Gattaca – the film

At the request of a friend (and work colleague), I watched the film, Gattaca starring Ethan Hawke, Jude Law and Uma Thurman among others.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s based in the future where babies are genetically modified and programmed during pregnancy in order to bring to this world, children who are free of illness and defects that would normally limit their potential. The protagonist in the movie was a “God child”, someone who did not receive genetic intervention before birth. Due to his heart condition that was due to kill him at age 30.2, he was unable to gain professional employment like the elite manufactured humans of his time. This person’s dream was to work in a NASA-like institution, ‘Gattaca’. To do this he would need to use the identity of an elite-human for the rest of his career.

The movie portrays two brothers who are on either side of the birth arrangements. One brother – the naturally conceived one – always wanted to achieve something greater than his potential, the other brother, while expected to excel effortlessly was overwhelmed and eventually decided that he did not want this. The dilemma is that one could not have what he wanted and the other did want what he had. It brings into question whether the fact that he wouldn’t be allowed a professional career, motivated the protagonist to actually pursue one? Just as valid, is the question is does having the potential or ease of achieving something make it less desirable?

I can see why many people identify to the film. We can all try to relate to the fact that we want something specific in our lives but there is an external or imposed barrier put in place to stop us despite our efforts. The protagonist was this reflection. A model human who was always going to be denied due to circumstances outside of his control, due to discrimination.

What I found interesting about the film is that it easily leads you to side with and empathise with the protagonist, the victim. To identify with him. It’s only after great thought that you realise that most of us are like the protagonists brother in the film. The person who had every chance to be the best, yet didn’t deliver, causing him to doubt himself and the goals that were placed in front of him. Taking the easy way out and trying to kill himself, not succeeding and being destined to a life as a paraplegic.

It’s easy to see why no one easily identifies with the more flawed character but most people who are self critical enough should. Unless we were street kids when we were young, disabled or addicted to drugs, we all are more likely similar to the second character. The person who is expected to do well but throws it all away. On the first day of kindergarten each year, every child is given the attention and expectation that in 20 years time, they’ll be able to achieve anything within their desire. Year by year, this possibility begins to diminish. Maybe one day, we make a realisation that we no longer want what we once did. That the pursuit of excellence is no longer as appealing as it was.

For me, as much as I could probably justify the times I didn’t succeed, I think it’s more probable that I too am like the flawed brother who perhaps has more potential that they have strove to pursue. In the end, I think it’s a film worth watching and/or re-watching.

I began this post in March 2012. I have only finished it now. My, how two and half years have flown by me.

Let your critics motivate you

Life can be quite ironic at times. When it seems that people are not helping you or even working against you, it can be a blessing in disguise. When you are receiving help and support, it could even be to your detriment in the long term.

Let me give you some context. I was once told that I wouldn’t be able to achieve one of my career goals for some time. That I was years off achieving this goal. Instead of discourage me, this comment served as a challenge. As vain as it sounds, I wanted to prove this person wrong as a silent personal victory. At the time, I had a lot of friends and peers who were encouraging me yet their support did not motivate me as much as this person’s doubt.

This is why it is sometimes useful to use criticisms and judgement to help motivate you. A challenge – a task or situation that tests someone’s abilities – is healthy as it gives you an opportunity to prove yourself.

On the topic of proving oneself, I think that deeds are greater than words. I came across a quote that read “words betray, actions don’t”.

This is why my philosophy is to use criticism to make you better. I also think that praise or criticism should be welcome as external opinions can be more objective than our own perspective.

Value your contacts, not your experience

So as we develop our careers, we tend to do two things, acquire vast experience, and make acquaintances. When we write our resumes, we put a lot of emphasis on the years spent on a project or in a role. We demonstrate the amount of experiences we’ve had but what about the relationships?

We don’t tend to disclose how many people we are friends with. How many industry peers we network with or how many mentors we’ve had along the way.

When I look back on all the jobs I’ve had, I cherish the people I met and worked with more so than the experiences they gave me. Sure, I value the maturity and confidence that experience has afforded me but I tend to value the relationships even more.

On LinkedIn, it’s possible to get a glimpse of how well connected and regarded someone is. This is the benefit of having social media enhance your CV rather than just publish it. Firstly you can observe how many contacts a person has. You could also note the number of recommendations the person has received. Lastly, whilst it has received a lot of criticisms for not being validated, the endorsements someone has received can also be an indication. I understand that endorsements are easy to achieve and most of them are “thank you” gestures for having endorsed someone else but quantity can still be still indicate confidence in someone. I have been endorsed for one skill by 45 other connections. Whilst other more connected people might be endorsed by hundreds, it’s worth noting that 45 people who know me, acknowledge the skill I declare to have.

Returning back to my original topic; human relations are unique. You could be working alongside the same people however, each team member will develop relationships differently to everyone else. Whilst I am grateful for all the jobs I’ve had in the past, the most rewarding aspect has been to know the many people I’ve met along the way.

I look forward to meeting so many more people whom I can build relationships with far more than the great experiences that await me.

We don’t need BAs, business analysis is everyone’s job

I was chatting to a friend the other day who explained to me that his company does not have anyone working under a Business Analyst title. I thought to myself “that’s strange, how can an IT consulting firm negate the professional role of business analysis”. I was assured that the company has been around for more than two decades so they are obviously using a business recipe that works.

The reason why this company does not formally have any BAs is because business analysis is a process that is performed by various team members where it is needed. The solutions architect might do some business analysis. The product consultant will do some requirements gathering but he is not a BA, he is a product consultant. An enterprise architect is also responsible for some BA tasks. Continue reading