start at bernie’s, bbmm pokehunting

I start today at my friend B’s law firm. One day a week. It’s a small firm, only B and one associate, plus mm who is there twice a week. Two support staff and another part time intern.

I’m obviously not a lawyer but B wanted me to help with writing some marketing materials on employment related issues for a start up business. Also templates for staff handbook. Then I can help with status reports for their clients. It’s pretty low level and not that well paid. It gets me out of the flat for a day, the change of scenery hopefully will do me good.

One of the support staff also started today so everyone went for lunch together. A new restaurant that doubles as live music bar at night. Set lunches only. The food is average, the service was pretty bad. There were 6 of us. First, 5 soups came plus one main course. Eventually the missing soup came. Main courses came out randomly. Two people had the same food and one mains we had to chase and chase and chase. Worse, the waiter gave us attitude. Not going back there.

After work, mm and I went pokßhunting at a new spot. Deliberately took a long bus and were rewarded when we saw pikachu. My first one! We had a super successful evening, catching 8-9 (we lost count) electabuzzes, lots of other medium rare pokémons. Plenty of walking too. It was getting late but we stopped at a dessert place for a breather. Then go radar said there was a lapras nearby. We ran, together with dozens of people, but missed by seconds. Drat.

We were walking towards the station when we spotted other things. Found dratini, arbok, machop nearby. Took several backwards and forward before we finally reached the station. 11.45pm when I got home. But feeling quite happy. Total probably around 90 caught

the new job


The last time I went into the office was May 2012. I was then on garden leave and started my officially unemployed status 3 months later. I guess the better term is sabbatical or semi-retirement, although I’m too young to look retired. In financial services it’s not uncommon for people to retire young though.

Earlier this year, I did have some discussions with a couple of companies on the job front. One I turned down because first they had a hiring freeze and then the manager managed to unfreeze the headcount but only if it’s shared with another department. I’ve done this long enough to know that sharing doesn’t work — the EE is still expected to perform as if they are 100% in both departments, which leads to double the workload. Plus, the politics, ack. The second job was with a consultant firm, it was going well until we started talking packages and timesheets and client marketing. Not for me.

I’m quite happy to exist without a job for the time being, bumming along at my parents’ place. But an opportunity came my way, and it suits my current circumstances.

So now I’m a researcher and case writer at the university’s business school. The university is 100+ years old, and enjoys a high global/regional ranking. The position is freelance, where I work with one of the professors on a particular case. It’s paid on a per case basis too; each case can take 3-6 months to finalise but I can work whenever I like, and from home. No need to be at any office aside from a few meetings with the professor or, if the case is about a company, the company’s staff. Some case writers work on multiple concurrent cases, but for now I have just the one.

Anyone who went to business school will remember case studies. We didn’t have case studies in every single subject but they were definitely used in Marketing and Strategic Management. Harvard is the pioneer of using case studies, apparently their MBA students study and analyse over 500 cases during their time there. It’s a tried a tested method for teaching MBAs, although there are some criticism of the case study method, that it’s not suited for all subjects (eg accounting and statistics), that some cases are too old and outdated, and other methods that mix lectures with real time cases may be the way to go.

Nevertheless, the wheels of academia turn very slowly and case studies will be used and in demand for a long time to come. They have become big business, with the three largest case study publishers (Harvard, Richard Ivey in Canada and ECCH at Cranfield) selling more than 10 million cases every year. Cases are priced per student, so even at $3 each, that’s $30 million in revenue.

I’d never really thought about who physically wrote these case studies. If anyone asked me a few months ago, I would have said that they are like academic papers, right? Even though I was the one who did the experiment and synthesised those compounds, my PhD supervisor wrote all our published JOC papers, so I would assume that business school professors wrote these case studies too.

Apparently not.

Sometimes their students wrote them, but there is a whole cottage industry of case writers. So far it’s a lot of research. Trawling through a company’s website, reading their annual statements, figuring out their org structure from public information. Then there are the academic theories that the professor wants to incorporate into the case — for someone in the field like I have been, they seem to be a lot of big words to describe a small thing that I already know, but I have to remember that the students may not know these things. There’s quite a lot of writing involved too: not just the case study itself, which can run to 20-30 pages; there’s also the accompanying teaching notes, which is another 20-30 pages.

Can I make a living out of it? Not at the moment, with just one case. It has potential to become more, I hope. Already the prof I’m working with is talking about a series of cases; and then there are a couple of ideas I have that I’ll wait till the right time to pitch. There are even case writing competitions around the world with fairly lucrative prize money. Wow.

nano day 5 | work and writing


3675 words | 20084 words total

I signed and sent back a service agreement and spent almost the whole day researching. Because I’ve now been hired as a researcher for the business school at the local university to research and write a case study abot a large conglomerate. The service agreement is per case, so I don’t know if there will be any more after this. The morning was spent looking for background information on the company and the afternoon writing the case synopsis. It’s slow-going. I’ve never written an MBA case study before and I find I have to think about what to write and how to write it. I’m only halfway through the case synopsis.

So after 5-6hrs of internet searching, clicking around and typing what did I do for the rest of the day? I typed some more. Wrote a bit before dinner, had dinner, showered then wrote some more. It’s great to reach another milestone, 20k in 5 days is pretty good. I’m now on chapter 5 and they are putting the walls up on the house. I learned about the difference between plywood and OSB (which I typed out fully as oriented strand board every time — 3 words vs 1 word, it’s a cardinal nano rule), that 16” on center is the standard spacing between 2x4s in the frame, and the importance of studs in giving support for large windows. Paradoxically, although the walls of the house are going up, the personal walls between the MCs are starting to break down, they actually went for dinner together after work. That’s the writing for tomorrow, to write the dinner conversation and interactions.

Oh, and Happy Guy Fawkes Night!! Since nano and bonfire night will always overlap, I thought I’d combine the two and make an avatar.

marathons are good for the city

So I’m trying to pitch and write a MBA case study on the economic and other impact of holding a marathon, with focus on Tokyo, since it just joined the world marathon series. Trying out an introduction and putting down thoughts for rest of the paper.


Joining the Super Elites: Economic and Other Impact of Tokyo Marathon Joining the World Marathon Series


In 2013, only 6 years after its inauguration, Tokyo became the sixth member of the prestigious World Marathon Majors (“WMM”). The other races are: Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London and New York. These are the most prestigious marathons in the world, attracing over 200,000 participants between them. The total prize money tops $1 million, shared between the 6 races.

Marathon races have become big business, with the World Marathon Major series as the top running brand in the world. Major marathons are profit-making as well as boasting millions of dollars of impact on the local economy through visitor spending, sponsorship and increased media exposure. It is also the largest source of fund raising for many charities.

Tad Hayano, the race director of the Tokyo Marathon, wanted to join the World Marathon Majors “to promote the Tokyo Marathon to the world.” The WMM previously had rules for inclusion including a large pro and mass participation, prize money, significant news coverage and a history of 25 years or more. Tokyo Marathon was able to request for, and received an exception to, consideration of the last rule.

The first WMM Tokyo Marathon was April 2013. What, if any, were the impact of WMM membership? What will future races be like? What lies ahead for other regional marathons, in Japan and in the surrounding Asia Pacific region?


  • growth in sports participation, focus on running and races — no of races, participation growing exponentially
  • economic impact of sporting events — summer olympics
  • impact of marathons — NYC, Chicago, London study + even smaller marathons
    • economic impact — visitors spending (NYC 2 million visitors), sponsors, vendors, positive marketing
    • charitable impact — millions raised for non-profits
    • community impact — local schools and clubs participation, volunteers
  • how and why tokyo joined marathon majors
  • possible and desired impact — prize money, sponsorship, revenue, visitor spending
  • runner and world reaction
  • knock on effect on other japanese marathons, other asian marathons

writing case studies


One of sis’ i-school mom friends is involved in this case studies research centre where they hire people to write case studies for business schools. Pretty decent pay, about $3,500 per case if accepted. We met for drinks a few weeks ago, I sent in my CV and they asked me to go to their office for a writing test. Pick one of 2 articles and write a case study introduction, ie the paragraph or two that comes before the meat of the case. The obvious article would have been one about a bunch of bankers being sued for poaching clients but I didn’t see the teaching point for that. I worked on the other article, about “newer” (the article was dated 2008 so “new” is relative) sovereign wealth funds moving into riskier global markets and because of their size, potentially having an impact on the markets themselves.

Also had to list some teaching points. Um, okay. Difference between investment aims of different investor types. Discuss how global markets may potentially be influenced. Discuss the role of politics in government-managed funds.

The test was supposed to be 2.5hrs. I was done by 1hr; with checking and re-writing I was done by 1.5hrs.

busy day


Early start. 9.30am meeting with the consultancy. It’s been weeks since I last interviewed with them, and I had written the whole venture off. The meeting with a new director went very well. We met at a coffee shop, he had some breakfast and I tried eating a banana bread (managed 1/3). Talked for 2 hours. I’ve never heard of an interview meeting lasting 2hrs. Positive feeling.

Met mm and a colleague for drinks at a peanut peeling place. Shared a buffalo wings starter and tried to go to pizza express for dinner. We were full from the peanuts that all we could manage was one small slice of pizza, a couple of stuffed mushrooms and some salad each. Took the rest home. Lots to think about.

what next

I went for an interview with a consultancy for a role of senior consultant. I think, I believe, I have the experience and technical ability to do it. But talking to the director, it seems like they have a certain idea of the type of candidate they want and I’m not entirely sure I fit. There were 2 hypothetical ad hoc case studies and I’m not sure I gave them the answer they were looking for. I hate these scenarios where there is not enough information and I’m told to make assumptions.

I hate interviews anyway. I hate the process of selling myself, and one of the things you have to do in professional services firms is to do business development and say “yes, of course” to clients. It makes me uncomfortable. I’m not a strategist, not a pioneer, not an ideas person. Give me a problem, I’ll solve it. I’ll think of ways to help you, I’ll even be creative. But don’t ask me to butter people up, or even be nice to them when they’re not nice to me.

So, yeah. I’m not sure about this job. I went into the interview with the attitude that it doesn’t matter, if I don’t succeed it’s because of different culture. But as I came out and got on the bus, I realised that success matters more to me than I thought. I don’t want to fail because they perceive that I don’t have the knowledge of ability. Mutually deciding it’s a different fit, yes. It’s an ego thing, I suppose.

office day


Joined my ex-team members for lunch, then went back to the office with them. Chatted with my friend I for about 1.5 hours. Our financial advisor came over and went over my stuff, then went over bbmm stuff. Drinks with mm at the Marriott, a couple of glasses of wine, buffalo wings and a small baked camembert. I think I’m switching to Italian wines, I had something from Masi which was very good.


Since I’ve been in London, I’ve stopped going to the weekly big group meeting. Today I was asked to represent our group and update them on a website that is going live later this week. Boy, am I glad it’s only once in a blue moon. It’s one thing being on the phone, it’s another being in the meeting room. I much prefer being on the phone.

department christmas dinner

Department Christmas dinner tonight, I took pictures but too dark = blurry. It was at beach blanket babylon. Menu was pre-ordered, which I’d already done so several weeks ago. I had scallops (tiny, tiny), roast turkey with all the trimmings, christmas pudding with custard. Yeah, when I made those choices I was in a traditional Christmas food mood. We had secret santa and I got an instant hyancith plant set.

drive to work

When I opened my eyes this morning it was 7.02am. ARGH! I had a 8am conference call and should have woken 1 hour earlier. I got ready, but had to spend 10mins finishing paris on mw. Still, wouldn’t have made it. So I drove in. Half an hour. So why don’t I drive to work everyday? Because it costs 3 times as much as taking the “L”, and even though it was fast going in, it was a solid block of traffic on lake shore drive going home.

london day 4: meeting

Meeting continued. My part was right at the end and I got progressively more nervous as the afternoon wore on. I’m not usually like this, it’s the circumstances.

There was a cocktail party afterwards. I couldn’t keep my eyes open so I didn’t go. Went to m&s to get chicken wings, and couldn’t resist salt beef sandwich again. Should have gone running, was too tired and lazy.

london day 3: meeting

The purpose of the trip is to attend the global team meeting. The composition of the team has changed a great deal since my first meeting. I have my thoughts on how things seem to be going, and some people share those thoughts. However it’s not the way the wind is blowing, so I have to go with the flow.

Dinner was at the hotel restaurant, which was super convenient and very thoughtful of the home team. Menu was pre-selected: artichoke mousse, sea bass, raspberry dessert — safe and suitable for a group of almost 20. A few of us stayed behind to chat, and moved downstairs to the bar for a final drink.

suited up for work

A whole bunch of senior managers are here, hence the reception yesterday. It also means I’ve been wearing a suit this week, though I still cheated and wore my Timberland boots. I don’t mind wearing suits, the ones I have are pretty comfortable. My favourite is a blue pin-striped combo I got from Racing Green. Sigh, that was one of my favourite clothing stores. Am a bit chagrined when I looked online that is now a small store in Yorkshire, and the one that I so loved was sold to Burtons and the brand no longer in existence. Sniff.

In other news, I’ll be in London in May. Trying to find where Leroy my hairdresser has gone to. It’s been so many years, everything that I took for granted and was familiar with had gone and changed on me.


The thing I hate about project managers is their obsession with project plans, gantt charts and the continual cycle of updates, updates, updates. I’m not a literal project manager, I don’t have MS Project on my PC, I prefer to mindmap. So when our internal project committee people kept asking me to update the project costs, I told them no can do. I don’t track my time using timesheets, and if they start asking me to do that, I think I need to escalate.

there is no backend database

Three days of workday training complete. Lots of information to absorb. Very hands-on training. I was forever playing with the training system and doing exercises a step ahead. Heehee. The most important takeaways:

  • unlearn everything about past systems
  • challenge status quo and ingrained bias
  • keep it simple
  • everything is an object, there is no backend setup database
  • tenants
  • it all comes down to clear planning and knowing how to configure
  • supervisory org rules
  • use the search bar

i hate driving in the snow

I was supposed to be in Pleasanton CA this week for 3 days of training, but it got moved to Chicago. Or to be precise, a western suburb of Chicago. Instead of sunny weather, I woke up to 3-4” of snow, had to shovel my way out of my space and drive 1.5hrs to get to the training. Coming back was worse, still snowing, poor visibility and people driving without lights. I had to park on the street cos otherwise I’d have to dig my way into my space and dig myself out tomorrow morning. And now I’m looking outside and the snow is doing crazy brownian dancing it’s so windy outside.

I hate driving in the snow. I’m not used to it and I don’t have the right car for the conditions.

work done

Workwise, I’m done for the year. I went in today and all I did was read 2 emails. I went running in the gym at 10.30am, and left at noon. Gonna be out till 2010, I can monitor things via the blackberry.

So, what have I done this year at work? Can’t believe I started the year as “just moved to the Chicago office” then had to go straight into the YE08 process, functioning as the human total comp machine for 3 months. Then I got into this workday project — issue rfp, go through project committee approval, deal with other departments, run rfp, select vendor, deal with other departments again, negotiate with vendor, get a million approvals. But we are in a good shape to start next year. It’ll be a long, tough ride.

christmas potluck

workxmas0901ham workxmas0905pecan

We had a potluck at work today. Just simple food, no competition or anything complicated. Normally I’d make dessert but other people signed up for it already. So I made salmon egg roll. It was okay.

Some of the other dishes include: a whole ham, cold cuts and sandwiches, meat pasta, pasta salad, taquitos, taffy apple salad, pecan bars, fruit.

meds 4 | demo 2

I woke up way too early cos I was nervous about this morning’s demo 2. It’s at our office and I had to make sure everything was set up right — breakfast ordered, DSL turned on through helpdesk, webex invitation sent, the vendors know where to go, our people know where to go. Got to the office at 7.45am. The vendor got in at 7.50am! First thing I said to him, “early much?”

This is a vastly different product, much more web 2.0 and startup like. The people weren’t in suits, they were friendly and there is a feeling of entrepreneurship when interacting with them. I was impressed by the product.

Managed to leave at 3.30pm and drove down to the wake. It was nice, lots of family and friends. There’s a plumbing problem at the house so I decided to come home instead of spending the night. Early start tomorrow.

I’m still feeling not 100% and pretty tired. I’m coughing up some stuff so it’s less painful and dry. Still staying away from that cough medicine.

meds 3 | demo 1

First product demo today, so I couldn’t stay home. Of all the weeks to be sick, this is the worst week ever. I dare not take the cough medicine cos of drowsiness, but the inhaler seems to be working a little.

We were invited to our vendor’s office at Sears Tower for the demo, only a 5 min walk. When we walked in, we were greeted by a room full of suits! Scary. The demo was as expected, that’s what you get from the industry leader.

Bought a flower basket and drove down to Gram’s wake. The minute I walked in I knew I’d be told off, cos I’d been told to stay home and rest. But in all honesty, most people would have made the effort. It was a horrid drive down in heavy traffic and even more horrid drive home in the torrential rain. But I made it.


We have overseas visitors this week from our team. It’s been an intense few days but we covered a lot. What I can say is, meeting the people face to face is 5000% better when it comes to working together. With a global company we end up emailing or conference calling a lot, but there’s something different about eye contact.

long weekend

Even though it wasn’t exactly under my authority, I let the C&B team out this afternoon. There doesn’t seem to be any official rules (that i know of), but in practice people can leave when the market closed. So some of them left at 2.30pm, some left around 3pm. I had a conference call at 1pm, then I had to work on a document as a result of that call. But I was able to leave around 3pm too.

It’s the start of the long weekend. Yippee.

london 2

Long day of meetings and a full agenda. Working lunch too. Different team dynamics from before, with new additions. The old team still stuck together, which was good.

Dinner at Devonshire Terrace, where for cocktails we had Pimm’s. ahhhhhh, Pimm’s. I had pea and mint soup (very large bowl, too salty), salmon fishcakes (niiice) and apple & blackberry crumble (also too large portion). Then J, P and I sat at the hotel lobby bar, with free wine and olives, and talked till we were ready to drop. It was great to chat. Some good news, but not the right time to disclose.

first day

My first day in the office as an official Chicago branch employee. A different feeling than other new hires cos I already have an access card and laptop. There was a problem with the network cable, which got fixed. But email didn’t work all day. So I gave up after lunch and came back to the apartment. Went shopping then running. Tired.

chicago bound


I had alluded to it before, but since I got word about the visa today here’s the official ‘announcement’ — I’m going to be transferred to the Chicago office, to be Group Head of my function. Heh, what function, there’s only one person ie me. Still, fancy title for what I’ve been doing for the last 6 months.

People at work ask if I’m excited. I have to answer truthfully that since it’s been in the works for so long, I’m over it. Careerwise it’s a great opportunity. Personally it’ll be an adventure. Those are the positives. The biggest negative is why am I signing up for all this additional work stress when I can retire and get a low level data entry job that pays the bills. There’s so much expectation, and I have so little motivation.

The other negative is I’m no longer there to support mm. We can talk on the phone, but I’m putting her through potentially another 2-3 years of separation. Sigh, our timing’s off, again.

So December I have to start packing and getting shippers in. Not the best time, but it’s never the best time. Wish me luck.

left to my own devices

I had many meeting scheduled for today, so it was busy. Was still able to get away at a decent hour. Left to my own devices for dinner, my natural inclination is to get something and eat it in the hotel room. No fancy restaurants, no restaurants actually. Plus, with so many heavy meals lately it was nice just to get a salad and watch tv. Which was exactly what I did.

catalyst ranch

chi416catranch chi417catranch

Our team building meeting was at the Catalyst Ranch which turned out to be 10mins’ walk from the apartment. I was so pleasantly surprised when I walked in, it was nothing like the usual corporate event venue.

For a start, it is colourful, more like a fantasy toy shop. Vintage furniture and kitsch Americana knick-knacks are everywhere. The idea is to escape the humdrum of the office and introduce creativity.

Here you can imagine, collaborate, play, exchange, discover, innovate, unleash, pollinate, experiment, ignite, percolate, connect. Or meet, retreat, congregate, discuss, teach, organize, coach, exhibit, train, ideate, brainstorm, team-build. Our space, your activities.

The group thoroughly enjoyed the meeting, the space, the meals. I wonder if they franchise. Hmm.