Sunday, March 23, 2008

What's in a title?

Some of you might find this post familiar. It's just my article for the bazaar magazine for the month of February. It might be a little too stale and the moment but the topic still makes my head boil at times......and sometimes makes me laugh until I almost puke my guts out! on:
What qualifies a person to be a manager? Or what qualifies a person to be a Director or Vice President for that matter? Let’s take a peek at how titles are derived these days.

I don’t mean to pass judgment on the people that have gone up the ladder the old fashioned way – hard work, hands-on experience and leadership abilities among many other traits. It’s just that in recent times we have seen an unusual, almost abnormal growth of titles in large corporations and medium sized company. Gone are the days when being a Sales Manager or Product Manager was the “in” thing. Now we have complex titles like Manager, International Relations, Middle East & Africa or Senior Corporate Advisor, Asia & Emerging Markets. They have titles, subtitles and the area in which they function both in terms of the company itself and sometimes the geographical location.

Occasionally these fancy titles take about 40 per cent of the space available on a business card (and half your breath away). The people with the titles for the most part are just “suits” or sometimes just “skirts” if I may use that term. People with a fancy degree from an even fancier sounding college or university that speak with a Western accent get fancier titles compared to the rest of the plebeian folk.

What dictates your title and your position in the pecking order of a company? Is it your experience? Is it your capacity to handle complicated projects? Is it your ability to supervise people? Apparently some companies in Kuwait have no clear distinctions. You could be a Vice President and have nobody except an executive assistant reporting to you. You could be in a department of six wherein all six are managers with no sub-ordinates.

Granted sometimes when you are in a Business Development function and you are meeting with higher-ranking members of the business community, it does help if you have a senior (sounding) title on your business card. However that does not mean you hire people who have just graduated out of a top university and give them a superior title to impress your clients and this seems to be the case in Kuwait of late.

In my opinion, companies in Kuwait have to draw a line on how to award titles. For instance, if you are in the capacity of Business Development Manager, are you in a position to draw up a Business Plan for the product or service that you are selling? Are you able to segregate strategic, tactical and day-to-day decisions and create a plan that will incorporate all these fundamentals? In most cases, I’ll tell you right now, the answer is no. Fine, they probably can drum up an exciting presentation in PowerPoint with fancy bells and whistles and sophisticated graphs and pie charts but tell them to do something a little more strategic in nature and they’ll shun you like the plague! They make simple projects sounds as convoluted as knitting sweaters for an entire football team blindfolded in semi-circles!

This is something I have experienced. I meet these kinds of people on a daily basis all the time. These are the people who have offices of their own and disapprove of working in cubicles. They are the kind of people who appear to be real busy (taking a page right out of Dilbert) staring into their laptops all day making you think they’re diligent workers who have an urge to make it to the top. Little known to the common folk is that these people are actually silently chatting away their time on MSN or of late (Face-booking their profile). Or they could be YouTubing too! What is amusing is their skill on how to maximize and minimize applications in Windows is so flawless that they can make you believe they’ve been working hard on a global product pricing graph all day when the truth of the matter is they’ve been chatting to some East European girl promising to walk down the aisle with them and bring them to Kuwait for better prospects.

Personally I could care less if these people become CEOs within the next year or two. I would rather hone my skills as a professional and climb the ladder – the right way. To those people with flamboyant titles, all I can say is – Damn shame!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Being well dressed does pay off!

I have this reputation of being a sharp dresser and until recently I hadn't given it much thought. Call me boastful or a prude but that is the truth and most of you readers who haven't met me in person might think the same. Both my parents are reasonably good dressers and perhaps I imbibed my dress sense from them. Perhaps it was the fact that I was involved in the fashion industry back home in India in my teens. But what really inspires me to put effort into my dressing is the fact that it makes me feel good about myself. It brings on more confidence and I feel I can take on the world (apart from dressing it's thinking of my fiancé that does that too).

What prompted me to post this article on my blog was the fact that a lot of people (while complimenting me on my dress sense) have always remarked that Indians aren't the best of dressers and I for one resent that. I know a lot of Indians who've got very good taste in clothes and accessories. Of course there are a few people who need a makeover desperately but for the most part I think it isn’t that they don't know how to dress, they're just fixed on an era that was theirs and got stuck to the clothes at the time.

Here are a couple of tips for guys who work in the office and outside either in sales or business development.

Invest in three good suits. They don't have to be designer suits just well cut suits in solid colors or thin pin stripes if you're on the heavier side of the weighing scale. Since we're approaching summer go for one solid cream or beige suit. Your accompanying shits with this one could be a crisp white, pink or light blue. Your second pick should be a blue suit; not dark blue, not navy blue, just plain blue. For shirts you could use plain or pastel colors or even stripes but if they're formal shirts the stripes should be in one single dark color. And no loud ties with these shirts just plain solid or striped ones will do just fine. Leave checkered shirts for weekends and outings with your fashionably challenged friends.

While you'll wear these two suits to everyday meetings with clients, the third one should be a dark grey or black one that you will reserve for your meetings with high level officials or when you attend a big event. You could also wear this one to formal events and dinner parties. Make sure you wear a crisp white shirt if it's a formal event and the ties for these night time soirees should be in solid and dark colors.

What about accessories you might ask? Timepieces are very important and are very representative of who you are so leave all your Casio Digitals in your drawer at home and stick to analogues. Ideally you should have one dress watch either a steel or leather strap while the other can be for those casual meetings or evening coffee-shop appointments with friends.

Shoes should always be well polished and you could try carrying one of those little shoe-sponges in your car's glove compartment for those times you're forced to park in a sand-patch and walk to a modern building for about 100 yards before getting to your appointment. Remember your belt always matches your shoes so if you're wearing black crocodile leather shoes make sure you're wearing a black belt and so on and so forth.

Speaking of shoes another big faux pas I've seen guys make is wear white socks on suits or formal trousers. Let's face it dudes, break-dancing doesn't pay a lot unless you're insanely talented so make sure your socks either match the color of your trousers or are a shade darker. Pointy white shoes are for Cuban drug lords, Lou Bega and Jitender so they're definitely out of style unless you really want to make a point (pun intended).

I think I have done my part here so I'll leave it at that. For those of you who have these kind of clothes in your wardrobe, good for you. For those of you who don't, I think it's time you went shopping. And to those of you who think I'm being an ass and don't want to take my suggestions.......just get a subscription to GQ! ;-)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Parking Woes!!!

Parking has always been a problem in Kuwait. From parking at work to parking in crowded streets to even paid parking lots. We find people doing all sorts of nonsense when it comes to parking. Let's break it down into a few categories:

Take for instance the Asian expatriates who drive their Kuwaiti sponsor's cars. Man, just because you're driving a Lexus or a BMW 7 Series, doesn't mean you get to behave rude and obnoxious like your bosses! First of all these people drive like peacocks on a mating spree and when they're waiting for their sponsors to come out pf the malls, they wait right at the entrance blocking other drivers from passing. And heaven forbid you blow your horn, they give you that stare that makes you think they're actually the owners of those fancy cars who just have absolutely no dress sense!

There those other kind of people who think that it is their God-given right to take all their time when getting into their cars after a bout of shopping. It could take anything between 30 seconds to 45 minutes for ladies (who are heavily made up) to get into their car, get out to throw their Oscar De La Renta bag in the back seat, climb into the driver's seat again, adjust the rear view mirror (while simultaneously checking to see if their heavy make up is still on), turning on the ignition and almost rear-ending the vehicle behind theirs while getting out of a seemingly easy-to-get-out-of parking spot. They might not want to Asian driver waiting for them but this is worse than that; at least for people waiting for their turn to park. Ladies, please learn to differentiate between N, D and R in our gear shift.

Then there are stalkers who stalk parking spaces. These people drive slow and steady smack in the middle of the parking lot with little regard for the people behind them. Their only aim is to obtain the parking slot right next to the entrance of a mall or supermarket despite the large number of empty spaces that exist in the next lane. They don't mind waiting for even 15 minutes if it secures their spot right next to the entrance. Now all they need is a red carpet and the steely white flashes of the paparazzi!

Then you have those stupid paid parking lots especially in downtown Kuwait City. You pay to enter and despite that you spend about 20 minutes finding a spot. The whole concept of ease of use has been lost here and this happens quite a lot during rush hour. Why don’t they just keep track of the number of cars they let in and stop people from entering once it is full?

Let's not forget, there are those dim-wit numb-skulls that think they have the right to park in two spots instead of one. They either don't see the white line separating two spots of they just don't care. They park diagonally and think it's a mater of style or it shows off their driving (in this case parking) prowess. These people really piss me off – selfish fu#ks!

Finally, there are the people who block someone else thinking "he's not going to move…..I'll be back in a jiffy". Now these are probably the people who come home from the office for a quick lunch and get caught up in an afternoon quickie that they need to take a small nap after it's done. Forget about the poor soul downstairs that has to get to the office or an appointment on time, he can wait until I finish my nap and get another quickie on my way out!

Why do I ask you are people so inconsiderate? Why is it that they are so lazy? Why do they think they're the only people privileged to drive on the roads? Do any of you want to add to these categories?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

What kind of a name do you have?

I have always thought of the naming game as a little too cumbersome. Babies should come with name-tags as soon as they're born. Some of us who are fortunate enough to have been blessed with an average intellect have the foresight to give decent names to our kids. First it was the west. Gone are names like John, James, Christopher, Howard and Robert. Nowadays people in the US especially have taken a liking to names like Hayden, Jayden, DiShawn etc.

Then you have people who want to make their race obvious with their names. For instance you know babies with the names Keisha, Delroy, Desiree, Tyrone, Francine or Darius are most certainly African Americans. Just like Alexander, Casey, Jamie are predominantly white baby names! Then there are people who like to change the way their kid's names are spelt. So now you have Brayan, Jayson, Jenipher, Nancee & Justyn! Thanks to the Beckams we now have people naming their kids after cities (in the case of the Beckams it was after their baby was conceived. Brooklyn was where their first-born was supposedly conceived so they named him after the New York borough. What will we have next, New Hampshire, Maine, Khartoum, Addis Ababa? Then there are those descriptive names. In a way it's like the names are telling you what the baby will grow up to be. You have Butler, Porter, Fancy (Yes, I met someone with that name), Destiny (what are the chances she won't be a fortune-teller?) and Castro. If you're naming your daughter Ruth, you're making her out to be an 80 year old nun. Blanche might not sound like a nun's name but it's like saying come over and spend some time with old grandma Blanche in the senior citizen's home.

Even Indians seem to be getting a little overboard with naming their kids these days. Earlier there were names like Ravi, Shyam, Ram, Shekhar, Rukmini and Gita. Todays names are a little complicated like Rushil, Ramon, Revati and Ruchira. For the most part they're all right one could say. But within India let's take a looksey at a few of the states. Goans like to be considered a different part of India. Apart from the politicians most of the normal people (mostly Christians) think they live in a different country. They wear western clothes, (try to speak with a Western accent) and give everything they do a Portuguese story. When it comes to names, Goans like fancy sounding ones. They think their baby will grow up to be famous with a fancy name. Royston is a favorite among the clan and so are variations of other popular names. Other names like Glenville (Goans actually have these kind of names) are better reserved for small town with populations of less than 200 people. Then you have Goodwin, Godwin, Larry, Gary (and sometimes Garry with 2 Rs). A trend that started in the 90s was combining the names of the father and mother to form a new and improved version of the family! ;-) There's Edlin derived from Edward and Linara. (I know these people) There is Milton from Milagres and Tony (which actually is a real name as gay as it may sound). Here's another one – Alvirita derived from Alvito and Rita.

People have also got to realize the implications of naming their kids a silly dorky name. I can't imagine a guy called Willy growing up to be a bouncer or someone called Chantal becoming a UN ambassador someday. How about a president of the US named Porter or Micah?

Seriously, I have a few names in mind for the time I have kids of my own but until then, making fun of other weird and interesting names is all I can do? So…..what's your name again?