AI in Microsoft PowerPoint

Just came back from my fil’s 65th surprise birthday party. Phew, what an eventful day! Husband and I actually spent half a day producing a slideshow video for him. It was intense. We were afraid that we were not able to finish it on time. But we made it nonetheless!

Thanks to Microsoft PowerPoint. I wanted to use Windows Story Remix (previously known as Windows Movie Maker which I’m very familiar with) but the software kept crashing on me. Thank god I decided to use Microsoft PowerPoint. And I was really blown by the advancement in Microsoft’s Office Intelligence service. I could easily insert 5 pictures on 1 slide and Microsoft PowerPoint would recommend a few designs! I didn’t need to arrange the pictures myself to make a collage. It also recommended how I can position the title of each slide. Very very impressive.

This is the power of AI! Of course there’s still a lot of improvement to be made – for example, it doesn’t know what to recommend when I combine both pictures and videos in one slide. But still..when more people use it, it will remember and then know what to recommend. You should try it!

Here’s a picture of me and my family at the birthday party.

I guess you can never go wrong with Black and Gold!

Need to be More Proactive in Taking Care of Ourselves

I’ve been having a lot of phlegm lately, I keep having to throw it out from my throat. It’s getting really annoying. Even my nose is blocked during the day, not just in the morning. I thought maybe my sinus has worsen that I need to undergo an operation. But I didn’t do anything about it, I just endured it, until today.

Today I decided to take action. I went to the clinic to seek help. I really wanted the doctor to check me and recommend me to an ENT specialist if need be. I’ve been postponing to see the doctor because the queue is always long and I don’t have much time to spare. But I thought this is my health and I should be more proactive in taking care of myself before it negatively affects my personal and professional lives.

This is what the doctor said.

You don’t have fever and your breathing is normal. You don’t need to see ENT specialist. You just have to allow your immune system fight the airborne bacteria. The air that you breathe is just very dirty.

I was stunned.

So she gave me nasal spray, fluimucil to break down the phlegm, sore throat spray and flu pill. She also asked me to take 1000mg vitamin C everyday and after this episode, she advised me to take flu shots to strengthen my immune system.

The medications helped me a lot and I’m feeling much better.

But I’m still stunned by her hypothesis.

Is the air that we breathe really dirty? Is it because of that? I admire those who have passion to fight climate change because I don’t. I’m aware of it and I will try my very best to act in accordance to fight climate change, but it won’t be part of my main agenda/topics of interest. But if the increase in airborne bacteria is due to climate change, then I should be interested about climate change because the threat is real.

Let’s be more proactive in taking care of ourselves and our environment.

Happy Labour Day!

When it comes to work and the hours we pour for work, there is no one universal method/concept that works for everyone. It really varies, depending on each individual’s circumstances, personal life, other responsibilities, work ethics, values, goals.

Last Sunday, NST published an article by NST Leader on related subject, entitled “Rostering Routines”. The main message is to urge Malaysians to be more productive at work and home, to have a more enriching work-life balance.

Last week, there were a lot of noise about China’s work ethics saying that the tech employers tend to exhaust the employees to work tirelessly just to get the work done, to achieve their ambitious goals. It all started when Jack Ma called long working hours “a huge blessing”. Richard Liu, from JD.com, said people who frittered away their days “are no brothers of mine”. They even has a term for it – 996, i.e. working from 9am to 9pm 6 days a week, a culture they refer to as “hustle culture”.

And then in the US, FT published a long interview on Warren Buffett (which I must say a good weekend read) and quoted this from the man himself, “I’m having a vacation every day. If there was someplace else I wanted to go, I’d go there. This is the pleasure palace here — you’re sitting in it now. I have more fun here than I think any 88-year-old is having, virtually, in the world.” Which means, he doesn’t mind working every day.

From the glance of it, the successful founders in 2 most powerful countries in the world are portraying that they love working and that we should continue to work for as long as we want to reach greater heights. And they are already billionaires. But here in Malaysia, we are trying to get our people to slow down when in actual fact, we haven’t worked hard enough and have to work hard to push our country to climb the development ladder.

I’m not saying that everyone should be working 996 throughout their lives, I myself wouldn’t want to do that too now. But that’s because my circumstances have changed, my priorities have changed. I now have a family, I have a son that I want to go home to play with, I want to see him everyday in the morning and at night. I have done my fair share of 996 when I was younger and still single, in fact sometimes it’s 907, i.e. 9am to 12am 7 days a week.

So I wouldn’t stop the youth to follow the 996 culture, especially if you have a target to meet or a problem that you are so passionate about to solve. Why not? No one should be stopping you as long as you don’t compromise your health and forget your parents. At the end of the day, we all must know when to switch on and when to switch off. Learn how to be physically, mentally and emotionally present. If it’s dinner time with parents, stop thinking about work and be there for them.

With that in mind, let’s have a good break and spend a wonderful time with our families today, in conjunction to Labour Day.

Happy Labour Day everyone!

Hello!

I’m back! Albeit 90% fully recovered. I need to be at my 120% best. Hopefully going back to my normal routine will help accelerate my recovery. There’s one more thing I feel like doing – running; to sweat all the toxic out. Not sure if I have the time today so we’ll see.

Like I said in my previous post, sometimes you fall sick because your body is telling you to pause. After recovering, I could almost feel a new level of energy. But here’s the danger, we always tend to over do things. We know moderation is key but as usual being human beings, we tend to ignore the benefits of doing things in moderation.

Gotta tell myself multiple times that life is a marathon, not a sprint.

Have a good day everybody!

Marc Andreessen’s original blog

I blogged before about how I enjoyed listening to Marc Andreessen speak. I actually said he speaks like a robot and everything that came out of his mouth are all substance. Basically, I’m a big fan of him and he is a star in the VC world.

And recently, I stumbled upon his original blog. Had fun reading it especially on The Guide to Personal Productivity. I’ve always been interested on things related to career, productivity based on my writings so far (check out my Productivity-related posts).

If you are still in uni or just came out fresh from uni, or even if you are on a crossroad, I would advise you to read Marc’s blog. Here’s the link. He wrote this back in 2007 and the advice are all still very much relevant until now. My favourite is as below!

Wandering is an essential counter-balance to efficiency

Got that from Amazon’s 2018 letter to shareholders.

Below is the full excerpt where Jeff Bezos emphasised the importance of intuition, curiosity and power of wandering in business. And I believe that it’s also important, in fact more so, for incumbents, large corporations who are struggling to avoid disruption, and of course, financial institutions such as sovereign wealth funds.

Sometimes (often actually) in business, you do know where you’re going, and when you do, you can be efficient. Put in place a plan and execute. In contrast, wandering in business is not efficient … but it’s also not random. It’s guided – by hunch, gut, intuition, curiosity, and powered by a deep conviction that the prize for customers is big enough that it’s worth being a little messy and tangential to find our way there. Wandering is an essential counter-balance to efficiency. You need to employ both. The outsized discoveries – the “non-linear” ones – are highly likely to require wandering.

I used to think that managing a project is as straightforward as having a good plan and just execute. But it’s beyond that. And I think employees shouldn’t be penalized if the road to completion of the project is messy and tangential. Straight, linear lines just don’t work anymore in this century.

Food for thought.

You can read the whole letter here.

 

Procrastinate to Wait for the Right Time

I think to a certain extent, we all are procrastinators in our own way. Sometimes it’s just due to pure laziness, but sometimes it’s because we are waiting for the right time. Whatever your narrative is, only you know, myself included. Sometimes I’m just not in the mood to complete the task and hence ideas are not flowing smoothly – I will end up getting it done in 2 hours when it could have been completed within even 30 minutes. So procrastinate is not entirely bad.

As Adam Grant says in his Original book, procrastination is a form of “delaying progress which enabled people to spend more time considering different ways to accomplish it, rather than “seizing and freezing” on one particular strategy”. He pointed out a finding by a doctoral student such that “employees who procrastinated regularly spend more time engaging in divergent thinking and were rated as significantly more creative by their supervisors”.  As long as the employees are intrinsically motivated to complete the task or solve a particular problem.

Adam Grant quoted a few legendary examples of procrastinators and the outcome of being procrastinate or should I repeat, delaying progress, as follows:

  1. Da Vinci – didn’t finish painting Mona Lisa all at once, he did it on and off for a few years, while working on other projects/experiments. Initially he saw it as a distractions but it turned out to be a lifetime of productive brainstorming that led him to produce the “most parodied work of art in the world”.
  2. Martin Luther King – well known for his “I have A Dream” speech at one of the most historic gathering in America on civil war. Apparently he started on his closing paragraph only the night before the speech and completed only in the morning. Even nearer to speech time, he kept on improvising the speech. The difference is that, he has been thinking about it much earlier on, did the research, sought advice, prepared a draft, asked for feedback etc.  And that’s how a true procrastinator works.

As Adam Grant phrased it:

Along with providing time to generate novel ideas, procrastination has another benefit: it keeps us open to improvisation. When we plan well in advance, we often stick to the structure we’ve created, closing the door to creative possibilities that might spring into our fields of vision.

It’s ok to not rush the work, it’s ok to phase it accordingly. Sometimes when we delay, a more valuable data or piece of information came in that might alter our conclusion entirely and we can’t dismiss that especially if this new data supersedes the ones you have. Would you rather state a false conclusion or wait for a little while to provide the right conclusion? Data are being produced in a voluminous way and high velocity, so we should always be quick to absorb and rephrase our narratives to provide timely and accurate analysis.

In a corporate environment which tend to be highly competitive, everyone wants to be the first to know, first to inform. They rush through it. But it’s ok to not be the first mover – gather and synthesize the right information first and form your own opinion/idea.

Another study (from Adam Grant’s book) showed that CEOs who planned carefully, acted early and worked diligently scored as more rigid while CEOs who tended to delay work were more flexible and versatile – as they were able to change their strategies to capitalize on new opportunities and defend against threats.

It’s all about the right timing. Although I wish we all have a magic ball to tell us, life is not as simple as that. According to Bill Gross, Idealab founder, timing accounted for 42% of the difference between success and failure. When it comes to finding the right time, I realized that you should trust your gut feel on this.

A final except from Adam Grant’s book to conclude my post today: 

Great originals are great procrastinators, but they don’t skip planning altogether. They procrastinate strategically, making gradual progress by testing and refining different possibilities.

Time and tide wait for no man

So yesterday one of my junior colleagues asked me, “You have written more than 80 posts and you write everyday, don’t you run out of ideas of what to write?” 

I said, “No”. In fact I have so many thoughts running in mind that I have to choose what I want to write. We read everyday (not necessarily books, could be the news, articles, blogs, someone’s post on Twitter, IG or FB), we converse everyday (with our family members, friends, colleagues, sometimes strangers) and we watch/listen to media everyday (TV, Netflix, YouTube, podcast etc). Any of these interactions in your daily lives should spark ideas or inspire you to talk about it especially if it’s surrounding your interest. I’m sure all of you have many ideas/thoughts too, just that most of the time we let it run and stay in our head.

For example, today’s topic is triggered by an article shared by a friend – The Smart Guide to Procrastination.

The message of the article got me inspired to write and share to all of you because it is related to my 1-minute daily blog. The key message of the article is that you can procrastinate less, complete more tasks and achieve more things by adopting the unschedule model, a term invented by the psychologist, author and skilled procrastination-avoider Neil Fiore and published in his book, The Now Habit, in 1988. According to his research:

those who finished writing dissertations in one to two years as opposed to three to 13 years, were the ones who were busier in their lives

I totally agree. After getting married and especially now, after having a kid, I find that I become more efficient, simply because I don’t have time to procrastinate or I’ll never get anything done. I have the mindset that I want to do things fast. At work, I want to be more productive so that I can go home early and play with my son. So I will plan my work accordingly to avoid any late-nights and ad-hoc work. For the work that I can control, I would, but there are times when it is beyond my control but that’s fine because it rarely happens. Since I had my son, I have only stayed up until 4am to work once.

Part of me writing daily is also to break the myth that once you are married and have kids, you are doomed and you can’t do anything else, apart from day-to-day work (if you are working) and taking care of your family. You will have the time to read a book if you make time for it. One of my former colleagues have 4 kids with no maid and she has a full-time work, a finance director in one of the large corporations in Malaysia. She wakes up everyday at 5am so that she has her ‘me-time’. According to her, that’s the only time she has to do whatever she wants.

Fiore (the inventor of unschedule model) also said that, based on his research:

Those of us who were busy with other activities started earlier in our day on our task, for 30-60 minutes, sometimes 90 minutes at a time, because we had a life to live.

My friend who shared the article to me said, “I bet you actively schedule to blog”. That’s not quite true. I aim to do it every morning before I go to work. So most of the time, I did it in the morning, but there are days that I did it during lunch time or at night. This is the concept of unschedule.

You should try it too. Try unschedule some time everyday for the things that you really want to do for yourself. You want to exercise, do it at any time in the day when you are free. Don’t tell me you are fire-fighting 24 hours everyday.

One of my former supervisor did her CFA level 3 when she had her 2nd kid. So she actually stayed up at night every day to study and in between she stopped to breastfeed her kid. And she passed her exam. She told me that as a result, her kid grew up liking to study.

Another example, one of the leaders in my organization exercise everyday no matter what happens. Mind you, he has a big responsibility. He said to me, “you have to get used to intermittent exercise and without any equipment”. Indirectly, what is he trying to say is, you don’t have to wait for the world around you to be perfect for you to do what you want, because life is imperfect as such and the choice is entirely yours.

Time and tide wait for no man – centuries old proverb which remains very relevant until now.

When is the right time to automate?

Just had an interesting conversation with a long time friend/former colleague (who left the corporate life to focus on her startup) about choosing automation/digitalisation at work via upgrading to systems/platforms/softwares however you want to classify it or as simple as using formula/macro on excel as opposed to doing things manually such as recording customers data, finance or portfolio information, checking inventories, recording claims, etc

Doing all these things manually can be very daunting especially if it is repetitive and looks trivial or worse, menial. It’s a painful process but most of the time, we complain and do nothing about it. We would rather endure the pain because the time required to change or automate will be more than just spending another hour to manually do it. But what we don’t realise is the cumulative hours that we spend doing it and the rate of time spent increases as we grow bigger and more complex. This reduces your productivity and increases inefficiency at work that may not only affect your team members but also other internal stakeholders.

Even not all startups which deliver their products/services online or through apps don’t bother fixing the problem, at least not at the beginning simply because it can be more costly (in terms of time/money) to adopt automation. There is obviously no question as to whether you should automate. The US and China not only are chasing each other testing and learning repeatedly to create and adopt innovative solutions at work but also trying to solve the “future of work” when automation led by AI makes some of these jobs redundant.

But the question is, when is the right time to adopt automation?

I guess there is no straightforward answer to that. In every organization, there will be a time when you are at an inflection point where you have to either pivot or grow/innovate your business. At that time, if you still don’t invest the time and effort to simplify your work or make your process more efficient, you will definitely struggle in the future.  Sometimes the solution is as simple as creating a microsoft excel template with index/vlookup formulas with proper unique identification. That is also an automation without any sophisticated technology. Once you outsource the menial work to machines/systems/softwares, you can carve out your time to do more meaningful work. That will not only help yourself but also your team and the whole organisation. 

 

In search for more data and better technology

Yesterday, Larry Fink, the CEO of BlackRock announced that BlackRock is going to acquire eFront, a risk management platform called  for USD1.3bn. I gasped. Late last year,  State Street announced that it will acquire Charles River, eFront’s competitor, for USD2.6bn. I think the acquisition of the latter has been completed. In 2017, GIC invested 30% stake in Mergermarket (now known as Acuris), a core provider of data, research and analysis particularly on M&A.

What does this tell you? What do they have in common? What are the motives of these asset managers?

All longing for more data and better technology/systems to provide more sophisticated solutions for the clients or stakeholders. This is definitely a growing trend and I only mentioned a few, albeit the major ones. BlackRock and State Street are already trillion dollar companies (by AUM) and yet they want to make sure they continue to be at the fore front, as AI, computers and machines take over our lives. Well it makes sense, they are big and they have a lot of cash that they can just buy a company that has been collecting data and selling platforms/softwares to clients in the financial industry and by BlackRock and State Street acquiring eFront and Charles River, they are both going to have access to all clients data. That’s the main beauty of the acquisitions.

This also tells you that as an employee, you have to learn how to use these systems and be able to swim across the ocean of data to provide valuable insights in a timely manner. And that is a challenge. In Malaysia, let’s not talk about asset managers acquiring platforms/systems, we tend to just outsource and sign a contract with the vendors. eFront and Charles River are both names that are not new to me. They are vendors that I have dealt with, either at proposal levels or execution levels.

Malaysia has still a long way to go. If you keep outsourcing, you will rely mostly on the external capabilities which is fine at the beginning but over time, our capability cannot be just limited to storing the data in the systems and then generate output. We need to learn how to control the systems/models so that we can customize according to our needs, mostly to make our daily work more efficient.

It’s not just the technical capability that we need to address, but it is also the culture and mindset. Employees are always bogged down with day-to-day work that they do not carve out time to innovate – improve productivity and learn the new way to do things. This needs to be addressed, otherwise we will be left behind. And this is applicable to all other industries. When you have proper systems, you are able to play with your data in timely manner and generate insights to make better decisions.

What to expect next week?

Today I decided to ask a friend of mine what to write about. She asked me to write about how I would expect to achieve next week so that by end of the week I can do a reflection of whether I get to achieve all those goals. Interesting I thought. So here goes.

Firstly, what to expect next week:

  • Clean up my CV and LinkedIn as I need to submit to CFA Society Malaysia for them to consider sharing my career story in their Career Guide book 2018/2019
  • Clean up my Facebook so that I can start sharing my blog on Facebook (I have not been active on Facebook for more than a year guys, I mean, what’s the point of having multiple social media platforms if you are not able to maintain it)
  • Meet up with a leader and share my next 10-year goals
  • Finish reading my 4th book for the year
  • Write about “reasons whether you should or should not do CFA exams” (been getting a lot of questions on this actually)

Ok there you go, that’s the plan for next week. Other than that, of course I have my own to-do-list for my primary work which is private and confidential, on top of my daily blogging.

Now how would I expect to achieve next week?

As per my son’s t-shirt below, no other way than “just kicking do it!” 

kickingdoit

Motivation for today

Just came across another interesting blog through Fred Wilson. The blog belongs to Howard Lindzon, who is fairly well known in the investment and tech industry too. He is the co-founder of StockTwits, the social media platform for finance. The most interesting part of him that got me inspired is the fact he also blogs regularly, almost daily and he has been doing that for more than 10 years.

And guess who inspired him to write? Fred Wilson, the man who inspired me to start this blog too. But now thanks to Howard, I can’t wait to launch my blog and I might launch it sooner than expected.

I realized Howard has his niche too as you can tell from his tagline – Investing for Profit & Joy. Tagline is important, as highlighted in Million Dollar Blog book too. It gives people a glimpse of what your website/blog is about. There’s a reason why WordPress created a Tagline box for us to fill. My current tagline is “My Daily Musings” and I’m thinking of changing it. Any ideas?

Through Howard, I also stumbled upon another website called Pando, who writes about start-ups mainly in Silicon Valley, founded by Sarah Lucy who used to be columnist at TechCrunch. She does interviews as well. The similarities between these owners are they are so passionate about what they talk about and blogging helps them to think better and be accountable of their own opinion/decisions.

I’m so glad I found the desire and determination to do this, although I’m still very early in the game. I hope one day Fred and Howard will know how they have inspired me. Through this blog also I hope that more Malaysians especially the younger generation will start blogging, create digital content and ultimately their personal brand. Show the world that we are serious about what we do, we do productive things, we are educated and motivated.