Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My next computer company job and really learning the ropes VI

The next day I had an email from the director Robin Liao.

‘It has been good to work with you all…." it said. In truth I was going to miss the guy as, for a few months, the marketing team had been one: meetings were held in which the director facilitated opinions and ideas, rather than for the purpose of getting his across; there were weekly status reports, organization, and things ran on time. It had persuaded me to get involved in marketing, now I was going to have to go crawling back to sales.

Among Robin’s grievances: no budget, spending the early hours arguing with the president only for him to say no anyway, and the fact that they had promised him he was supposed to setting up an office in Seattle. “I may be Taiwanese, but I really don’t understand how to deal with these people, anymore,” he had confessed to me one night. “You are a foreigner. How do you deal with it?” I wanted to tell him he was a foreigner too, but if he didn’t get it now, then he never would.

Next to go was the product manager Eric; all sharp suit, narrow rimmed glasses, and repertoire of attentive, earnest, busy and thoughtful expressions, he had the international executive look that was now available over the counter of a lunchtime as a quick injection at business schools around the world. On maybe, the second or third day at work I had told him: “You look like overseas Chinese” and he was so happy, I thought he was going to die on his chair having completed his life’s journey. Clearly his MBA and subsequent work for international companies had been too much of an enlightening experience for him.

For most of his time in the company he cut a forlorn figure alone in the meeting room waiting for the others. He wore his suit and sat upright, straight-backed, leaning slightly forward on his chair, pulling his routine of expressions that were meant to let you know he was here for you, and he would like to be able to count on your support too – and together as a team they could conquer the world; the engineers sat slumped on their elbows, slouched cross-legged or with their feet on a chair, playing with their notebooks or phones – thinking how bored they were and wondering why he was going on with this bullshit because he didn’t have any authority and so why the fuck did he think they were going to listen to him.

Background: Eric’s father was one of Chiang Kai-Shek’s soldiers who came over in 1947 so he couldn’t speak Taiwanese – and, for reasons only known to himself, believed the people on the mainland to be more classy than the Taiwanese. Taiwanese were often not subtle but spend a couple of weeks in China and then in Taiwan and it was like going from the stone age to a classical music concert.

Eric didn’t get along with anyone, nor was he prepared to try – but, to be fair to him, it didn’t matter: whatever happened they weren’t going to listen to the product proposals he was employed to come up with because he didn’t have a technical background.

The communications manager was the last out. Nana, because her parents taught her to question (and didn’t believe that 11th hour of school on Sunday was productive) was one of the few to come through the Taiwan education system with her natural inquisitiveness, independence and personality intact – One could not overstate the strength of character needed to complete the education system without becoming a zombie. And therefore, because of this, she didn’t see her spell abroad as the complete source of her present confidence. She was told she had been employed to handle the company’s corporate image in China, but once she had organized the opening of the new headquarters and arranged the publicity for the company going public he found she had nothing to do: the company was afloat, attention had been generated, the stockholders had been appeased so now the board could drop the idea of having their own brand.

…Actually, the first to go was the technical marketing guy – an easy oversight because he didn’t really behave as part of the team. He had left almost immediately once he realized he had a manager.

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