Saturday, March 30, 2013

Brain Oxygen

Recently I started using a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine to cure my sleep apnea. After spending 2 nights in a sleep disorder clinic, I was diagnosed and prescribed a CPAP device to solve my sleeping problem. I did not think that my dilemma was severe but the test results proved otherwise. The findings revealed that I am losing quality sleep. I suspected as much because I snore loudly (a sign) and frequently wake up at night due to loss of breath (in my opinion), although my wife did not think so at the time. I know a lot of people who snore but the idea of a sleep disorder never entered my mind. But sleep apnea is a real dilemma but not life threatening. Nevertheless, the loss of oxygen although slight or not enough to kill you would have an effect on the quality of your sleep as well as the effective functioning of your mind and body. I had a hard time sleeping in the first 2 nights using the instrument but last night was great and I felt better this morning.

Maybe it’s the missing piece that I was searching for that could change my life.  A new technology that would fix some fundamental problem that one did not know existed. For example, one could exist in life walking with a wrong posture or gait and suddenly discovers the Alexander method that supposedly teaches correct physical movement and corrects wrong posture and so on that one’s life is changed. Or, something like meditation or Yoga or Tai Chi; some technology or practice that would improve your way of life by altering a fundamental error; whether it is one’s breathing or attention to details. I have experienced similar changes brought about by new tools like mind mapping which helped me clarify my thoughts and improve my thinking; a simple technique that made me tackle difficult projects and understand abstract concepts. Similarly cognitive therapy and journal writing have also been helpful in reducing my stress and identify wrong thinking habits.

Recently ‘Shape Up’ shoes with its rounded soles have helped my walking, which I always liked to do, discovering new places but recently found myself incapable of sauntering long stretches because my legs tired easily unlike a few years back. Perhaps it is my age or wear and tear like the way an athlete has knee pain after extensive use but one day I discovered ‘Shape Up’ and a new way of walking that allowed me to continue strolling long stretches. Perhaps another technique is Tai Chi - Qi Gong exercises that I think have help reduce stress but I am unable to prove. Now with my CPAP machine, perhaps my thinking and outlook will improve now that more oxygen is reaching my brain, a sort of biological correction that will surely help in the coming years. Without a doubt, moving to this new location, meeting new people, working in challenging projects, plus difficult situations will take their toll in both mind and body that any new technology that will help improve one’s life is always good.
Yoga is another technique that I hope to try soon. Making yoga a habit will reduce stiffness and loss of flexibility that aging inevitably brings. But yoga also helps one’s focus especially as one tries to simplify his life and increase motivation on true goals. All these techniques help one in this fast paced world. For instance, it’s another stressful week with the customer raising hell and the project manager distracted on other projects that I find myself in the spot again. Perplexed with too many problems, emails to respond to, moving forward to a new job and so on. But I have achieved a milestone this week with the end of one project, using the CPAP machine and fighting back the pressure coming from the stakeholders of my projects. It is Easter weekend which I hope to spend in Atlanta visiting museums, eating good food, exploring places and having a good time. Next week is another time where the battles will commence with the return of the project manager. Let the games resume as one would say.  

Thursday, March 28, 2013

March Whirlwind

The project I am working on as analyst changed project managers; the 3rd PM in less than a year. This situation places stress as I am the only one left in the systems side who was involved at the start. The co- manager in IBM has also changed; 2 managers in less than a year. There will be changes soon on the business side as well in the consultant side where significant members will also be leaving the project. We are expected to go live next month which further puts pressure on everyone. This has be a difficult project for me at the start with the first project leader being aggressive and ruthless to her own team; further abetted by her reliance on outside analysts who have worked with her in the past. The old guard who has been around the local office longer has continued their criticism via an email war. But I am used to this pressure and I am possibly the oldest among the team being with the company for more than a decade. One has to send blistering emails to stand their ground.

Admittedly I am new to the technology used in this project but this situation has not stopped me before. My usual strategy is to move forward while learning on the go until one gets the experience and knowledge along the way and hopefully achieves passable expertise at the point when the expertise is needed; sometime close to testing and go live, some months down the road; a strategy that has always served me well in the past, at work and in my life. The players are all new and heavy hitters, so the pressure is more intense and being new in the local office, one needs to shine and show their talent. I was more like a wanderer assigned a small but significant project in my first three years since moving from Asia; a high profile project where a few veterans may have expected failure but had managed to squeeze out some victory plus a fair amount of success despite the continuing problems. But I had moved beyond this point, developing some reputation which I need to build on by working on new projects.

A smaller project as the manager has gone live last December and closing out soon, a minor achievement that little by little adds to one’s repertoire. But the true challenge is this ongoing undertaking where 10 factories will be impacted, not an issue for me as the first troublesome mission entailed 7 warehouses. One has shown that deployment is not difficult in this place where delays are the norm and where confusion and self-inflicted disasters are occurring. The strategy is to lie low, learn and perform like a Zen master, moving quietly like the wind. This technique can be called the ‘crouching tiger, hidden dragon’ tactic. How one misses Asia as the 4 years in this new place has made me see the boring dullness but nevertheless refreshing provincial hometown feel away from the hustle and bustle of the big a cities one has been used to: Manila, Singapore, Bangkok, Shanghai, Shenyang and Tokyo. Today, the small project crossed a major milestone that signals it’s end, whereas the current project is a mess three weeks from the planned go live.