Wednesday Jul 09, 2008

And I will always remember you

There are more tears shed in my office these two weeks than the combined of my entire career. They tore my heart.

Three years ago, I came to Beijing to accomplish four goals:

  • Improve engineering's operational efficiency to the parity of any other site in the world.
  • Cultivate its talents as a first class engineering center.
  • Strengthen the collaborative ties with the sales force to engender Sun's business and presence in China.
  • Improve the executive level communication between China engineering and headquarters (Menlo Park).

Looking back, they are reasonably done. During these same three years, I acquired wealth at Solomon's scale: I became a blogger and gained precious global experience; I now have insights that are hard to come by; I have honed my influencing skills working with government, universities, partners, customers, and field personnel; I expanded an invaluable network. Most importantly, have a renewed prospect of what should be the pursuit of my life.

Yes, this is the last entry of my Sun blog. I will soon lose the privilege to author new entries. Lack of new material will fade readership.

The thought of severing bonds is always anxious. Workplace relationships are complicated: alliance, group therapy buddies, collusion partners, mentors or mentees. Resignation distils them and left me with friends.

This gets heavier that my China community is so tight. I poured my heart and witnessed its growth over these 3 years. There are big plans for the future. Now the best I can hope for is becoming an interested observer for their fruition, probably from afar. Why does it have to come down to this sadness? Because life progresses, people make choices, and world turns. Plans must be executed, expectations must be met.

Of course, there is the ritual that comes with separation: drinks, talks, meals, warm hugs or hand-shakes. Then we have the cyber version of LinkedIn profile change. Through the exchange of pleasantries, a new relationship emerges.

If our relationship survives my Sun employment, please visit me at Nomadic Minds. My personal email is always open. Truly, I wish you the bests.

Tuesday Jul 08, 2008

But why? Sin-Yaw.

This article is just a bit more self-serving than my average.

How should a company deal with its senior ranked that are away from headquarters, where power and influences concentrate, particularly those temporarily assigned abroad?

Let me decompose this question into 3 scenarios:

  • If the company send someone away for a multi-year full-time training, with pay and all expenses taken care of. What happens when the person completes it?
  • If the company dispatch a senior person to handle a difficult situation; the person accomplishes the mission after a few years. What then?
  • Lastly, what to do with someone senior, competent, sadly peaked, but still seeking growth?

The first scenario really depends on what the person has learned. Under the mantra of "never throw good money after bad," any sunk investment meant nothing unless it can generate better return than alternatives. The company must evaluate the person's potential future contribution against all others who, in a sense, compete with him. The best qualified person gets the job.

Note the earlier decision to send the person for the training will be proven wrong if the individual comes back not competitive enough. Observe also that the now newly trained person has received the benefits no matter what the company decides to do with him.

The 2nd scenario is, again, not a valid economic concept under the mantra of "what have you done recently." A superb general is useless without wars. The company should graciously thank the person's contribution. Retain him for appreciation and future use if economically justified. Seek a friendly way to part ways if not.

Note that those now unwanted skills maybe marketable elsewhere. An idle hand at home might be better than a busy hand at the competitor's.

The best decision, for the 3rd scenario, is to gently let the person go. A person expecting unwarranted growth will become restless or even disruptive over time.

Wait a moment! Is the world really so cruel? So short-term thinking? Why does everything must justify economically? Where is loyalty, kindness, compassion, friendship, and decency?

It is really not the best interest for the person to stay on, even if the company is warm-hearted and appreciative. An individual must optimize himself for his or her future growth too. In this post-Internet, globalized, offshoring/outsourcing economy. Plenty of Chinese, Indians, or Vietnamese will kill to take your jobs. Many competitors will rejoice when the company bankrupts. Neither the company, nor the individuals can afford not to optimize.

This explains, partially, the weird phenomenon of this so-called "war on talents." Every companies seeks talents and loses critical ones at the same time. At any point, the company can afford to optimize only a very small number of objectives and must not invest on others. Unless an individual happens to match those objectives, it is best for him or her to look elsewhere.

Individuals should, then, always seek training and challenging assignments, even with the risks of not being aligned with the company afterward. It is always best to enhance yourself whenever there is a chance.

This rhetoric should be a sufficient answer to all those who demanded the rationalization for my departure. I love the company, its technologies, and all those wonderful people. I have a great job that pays well and is extremely satisfying. But, sadly, I have cultivated skills that are not applicable to the objectives the company chose to optimize for. There are only two choices: wait for new objectives or change company. I waited.

Thursday Jul 03, 2008

Go for Gold

Cross posted at http://www.nomadicminds.org

Humor me. Have a piece of paper and draw the productivity curve of yourself over the next 15 years. Most people's curve steeply go upward during their younger years (30 to 45) and flattens out as they age (50+).

Humor me again. Draw a curve of China's economoic growth over the next 15 years. If you think the break-neck speed will continue forever, you are crazy. Most people predict a gradually flattening curve after about 10 years.

If you are 27 to 35 years old in China, do you see the amazing similarity of your curve and the country's? Do you realize this overlap happens once and only once? China will not have the same growth rate again. Therefore, the opportunity is reserved only for one generation, and that's you. Not me, a geezer, not those who are still in college or just graduated.

Or, we can reverse the angle of the conclusion, if this generation does not answer to the call, China will not grow as fast for the next 15 years. History has forged you and China together. Isn't that exciting?

Be entrepreneurial, take risks, innovate. Whatever you do, don't fail China. Don't fail yourself. Don't fail history. <script language="JavaScript"> TagStart() Technorati("China") TagEnd() </script>

Monday Jun 16, 2008

The Local Face of Sun in China

LISA's Rebecca Ray was curious, persistent, and quite courteous. She interviewed myself and Melanie Gao a few months ago. My staff decided to send her a slightly eccentric picutre of mine.

Monday Jun 09, 2008

BYOC

You have an impossible choice similar to the famous "paper or plastic" question at the supermarket. At a Chinese restaurant the disposable chopsticks are clean but wasteful, the reusable ones are always suspicious, how were they cleaned, with what detergent and rinsing water?

Earlier last week, every employee at Sun China received a pair of reusable chopsticks, thanks to its employer-funded employee association, dubbed SunClubs. The engineers chose to chip in more and got 2 pairs. These aluminum chopsticks can be put together in seconds and come in an easy to wash case. On a whimp, I decided to sell extra at 70 cents each (roughly at cost). In one day, we sold over 30 pairs. I suspect we need to make more to meet the demand.

Next time in the restaurant, check out those proudly showing off their Sun-logo'ed chopsticks. They escaped the impossible choice and get to be clean and reusable at the same time. <script language="JavaScript"> TagStart() Technorati("China") Technorati("Chopsticks") TagEnd() </script>

Sunday Jun 01, 2008

A Beijing online purchasing experience

Yes, mundane as it sounds, it is worth a blog.

In a hurry, I asked Haiping to procure some for me. She diligently researched, on Internet of course, and found the desirable one. What happens after is where the American and Chinese experiences diverge.

She picked up the phone, spoke to a human being, confirmed the availability (just briefly), and placed the order. A day later, a young man, a bit sweaty and in such need of a shower that I wished to shorten our interaction as much as possible, rang my doorbell and presented me with the merchandise: 5 2GB USB-stick for 66rmb each. Plus 5rmb of shipping makes the total 335. Yes siree, I bought 5 USB sticks for US$48.33, call it US$10 each.

Find me a place the shipping charge is less than a dollar in US.

Saturday May 24, 2008

ErWang Temple, no more

Cross posted at http://www.nomadicminds.org

Just saw the report that ErWang Temple of DuJianYan collapsed during the earthquake. I took the picture on the left last November.

This temple was first built probably 1000 years ago. Last renovations was around 1908. It completely collapsed this time. Guess it qualifies as a once in a 100 years earthquake.

It is such as sad feeling that what I saw last year is gone forever. I had a similar sensation when the World Trade Towers collapsed during 9/11. I visiited the restaurant on top of them not too long prior to the disaster either.

The TV news showed workers spraying antiseptic over the debris. There are less and less "miracle rescue" stories and more and more on tent cities, heroic logistical efforts, and the national mourning. The whole country stood in silience for 3 minutes a few days ago. Cars stopped and honked at the same time. Many moist eyes, tears, or even crying during those minutes.

I honestly do not know if any government can do better than China handling a disaster of this scale. The actions were swift, organized, transparent, and open-minded. That 3-minute silence touched every citizens and solidified the entire country. Chinese showed their bests. Money poured in; factories mobilized to produce whatever; distribution systems efficiently move goods to the right places, even drop got a receipt from the recipient; civilians blogged, photo'ed, or emailed heart-wrenching stories.

Won't forget this for a long, long time.. <script language="JavaScript"> TagStart() Technorati("China") Technorati("Earthquake") TagEnd() </script>

Friday May 09, 2008

You have 7 years to learn Mandarin

Fortune magazine's Geoff Colvin agreed with economist Angus Maddison that by 2015, China will become the largest economy, supplanting the USA, of the world. That's 7 years from now.

He noticed that the US supplanting then the largest economy only in 1890, overtaking, guess which country, China. Since technologies will inevitably spread to every corner of the world, population will eventually became the main factor for economy. It is only natural that China to "resume its natural role as the world's largest economy by 2015," taking them 125 years to catch up the lead the US has from industrial revolution and and wars.

I agree with the eventuality of this prediction, but not necessary the exactness of 7 years: more like 20 in my opinion. But this is hardly the main arguement.

The new generation of business leaders, now in their 20s or 40s, must learn to do business in China and with Chinese. 7 years is not that long to master a language, especially when one is not even trying.



Thanks Jim Grisanzio for mentioning. I am adding this line just to send trackback.

Sunday May 04, 2008

Monetizing OpenSource

Questions from netizens lingered on after the IT168 interview, “How Sun, pioneer of open source, makes money?” I shall always remember Solaris 10. It took almost 4 years and thousands of talented engineer. How do we justify the investment if we open source? I decided to make this the topic for my talk at China's Partner CTO Summit, featuring distinguished guests such as Hal Stern and Jim Baty.

The era of software licensing is over. Now, participation defines community; communities become marketplace; marketplace generates revenue and leads to profit. How do you get people to participate at the first place? You set your software free. Freedom feeds the hunger of creativity and attracts participation.

Communities, however, must avoid anarchy that hampers profitability. For software, this means the necessity of licenses. Free software combined with proper licensing terms creates healthy participation and leads, eventually, to profitability.

This path shapes like a funnel. The mouth needs to be huge for as many and large communities as possible. Over the other end, a much smaller subset of them generate enough revenue. It is always good to have the mouth of the funnel bigger. It is also foolish to expect a high conversion rate, even worse to manipulate the licenses to increase the conversion rate. Never weaken freedom.

The conversion is not automatic. The participants enjoy the software and require a good reason and an easy mechanism to pay for it, directly or indirectly. Google is paid for by advertisements. MySQL collection subscription and service fees. ITune is part of iPod and a channel for Apple's online music business.

Sun first cultivated communities that are interested in our technologies and products. Then we attract developers to create solutions based on those technologies and products. Monetization then starts: entrepreneurs launch businesses with our technologies; hardware products enjoy a bigger market; enterprises still pay licensing fees for various reasons; communities members pay for subscription, support, and services; enthusiasm generates demands for training and consulting services.

OpenSourcing got Sun noticed and media covered. It opens doors previous shut tight. In this complex world of technologies, many larger companies will pay dearly for the what Sun received from open sourcing our software. Hack, I even heard someone saying Microsoft is now open-sourced. Shows how envious they are. <script language="JavaScript"> TagStart() Technorati("OpenSource") Technorati("Sun Microsystems") TagEnd() </script>

Monday Apr 28, 2008

1000 Days

Today is number 1,000. Where were you on August 4th, 2005? How have you changed since? Did I play a part in your life? Hopefully nicely remembered.

China teaches. Everyday I soaked up and learned. I discovered things in me that were long forgotten. I watched China, the USA, Sun Microsystems, and other companies and institutes. I smiled, I laughed, I sighed, and, many times, I found myself almost in tears.

Things are happening here with such epidemic boldness. Billions, BILLIONS of people are marching to quiet orders and shaping the earth with forces this world has never experienced before. Clearly, the world does not know how to deal with China. I don't think China does either. March on, nevertheless.

The poor touched me the most. A young man told me that his parents paid for his 4 years of college. Each year cost 3 times their total annual income as rural farmers. After he "made it" in Beijing, he bought 2 houses: one for his own family and another for his elderly parents. He told me that he will never be able to pay them back. I agreed whole-heartedly. Another told me about his college friend who eats only one meal a day. He has 500 yuans to live by every month. When inflation drove up the cafeteria meal to 15rmb (2 dollars), he cannot afford 2 meals anymore. I thought of him whenever I ordered from Starbucks.

I found Chinese entrepreneurs emancipated. For every bureaucratic inefficiency, there is an entrepreneur offering services. For every cent of arbitrage difference, there is a business exploiting it. For every profit margin, there is a hard-working person earning it. Government tries to keep up with infra-structure build-up and found capacity soaked up instantaneously. China will be fully enterprised in a decade or two. The profiting model will then change from "vacuum filling" (claiming a segment as the 1st arriver) to "competitive advantage" (trying to out-do existing players). I am curious to observe the transition then.

I pondered long on the struggle of foreign enterprises, very few did well here. Root causes seem mundane and obvious: they have been inflexible, ignorant, and arrogant. Enterprises tried to import value systems with assumptions: they are poor and therefore must not know better, they are different and therefore must be inferior, they are inexperienced and therefore must be weaker. Educated will see the stupidity of these assumptions, yet corporations repeat them years after years while Chinese are agreeing with them all the way to the bank.

Everything is possible, nothing is easy. Cliché on the lives in China, yet so true. Getting a driver's license, for example, is definitively a blog-worthy topic. Most people resigned to the arbitrary, tedious, and ever-changing bureaucratic processes. For thousands of years, China governs more with processes and less with laws. In fact, the passage of a law means very little until the publication of implementation specifics. The adage "there is a counter-measure for every policies" (上有政策,下有对策) refers to the commonality of law circumvention and a reflection of the chasm between the legal systems and the reality. In China, people spend a large percentage of their attention and resources to circumvent out-dated laws and regulations creatively to get things done. Westerners gasp and Chinese just smile.

Personal milestones happened during these 1000 days too. My mother passed away, a niece married, my 2nd kid thrust me into empty-nester's club, and I re-bonded with childhood buddies. I guess milestones always happen, but China marks a distinct period for these 1000 days. I have been thinking of how to harvest from the learnings more and more these days. This means this phase will be winding down and the next will start soon. A few years from now, I will look back to see another distinct 1000-day period.

How exciting! <script language="JavaScript"> TagStart() Technorati("China") Technorati("Sun Microsystems") TagEnd() </script>

Friday Apr 25, 2008

China ERC 2008

Fog completely shrouded ShangHai on the 2nd day. The hotel window, instead of framing the spectacular river-side cityscape, showed nothing: only lights without sources. I thought, "How long will the taxi line at the lobby?"

For 11 consecutive years, China's Ministry of Education and Sun Microsystems jointly held the conference for China higher education community.

The 1st day's morning has 4 Sun speakers, and several distinguished guests from China government. Jason Tong is the MC. Chris Lin, Sun China GM, welcome all attendants. Crawford Beveridge, Sun's EVP, talked about government's role in education and innovation. He started with a history of innovation and showed the trend of urbanization. He showed the list of largest cities in the world: both Beijing and ShangHai are on the list. Joe Hartley, VP of Global Government, Education & Healthcare, talked about personal roles in communities. His speech motivates people to become leaders, activists, or influencers in their communities. It earned a long applause from the audience.

Yours truly shamelessly plagiarized Greg Papadopoulos's Cloud Computing presentation. Greg observed the big trends in education and IT technologies are conveniently, and coincidentally, amplifying each others. I needed to shorten the material for the time. Hopefully, I still delivered the essences of his presentation. Simon See, Architect on HPC, ended the conference with a talk about the trend in high performance computing (HPC).

In addition to keynotes, there were several tracks of interactive sections and about a dozen or of exhibitions on various technologies and products. Overall, the conference was well-attended with IT professionals and professors from universities around the country. This is the 3rd time I participated this event. I am definitely coming next year too. <script language="JavaScript"> TagStart() Technorati("China") Technorati("ERC") TagEnd() </script>

Thursday Apr 24, 2008

Crossing the River

Cross posted at http://www.nomadicminds.org

HuangPu River carved the lovely Bund, the prime financial real estate since China leased this area to Britain in 1870s. It slices the city into halves.

ShangHai City started from the west side (PuXi) and expanded east, toward the sea. The river exacted a distance tax to PuDong, or the east of HuangPu river. It accepted to be the lesser part of ShangHai.

No more. Its rural land provided growth space for high-tech industries. The adjacency to the new airport and sea ports makes it a better choice of trade, light manufacturing, and the steel industry. PuDong is now rich, modern, and vibrant. PuXi, however, remains charming, classic, and the choice location for the best restaurants.

The necessity of crossing the river is a daily nightmare. Subway network is not yet mature. Tunnels are frustrating. Bridges are inconvenient detours. Then, I found the lovely alternative: the ferry. I like ferries.

There are two commuter ferry lines (and many tourist ones). The shorter one costs 0.50 RMB and the longer one 2. A short wait beacons the boat and begins the leisure crossing. I soaked in busy river activities and understood the role this river plays to the prosperity of this biggest city of China.

Then the taxi thrusted me back to the mega-city's arteries. <script language="JavaScript"> TagStart() Technorati("China") Technorati("ShangHai") TagEnd() </script>

Thursday Apr 17, 2008

Foot Massage

Cross posted at http://www.nomadicminds.org

"I insist," said a friend. "How can you live in Beijing for almost 3 years without experiencing it." She sounded just like myself when I said to Maggie a couple of years ago, "You grew up in Beijing and never visited the Forbidden City?" So I sheepishly follow them into this dimly lit massage parlor.

Foot massage, that is.

Many Chinese believe in reflexological therapy. The general theories associate vital organs and circulation to areas on one's feet. By stimulating the corresponding areas, one will heal or strengthen the associative organs. You can also diagnose by observing how areas of your feet react to massage actions.

The place is subtly decorated with staff quietly busying around. We were led to a room lined with easy chairs and foot stools. Soon, a waiter came in to confirm our services and take orders for drinks and foods (all complimentary). A few minutes after, 4 masseuses came in each with a wooden bucket of hot liquid. Flower petals float on the slightly colored water. It was scorching hot, yet soothing to soak your feet in. The masseuses then start work on our shoulders and backs. Knots that I did not know exist disappeared and tension from neck loosens. Just when I noticed the water is getting cold, the masseuse took my feet out, wrap them with warm damp towels, and took out the bucket.

They came back and start working on my feet. With lubricant, she pressed, rub, pinched, or rolled pretty much every parts. It hurt a bit, but not too much. Some parts generate unfamiliar sensations that are part itchy, part a bit pain, and part soothing. It was the "good hurt." I found myself getting drowsy and becoming quiet.

Too soon, they stopped and bid us farewell. We stayed to finish our drink and chat. As the conversation ends, we put our shoes back on (I don't want to) and left, very refreshed.

Hmm, I can get used to this... <script language="JavaScript"> TagStart() Technorati("China") Technorati("Foot Massage") Technorati("Reflexology") TagEnd() </script>

Monday Apr 07, 2008

YangZhou

Just wrote an entry, in traditional Chinese, on my recent visit to YangZhou. Check it out

Sunday Apr 06, 2008

IDF 2008, ShangHai

IDF this year was next to the lovely Bund of ShangHai, overlooked by the strangely shaped Oriental Pearl Tower. This is my 3rd time in two years attending IDFs. Intel packed their usual power executives and attracted estimated more than 5,000 attendants. At 9am, long line snaked out to the street waiting to enter. Hordes of brightly jacketed youngsters cradling a pen-laptop to search people's registration codes when they are still in the line. I was one of them, she tried my name and then my email address. Finally, she located my code and directed me to a counter to retrieve my badge.

I herded myself to the meeting hall and sat down right before Pat Gelsinger's keynote. After the fanfare, he showed up on a wide screen! I was in the simul-cast room. The instinct of getting up quickly subdued. The screen did a good job; Pat spoke, polished, well-rehearsed, and obviously from a stage at a much larger hall upstair. I learned my lesson and attended the great hall for Renee James's keynote the 2nd day.

The evening reception was a packed house — stand-up cocktail style. Exuberant Intel employees and invitation-only guests celebrated another successful IDF. A small stage featured "live statues" of motionless pretty women. A commontion sparked when 3 dancers, to the tune of New York, New York, dragged Intel senior executives on stage. They were good sports, but bad dancers. I re-acquainted myself with several of them and made several new friends too.

Sun is a Gold Sponsor at IDF. Amiram Hayardeny attracted a standing-room only attendance with a topic of "Let Sun Shines on your Intel Platform." We exhibited various Software and Hardware technologies. People checked us out in a steady flow; everyone left with a nice stylish t-shirt too. All registered attendants also get a OpenSolaris CD in their bag.

ShangHai is a nice break from Beijing that is intensively focused on the Olympic. I took the opportunity to meet several customers and partners. I will also take a long detour back home via YangZhou, mixing business and pleasure together. That will be another blog. <script language="JavaScript"> TagStart() Technorati("China") Technorati("IDF") TagEnd() </script>

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