of Jakarta! Here are some points I noticed from reading the book and watching so (too) many videos from the media and the ones published by the Jakarta government.

1. Sharing what you have

The default mode of Google is being open. They share quite a lot of their intellectual properties (Android, for example). Of course there will be certain things that are kept as trade secret (their search tweaks are the most obvious example), as they are for profit company at the end of the day. The main point behind this is that if the whole industry benefits from what they’ve shared, Google will also reap its rewards. A win-win situation.

The government of Jakarta also thinks in a similar way. The current governor, Basuki Purnama, stated that if other Indonesian provinces are prosperous, the economy of Jakarta will also benefit. Several concrete steps have been done in this direction, for example by providing budgetary gifts to cities surrounding Jakarta to build supporting infrastructure.

2. Make decisions based on data (the real data)

Google makes their decisions based on data. Before meetings that yield decisions, relevant data are gathered. When no data exists, the “highest-paid person’s opinion” (HiPPO) holds. More precisely, only in this case does the HiPPO hold. Therefore, decisions can be made more objectively catered to what is necessary.

The decisions made in Jakarta are now based on data, the real data, based on all the blusukan (impromtu visits) done by the chiefs of the public servants and the direct reports from the Jakartans to the head of the government. If there are conflicting arguments in interpreting the data, they invite knowledgable people who have the conflicting views to explain to them (in a discussion) what would be better. The tie breaker is done by the governor, being the “highest-positioned person”. More importantly, decisions are being made and executed.

Speaking of blusukan, it is really vital in successful companies. (Note that blusukan ≠ micromanage.)

3. Effective overcommunication

The gist to communicate effectively on a particular concept or idea is to say it like twenty times before it truly sinks in on the other side. By this time, the one who says it will start to be sick of saying it, but it is the starting point where others start to get it. There are other aspects related to this, for example, whether the communication is inspirational, authentic, going to the right people, truhful and uses the right media.

The Jakarta’s government uses YouTube where videos about various activities of the top guys in the government (governor, vice governor and general secretary) are documented. What makes it authentic is the lack of censorship on the videos and the breadth of full meetings being uploaded. While there are some editing, most dialogues present in the meetings are in the video verbatim. These top guys are also consistent in saying the same things over and over again (like using the safetipin app that aggregates information about safety and problems in a neighborhood). The frequent use of analogues is also useful in communicating the intention to the audience of the videos with encompassing all kinds of backgrounds: the people of Jakarta.

There are, however, some stark differences. One that grabbed me the most is the rule on following competition. In the book, the authors state that business should not follow what the competition is doing. Instead of trying to do this incremental, low-impact changes, try to rethink how a problem can be solved such that the results is 10 times better than what we already have now.

The Jakarta government has a different take on this. Instead of thinking about a novel solution to existing problems, they adapt solutions that already work in other cities, because then the mistakes made in other cities do not need to be repeated. Thus, Jakarta can get up to speed. That said, compared to what Jakarta has (had), this simple idea is indeed the one that gives the biggest impact, with the least trial and error cost.

I wonder if there are more parallels can be made… I probably will need to read the book once more to get more ideas 🙂

CV, Motivation Letter and re:Work Hosted by Google

Apart from visiting Olga and Misha’s flatwarming party (playing Dixit with words like “[Ee]ve”, “Cinderella” and “[Hh][au]rry”), I spent this weekend looking for information that can help me with writing my CV and cover letter. After all, I’m now looking for a job. In the end I was searching for youtube videos with the keywords “Laszlo Bock Google”. One of the videos that were useful for me was the following workshop given by Laszlo Bock.

His distinct advice for a good CV is to write “Accomplished [X] as measured by [Y] by doing [Z]” to highlight accomplishments. For cover letter (while he dismissed its importance, while acknowledging the insistence of many companies whjch still require them), it’s a three succinct paragraphs of the following structure:

  1. Introducing yourself and which job you’re applying for
  2. What you’ve done and why you’d be a good fit for the role
  3. A closing statement and remarking the possibility of a follow up on your side after a few weeks should you don’t hear back from the company

If possible, the letter should be addressed to a person in the company.

From there I ended up on this channel, which stores the videos of re:Work event recently held by Google (actually just over a month ago, so they’re still quite fresh). The talks are all very interesting.

The talk above by Shawn Achor on happiness made me think a bit, especially since I gravitates towards being unhappy, thanks to my pessimist-realist tendency. The thing is, happiness is a choice, that can be influenced by oneself given a bit of effort. Stephen Covey in his book states that we control 90% of our life. So what’s kind of 90% things that can I use to increase my own happiness level? Well Shawn Achor mentioned in that talk above, that research shows by simply writing a 2-3 sentence email (or even better, face to face) to a different friend thanking him/her every day significantly improves happiness, not to mention the increased social support. So, I’ll definitely give this a go!

New Blog, New Start!

Well, it’s been rather hectic with everything, and it wasn’t exactly helpful when I fell prey to the Ubuntu’s 14.04 installation “bug” that wiped out the entire SSD when I tried to reinstall the OS. To add to that, the backup failed! This happens on the weekend after I received the news that my thesis submission wasn’t approved at the faculty meeting on some technicality. Murphy’s law surely likes to apply itself when you least expect it. What surprised me the most is how calm I was in handling the situation. The past me would definitely freak out to no end. Anyway, that’s about it. I lost a lot of personal data, including the backup for my previous blog entries and plenty of pictures. Just have to start anew.

So what I’m up to these days? Well, I’m now preparing myself to look for a job somewhere in Germany (with some flexibility to extend to some other parts of Europe). To be honest, it’s not an easy choice, since there’s enormous amount of opportunities in Indonesia. With many friends opening up successful startups, a new government that pushes for transparency and open governance, and the realisation how much Indonesians actually care about Indonesia (you just only have to provide them with a simple, yet functional platform), it can be the right time to move in. The thing that weighs against this choice for me is the lifestyle, the respect of privacy and the lack of practical experience on my side. And that’s it for now.

It’s been challenging so far preparing everything in German, while trying to tie up some loose ends at the uni. I also need to curb this relieve feeling after submitting my thesis, to get back in the right mood. There’s still plenty of work to be done after all!