Friday, June 30, 2006

20 Minutes at Chef Chu's

It was 1990, I arrived in America on August 20th, didn't know how to drive, spoke British English that I learned in school. My mom was working as a research assistant at Stanford, and got me my first job there through some friends of hers. I started working exactly a week after I landed, as a temp clerk in the Public Affairs office in Hoover Institution. Less than four months later, on December 10th, I drove my mom to San Francisco International Airport to pick up my brother. After five years of separation my family finally reunited. My dad had filed for divorce the previous year. The pressing concern was to find a job for my brother. My mom's contract was ending in couple of months, and there was no way we could afford our apartment on my $7 an hour clerk's wage. My brother didn't know how to drive and didn't speak much English, but he's always been a foodie, so a Chinese restaurant (preferably nearby) became the best choice. One Friday night in January, a friend of mine from college came through town and took me out to dinner at Chef Chu's in Los Altos, couple miles from where we lived. On the way out, I spotted the owner, Lawrence Chu. Me being young and cute, all dressed up, high heels, full make up, long hair hanging down my back (think the image when my beloved first met me), so I asked Mr. Chu if he'd consider hiring me. He took one look, said, “Sure, I’ll let you work the front desk.”, and asked me to come back Saturday evening to start training. "Oh by the way, don't need to dress up on your first day, we start new people in the kitchen." Next day I showed up, in jeans, with my brother in tow -- I never intended to work there myself, merely a way to get him into the place. I was taken to the kitchen, where a middle aged woman showed me to a pile of fried chicken pieces. "4 in a bag, like this" into little wax paper bags, and put them in a tray. Easy enough, I started stuffing the bags, 1, 2, 3, 4, line them up in the tray, 1, 2, 3, 4. Half way through the pile of chicken, the woman showed up again, "don't line up, like this" -- she threw pieces of chicken in a bag, and pushed the bags into a big pile. As soon as the last piece of chicken was in a bag, I ran and found my brother, "hey, looks like you are working here, see you at home!" My brother went on to become a chef in the valley Chinese restaurant scene, worked in a few half way decent places, including China Stix in Santa Clara; and no one ever bothered to pay me the 20 minutes of work.

End of very short term contract

That's all I can say for now, will have to wait till I get paid to gripe and whine. Actually I wrote up a lengthy entry yesterday about the whole thing, but it got lost in cyber space. Hope time will help me see it with better eyes and make it an interesting story.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

End of very short term contract

I guess you get what you wish for, or when something seems too good to be true, it must be too good to be true. But I did see it coming, not much I could have done about it. Back two weeks ago, an agency called me for a short term accounting job at Portal, I did a quick 15 minutes phone interview with the hiring manager, next thing you know they wanted me to start working right away. The rates a fairly high, said they really needed someone to close the books before the Oracle merger hits. I didn't want to take the job, it's short term -- three months max, and I'm looking for long term growth and commitment; even if I did well and could stay with the company, I have no desire to work for Oracle; and I really want to get out of accounting. But money is money. So I called back the agency and told my contact that I could take the job if only I could continue with my job search. The lady gave me the very reassuring promise, that she had the conversation with the hiring manager about how to make the job more enticing to me, that it'd be fine for me to take time off for interviews, and that they completely understand my need to find a permanent position elsewhere. With that said, what else could a girl ask for? Portal seems pretty desperate to get people in, for whatever reason. I found out the reason very fast. Portal had a whistle blower last year, had to reopen their books for two years back, issue restatements, close the books again. They were delisted from NASDAQ since they couldn't release financials for the past few quarters. Then Oracle comes along and offers to buy the company. People started leaving in droves, including payroll. Now Portal Finance is counting on consultants and contractors to patch things together. On day three of my tenure I became one of the key personnel to close FY06 which ended on January 31, 2006, along with a long time consultant who's counting down minutes to his last day (today, hopefully). However I was not aware of the importance of my presence until I announced to my boss about an upcoming interview. No one from the agency had mentioned to the boss about my job search. She was shocked and soon called the agency to complain about the miscommunication. My contact from the agency called me while I politely pointed out her promise to me and she changed a few words and told me they had the "understanding" that I'd need to find a job, but denied that she had talked to Portal about it. Liar Liar!!! In the hindsight, what I was working on at Portal should have been done months ago and boss had been putting it off till the last minute, then having the consultant checking my work which brings the question, why do they need me so badly? Well obviously they woke up and realized they didn't have to, so I was promptly released.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


My very temporary contract job is down the street from Cupertino city library, so as soon as I settled on the job last week, I took a walk at lunch time to visit the Chinese books. I don't read Chinese very often, being very disconnected from the local Chinese community and not having any Chinese friends to share stuffs with. Mostly I listen to Chinese radio when I'm driving alone and that's only in the morning when the station runs Chinese program. When I didn't have a commute I lost that chance as well. Chinese books are hard to catalog, given it's a character language; every character needs to be spelled out. There are different spellings systems in mainland China, Taiwan, Hongkong, southeast Asia and America where many Chinese like myself decide to live. It's impossible to have a standardized spelling system that library could use to catalog all the Chinese language books in an English dominated online search engine. The libraries use all the spellings so as not to offend any Chinese arriving from any side of the coast, so the English catalog is pretty much useless cause you never know what they are trying to spell. When I want to read a Chinese book, I have to hit the bookstore or the library, and Cupertino has one of the largest selections of Chinese books in this area. The larger population and more money for the city, simple economy. I'm not picky with my Chinese reading these days, anything non-political non-violent is good. This time I picked up a small paper back with an English subtitle "Vignettes of Chinese lives in America", written by a Chinese guy from Taiwan, of his over 20 years living in southern California. Very easy to read short essays, some with comparison with life in Taiwan, some about new immigrants trying to make do on the new land. All that goes perfectly with my leftover Chinese lunch from home. I'm also diligently reading Kitchen Confidential at home. My brother used to be a professional chef, and I worked a grand total of 20 minutes in Chef Chu's in Los Altos. I got a lot to say on this subject!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Working -- for the moment

I picked up a contract job and started working on Wednesday. It's a very nice building in Cupertino, cool valley software company, a year or two ago every finance person and software engineer would be thrilled to get an interview there. Now the company is in the jaws of THE software giant, the shark, the one ate up two other cool valley software firms in the last three years. This comes after a whistle blower caused the company to issue revenue restatements last year, no financials were released for two fiscal years, company stock was delisted. Now we are crunching numbers to make the company look presentable in front of the shark. But hey, it's a job and it pays.

Monday, June 19, 2006

New Week, What Now?

Just realized the blog hasn't been updated for a few days. Henry claimed he was sick again on Thursday, last day of school, but was able to go to Bonfante with me on Friday. It was a great deal of fun on a very hot day, we both played in the new water play area, Henry got soaking wet. For Father's Day my sweet husband made me take him to Santana Row and bought him a t shirt with an island girl (big hanging boobs) dancing and big bold Tommy Bahamas logo on the back. This is a guy was never into loud graphs and logos on his clothing. Do I see mid life crisis coming? Monday morning, Henry starts Summer Camp, I head to Foster City for all morning interview (6 people) and rush back to San Jose for another hour of interview (only 2 people). Other than that, I'm sending out resumes and applying for jobs with all I'm worth. I even hear the comment that I have great experience and good companies in my resume, but where is the job offer??

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Sunny Day and Sick Child

I was so happy to see the sun out this morning, after two gloomy days in June! Took a nice long walk along Los Gatos trail, all the way to Vasona, around the lake, back on the trail to come home. Vasona is a special place for me. In the early days the husband (then boyfriend) and I used to go there after work on Fridays, and feed the ducks and occasional squirrels. After Henry was born, we spend many afternoons in the meadows, Dad would lift baby Henry way up in the air, and pretend he's fallen off the tree. On these weekday mornings the park is always quiet, with walkers and joggers here and there, no kids running wild, no boombox playing loud music, bikes running fast but there is always plenty room for passing. This morning there was a family of Canadian geese along the trail, the babies were all fluffy, I doubt they learned to fly yet. Then the cell phone rings, call from Henry's school. Henry is sick and needs to be picked up. He didn't seem that sick just half an hour ago when I put him on the bus. I even wrote a note to the teacher and gave her my full schedule for the day, since I had interviews planned in Palo Alto and north San Jose. Later when I questioned the child, turns out it went something like this. Henry gave the note to the teacher, and teacher asked him: "Are you feeling that you are not supposed to be here today?" "No I'm not feeling well." So the teacher had another parent take him to the office and send him home. Oh well, cancel the interviews, it's nice to spend extra time with the boy.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me

For my birthday celebration, my guys took me on the Hornblower brunch cruise on Saturday. It was overcast and very windy and cold. Henry was recovering from the bug from last week, and decided to sleep on the chairs for half of the trip. It was nice to be out on the bay. Large bodies of water always make me a calmer person.

On the job front, did my interview/test this morning, glad it's over. By early afternoon there were six messages on the cell phone to return, and six more waiting for me at home. Lots of buzz, no fruit.

My beloved was told today that he's officially on the RIF list -- that's Reduction in Force, aka, layoff. This comes after his job being changed every other week for the last six months since he started it in November. And it comes after I referred him to this job, then he started it three weeks before I quit the company. The day I went to HR for my exit interview, he was in the same building for new hire orientation.

If you are not following this story, don't worry, we lost track a long time ago. Although we do have a strong tendency of going parallel in our careers, would be nice to know what we are going next.

The good news today, EDD will pay me over $1,800 a month for unemployment benefit, much more than I anticipated.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Woman and Her Work

This was taken a little while ago, to prove that anyone can be Picasso. The title on the book is "Pablo Picasso: Man and His Work". The drawing on the white board is meant to be a copy of the drawing on the black board on the cover.

Hakone Gardens

We went to the beautiful Hakone Gardens in Saratoga last weekend. If you've never been there before, by all means visit at least once. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes (no high heeled sandals like I did). Here is Henry studying the mature vines atop the bamboo canopy.

Henry took this picture. Thank goodness for digital camera.

Henry and mom under one of the bamboo gates.

We had a lot of fun watching some lively turtles in the pond. Yes, they are actually very lively and move very fast, for turtles at least. These two are fighting over the sunning spot.

Bending My Own Rules

Rules are made to be broken. Since I'm jobless, I'm determined to spend extra time at school and with Henry, so I canceled the sitter and the after school care, try to be a good mother. Of course when he's sick I need to be home with him. Monday is my birthday and I always try my best to take my birthday off work, it's my gift to myself. The job search front had been out of my control for the past week, with all the interviews, phone interviews, email messages to reply and voice mail messages to return. I decided that Monday is going to be "My Day", block off all the interviews, just tell everyone I'm booked. I planned to take a long walk in the morning, then read, write, or just plain hang out for the rest of the day. An agency called last Wednesday for a contract job at a large corporation, phone interview with the hiring manager Thursday afternoon went very well, and they wanted me in first thing Friday morning for face to face interview. Now Henry had a fever Thursday afternoon when I picked him up, and I wanted to keep him at home on Friday to recover. Bend my rules for the first time, luckily the dad could stay home for couple of hours so I could make a quick run for a 9am interview. Then they called Friday afternoon, interview went well, but I'm deadlocked with another candidate and they want me to be in on Monday for a test on revenue recognition rules and Excel skills. Now this is getting down right silly, I'm no college kid, ability is what we have and skills can be learned. The job is the kind of work I want to do, the company is good size and there is plenty of growth both for myself and the company, it's a contract with plenty good pay. But I don't like being manipilated. I will go to the test all right, just to finish what have started and see where that gets me. Done with bending my rules!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Space Day

On Tuesday Henry's school had NASA bring Space Day to campus. Kids met astronauts, pilots, made rockets, got into flight simulator and UFO. Here is Henry in the flight simulator. Mars Rover Waiting for the water rocket to take off

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Day 3 of Unemployment

Four straight hours of interviews this morning, eight people, two companies in Redwood City, actually share the same parking lot. How did I manage that! First company is a dot com star and dot com bomb, now trying to start fresh. It's a manager position and I met with the 3 people that were to report to this manager, and the current manager (a consultant), the VP of Finance and HR manager. Everyone is really really nice, one of the ladies even called me "hon" and "poor girl" (for going through such a lengthy interview). Can't picture myself giving orders to these kind folks. Second company is a start up, going public in a few months. I can't understand half of what the manager said, both because of her accent, and her soft spoken style. The company lobby was well hidden, right next to some huge generators in a large wire cage. How much should I make from the stock options to make it worth the commute? Two recruiters and a hiring manager all got back to me with the same message -- wait, we might want to talk to you some day. They are testing my patience.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Job Search So Far

After eight days of job search, talked to at least a dozen recruiters, half a dozen phone interviews (one with a hiring manager), three face-to-face interviews with contract or direct hire agencies, there is yet anything solid to come through. The market is buzzing, but so are the competitions. Companies are picky -- you have to have the exact experience, the number of years in the area, know the software application they use, and then they'll consider contract to hire. Contract is good money, especially after Netflix's comp package. I'm not exactly picky about benefits (expensive and limited at Netflix) and time off (limited to none at Netflix), but I can really use some stability right now. Since January 2005, I've had four jobs, moved seven times; it's high time to settle down. I get antsy when there is nothing on my calendar, so I fill it up with interviews. I give everyone and every opportunity equal chance, be it a contract job in Redwood City or a management job over my head in Palo Alto. I have the deep belief that you have to go through 99 bad interviews to get to that one good one, and now I'm only at the beginning of the potential worst-case scenarios. It's a long way to go. What I'm looking for: Senior Financial Analyst with focus on revenue recognition, forecasting, reporting and contract review and negotiation, a permanent position in corporate finance environment in a mid to large size Silicon Valley company, preferably software industry. Somewhere out there, there must be a job for me.