U.S.hir`mgr may avoid bright young candd #AlanShi

My colleague Alan pointed out that some hiring managers are cautious with young bright candidates.

Some companies have a policy to promote younger employee. In terms of competitive threat, the older candidates are perceived as “disarmed” weapons.

Some hiring managers may also want to protect his old loyal employees, who may be put under threat by a young bright newcomer.

Young bright guys are more likely to leave.

big bright world behind heavy door

(Was so hard to get over U.S. barriers in the form of h1b and later GC …)

Was so hard to overcome the English barrier[1] … I struggled so very hard. Slowly I was able to express myself, with a barely enough vocab…. Once the door cracked open, I got my first glimpse of a big, bright world[1] Behind the door. Immediately I could see myself thriving in that world.

With a safe retreat always available, there’s no real risk [2] to me so I boldly jumped in as soon as possible.

So which items in the 5advantages post make the “big bright world”? Biggest item is Job pool i.e. the age-friendly and huge job pool with premium salary + lower stress.

[1] Some people don’t need English and can do well using Chinese as primary language … I’m different.
[2] there’s indeed some risk to wife and to kids…

[17] 5 thrusts/directions over next5-10Y]U.S.

1) buy 1st home as soon as financially feasible. Before that consider REITs.

2) shift more focus to academic parenting

3) start PhD if everything works out. Will pave the way to a research/teaching career till age 75

4) consider some Chinese-language-teaching business for wife

5) may need to change gear to a relaxed job, but maintain competitiveness on job market (I didn’t say “on the job”)

I feel my health and job market competitiveness (#5) are the foundation.

pyramid of wage levels, CN^sg^US

See also the similar post on NBA salary

Look at my brother-in-law. (I’m not too sure about his situation so I will use tentative statements.) He’s smart, dedicated. Rather long experience as a team lead. He has a MBA from a good uni in Shanghai.

However, there are many people with similarly strong track record in China, so he can’t move up the pyramid to, say CNY 1000k. He said CNY 400k is achievable, but CNY 600k offer is tough and mostly available from high-end prestigious employers.

In Singapore I’m facing a similar challenge. A S$150k (after tax) tech job is rare and considered elite so you need to be rather strong to get it. In other words, the pyramid has a sharper tip than in the US pyramid, based on a sample of 5,000 IT jobs.

(I think the Shanghai salary distro is better than most China cities…)

The NBA post brings together other important factors — lifelong income; managerial skill; …

[15]Re-enter U.S.: inertia,fear@unknown,comfort zone

I told many of my Singapore techie friends about the US job opportunities. All of them are resistant. They aren’t sure if they can make it in the US.
Indeed among the Indians, Chinese etc, some did succeed and other didn’t.
It’s remarkable that in New York I came across much fewer Singaporeans than Malaysian Chinese, Taiwanese or Hongkongers (and Koreans too, but that’s too different a nation to compare). I feel Singaporeans favor Australia and Britain over US/Canada. I guess largely because of friends and family, the familiar vs. the unknown. Chinese and Indians often settle down in the US and bring over their relatives.
A related factor is the “comfort zone”. Singapore life is too comfortable, too convenient… US is like a buffet dinner – go get it yourself.
Change is uncertain, challenging, requires analysis, observations, opinions, bets … There’s no way to avoid it actually. Change happens to us. Some would say we can take advantage of changes…. think of big data, c++, west coast, python..
In a way, my recent discomfort and dissatisfaction in Singapore is a divine message, and breaks the comfort zone.
One of my growing discomforts in this “comfort zone” is the position/value of specialist vs generalist leader.

stable job4H1 guys#le2HenryWu

Hi Henry,

See if you can connect me to your H1 sponsor at your earliest convenience.

For most H1 immigrants, having a stable job is a top priority. We all worry about losing our job, losing the H1 status and Green card petition.

Therefore, many prefer a big, reputable employer. Some prefer a consulting firm that can help maintain our H1 status even when we change project from time to time. There are definitely risks of “gaps” between 2 jobs. In my experience, 1 to 3 months are tolerable. Beyond that, there are probably other solutions. It all depends on the last employer and the lawyer. Remember I’m not an immigration attorney.

In the Worst scenario the employer cancels the H1 right away. The USCIS regulation probably allows us (“the aliens”) to stay in the US for a few weeks looking for the next job. If we can’t find any, we should ask our lawyer when we have to leave the country. We would re-enter once we find a new employer.

The exit/reentry can (in my imagination) be a real hassle for someone with a big family, esp. if kids are in school. It might be best to avoid the exit/reentry. I guess this is one reason many H1 families are fearful of layoff and prefer a stable job even at a lower salary. (Overall, Singapore companies are less likely to layoff large number of staff.)

Therefore, if I were you I would prefer a stable job. As a risk taker, I will take a gamble that I could reduce the “gap” between jobs to 2 months, by being flexible on the salary.

y a Chinese geek prefers NY/Ldn over other financial centers

1) On Wall St, many Chinese techies lament about glass ceiling. Many in their mid 30’s can’t move to leadership. Even if you have talent beyond technical,  even if you invest in non-technical areas, you may hit that ceiling.

Even among those who rose to entry level VPs, there’s a dearth of further promotions. I could be wrong, but i feel 2nd promotion is harder than the first. Indian techies and locals seem to be luckier, causing complaints among the Chinese techies.
Reasons? Factors? Root causes? Many say that in any hierarchical command organization the majority race would dominate the upper echelon, though I notice many exceptions.

Many suggest “inner circle” or “old boy’s club”. Do you get invited for house parties? Are you a fan of Superbowl?

I hear many techies say they prefer non-manager, pure tech roles to people-management roles. Some say the latter is stressful. I guess the former is easier “control-wise”. You finish “your job” and can go home and sleep well.

Some geeks are not keen/ambitious about manager roles, so they don’t feel the pain or the ceiling. So Wall St is perfect for them.

In Asia, a non-manager geek often feels threatened for survival…

2) Wall St (and Si Valley) rewards tech specialists better than other financial centers. Respected, not by some vague gestures or lip service, but by hard cash. See http://bigblog.tanbin.com/2011/07/specialist-vs-generalistmanager-spore.html
Remember the 4 stages of Contribution? An individual expert is valued /to the extent that/ she can “contribute through others” — some form of (knowledge) leadership.

3) On Wall St a geek can remain hands-on till 55 or 60. Less age discrimination.
4) the valuable and tough, ground breaking, money-making, really important technical work takes place in the trading hubs like Ldn, NY, or Chicago — Trend setters. If you measure the financial impact of an engineer (outside Si Valley), the hedge funds probably come out top but they employe much smalller number of techies than big banks. Anyway, most of the important work is in the trading hubs — upstream.

how effective is %%resume]NY^sg finIT

* On Wall St, the battlefield is  the tech IV.
* In Singapore financial IT, the battlefield is the resume. I feel 70% of the battle is on the resume.

In Singapore, I have tried 3 times (2011, 2014 and 2015). Much fewer “senior” roles (i.e. 150k+); much lower chance of shortlist. I believe the competitors are way too many for each role.

On Wall St, Many friends (XR, YH, Mithun etc) all get many interviews without too much effort.


speak freely, westerner, humor…

Sometimes you feel tired of paralanguage-monitoring and self-shrinking – it can feel tiring[4] (for the untrained) to be always on our toes and to avoid sticking-out. Quiet people are presumably more comfortable with that but I'm not a quiet person (though I'm rather introspective or “looki”)

Sometimes you just want to, for a moment, be yourself, express (not in a loud, in-your-face way, but in a Passive way) your individuality and leave the judgement to “them”. I seem to have many family members + colleagues/bosses having that tendency, though each of them decide when to show it and when to Control it.

Humour is a decisive part of it. Some would say “No humour, don't try it.” I'm not humorous even though I find many words I speak somewhat amusing.

99% of the time I decide to “let my hair down” and speak “freely”, it has been a (conscious or semi-conscious) gamble since I have no control over the situation [1]. I suspect a lot of times the negative reaction in the audience couldn't be completely offset by the positive. Let's face it, if there's any trace of negative reaction after you say something, it tends to last a long time, even if the positive is much more. Especially true if the negative is taken personally like a joke about age or weight. Showbiz people like to take on those sensitive topics… because they can, but it's foolhardy to “try it at home”. You also see people communicating rather directly in movies and in publications, but it's an exaggerated/distorted version of reality. In reality that kind of speak is rare, shocking. It's like playing with fire.

In my (somewhat biased) perception, I tend to see westerners as less restrained, more individualistic, speaking-for-own-self, carefree, less careful, less rule-bound… This long list of perceptions would eventually lead to the American ideal of individual “freedom”, but that word alone would be oversimplification.

Experience — In my first 5 years of working, I was often the youngest team member. I didn't have to “image-manage” myself as a future leader. I rarely had junior staff looking up to me.

[1] major exception is the last few days on any job.

[4] I suspect most of us can get used to it, just like children getting used to self-restraint once in school.

stick-out, eccentricity, US vs Asia, high-flyer vs low-flyer

On 29 February 2012 02:54, LS wrote

Being direct, aggressive, loud is not what I meant by “sticking out”.  It is a work style.  It will help you push back, get attention, and not become an easy target.  Of course there are drawbacks, so it is just one of the work styles.  Not sticking out doesn't mean you have to keep low profile. 

What I mean is something completely unrelated to work.  A habit few or no one has, and make people feel it.  I will make up a couple of examples — you don't have them, I am just describing some examples.
1. If a person has to wash hand every 5 minutes during meal and therefore needs to pass other people when having a group lunch;
2. He eats very slow so people have to wait at group lunch.

I don't think there is any problem with sticking out unless you feel such kind of behavior hurts your career.  You may want to talk to the high-flyers around you to get some feedback.  Good luck.

Hi LS,

Hope your family is doing well in Beijing's winter.

I was thinking about the concept of keeping a “consistent” and harmonious appearance in the office, so that I don't look different from others. I now feel I don't want to change myself too much.

I feel many colleagues do show a bit of “personality” in paralinguistic (body language, silences, voice, hesitation…), email wording etc. I feel US big company culture is more relaxed and a bit more “individualistic” than Singapore.

There's an important backdrop though — Each colleague's rank in the office serves as the backdrop of the interaction. Many leaders do show a bit of unconventional personality. So do many high-flyers. Low flyers probably should not compare themselves with those.  I now remember in GS I was low-flyer and semiconsciously kept my head down. My team lead was abrasive, outspoken, loud (and aggressive) but he's a high flyer. Such a personality is very much liked by some, hated by others.

I now feel a fundamental factor why I developed my personal style is that I had been a relative high flyer in small companies for most of my formative years.

A basic (and rather relevant) principle is “if you aren't good at standing out, then don't stick out”. I have realized that after my initial rise as a 2nd-grade “computer wizard”, I am no longer good at standing out. In fact, my personal style is not welcome in a typical Chinese context, though more accepted in American context. In short, I'm not good at standing out. So it's very important that I don't stick out.

All my role models (like GS team lead, my sister) are in leadership roles, not necessarily management role. For them, being invisible isn't a good thing. But I also recognize many good leaders keep a low profile.

wit – increase chance of getting into US job market

For a developer from overseas, another skill valued by US interviewers is wit.

A lot of US interviewers really appreciate it. Many believe it shows an intelligent communicator, who gets things fast. Humor and wit doesn’t always cross borders. Takes a long time to learn the American way, though many US interviewers aren’t American.

If you delight your interviewer with just a little bit of ingenious humor and wit, it will be memorable and outstanding. Most of the time candidate’s wit isn’t ingenious, but some effort is worthwhile.

In US everyday culture, humor is prized more than in other cultures. There is a less hierarchical, more free-flowing, expressive, almost “selling” style.

You mentioned some colleague spending a lot of his personal time getting familiar with fantasy football? Same kind of thing.

commitment between contractor and client – wallSt

“Professionalism” is the hallmark of a decent Wall Street IT contractor. Commitment? Not much, either way between contractor/client.

Stark reality is that clients have no commitment to (or mercy for) a contractor. No-commitment is a key reason for the high hourly rate. In contrast, the same bank does have real but limited commitment to employees. There is some effort to provide a stable job to employees but the business’s own survival always comes first. In the case of contractors, not even that limited effort is ever made.

Banks pay that high rate for time-to-market.

For a contractor, it’s family first, professionalism and skill-improvement 2nd, commitment …no-place.

which city is at the spearhead of finance IT

Even if Asia IT jobs were to pay higher than US, US is still spearheading industry best practices. I’m in the financial IT space, but see similar patterns in other IT sectors.

It’s revenue share, stupid.

The more revenue a country office generates, the more budget it controls. The office usually prefers onsite development team, so that team tends to become the hotbed of innovation. For a foreseeable future, NY and London will be the hotbeds.

y banks hire contractors more easily than employees

Employee hiring is a longer process. HR and entire firm probably perceives employees as a more “permanent” addition to the team. Employees are allowed to transfer internally, so once an employee is
brought in, she tends to stay for a long time. Due to the permanent nature, employee head count needs more approvals. It’s like buying a home vs renting a house.

Consultants are sometimes hired for a test-drive. If he’s good, then offer him a perm role. If he’s not suitable, then let him go painlessly.

Companies invest in employees. Employees receive training and development, reviews. Employees are potential leaders of the company.

Leadership is a critical element at every level of the organization.

Consultants can’t help – not allowed.

Last but not least, employee layoff is much harder than for contractors. Companies often prefer employees to resign than a forceful termination.

if you have a technical mind

If you have a technical mind, financial IT (and Silicon Valley) rewards you better than other industries I know.

In Singapore, I worked (or know people working) in telecom, manufacturing, university R&D, online gaming, logistics, search engine .. These companies all “value” your technical mind too, but they don’t generate enough profit to reward you as trading shops do.

Raymond Teo pointed out the project budget for a big government project would be a few million, whereas the trading profit supported by a mid-sized trading platform would be tens of millions (possibly hundreds of millions)  a year.

Culture is another factor… what type of contribution is considered important and highly valued…

[09]good life ] U.S.@@

Hi GQ,
(to be published on my blog)

Thanks for sharing so much during my Dec visit. To be fair, many people enjoy US and wouldn’t want to come back to work in S’pore.

* bigger homes — Many live in suburbs and can have homes covering a soccer field.
* lighter workload — compared to S’pore, US workload is often lighter. Exception is (I was told) Wall street and other parts of Manhattan and California. When i was working in Boston, people usually work 9-5.
* high-caliber colleagues and competitors — US remains the global magnet for overseas talents, though many are leaving during the current recession.
* opportunity to work in upstream companies and trend-setters, such as Sillicon Valley and smaller high-tech pockets. S’pore is a little downstream but many parts of South East Asia is further downstream. However, I know there are real innovators in various parts of SEA.

For me,
* US work culture is more relaxed, free flowing individualism, not as conforming (suffocating sometimes) as some S’pore workplaces. Probably your companies are more cosmopolitan.
* higher salary. Comparable to Europe. But you know tax and currency factors.
* branding on the resume due to well-known employers. When jobs become scarce, branding becomes, i venture to say, paramount. Employers trust nothing more than a track record in a well-known company.
* insurance against job market meltdown in S’pore. I witnessed a sharp decline in S’pore salary level after 2002. I feel it may happen again. One day i may have to look at jobs in Hongkong, China, Europe… S’pore Branding is likely a problem as S’pore is not known except SIA.

income vs cost levels U.S.^sg

Hi XR,

You mentioned between US and SG income levels there’s no clear winner. i guess you meant purchasing power ie income measured by cost level. USD income divided by USD prices vs SGD income divided by SGD prices. I have to ignore bonus since it has always been unstable in my jobs, though 4 month for your UBS S’pore job.

Q: Is purchasing power higher in US than SG? my answer is “no obvious winner”. i agree with your observations on property tax, medical benefits… However, we missed a few points:
* SG economy feels like less stable than US, as US economy is big and “strong” in a sense. Econonic longevity and fragility affect  purchasing power. i witnessed and was a direct victim of IT salary drops in S’pore first-hand.
* there are various ways to reduce income tax. there are book and consultants on that topic i heard.
* it seems only the chinese like to rent out their homes. other people tend to buy single-family homes.

* housing cost is by far the biggest cost. However, it’s hard to compare between US and S’pore.
** which part of US? Chinese IT professionals live in many different states, not only North East or West coast.
** what size? In S’pore, people in my circle bought 3-room, 4-room, 5-room to private condo.

* car is perhaps 2nd biggest cost. I assume both of us do not need a car in S’pore. In US, most places require 1 or 2 cars for a family with kids. Instead of calculating and comparing purchasing powers, i notice that most Chinese IT professionals who can stay in US would not choose to settle in S’pore. If i were 28 and single, i would stay here.

US work culture encourages out-spoken assertiveness

(to be published on my blog.)
There are limits but US work culture is more expressive, liberal and permissive in terms of employee communications. 

I don’t have a lot of personal experience — this is just a casual observer’s personal bias — in this country workers are expected to protest, to complain, to argue (sometimes), to protect his/her self-interest. If you really push the limits (but not exceed them), you can earn people’s respect.
“Squeaky wheel gets the oil”

Not sure about China, but Singapore workplaces are more strict, more disciplined, more “uniform”. Workers are reluctant to push the limits, perhaps because the limits are not so pushable — they are more rigid than in US.
Compare to SG, In US it’s your job to get your job done in time, your job to get the support you need, your job to get rid of the road-blockers. The system (in many companies) is not as perfect and functioning as in SG companies. SG workplaces often present a well-managed, well-controlled environement, partly because subordinates are more obedient.
If you are unhappy, i think you can raise your concerns to your onsite manager, or your offsite managers. You deserve their attention.

US employers resistant to H1 candd

Hi XR,

Many overseas candidates feel discouraged. I think it is good to understand that reputable US employers (rightly) feel a number of resistances towards H1 candidates.

Resistance: verifiable track record in large, reputable companies is rare for many H1 holders. You are lucky to have UBS on your track record. As described in my earlier email, many Indian developers are lucky too. I feel some employers may still suspect an overseas candiate’s job duties, even in a large company like UBS.

Resistance: Tech questions — asked by US employers are tough for most Singapore developers.

When we gradually improve ourselves and slowly overcome any of these resistances, you will feel liberated. US is a land of opportunity. Grabbing these opportunities requires hard work and a positive attitude.

WallSt interviews cover 1% of java topics

Hi LS,
I said wall street asks only 1% of java topics so a java candidate need to know close to nothing about the other 99%. This is perhaps close to the truth but potentially misleading.
* I have 2 books [[ java threads ]] and [[ concurrent programming in java ]]. Wall street multithreading interview questions require 0.1% to 0.5% of the knowledge in them.
* If you look at the published java Collections API, again wall street java collections questions require less than 2% of that body of knowledge.
* Similar for servlet/jsp, sql joins, and garbage collection.
However, 1% still requires months of focused study. I'm still weak in design patterns, GC and SQL tuning
tan bin

[07]We both love Singapore


I know you love Singapore’s clean environment, warm weather, efficient government, comfortable jobs for you (not for me). S’pore is also closer to home — You can bring Mom and Dad and relatives over to enjoy this little paradise.

Singaporeans are comfortable, in fact too comfortable. Singapore government knows many Singaporeans are too comfortable and lack the first generations’ toughness to go out of their comfortable home and embrace the world outside.

Like it or not, the ground is shifting right beneath our feet. If Singaporeans (including you and me) stand still, if Singaporeans stay in their comfortable home for too long, we will be left behind (or worse still, swept aside) by the wave of change.

God is kind of fair to Singapore’s competitors — it won’t reserve for Singapore a special place high up on top of most countries, and declare “Don’t rock the little boat of Singapore. Leave Singapore in peace and comfort for 50 years.”

Many believe God is unfair — English is still the preferred language among the rich. Big and rich countries like US, Canada, Australia and European powers (Japan is resource-poor) still capture more resources, attract more talents, create ever more sophisticated technologies which are largely beyond the reach of poor countries.

Over the past 40 years, Singapore upgraded itself by adapting to world economy, by reaching out to the neighbours in South-East Asia and to rich countries. To keep its place on the world’s 20 richest nations, Singaporeans have no choice but continue to reach out from their homebase and explore, adapt, take risks, endure , seek opportunities, learn from mistakes and compete with the best of the world.

Where are the best brains of the world? In London, Shanghai, New York, California, perhaps Tokyo. They continue to flock to Google, to Microsoft, Silicon Valley…

what i can do to reduce the pain of adjusting to U.S.

Hi LT,

You asked how to reduce the pain and stress.

  1. keep healthy. Lving in such a difficult place, every little effort makes me feel good about myself.
    1. Remember that many advertised fast food is less healthy than we eat in S'pore
    2. avoid too much unhealthy snacks esp. during long office hours. tough for some people. I try to bring fruits and “healthy” biscuits
    3. regular exercise. tough for most people.
    4. take breaks during long work hours
  2. help my wife who is under more pain than me
    1. find some full-time activity to occupy her time
    2. spend quality time together
    3. try to get her to make new friends
    4. try to get her to become interested in learning English
    5. try to get her to find some new hobbies
    6. live around Chinatowns, where she can find Chinese food
  3. work long hours and feel good about it. This helps my adjustment.
  4. make new friends. I didn't find any time for this, since i was so busy with job and a million other “important” things.
  5. call home regularly
  6. increase income
    1. a mobile phone that can receive Chinese SMS from our families in China. We can't afford it now.
    2. better accommodation
    3. less time wasted on commuting. Extremely important to me.
    4. my wife will afford many foods that are simply priced beyond us
    5. more sight-seeing. important for my wife. There are so many places to see in this vast country.
    6. perhaps a more suitable training course for my wife. Right now many of them are just too expensive
    7. some new clothes for her

US work xp vs Singapore work xp


(to be published on my blog) Thanks for your questionnaire;-) over the phone. We went over some important topics today. To re-iterate some of my opinions,

I suggest you choose between only these 2 priorities
– find a partner
– spend a few months getting a job , any job, in US, and then look for a better one
* Your investment activities should not be a priority and should not be your focus. Such a focus is short-sighted.

I understand your highs and lows in terms of enthusiasm with dating. Once you fall off the horse, get back on and keep going. Don’t stop. Time is not on your side.

I now have many family constraints on my career choices. I used to see it as a burden but now I see it as a man’s duty. Even though I don’t seem to practice what I preach, I do feel “Family is more important than work.”  Family problems are more serious and more painful than job set-backs. Job compared to family is like a backpack adventure compared to a long long train journey or a financial investment program compared to a savings account. There are inherent risks in most careers, but family is something I grow with care and feeding.

I agree that any US work experience is well-recognized in other countries whereas Singapore work experience (including leadership experience) is seldom recognized in US. Many Singapore team leads come to US and take on non-lead roles.

Thanks for your story of the ex-colleague growing his confidence.
* I will work on strengthening my foundation and my confidence.
* I will work on understanding interviewer’s perceptions and growing my confidence.

Thanks for your detailed illustration of his stance on the company’s side whenever there’s a decision involving workers vs company. Good insight. I will learn this technique.

Thank you for your valuable insight about UBS “approved softwares”. I now see this  policy can leave programmers with a poor understanding of the internals of those “customized” packages.