Friday, December 2, 2016

Final Review Post

My largest gaining from this course is that I learned to look at things through the lens of economics. Tying the course with my own experience and interest, I found I gained a deeper understanding on many of the economic concepts and how they work in the real world.

I have an interest in Business and HR, and through this course I saw many activities that happen in the business and HR fields have their economics principles and models behind, which made me feel that everything is connected. Merger and acquisition, organization structure, building high-performance teams, performance pay, efficiency wage, people management, conflict management, coordination and motivation… these topics that we have discussed in class and also analyzed through excel homework coincides with my interest, and have provided me a new perspective of approaching business problems: through economic analysis. I had a very shallow understanding of these topics before, but our class helped me to understand the underlying reasons why these activities and issues exist, how do they work, how to solve them and produce the most efficient outcome.

For me, blogging and commenting is the part that took me the longest time. I feel I’m more comfortable with writing academic papers. I have experiences in writing academic topics, but I do not have much experience in writing personal experiences and thoughts. I sometimes have trouble with finding personal examples that reflect the economics we learned in class. Besides, I am a slow writer, not matter in my first or second language. Trying to write down what I have in my head and express it clearly to someone in my second language was quite difficult and also very time-consuming for me. I remembered that in the midterm reflection post some students wrote that they only needed about half an hour to write the post, while I usually spend a few hours writing a post. However, as I write more throughout the semester, I found myself more comfortable with writing blogs and spent less time on it. I guess everything needs practice, and there is a learning curve for everything.

I found this very beneficial because it forces me to think and analyze my past experiences, which helps me to reflect on many things that I would never think about otherwise. By connecting my own experience with Economics and what we talk in class, I see how Economics is reflected in practice and everyday life. The blogging assignment also made me wanted to develop a writing habit.

The excel homework was much less time consuming. The content of the excel homework itself is actually pretty demanding, but the questions in the excel homework are not that difficult. Reading through the explanations and illustrations is the difficult part of the excel hw, instead of the questions. If I only skim through the explanations and answer the questions, I’ll be able to finish it in about 20min, but it takes much longer time to understand all the contents in the excel hw, and this may take me about half an hour to one hour more depending on the specific hw.

I do have a few suggestions for the course. The first one is about the classroom sessions. The discussion mode of the course is much better than the traditional lecturing. It guides us to think critically. However, I get lost sometimes… I think it would be helpful if a PowerPoint slide could be accompanied during each class session, so that we could be clear about the class flow, and we will also be able to recall the class discussion when we are reviewing for exams/writing project papers. Then, the excel homework. I feel that if the excel hw could be explained more in the class, I mean the concrete math of the models in the excel hw, but not only the idea of the models (which I believe is what we are doing now), we would be able to gain a deeper understanding of the economic models.

Overall, I think this is a challenging course for me, but it is a great learning experience. This course invoked my interest in I/O Economics, and I would seek for opportunities in the future to further explore this field.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Personal Reputation

I had a strong reputation among my friends for photo shooting, video production, and also graphic design (Photoshop/poster design/brochure design). I was familiar with media production equipment and software and also design software to create these stuff. And this was developed gradually throughout my first year of college.

This was actually a college reputation at first. When I first went to college as a freshman, my major was Creative Media, and the college I was in is called the School of Creative Media (CM). There are several different majors in the college, but during the first two years, everyone in our college takes the same foundation major courses in photography, filming, production, graphic design, etc. Students in other colleges all know what we are doing, and whenever people say that they are from CM, others will assume they are “experts” in photo shooting/video production/graphic design. We also had general education courses where students from different colleges are mixed to take the courses together. General education courses (in my previous university) usually have a lot of group projects, and the projects are in various format. So people usually want to have one student from CM in their group to deal with the artistic aspect of the project (e.g. creating videos for the presentation/designing team posters/creating project websites, etc.).

I enjoyed the benefit of our college reputation for a while and gradually I developed my personal reputation. In my major courses, as well as the general education courses, I created my own work and I was able to create my portfolio at the end of my freshman year. I sometimes will post some of my work on social media, so people get to know my work. I had my own style of photo shooting/video editing/graphic design, friends around me gradually recognized my work and my personal style, instead of recognizing me as merely a CM student. They would ask me to help with their projects or work when they need to do photo shooting/video editing/designing posters/creating brochures. Friends asked me to help create their personal video or create posters for their student organizations/activities. Friends have also asked me to do professional photo shooting for their LinkedIn profile picture, and I’ve did that several times for different people.

To keep my reputation intact, I need to produce very good work. In addition to producing good personal work, I also needed to produce good work for friends when they ask me for help. Because if I produced work with low quality, they will feel disappointed and will leave them the impression that I cannot do it well. As my reputation developed, more people wanted me to help them to create stuff. However, with all my coursework and other commitments, I didn’t have that much time to offer help to everyone. At first I tried doing that, but I ended up having not enough sleep. People that does not know about production and design feel that this job is simple and should be completed very soon for free. However, production and design are extremely time consuming. So later I started to become “selective”, and only helped those that are close with me. This did affect how people think of me, some might think I’m not generous enough to help them, but this was the best solution for me to balance everything.

Later I changed my major, and less people ask me for help in production/design, because most people does not know that I’m good at these stuff. Now I see production/design as a spare time entertainment, and I feel much less burden.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Triangular Principal-Agent Model

During my HR summer internship at Dow, I was assigned to work on two projects. One on employee satisfaction, and the other one working as the Summer Internship Program Ambassador to help engage the 34 summer interns and provide them a fruitful and meaningful internship experience. I had one supervisor, who is one of the function leader. I was also assigned two mentors who each guides me on my two projects.

For the ambassador project, I mainly served two principals: the group of summer interns and my project mentor. But in addition, I also needed to report to my supervisor, who evaluates my performance at the end of the internship.

As an ambassador, my job is to support the summer internship program leader (my mentor), help her to design and organize activities, and also work individually on some other tasks (4 deliverables) including e-newsletter (internal use) & social media engagement (external use), creating a summer internship video, creating a summer intern alumni book, and also internship program feedback analysis. The ultimate goal of all the work is to ensure summer interns a good experience and sustain the impact for campus branding.

My mentor wanted to provide the interns a great experience, while the interns for sure is also expecting a meaningful experience. So they actually have a similar goal, but even though what they expect from me is quite different. Their definition of “a good experience” is also different.

My mentor for the ambassador project is a very young woman (just a few years older than me) with a lot of creative ideas. She previously worked for Unilever in Singapore and have just came to Dow for a few months. She was in charge of the Management Trainee program when she was in Unilever, and she wanted to implement a lot of the Unilever successful projects in Dow’s summer internship program. However, due to the industry difference, the intern group in Dow is very different from the trainees in Unilever. Unilever as a fast-moving consumer goods firm, their trainees are mostly marketing/branding people, which are mostly extroverts, they are active and creative, and enjoys exciting activities and experiences. On the other hand, Dow as a chemical and manufacturing firm, their intern group are mostly composed with science and engineering students, which are usually very practical and down to earth. And most R&D interns are final year PhD students, which means that the age group is also very different. Asking interns at Dow to be very active is quite difficult, but that was what my mentor expected.

My mentor’s expectation was reflected on the 4 deliverables she assigned me. She wanted me to create a e-newsletter in a fun way to help interns better know each other and therefore promote cross-function communication. I had difficulties to decide what to put in the e-newsletter, because I actually thought that this is unnecessary and meaningless. The summer internship is a 6-week structured program, and everyone had their own projects to work on. The majority of the group are R&D interns. It could be imagined that how difficult it is to work on a real industry research problem, conduct experiments, and come to a conclusion in 6-weeks’ time. So the interns’ focus is on how to perform their work better and deliver a better presentation in the end, they actually didn’t care (they just didn’t have the time to) that much about knowing each other or learning about different functions. They may spend a few minutes reading the e-newsletter, and then they’ll forget it forever… For the summer internship video, my mentor expected a very exciting video maybe with different teams shouting their slogans or making creative postures. This kind of video seem fancy but I feel it is too deliberate and does not do much good to the interns, and I was sure that nobody would be willing to participate in this kind of video. Later I convinced her to create the video in another way that the would be more comfortable for the interns and also doesn’t require too much work from them, and it turned out pretty well. All I wanted to do is to try not to occupy too much of their time, so that they won’t feel any burden, or feel being overwhelmed by all kinds of activities and requests. Beyond these, the summer internship experience sharing (to be posted on social media) and alumni book also requires the interns to put in some time and attention, which distracts them from their work. One or two activities/requests may seem fine, but with all kinds of activities held each week, plus these extra work my mentor expected, under the pressure of their own project and also the group case competition (as I mentioned in my previous post) in such a limited time… I just don’t want to bother them too much. Towards the end of the internship, I was crazy busy as well. As a HR intern, and also as the program ambassador, I tried to make things easier for other interns, so I ended up having even more workload.

During the process, my mentor kept coming up with new and creative ideas, some of them are great, but given my situation with my other project and case competition in hand, it just seemed impossible to implement all of the ideas. I tried to balance the expectations of my mentor and the needs of the interns. It was quite difficult to change the intern’s needs, because their workload and project is fixed, and performing a good work is no doubt their first priority, so I putted more effort to change my mentor’s expectation. One of the reasons they assigned this ambassador project to me is that they hope with me acting as the bridge, they could identify the interns’ real needs and hear the voices of the interns, therefore they could improve the program in the future. So communicating the situation to my mentor and adjusting her expectation wasn’t extremely difficult.

The issue might also be solved if I exactly followed my mentor’s requirements, and ignored the interns’ needs. I might be able to gain a pretty good evaluation from my mentor, but I think it will negatively affect the interns’ experience. This might affect their decision whether to work for Dow or not in the future, and when they share their experience with their friends, it damage the Dow’s campus brand. I will feel very uncomfortable as well, so I would not see this as a good choice.

I think communication is a good way to resolve the tension between different principals. Although usually different principals have different standpoints, in my case, my mentor thinks about what is good for the firm and how it could help them in campus branding, while the interns think about whether they could perform well during the internship, secure a return offer, or will this experience be useful and bring them opportunities for other positions in the future. Figuring out the common interest and develop ways that satisfies the fundamental goals of both principals through communication seems to be a good solution.