Friday, October 28, 2011

After the Internship Interview

 I arrived about 15 minutes early for my interview. The hiring manager was in the room with another candidate. I stepped in the room at my turn. There is always some nervousness but I kept my expectations low and I tried to be myself. I thought that even if I didn’t get this opportunity, it will be worth an interview practice. The hiring manager was very cordial. He tried to make the conversation pretty casual. He mentioned a few things about himself, his family and his time with that company.  Then the formal interview started.

There is no distinction when the conversation is cordial and when it gets formal. So, be mindful of the fact that all in all, the hiring manager is judging you during that interaction with you. So even when you are cordial, don’t lose the focus but don’t go overboard too. He asked me a few questions about why I was interested in electrical engineering when I could have chosen other major or what area of specialization in electrical engineering I wanted to be in. He also inquired me about what my goals were for the future and where I wanted to see myself in next 10 to 15 years. Not surprisingly he asked me about my intentions for looking for an internship. 

Later on, I was given the opportunity to ask him any questions that I might have. I asked him a few questions like if he was happy with what he was doing after so many years and any expectations the company is looking forward from an intern. Over all, I thought these interviews were merely a getting to know session with an individual who could be a potential employee in half an hour or so time frame. Later on, he mentioned to expect to hear from him in a month’s time. One important tip to remember after the interview; do send a ‘Thank You’ email to the hiring manager for his time. This ‘Thank You’ email will go a long way for him to remember your name. I have found out from experience that this particular email makes a profound difference between you and the candidates who don’t take the time for a ‘Thank You’ note. 

After the interview, the month had passed and Thanksgiving holidays were approaching but I hadn’t heard anything. I thought maybe someone else was already selected. Nonetheless, I went ahead and called him. Again, the hiring manager was very cordial and told me that he wanted to call me earlier but due to work load didn’t get time to do so. And he asked me if I was interested in working at his company. He told me the terms and conditions and made me an offer and also mentioned that I will receive that offer in writing in next few days from him. This was surreal for me.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Preparing for an Internship Interview

Ever since I had started my second year during my undergraduate studies, the importance of an internship was grilled in our minds. We were given seminars and workshops on how the internship experience would give us real-world exposure to work place and put theory into action. How the work ethic developed during the internship would improve our personalities and more importantly how this whole experience will translate into better opportunities in the future. 

So, many of my class fellows and I actively started exploring the opportunities to work in a well-reputed firm to gain a valuable experience. As I was studying for electrical engineering degree, I was looking to work in the power industry. I think it was October of that year when I was informed that a hiring manager from a big power company would be on campus and our career services office had put my name on the list of candidates to be interviewed that day.
I think the interviews were supposed to go on for two days. I was thrilled as well as pretty nervous as it was my first one-to-one interview. I was told to get on the net and try to learn about this company and practice the interview with a friend or two and how to reply to a difficult question.
Ever heard of saying, “dress to impress”? This adage is true for a job interview. Before somebody is asked any question and even before a handshake, one can be judged with how he represents himself with dressing. Therefore, dress appropriately according to the occasion and weather.
I think one of the difficult questions to answer is when somebody asks you, “Do you have any weaknesses?” We all know that nobody is perfect. This clearly means there must be some weaknesses present in an individual. If someone says “No, I don’t have any weakness”, that is a complete lie and the hiring manager would interpret this answer that the candidate is a liar. Therefore, the candidate must be prepared to answer this question and try to put a positive spin when answering this question. Like, one can say I can’t relax until I get all the questions answered in my project. This shows the person is hard working and does not quit until all the work is done in a proper manner.
One should try to come up with a logical answer with a positive spin to it. I think another difficult question to answer is why do you want to work in this company, is it for money? I think people want to work because they want comfortable living with good finances. So the obvious answer is, yes, I want to work because I need money. But that is not the correct answer. The way to handle this question is to combine your area of interest and industry together to show your interest in working for a particular firm. I remember when the hiring manager put that question to me; I replied, “No, I want to work because I want to see how the theory in our classrooms works in the real world”. I am an electrical engineer and I am interested in seeing how the electricity business works in practical. Money is the by-product of job. But the first step is to get a job.
During an interview, a good hiring manager might give you an opportunity to ask questions from him/her as well. So be prepared to ask questions from the hiring manager. I think many candidates would love to know how much money they will be paid for this job. But this question is a ‘No No’ if you want to get yourself hired. Get yourself educated about the industry in general and company in particular for the job interview. Ask about the duties you would be performing at the company, who you might be working with, maybe work place, hours and stuff like that. This would show your interest and the inquiring mind. 
 Normally, an interview lasts half an hour or so. Before leaving the room, make sure to get a business card and also inquire about when to expect to hear from the company. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Current situation of Electronic Media

We are living in interesting times in Pakistan. The electronic media has progressed by leaps and bounds. Few years back, hardly ten years, we only had PTV to get our official version of almost everything. And we got our details and background stories from the print media a morning after the event had already taken place. PTV being the governmental entity, it would only provide the version of the news which suited the government. Print media tried to be independent but the penalties were severe. So, it is difficult to say and I would not blame them. Everybody has their limitations.

When we talk about today, nothing is missed by these journalists. They talk about almost everything, point to all the difficult issues, and their cameras roll, rain or shine. This is very different than what we had few years back. Over these years, the journalists have also learned hard way. They made sacrifices, personal and professional. Some had even laid down their lives for truthful reporting. If I am not wrong, the number of journalists died in the line of duty in Pakistan is the highest in the world.  During last years of Musharraf’s dictatorship, some news channels were banned for a while. And some of these anchors paid a price with their jobs. 

Normally, the entertainment sector on TV is beneficial and the news channels lag behind. However, in Pakistan, our news channels are thriving big time and entertainment sector is lagging. In our prime time tv shows, the highest rating goes to all these current events’ programs. This speaks volume about the Pakistani public.  How much interest do we have with politics and how keenly the public is keeping an eye on the politicians? The way they speak and what they speak will matter in their opinions about that particular politician and the political party. Since politicians are invited in most of these current events’ programs, they also have to keep themselves abreast with the events in the country. This provides them a very valuable exposure and free publicity. So, they also have to keep themselves educated about the happenings in the country. 

Fortunately, in Pakistan, we have good number of news channels available. The channel surfing is the norm. The talk shows are pretty popular here. The anchors are quite educated and they try to present the true picture and point out to issues in the country. They invite different politicians from various political parties to present their point of view. 

Most of these news channels are available on satellite. So Pakistani immigrants living in other countries also keep a close eye on almost everything in Pakistan. Some have even mentioned that the last thing they do before going to beds is check the Pakistani news channel on satellite and the first thing is also checking Pakistani news. This facility wasn’t available few years back. 

The World Wide Web is also helping spreading the message. All these news channels have their websites and they are continuously updated. Their programs are put on the net in their entirety. So nobody misses the beat with these channels. The internet used to keep me busy over the weekends while I was out of the country and I went over any programs that I might have missed during the week.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Moving to Pakistan (2) - Part 3

From my previous posts on 'Moving to Pakistan', I hope I am not giving out a message of hate or disrespect for the U.S. I still think it is one of the best places to live in the entire world. I think in many instances, it rates much better than Pakistan. It is still the land of dreams, filled with many opportunities for the talented and the knowledgeable.

When I first landed in the U.S. in January 1999, America was flourishing like anything. The internet boom was on full swing, people were making money left and right and unemployment was lower than the average, and more importantly the U.S. debt was on decline. So the future looked pretty promising. I remember I met a guy from Bangladesh who was graduating at the end of my first semester. He had received an offer from a telecom company a couple of months ahead of his graduation. I believe his Grade Point Average (GPA) was below par but they still hired him. I also remember another Indian guy who had received multiple offers from various companies in the U.S. and they were all competing to hire him. So those were pretty good days to be in the U.S. 

During our visits to the malls or other public places along with other Pakistanis or Indians, sometimes locals had a little gossip with us about our whereabouts. And they were quite surprised to know that we were from overseas and had left our families for studies in the U.S. That was really heartening for them. They thought really big of us to sacrifice so much just for the studies. They appreciated what we were doing and encouraged us to keep doing what we were doing. They even encouraged us to stay back and work and live in the U.S. after graduation and make U.S. our home. So that was the kind of acknowledgement we got before 9/11 from the locals. Many of them would like to chat with us about our countries, families, social fabric, culture and almost every other thing they pleased. They would inquire us about comparisons between different things in the U.S. It felt so much at home while talking to them. So things were great. And surprisingly or not, not many Americans were familiar with Pakistan. Sometimes, they thought of Pakistan as India or Palestine. Some thought it was still part of India. But all in all, those were good times. 

When 9/11 happened, things changed. There were quite a few Pakistani students in the university at that time. The first few days were pretty scary. Pakistani students would not want to leave their apartments at night or alone. We would not leave our apartments without purpose during the daytime. We would not try to get into an argument with the locals. So the Pakistani students got pretty frightened and became conscious of the fact that we were foreigners in this country. This is not to say that we didn’t think of being foreigners before. But things had changed now. Before 9/11, during our visits to the mall, the locals would greet us warmly or at least would not stare at us suspiciously. After 9/11, their eyes would chase us from one end of the mall to the other in case we do something to alert them. Occasionally, they would talk to us, but in this case, trying to investigate us.  

However, the university administration tried to help us in whatever way they could. They increased the police patrol, put out instructions of being watchful and all, and had held various multicultural meetings in the university to educate the locals and us. These were beneficial for the community to understand the sensitivities on both sides. The administration tried to convey the community that every Muslim is not a terrorist, Islam is not equivalent to terrorism and restraint is the key. They also informed us not to do or say anything stupid in case someone says anything which might hurt our feelings. But I think, things were pretty tense those days. Fortunately, it did not result into anarchy.  To be continued….

Monday, October 24, 2011

Moving to Pakistan (2) - Part -2

As I had mentioned earlier in 'Moving to Pakistan (2) - Part (1)', building of relationships and network is like planting a seed in the soil. First, it spreads the roots in the ground firmly, then grows a trunk and branches and leaves and later on bears the fruits. This is long and strenuous struggle. It takes years to develop the kind of networking with the people to thrive in the society. That the society knows you from  inside out to know who you really are. And then you can enjoy and benefit from those relationships.
I think most people are aware of the fact that most foreigners live in isolated communities in the foreign countries. Muslims like to interact with Muslims socially and it further narrows down to Pakistanis interacting with Pakistanis. It is mostly true for the first generation. The second generation modifies itself as they please.

During my years of studying, we had very close friendships with the locals and many others in the town. We socialized, studied, hung out together. Our American friends even invited us to their homes. Everything was going fine until we graduated and moved. I came to Richmond, Virginia for my job. Here I had to build my friendships all over again. It was quite difficult. I couldn’t get around the idea that the relationships and networking is time and place bound. If you change a place, you have to start over.
It isn’t like that in Pakistan. For an example, Multan is called ‘City of Saints’. Meaning, from early days of Muslims in the sub-continent, Saints had lived in this city for preaching and spreading of Islam. And the biggest saint of them all is a close family member. So, to begin with, they had sewn seed of the plant back in the day. That tree had developed fully over all these so many hundred years. We are the lucky ones to enjoy the fruits of the full grown tree. No matter where we go and live in Pakistan, we don’t have to exert our energies to make new friends. We are always blessed with good friends who know our family members already. And we can enjoy the labor of our family members and we only try to keep the relationships going. And pass those on to our future generation.

So these are some of the important things to consider when one is living in the society. There is a saying in the U.S., “It is not worth what you know, however, it is worth who you know.” Anyways, I am sharing only hard facts and my experience of moving to Pakistan. I am sure someone else can come up even forceful argument of moving from Pakistan and s/he could be rightful in their opinion. My intention is not to convince someone to do what I did. Everybody has to think in their own ways and every situation is different. I don’t want people to take my word and leave what they are doing and come back to their motherland immediately. No. That is not the point. But I do hope that my blog is an interesting read and may be a point of reference and something to talk about. This is extremely huge decision of moving back. There could be so many risks involved. So, please think it through thoroughly before you take a big step like this.

Anyways, there are many more interesting pieces of information to share. So, look for the next post in the near future.