Thursday, September 29, 2011

Graduate Induction

I just finished attending my company's Induction Camp for graduate engineers. The company runs a camp for all the fresh graduates that they hire in each region. I suppose they hope that people would stay at their first job for a while, especially if they are treated well. Now that I'm in the East Asia region, I attended the East Asia Induction. This consists of mainly graduates from the HK office, followed by the Mainland China offices, and a few from India and I think, Taiwan. There weren't any from Japan this year. Singapore is another large office in the Asia region but they are part of the Austra-Asia region. Something to do with how the company expanded. 

The camp started last Friday. We were shuttled to a youth camp in Shatin for Friday night and Saturday. We had Sunday off and then Monday - Wednesday consisted of an engineering project in the InnoCenter (very close to the office). And due to the typhoon today (Thursday), I'm only really working one day this week, Friday. 

Friday started off with some really lame speeches. The theme this year was resilience. Other than a lot of speeches and presentation about resiliency, risk, vulnerability, I didn't see how it all connected with the activities. They really need to work on this. I mean, if you're going to have a theme, then it's got to make sense. Otherwise, scrap the theme. Anyway, there were a lot of us, 150+ graduates. We were broken up into 10 teams and then 2 subteams.

After lunch, we got on buses that took us to the youth camp. This camp was designed by the company as a charity thing and so we use the space every year for the induction camp. We checked into our rooms and then started the "night challenge", which is basically an urban orienteering event. I think this even could use work as well but it was fun. We were sent off to Wanchai and Sham Shui Po. It gave both the locals and non-locals a chance to see some historical stuff around Hong Kong. Some teams took the challenge way too seriously though, tried to go to a ton of checkpoints, and got fast food for dinner. Our team agreed to take it easy and just strolled leisurely about until we got tired. We took our time eating dinner and basically gave up about an hour before the deadline. We even had time to chill in Festival Walk before being the first team to show up at the pick up point. We got extra points for being the only team to show up on time, which gave us enough points to tie for first place. We lost the tiebreaker but the tiebreaker was really difficult. I still don't think I get it. It had to do with using the Chinese measuring system.

Saturday consisted of physical activities at the camp. We had rock climbing and then a ropes course in the morning. I don't know why they tried to squeeze it all in the morning instead of splitting it up into a morning and afternoon session. Anyway, it was all going well until the very last part of the ropes course. They divided the teams such that each team was supposed to do two courses, one that involved teamwork and the other one being a personal challenge. The personal challenge is actually very personal. You get two hooks and have to hook yourself to the safety ropes. One of our team members was completing this course when he slipped. He was saved by the ropes, of course. But then he couldn't get back up onto the net that he's supposed to climb across. He was tired and then lost his glasses. It was very alarming and amusing at the same time. We really couldn't help him and he was stuck up there for probably around 20 minutes. He ended up being saved by two instructors somehow tying another rope to him and then lowering him down.

We had some low-key stuff in the afternoon and then another team exercise before leaving. The team exercise consisted of crossing a lawn area with wood blocks. Each team got a total number of blocks equaled to the number of team members minus two. So we had to work out how the entire team was going to cross the "ocean" using the blocks. We weren't allowed to talk once the game started and we were in the "ocean". I think that "no talking" was the key that allowed it all to work out. Our team was made up of mostly Cantonese speakers and of course they (we) dominated the conversation. They tried to speak English in the beginning but it just wasn't efficient. Once we found out we couldn't talk during the game, this forced us to get everyone on the same page. And we were forced to stick to the plan once the game began. We managed to complete the task. But during the wrap up, someone pointed out that if all the teams had combined resources, we could have just walked over very easily. I wonder why the guy didn't try to make it happen.. I think I was too busy trying to translate to think of such things. Usually these borderline cheating things reveal themselves to me. My team had some very vocal people. So if I had suggested it to them, we could have been able to round up all the teams to make it happen. Wasted opportunity... 

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were Skill Days, which consisted of a conceptual design for a project. Sadly, the background location for the project is the Central Police Station, the project that I've been working on since joining the HK office. The actual project is, of course, very different. I think the point of having a local (real) project as the background setting is so that the teams can do a site visit. Of course, no one actually did the site visit, which I thought was very sad. My team managed to scrape together a decent project proposal. We ended up being the only ones to propose a long tunnel excavation to make it happen. But I think it's the most technically feasible scheme. At one point, I wasn't sure we were going to do a PowerPoint so I started making a model with paper. I basically folded three pieces of paper together to make a model of our centerpiece and then all of a sudden, people started chipping in. HR provided a lot of cookies and other snacks for us to eat at any point so I scavenged among them to get boxes. Once I brought the boxes back, I started wrapping one of them in white paper. I didn't really have a plan of how much of the project site to model but everyone started picking up boxes and making things. People started coloring them, making other pieces, and in the end, we got a huge 3D model:

They made me do the introduction for the presentation, which I totally knew was going to happen. I mean, the people on my team were all able to speak English pretty well, unlike some other groups... Anyway, our first question from the panel was how our centerpiece (the green thing sticking up) would fare in a typhoon. Our structural engineer was trying to make stuff up on the spot when the rest of us remembered that the thing can move up and down. So we pushed it down and got immediate applause from the panel. I'm happy to claim that I made that part of the model. =)

In the end, we had a lot of fun. the whole skill days project was interesting. I'm not sure what the team dynamics were like in other groups. Ours was interesting though. For the skill days, we had 13 people on the team. We had 1 Indian, 4 Mainlanders, and the rest are from the HK office. Whenever we have group meetings, we would start with English, and then after a minute, it was pretty clear that the only people who were speaking up were Cantonese speakers anyway so we switch to Cantonese. There would be translation services at some points but it was difficult to get everyone to speak one common language. It was better when we decided on a direction and split up into smaller groups. My subgroup ended up using Mandarin for the most part (I say "most" because I had to use a lot of English to make it work). 

I would also like to comment on the power of socializing with people outside of "working hours", namely during lunch. Because our teams were so big, during the camp days, we mostly worked in subgroups. I got to know the people in my subgroup pretty well but didn't really know the people in the other subgroup. When we came together for the skill day project, there was a clear divide at first. I saw that the other subgroup had 3 HK people who were clearly got along very well and already had their own sub-team going. I ended up going to lunch on Monday with them and I felt like the four of us bonded during that lunch. It's not that we spilled our life stories or anything. But I definitely felt that we established trust and crossed a lot of borders during that one short hour. The three of them were working on one part of the project while I was working on another part. Before lunch, there wasn't much communication between the two teams. After lunch, I felt like there was much more interaction. I think some people in other teams also went drinking at bars after we were released for the day. It's always these informal interactions that seems to form the stronger bonds.

 I hope we keep in touch. I'll definitely see the HK people around the office. Hopefully I'll see the other folks as well. The company definitely managed to hire some very sharp graduates. 

1 comment:

yalu said...

Haha sounds like fun! I'm glad you came up with the idea for the model =) Also rock climbing, how was it?