I’m in Bangkok at the moment.
Flying out of the HK airport on Wednesday was rather sad. Sad in that there are still lots of people camped out there waiting for flights. Apparently things were so disrupted by the hurricane on Monday evening that they’re still in catch-up mode. It looked as if someone handed out blankets so there were entire families sitting on blankets propped up against any spare bit of wall they could find. The blankets were covered with crap from whatever fastfood meals they’d been consuming while waiting – almost as if these people were so angry from being stuck there that they couldn’t be bothered to clean up a bit. I know we don’t get these sorts of things too often here but really, HK, “world’s best airport,” this is the best we can do for them?
I used to go to Bangkok 4 to 6 times a year but this is my first time back in 4-1/2 years. It’s astonishing to me how little has changed, at least in terms of the places and areas that I generally go to.
Last night I went over to my old haunts in the Suhkumvit area, starting with dinner at the Soi 7 seafood market. I’m sitting there alone having dinner, a fish that turned out to be about twice the size that I expected but at 350 baht, not a big deal. This woman comes walking by, talks to a waitress and then says something to me about how I’m alone and she’s alone. I heard her accent and for some reason thought she was from mainland China and started talking to her in Putonghua only it turned out she’s Japanese, from Osaka. After a few minutes she came back to me and asked if she could join me since we’re both alone. She didn’t have much English and kept looking at her mobile phone for translations but I was able to work out that she’s in Thailand for two weeks and waiting for her husband to join her or get off work or something like that. We talked for awhile as best we could. She didn’t seem to be after anything other than to not be sitting there alone and I guess she decided that I looked safe enough. When I left, she asked if I’d be coming back there the next night. I would say the entire encounter was odd ….
I went over to Soi 5 and saw that Jimmy Wong’s tattoo shop is still there. I’d seen some stuff on the internet that said maybe he’d retired. I went around the corner to his daughter Joy’s shop but the guy sitting there told me she was off on holiday “for long time.” I went across the street to Gulliver’s, a bar that I used to spend a lot of time in. Nothing had changed there, not even the pictures on the wall in the toilet. A few drinks, back across the street to Jimmy’s shop every now and then. Eventually someone came by and opened up the shop but it was a young Thai guy. By 11 I gave up waiting for Jimmy, asked the guy to let Jimmy know I’m back in town and would check back the next night, walked around a bit more, then back to the hotel.
I know, Bangkok + Spike should = some more exciting tales but actually I’m down here for work, a short consulting contract that I picked up. Good gig, good people, the kind of work that plays to my strengths, wish this was a longer gig. The work leaves little time for shopping or sightseeing or anything else. (I’ve got a long break between meetings this morning though.)
I’m currently interviewing at 3 different places for permanent positions. The difference between the recruiters I’m dealing with would be astounding if I wasn’t already used to it. For one interview, set up one week in advance, the recruiter did nothing to prep me in advance and didn’t even bother to call me the morning of the interview (or the night before) to remind me of the appointment or to make certain I was prepared. After the interview, no phone call from him. I was on the run that day and could only send him a quick email letting him know how it went. One week later I still hadn’t heard from him, called him and he said that he was still waiting to hear back from the client. Took another week for him to call and tell me they wanted to schedule the next interview.
I don’t know the numbers but I think that Hong Kong has more recruitment companies than could be reasonably justified by the size of this market. And I think that the bulk of the recruiters are extremely unprofessional. I almost think that it’s like L.A. where every waiter and waitress is an actor or a director just marking time waiting tables waiting for their big break. Most of the recruiters in Hong Kong seem to have little understanding of the positions that they’ve been booked to fill or the needs of the company they are supposed to be representing. They ask very basic questions of the candidate and have a tendency to bury employers with resumes rather than do the work to narrow down the field and present just one or two “perfect fits.” I think that in 15 years here I’ve met perhaps 4 or 5 truly professional recruiters who really take the time to understand what they’re doing and how it should be done.
This morning may have been the worst of all. I’ll preface by saying that I get a lot of emails via Monster.com. I’m listed in the HK Monster database. But I get all these emails from Indian companies offering positions in India. Junior positions. I really doubt that any Indian company needs to import IT talent from outside the country, given the size of the workforce there and the quality of the people their universities are churning out. I therefore assume that these emails are all scams, variations on the Nigerian thing, and I always just delete them.
I mention this because I had a call just now from a headhunter, Indian accent. He said he is looking to fill a 3 month contract doing project management for a company in HK. He told me the company name. This is a company that uses a lot of contractors and hires a lot of westerners. He knew nothing about the project. Just “3 months project management.”
Project management is so varied, it is not a “one size fits all” sort of position. I don’t believe I’m qualified to manage an SAP implementation or anything to do with the front office of an investment bank. There are also a range of project management professional certifications, often specifically requested by companies depending on the methodologies they use; he didn’t ask if I had any. You don’t look to engage someone at my level for a project unless it’s a pretty huge fricking project. It was just weird.
The one thing he was very quick to ask was if I knew anyone else I could recommend as well. Recommend for what? To whom? I told him I didn’t. I asked him the budget for this position and he simply said it’s negotiable, which is unbelievably wrong when dealing with companies of this size. They always have a price range in mind.
So I’m not sure if this is a scam or for real. I am somewhat inclined to continue down the contract route instead of taking a permanent role. I asked the guy to send me an email with his contact details (no Caller ID on the call, “blocked”). One hour later, an email with phone numbers in the US and UK but not in Asia. And he wrote again, “Also ask your colleagues / friends who work in same capacity with latest CV on same mail to me.”
Anyway, back to Hong Kong late Friday. Saturday I’m booked for a photo thing, which is nice.
Oh, yeah, this is my first trip with my new MacBook Pro, retina display. This is the first time I’ve had a laptop with a 15 inch screen in years and it doesn’t seem on paper that it should be that different but I’m finding the slightly larger size makes an enormous positive difference for my old eyes. This is the lesser of the two retina display models, 2.3 GHz processor, memory upgraded to 16 gig, solid state drive. Lightroom is running at the same speed (or maybe even a tad faster) than on my desktop PC. Of course the photos look amazing on this screen. I am so far quite happy with this laptop.