2 Most Important Things in College

Originally I wanted to write about the 3 most important things in college. Now that the writer’s hat is on, I can’t think of the third one. And think about it a bit deeper, I picked 3 because that’s what most people try to come up with. Why not 2? Maybe the third one will pop up one day, naturally.

College has been a lot of things to me at different times. When I started off, college was schooling. The continuity of high school. It was just another school, just bigger and more expensive. At that time, like many others I went to school because that is what my parents wanted me to do. I was doing it for them. I studied to please my family. Maybe that’s why it felt like another school. Asian kids grow up mostly to satisfy their parents. I went because I had to!

Then when I met Alex and joined BASA, college was all about extracurricular activities. I showed up to every BASA meeting, to pretty much every single event BASA held. That was when I took responsibility of my education for myself. I took it off my parents’ hands. College was a ‘business’ ground for me then. For various reasons, I stopped caring so much about grades, even though I still kept it up. One big reason was because I believed that I wouldn’t learn much from classrooms. Learning takes place after hours, when we had brainstorming sessions about business ideas with other business students of BASA, meetings, retreats, and launching initiatives. I learned a tone from the Textbook Service. It was the first year and we weren’t getting enough help. I remembered going around parking lots putting flyers on windshields for our service. And late nights with Chelsea Waterton and Alex inputting the books into the system. Learning was happening then, for me. Also during this time I read Alex’s blog post about “balance is bullshit”. I thought it was the bang!

That leads to now. Alex’s gone off campus for a long time. I have long forgotten the feeling of studying for someone else. I have been doing it for myself the past 3 and half years. I don’t think my previous focus or belief was wrong. Here are 2 things I currently believe are most important for a college student:

1. Friendships. College is the best time for creating and looking for lasting friendships. Before college, friendship merely meant whoever I felt fun hanging out with. After college, though not impossible, it’s a lot harder. You have to question: “should it just be work colleague or can it be friendship? Am I being professional? Would this affect my work?? etc. College is when we ask some of the most important questions of life, such as who we are and why we are here. That is when genuine things can happen, especially friendship. I stop caring about trying to fit in with my friends (like high school). It’s now about this is who I am and these are friends that fit with who I am…

2. Personal Development. A lot of efforts are placed on developing professional qualities for college students. And for good reasons, especially in Business. College is mostly about employability. The danger comes in when I start to do everything (and the emphasis is on EVERYTHING) to advance my professional development. At one point, I felt like I was doing a lot of things for someone else. And it’s a deja vu all over again. Instead of my parents, I was trying to please potential employers. That is not to say I try to go against it. The emphasis is EVERYTHING. Like going golfing “because 80% of business deals are done over a game of golf” or scramble to be the President of XYZ because that’s what potential employers look for. There is nothing inherently wrong with golfing or being the President of XYZ. It’s the motive that’s wrong. And I think we as society are placing less emphasis on personal development, on building characters. College is perfect for this because asking honestly who we are and why we do what we do require truly solid character.

2.5. Be Audacious. Okay maybe this is point 2 and a half. Kinda tied in with point 2. “What do we have to lose?” No mortgage, no status, no wife/husband to lose. We can be safe later on, when we have a house to pay off, 2 cars to get loaned for, and 3 kids to send to school. Now, the worst that can happen is that we put in a few more hours at the menial job to pay off the phone bill! Be audacious now when we can.

When You Find Like-minded People

I came across a friend’s website today: http://ivodator.com and was moved by his projects. I feel like I have not been connecting with UFV Business students enough. Because I haven’t found someone who thinks similar to me. Ivo thinks very similar to me. And the stuff he’s working on is amazing. There’s boldness, confidence, but also humility and genuineness.

I met Ivo only once a long time ago at a executive convention at Kwantlen. We haven’t worked or chatted up much since. But I always thought of Ivo as a fellow student. And it feels to good to know that someone from the same generation is doing the stuff that I have been DREAMING (or PLANNING, or WANTING, whatever the excuse is) to do. The question that keeps popping up in my head as I read his site is:

“What am I doing with my business degree?”

Because honestly my plan right now is to graduate and get a job at an accounting firm. That’s it! I have had ideas here and there. But I haven’t done a thing to further those ideas yet.

  • I wanted a website for myself (like Ivo’s)
  • I wanted to build an iPhone application (which Ivo’s also working on)
  • I wanted a company I can call myself a founder of (which Ivo has a couple!)

What am I doing with my business degree?

It is not even about having a successful business. It’s about having the discipline and motivation to get it started. Now! Not later. Not when I have gotten my CA designation (if I will ever!) The bottom line is I have been really good at thinking and talking about these stuff. It’s time to start trying them out.

Thanks Ivo! It’s Leadership!

BASA Election – Candidate Statement

I. IF I AM ELECTED BASA PRESIDENT…

There are a lot to do with BASA going forward. I will try to keep this as short as possible. 3 things I consider absolutely necessary for the success of this powerful yet underrated organization are:

A. Structure

As the Business department grows, so does BASA in term of interested members. With this comes the need for a more organized structure. Essentially business students can benefit from 2 aspects of BASA: governance and entrepreneurship.

1. Governance. This is “how to run a club effectively”. This will help business students with learning how to interact and work with a team of executives and a body of students. How to utilize resources on campus. Network with other clubs, the administration (UFV, SUS) as well as the whole student body. Motivate students to get involved, to keep projects up and running. This is the business of managing.

2. Entrepreneurship. On the other hand, there is the business of leading. Project-driven, task-oriented, and highly self-motivated students who can get ideas off the ground quickly. I feel that I gravitate toward this group more than the other.

The structure of BASA has to allow the executives (or the management part) take care of the association while the entrepreneurs stretch out corners and challenge the status quo. Effective management provides the entrepreneurs a solid foundation and resources for their ideas. The entrepreneurs in turn bring change and innovation to further the business of the association.

Because BASA has not been looked at this way before, the new executive members will have to work closely on a regular basis testing out ideas to make sure there is an optimal balance between these 2 aspects.

B. Focus

If we look at the relatively short history of BASA, our event list has grown exponentially and rather randomly. Some years there were a lot of things going on. Some years there were practically none. That is because we have not crystallize why BASA exists. I think BASA should exist to give business students the critical learning that classrooms are not able to provide. This mission is concrete enough that it does not allow off-tracking but is flexible enough to adapt to future changes in education. We have to question everything we do, every event we organize, and every initiative we get off the ground – do they provide values and meaning to students in a way that has not been done in a business class?

And because we have been distracted by the side roads, we need to evaluate whatever we are about to do. It starts with amending our 4-year old constitution. This needs work from everyone, old and new executives, first to fourth year students. A lot more need to be done, but a current and reflective constitution is an appropriate first step.

The second step I feel we need to do is relationship building. The UFV campus is vibrant with club activities. However, there isn’t much collaboration among clubs and associations (C&As). By some account, there are at least 2 other used textbook services along with BASA’s Save-it-for-beer Textbook Exchange. That is only one example. With building relationships on campus comes the benefit of padding each other’s back! So much of what we are doing can be done much better with the help with other C&As. One example is the Golf tournament – it could have (and should) been an event for all C&As graduates and students. This way we would have executives from a number of C&As advertising and marketing for the event.

Some of the organizations I would definitely get in touch with are CISSA (Computer Information System Association), SFS (Students for Sustainability), ASFV (Accounting Student of the Fraser Valley) and many more.

C. Succession Planning

This is where I think we have to spend at least 40-50% of our efforts.

The life cycle for BASA’s members is quite short. So much time and energy are spent every year (if not every semester) on learning the same things over and over. By the time the executives have learned enough to function effectively, it is almost time to cram! From finances, to role expectations, to website administration, everything is passed down without knowledge transferring on how to do those things.

We have to run the association and keep in mind that someone else will be taking on the job the next year. BASA needs better succession planning that involves constantly revolving recruitment, training, and mentoring. This is the only way to ensure that the association can grow along with the enrollment spike.

These are the 3 fundamental “projects” that need to be done as soon as possible. It’s going to take a great amount of time, energy, and collaboration from the executives and the business student body. However, the time is just right. Fall semester is just around the corner. By the time the new executives get organized and planned out, it will be time for launching and executing. I am very excited to be a part of this change.

II. ABOUT ME

Why I am running for this position? Firstly it feels natural. I have seen what worked and what didn’t. I have witnessed what BASA could do for business students and the UFV community. Secondly, I have a passion for helping. This is THE organization that can create some of the most powerful helping opportunities. Lastly, Dr. Steven R. Covey of “The 7 habits of highly effective people” teaches that knowledge without action isn’t knowledge at all. I want to put the knowledge I learn from classrooms, business books, and from others into actions.

I am Win Nguyen (pronounced “win”), a third year business student at UFV, majoring in Accounting. I have been involved with BASA since 2006 in various roles, from Vice Chair and Chair of the International Student Development position, to Vice Treasurer, and most recently Vice President. This organization holds tremendous and untapped potential and that’s why I have sticked around for so long. I have worked with the 3 most recent Presidents of this organization, namely Alex McAulay, Jaimy Hutton, and John Fronek. They have been great mentors to my own professional development and I feel the urge to pass on the wisdom.

III. HOW TO VOTE/RUN

Visit www.ufvbasa.com to learn more about the voting policies and procedures.

What Every Business Student Should Do

I am determined to start a list of things every business student should as soon as possible. Here are my list and please give yours in the comments.

1. Get involved with the business student organization on campus. For UFV students, that would be BASA, and ASFV (if you are in Accounting.) Volunteer, show up, do something! The first 2 years I just showed up and did nothing. Over time though, it sank in and I finally saw the benefits of doing.

2. Read business books. It is a shame that I haven’t really read one novel in English yet (sorta read The Half Blood Prince but I can’t remember.) But reading business books has been one of the greatest source of learning for me. The first books recommended to me were In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters, and Good to Great by Jim Collins. Timeless! Another list of business books coming soon.

3. Start something. Start a blog like this one. Start a project with another student (like this one: http://www.saveitforbeer.com.) Start a club. Start a business (like Josh’s http://www.collegepro.com/jisaak/sb.cn) You will learn managing one of these by applying what you learn from the books and the classrooms.

4. Talk to your instructors. Get to know them. Every one of them has something to teach you, beyond what they said in class. And these are usually more valuable (and more interesting) than the lectures.

5. Spend more time on campus. If you only go to class 5 minutes before it starts and leave 3 minutes after, you are missing out the whole thing. I would argue that 80% of learning and experiencing college life happens NOT from those 3-hour blocks sipping coffee but from the times you spend outside. Do you know how to get money to start your own project on campus (provided that it benefits the students?) Do you know where on campus you can print for free?

What else can we add to the list here? Alumni, give your suggestions in the comment section.

What I Should Be Blogging About?

I think 2 is a worth-while number. I told 2 people today about what to read for a business student. I’m no expert on the business book subject, but I know the classics. I also told them how to kick-start their business studies. And that’s what I should be blogging about. At least in the next few posts.

1. Reading materials

2. What to do if you’re a business student (a.k.a. advice!)

Stay tuned.

Why Should I Make A Portfolio

If you are like the majority (if not all) of volunteers, you are going to have a great time doing volunteer work. In fact, you will enjoy it so much that you keep volunteering for more. One day when you pause and look back at what you do, you will start to wonder: “What are all have I done?”

A portfolio is first and foremost a recollection of your good times. It is a treasure chest for you. Beyond that however, a portfolio will give you a competitive advantage when you are looking or applying for a job.

  1. You will impress the employers by showcasing your past work. It shows that you care about your work and you can validate what you claim to have done
  2. The guy/gal who is applying for the same job that you are probably doesn’t have a portfolio. You have just scored extra points
  3. Looking at the portfolio, the employer has a better picture of who you are and what you can do. This is good!

Another Start

Okay so I didn’t blog about my Vietnam trip as much as I said I would. In fact, I was there for 45 days and I stopped blogging on the second day. Oh well! It was way too great to seat at home typing! The pictures are still being uploaded to Facebook and Picasa though :) If only Mark Zuckerberg created another Facebook for work then my pictures can be united :) (random tidbit: the second most popular Google search phrase for Mark Zuckerberg? “Mark Zuckerberg girlfriend” Humm… wonder how Facebook has improved (or not) Mr. Mark’s dating chances :D)

Oh by the way, I resigned from BASA today. Vice President no longer! It’s been 4 years since I joined. Lots of memories and lessons. Biggest lesson being the last with the organization. You can never make everyone happy! Seriously I have heard and thought I knew this lesson A LONG TIME AGO. Always thought I understood it thoroughly. Never realized that I was actually doing the exact thing. The result: nobody is happy, including myself! 2 weeks of agonizing pains. Lost some close friends along the way. It was one of the longest “down periods” I have ever experienced. Usually blues come and go in a day or two. This one lasted for 2 weeks with a burst at the end.

I think the lesson has been learned. I gotta stop trying to make everyone happy. Maybe that’s the goal but it shouldn’t be the only thing I would accept, as it was. My outlook is bright though. Felt like 1000 ton has been lifted off my shoulders and heart. Lots of ideas going ahead. Including starting my own company. Have been reading lots of startup materials lately. I love reading Penelope Trunk from Brazen Careerist by the way. There seems to be an indefinite amount of posts from her that I would like to read and every time I thought I have finished reading all the good stuff I find more! There are a ton more but here’re some:

What to do in college to be successful in your career

http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/archives/2005/11/your_college_is.html

http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/on-entrepeneurship/

Twentysomething: The safe route is overrated

Summer is rolling around and I have some big personal goals to make this time. Gonna put it up here so I can be held accountable later on ;)

Peace out.

First 2 Days

I haven’t been home in 4 years more or less. And it’s DIFFERENT! There are a lot more high buildings, neon lights, restaurants and coffee shops. I can barely recognize the most popular streets and corners in the city.

One thing still stays the same is the traffic – crowded, noisy, and dangerous. Before leaving, I told my boss that I would be driving a scooter when I’m back home. She replied with an emphasis “You are NOT!” and I thought to myself “I so am!!!” Not so much. I was scared to cross the street! I finally did. But I still freaked out at my Mom’s and my cousin’s driving. Every time they swing the scooter to get pass someone in front, or when some other drivers sneak up behind us really really close, I just wanna scream “Stopppp!” It amazes me that I used to do these kinda things, arguably even better than them. Oh btw, I’m too chicken to drive now so my Mom and my cousin have been driving my ass around. It’s a pain in the butt though. I’m re-learning how to drive asap – sorry Karola – can’t go anywhere with taxi and scooter-taxi aren’t that much more reliable! Oh, there’s one more change. When I left, nobody wore helmets even though it was the law, now every one does!

Surprisingly, the weather hasn’t bothered me too much. My skin still feels like there’s a layer of glue, but I’m coping. It’s 33 celcius right now – isn’t too bad if you stay in door. However, in this weather, you do not wanna work out. Maybe that’s my excuse!

Some people were concerned about food and water. My stomach has been doing just fine – been eating at home only though.

My iPhone doesn’t work here – apparently my version hasn’t been hacked yet! Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing but I had to buy a crappy phone for this trip. So there won’t be good looking good quality pictures yet. Maybe I gotta finally get myself a camera!

Overall, I’m not too culture-shocked :D Haven’t had much chance to go around the city yet though. Have to get ready for the trip. There’s no internet at home (it’s been killing me!!!) so posts will be infrequent! Stay tuned though ;)

Vietnam Trip

So it’s official. I’m off to Vietnam for the whole month of March, starting tomorrow. Visiting 9 provinces in Vietnam to talk about my experience in Canada, BC, and UFV specifically. Will take lots of pictures and update the progress on this blog. Stay tuned ;)

Lessons: What Would Google Do – Jeff Jarvis

[In Progress] Just finished “What Would Google Do” of Jeff Jarvis – the first book I read this Xmas break. Here are 5 lessons I want to take away and share with you:

1. Google isn’t just a company. It’s a whole different way of thinking

2. More Control, less Trust. Want more Trust? Let go of Control

3. Be a platform

4. Middlemen’s days are numbered

5. Free is a business model

A Different Way of Thinking

Google is the fastest growing company in history quoting from The Times of London. According to Jeff, it is because Google represents and practices a whole new way of thinking that is in many ways contradicting with “business as usual” rules.

  • Customers are in charge (for real this time as anyone can be heard around the globe with one tweet or blog post)
  • Mass market is dead, long live the mass of niches
  • “Markets are conversations” (decreeed The ClueTrain Manifesto)
  • Abundance, not Scarcity, is the new economy
  • Collaboration, from manufacturing to marketing to support, creates premium
  • Networks and platforms are the new focus for success
  • Openness rules over secrecy

 

Trust

The more you want to control, the less trust you will receive. Want to gain trust from your customers? Give them control. Here Jeff told his personal story with Dell – how a bad experience with Dell led to a blog post that would stir, no, change the world of customer support. The end result is that companies must realize the more they want to control (like bad publicity) the less trust customers will give. In this information age, trying to control is foolish. Give customers control to win. The choice is yours.

Be A Platform

What do Google, Facebook, Amazon, craigslist, and Digg have in common? They are platforms on which users can build and expand their own networks, in the process, also benefit the platforms as more people are drawn into the networks. It is customer empowerment at its best. Think about the Internet. It is the vast ocean of information. The only way your business is going to attract customers is to become the platform (the bridges, the ships) to help users navigate, connect, and build relationships of their owns. Your job then is to figure out how you can benefit and expand, after. The reverse doesn’t work – if you are not a platform first, then don’t think about profit.

Middlemen