2021, Learn to Learn

2021 is the year where the COVID19 pandemics affect human’s life on a global scale, humanity needs to adapt to live alongside with COVID19. It brings low tide time to all the people. In this article, I want to share my life experience in 2021 which may come from external sources, such as books and movies, and from situations that I experienced myself. For those who don’t know about me, I have been working in the IT industry for 7 years, I have worked as frontend software engineer, backend software engineer, QA automation engineer, and when I write this article, I play manager role in Ninja Van leading 22 people.

As a person, I faced some new situations in 2021 which taught me in many aspects, in soft skill, I improved my awareness towards emotional intelligence, teamwork, leadership; In hard skill, I learned new knowledge which supported my career as a manager and hobbies as a photographer.

Soft skills

Soft skills are known as core skills which are common in every profession, different from hard skills which are specific to individual professions. In my understanding, soft skills is an attitude and personality which help people to be accepted by the environment where they work or live in.

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Soft skills can not be separated from emotional intelligence or EQ, refer to https://www.nationalsoftskills.org/soft-skills-and-emotional-intelligence/, EQ is the foundation of soft skills, right EQ competencies will lead into the right attitude. People with high soft skills able to fit themselves into any social community because they know how to put themselves correctly and the community able to accept them. I believe that soft skills which lead to attitude, is not an innate skills but it can be trained, because I did.

Team work

Soft skills play a big role in our life, especially once you have to do teamwork. Teamwork is a joint effort of two or more people in order to achieve a common goal. In teamwork, each individual must respect each other. In teamwork, It is unnecessary to be with people that you know well, but it may occured with someone we have never met before. Before a team does teamwork, they need to know the expectations of every individual, this is where the negotiation had to be done, everyone had to explain their expectations and put respect into each other point of view. Interviews and doing projects at work are some forms of teamwork.

In teamwork, it is unnecessary to have a leader as long as every individual has a common interest, but there will be a time where some individuals have different interests which lead to conflicts. During conflicts in a team, usually it requires a mediator who can give objective decisions, this is where a leader will play a role, leader is an individual who gets respected by both parties in conflict and able to drive both parties into single win-win solutions.

I mentioned respect for each other, respecting others means that you accept somebody for who they are, even when they’re different from you or you don’t agree with them. In team work, we may disagree with someone’s value, but as long as that value is unrelated to the team’s goal, every individual has to conceal their individual problem and focus on the team’s goal.

Negotiation

Negotiation happens every time we are looking for agreement with the others. Negotiation is a strategic discussion that resolves an issue in a way that both parties find acceptable. Good negotiator is someone who is able to convince other parties to follow their intention. For example in buyer – seller, both parties have a common goal, which is to execute the trading, but the seller always wants to sell with high price and the buyer always wants to buy with low price. The bargaining process is actually a negotiation process, depending on how both parties agree with the accepted price, then the trade is done. Similar situations happen in our daily life, we may negotiate with people to decide between eating place or meeting time. The key of negotiation is to understand what the other person wants, and then both parties make the win-win solution to achieve their common goal.

Trust

According to Oxford Languages, trust is firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. Trust has three drivers: authenticity, logic, and empathy. When trust is lost, it can almost always be traced back to a breakdown in one of them. To build trust as a leader, you first need to figure out which driver you “wobble” on.

As a manager and a leader, my responsibility is to ensure my team and I are able to carry out the job correctly and timely. Now I can not finish everything by myself anymore, hence I have to rely on my team’s capabilities and let them do the work. To make it happen, there must be a trust from both side, my team need to trust my direction, and I need to trust their capabilities. Trust in work means do not micro manage everything in order to achieve what you think is right precisely. It will kill your team’s initiative and trust, because by doing it like that, the work is no longer done by them, but you. As a leader you have to allow people get the work done in their way, it is fine to draw a guideline, but the guideline must be wide enough to let people improvises in executing the work.

Express yourself

Communication is very important when you become representative of your team. Representative: a person chosen or appointed to act or speak for another or others. As a manager you indirectly become a single point of contact for your team, in other words, a representative. You are not only representing your company, but also your team. You may speak and show to the public about your company’s profile, and you may speak to your senior manager about the situation of your team. The key here is, you need to share the highlight of every event happening in your team, and make sure you can explain it clearly.

When you communicate to the others, you need to choose the information that you want to expose, you can go to the details if you are communicating with your internal team, but you can go to a broad abstract level if you communicate to external parties. What I learnt was, never use any adjective words without a number because they are meaningless. For example, bad communications are: “As a leader, she shows good attitude and puts in high quality work.” Instead of telling it in that way, you should use: “As a leader, she always listens to the team’s concerns and creates a concrete action plan for her team. She acts as a role model and always aims for the high bar for her team, and most importantly, she gains respect from the team.”

The task of a leader is to convince other people with fictional reality. The upper management, or external parties, don’t need to see the fact in person, but by hearing your words, they are able to understand the situation that happened in your team.

Photography

Escape from the working experiences, I like photography. Photography is one of the art based activities where there are very wide rules between the right and wrong. By doing it, I can improve my skills such as getting more information from the community and finding other accomplishments outside my working life. This year, I decided to upgrade my photography gear. In April 2021, I switched my camera gear from crop sensor into full frame sensor with two main motives, first, to achieve better bokeh, second, to achieve cleaner, noise free picture. Changing my body to full frame means that I need to switch all my lens collection from crop sensor series to full frame series. I know that it was a big investment, especially since I have no plan to make money from my hobbies, but I do it only for my own accomplishment 😊.

Currently my gears are:

  • Sony A7C body with smallrig cage and peak design strap
  • Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art
  • Sigma 105mm F2.8 DG DN Art Macro
  • Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 
  • Samyang 18mm F2.8
  • Godox AD2000 pro with softbox modifier 
  • Godox X2T sony trigger
  • Godox LED 260C continuous light
  • Fotopro X5C tripod
  • Vanguard VEO 46BR camera backpack

My learning and accomplishment

I jumped into photography from 2016, at that time, my main reason to buy a camera is to achieve great natural bokeh pictures that camera phone will never able to achieve, at least until I wrote this article, even with IPhone 13 and Samsung Galaxy S22. Previously I thought only about bokeh effect in my pictures, but after all the experiences and information in this 5 years, I learned more in photography. Actually bokeh effect is only a thing that you can get from a real full frame camera, but actually there are more parameter that define quality of a picture. This year I learned about light, how the proper exposure give a story to a picture. Light is the most fundamental thing in photography, it defines the focus interest of the picture that do the photographer want the audience pay attention at. A good lighting setup also allow us to give dimension into 2 dimensional portraiture, remember that we learn to give dimension into a drawing by give highlight and shadow into the drawings. Same thing happened in photography, we can give dimension by applying the correct lighting into the subject in within the frame. There are a lot to learn, such as composition, creative idea which need to be learnt.

Closure

As an individual, 2021 taught me that people have to learn to learn, in any timeline we live in. We need to know what lack in ourself, and get some exposure into the situation that may improve ourself. Practice is the most successful learning method that I get by far, human need to be trained in order to improve their skill, which we did in school back then. The differences are, in school, our teacher always show the way to improve ourself, but, in this age, we need to know what we are lacking at, and find a way to improve it.

Not to make this reading longer, here are some of my favorite pictures last year 🤗. Have a great year ahead for all of us!

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