[Guest post] Speak to your Work


March 24th, 2015 - Posted by Stephen Kai Sui

The author, Stephen Kai Sui, is the CEO of Neural Technologies. Neural Technologies is a client and partner of Novatti. Stephen penned this personal piece and initially shared it via LinkedIn.

Years ago when I started my first job as a junior programmer writing datacom applications. I surprised many of my classmates as well as myself as I didn’t do too well in programming when I was in University. Well, like many of the Asian young IT professionals, programming is just a stepping stone. Many would “defect” from programming jobs to more glamorous one like sales or IT consultancy related work. I was not any different, but one statement from my brother got me thinking about my work in a different perspective. But it was only after a decade through my meandering career that I started to understand what it means. It still gives my colleagues blurry faces and starry eyes whenever I mention it, and this mysterious statement is – “Speak to your software” and I have since changed it to speak to your work.

The English saying of “making a living” which literally means one makes a living doing some work, your work pays for your living. But have you ever thought about work does have a life? Something that keeps on changing/evolving and something that you can speak to?

The majority of us look at work as mundane, routine and sometimes mysterious. And more importantly, we approach work thinking it is completely detached from our lives outside the office hours; we are oblivious of the common sense that we are all capable of applying to our work. These common senses do not just apply to technical work; in fact, they apply to all in my opinion. Let us look at a couple of examples and you probably can relate to them. Have you ever sent an email requesting someone to do something and yet not knowing if that someone was going to do as requested? We can, of course, assume that the person has undertaken the request and working feverishly, but it can turn out otherwise as well. Compare the email example to asking someone in the office out for lunch, you walk over to someone’s cubicle and pop the question, the person would either tell you yes or no, or maybe the person needs to check before confirming. Now you might question that email is different from a face to face question but I always wonder why I should leave the email requester wonder whether I am working on the request or not; an acknowledgement will be extremely useful in this case.

What about software programming? A developer writes a piece of code accessing a record in the database whilst knowing the application is the only process that could access the record, the application waits for the availability of the record forever and the applications hangs. The developer argues that the record should be there, and that was why the software was written in such a way. A naive programmer, you may say, but I have seen experienced ones acting the same way a little too often. A computer system/application evolves, just like a living thing. The new process might be added which happens to access the same record too and places a lock on the record. Compare this to a case when you are assigned to be the only person in the office to access a particular key in a key box, and on an occasion when you opened the key box and realized that the key you were supposed to have exclusive access disappeared. How would you react? Would you just stand in front of the key box and wait for its return? Yes, maybe it was not supposed to happen, but what if there was a recruit who did not know the procedure? I bet you would not stand in front of the empty key box and wait, would you? You probably would start asking people seated near the key box if they knew what had happened to the key.

I began this short discussion by sharing about my course mates’ disbelief of me becoming a software programmer. I guess I didn’t speak to my software when I was in university. It is fun to associate your work within your daily lives. Speaking to your work might just change the world for you.

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Stephen Kai Sui

Group Chief Executive Officer at Neural Technologies

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