In Transition // Trains of Thought

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It’s only March and I’ve already broken one of my New Years resolutions – to sit down and write a blog post (or some sort of written piece) every two months. The last time I wrote anything substantial was in November.

Truthfully, I have been swamped with a bunch of career and life changes, and battling some health issues. I wrapped up my undergrad degree in December and have been on the job search since – transitioning from school to the “real world”. In the past weeks I’ve had some big decisions to make about which opportunities to pursue and which path I should go down, but I am very lucky to have a strong support system and people who are always willing to help (even without me asking!).

Finding the intersection between my long-term career objectives and my opportunities on the table has been an interesting journey – but I’m happy to say that I’ve made a choice and I’m not looking back or second guessing my decision.

In the Fall, I got very sick for a month and was put through four rounds of antibiotics before I recovered. I had never been so sick in my life and it really slowed me down from my usual fast-paced lifestyle.

This past month, one of my wisdom teeth got infected and had to be extracted. The accompanying medication came with a myriad of side effects, which I’m still very much struggling with. But all of this taught me a lot about patience, and the importance of good health. It’s something so critical to have – because without it, you can’t do anything else.

These days I have been looking back at what my life was a year ago – and it’s amazing to see how things change year over year. For example, in March 2014, I had just returned from my first-ever trip to Toronto during reading week, full of energy and motivation to make my dreams come to life as a 3rd year student. But living and working there was still just a far-fetched dream.

In March 2015, I was doing just that – working in Toronto, for not the first time but the second! Living on my own in a cozy apartment on Bay Street. Braving -30 degree weather and “real Canadian winter” for the first time. Having full independence, meeting new friends, and flying out of Pearson more times than I’d like to count.

And now in March 2016, I am back in Vancouver and have graduated, started my first full-time job out of school (in a completely new-to-me area), and recently bought my first car so I can drive to work – whaaat? I am experiencing another kind of independence – without the safety net of being a student, things like your finances become a heightened burden. Ensuring you keep nurturing friendships and relationships that are close to your heart (without the convenience of proximity) requires more effort. As does balancing work with other aspects of your life.

I am excited to see where this next chapter of my life takes me. What will life be like come March 2017?

Only time will tell.

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The Inevitable Demise Of All Bookstores?

This morning, I was enjoying my weekly Sunday routine of brunch, coffee, and errands, when I noticed on my way home that Oscar’s Art Books had a closing sign in the window.

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As a lover of anything surrounding books, bookstores, and reading, I was dismayed. I love spending afternoons browsing small, independent bookstores, coffee in hand, as well as large chains such as Chapters. I rarely browse or order books off of Amazon, and I do not particular enjoy using eBooks either. I decided to go inside and see for myself.

There were a few people milling about, and the sales associate was friendly and welcoming as usual. Oscar’s has been one of my favourite places to browse and purchase Moleskines- they have tons of different styles, and sometimes have 20% off sales, making them cheaper than what their giant neighbour Chapters sells them for. They also have a really neat selection of calendars, books for adults and children, and specialty large-format art books. I love the cozy environment and atmosphere, and browsing the quirky merchandise and new books.

They have been in business for 24 years, but they are definitely not the first or last independent bookstore in Vancouver to close. However, they are well-loved by the Vancouver community (especially the niche art community that they serve) and are one of the longest and last-standing bookstores.

Oscar’s official statement posted on its Facebook page reads:

“It’s been a great run, being on Broadway for 24 years, what a show! We’ve always moved with the times but unfortunately the Internet has taken over. Our sincerest thanks to all the great customers and the Vancouver art community who have supported Oscar’s as an independent bookstore throughout the years – thank you for your love and loyalty.”

Even though I am part of the millennial generation, I have a great love for books that time nor technology will ever take away. Bookstores are one of the few places that I feel at peace in, and can truly relax in. Growing up, the majority of my peers found it odd that I actually loved to read and write, and that I actually liked spending money on books rather than on more typical tween purchases.

I can spend hours just browsing new titles, reading (if permitted), looking at the cool merchandise, and I can seldom resist walking away without purchasing a book. I love the feeling of reading a physical book- unless I have to, I will always prefer to have a physical copy over an eBook version, even if it’s more expensive. I rarely, if ever, turn to Amazon to purchase my books.

I would gladly pay the extra costs to support these stores, but unfortunately, most people aren’t. Every time an independent bookstore closes, my heart aches. Most people are quick to blame large companies such as Chapters/Indigo for the shutdowns, but Oscar’s has cited the growing popularity of Amazon and usage of eBook readers as its reason. In fact, Chapters faces immense pressures from the same sources too- but it has larger amounts of capital and resources to sustain itself, unlike these small, independently-owned bookstores. But how long can it sustain itself for?

My biggest fear is that one day, not only will independent bookstores no longer exist, but even Chapters may go out of business. If that day ever comes, I will be really upset. In the meantime, I will continue to spend lovely Sunday afternoons browsing in my happy place, losing myself in a good book, and I will continue to support brick and mortar bookstores. I hope that enough people appreciate literature as much as I do, so that these companies are able to survive and thrive through all the technological changes in today’s society.

I’ve had the time of my life – Enterprize Canada 2014

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How do I even begin to describe the immense love and passion I have for Enterprize?

For those of you who do not know what Enterprize Canada is, it is the largest student-run entrepreneurship organization in Canada, and we aim to inspire, promote innovation, and instill the entrepreneurial mindset and passion into students and the community.

When people think “Entrepreneurship”, they automatically think of starting your own business. But it is so, so much more than that. Having the entrepreneurial mindset- that drive, passion, and desire to constantly innovate, improve, and excel- THAT is what we want people to understand. This mindset will carry you a long way and help you achieve success no matter what path you decide to pursue.

Our two main offerings are our Conference and Business Model Competition. This past weekend, our SOLD OUT conference took place at the Fairmont Waterfront, where we were able to share all our hard work for the past ten months with 250 delegates and speakers. Packed with amazing keynote speakers, workshops, an innovation challenge, the competition finals, a cocktail networking reception, and TONS of food, I just couldn’t help but feel so proud, seeing all of our long hours; our blood, sweat, and tears finally come together.

My biggest hope from the conference was that we were able to inspire and bring about a fresh perspective to our delegates. Even as a part of the Organizing Committee, I felt so inspired. The conference pushed me to think and act out of the box, to not be afraid to chase my dreams, and that I am stronger, smarter, and braver than I think. Getting up on the stage facing a room full of people with a microphone can be daunting- yet I did it multiple times (on a rather impromptu note) running on 30 minutes of sleep, five coffees, and lots of adrenaline.

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For the past ten months, these people have been my family, and Enterprize was something we were pouring our heart and soul into. The best part about working with such amazing, supportive people is that you really do become a family- sharing our lives and our progress on Enterprize with each other every Wednesday night has been something I’ve looked forward to, and I’m sad that it has to come to an end.

Personally, I have not pushed myself beyond my call of duty so much before, but that is what I just did since I joined the team in April. Go above and beyond, or go home. This past weekend (and honestly over the past few months), I’ve had the strangest mix of emotions- adrenaline, extreme fatigue, joy, excitement, stress, and peace all at once.

As I write this on the plane en route to Toronto for the next exciting chapter of my reading week, I can’t help but smile and feel nostalgic already. We made it, guys. We pulled off something amazing and brilliant and I could not be prouder of us. I have nothing but #eprizelove for all of you.

I’m going to miss sending you guys emails every week and consuming copious amounts of blue candy.

Love,

J

#eprize2014

Food For Thought – Compassion Kills

Happy Sunday! I hope you are all having a lovely weekend.

For myself, it is Sunday morning and I am sitting in a coffee shop trying to tackle my business writing paper, but failing because I have so many thoughts swirling in my head.

Today, I have a TED talk featuring Nolan Watson to share with you guys.

Watson is a highly successful entrepreneur of several publicly traded companies, a humanitarian, and a fellow UBC Sauder graduate. I knew that he was the CEO of Sandstorm Gold prior to this, but not much else. In this installment of the famous TEDx series, he talks about how compassion kills: as we donate money and resources to merely help keep people alive, but not aiding them to become independent, we are in fact killing more people in the long run.

If such people were to stop being supported by charities, they would inevitably live in poverty, become malnourished and sick, and pass away. But by pouring resources into helping people become independent and self-sustained, we attain a long-term solution instead of a short-term fix. They are able to better take care of themselves, and even support their own children and families. It’s a hard concept to wrap one’s head around, but he explains it very well in the video.

When he wanted to drop out of school to become a humanitarian, his parents gave him advice to live by: “Nolan, if you want to be a humanitarian, your mother and I will support you…but you should become a business person first, that way you know how organizations run, how to raise money, and how to manage it properly…The goal shouldn’t be becoming a humanitarian,” they said. “The goal should be becoming a smart humanitarian.” And that’s the premise that he’s based his life goals around.

The end of the video nearly breaks my heart. But in a good way. Seeing a grown, highly successful man’s voice crack and struggling to not cry- I soon enough felt a lump in the back of my throat. To see such a smart, successful, alpha male type of guy almost lose his cool over love and compassion gives me hope for humanity and for the future.

He implores us to take a closer look at the charities we donate to, to make sure that they are putting money towards helping those in need become independent (ie: clean water projects, education, building schools, operating schools). And if that’s not the charity’s main premise, you can tie your donation to the condition that they use it for long-term solutions rather than temporary fixes.

I know people have mixed feelings about TED talks, but I always come away from them feeling inspired and wanting to better myself as a person. While I myself am not necessarily a humanitarian, I feel strongly about donating to charity, especially around the holidays- I’ve been blessed with so much in this life. Why not help out others in need? I can give up that fancy latte or that shiny new bag to help somebody get back up on their feet.

That’s it for now, folks. Have a blessed week!

PS: I think “Food For Thought” would be a great weekly or biweekly series for me to do- but I am hesitant to do so because I’m not sure I can commit to writing every week during these busy and hectic times. I usually just get bursts of inspiration and roll with it.

How Much Do Looks Really Matter?

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As I learned in HR over this past week, apparently a heck of a lot.

We discussed prejudice and discrimination in the workplace and in company hiring policies, and we watched a video by ABC on their 20/20 series in which they conducted an interesting study on beauty. Several experiments were conducted in which two identically-qualified women and men were placed into the same situation, and the results were compared. The one difference was that one was deemed “attractive” and the other, “plain”. They were all actors playing the role, so I thought they were all decent-looking to begin with, but they had makeup artists really dramatize the differences.

  • In the first experiment, both the women pretended to have troubles with their car at similar locations and times, and stood against their car which was pulled over on the side of the road. The result: 12 people pulled over for the attractive girl, and many of them brought her gas, but only 2 people pulled over for the plain girl, and nobody offered to buy her gas.
  • In a similar experiment, they had the two women set up charity booths in a mall where they were to collect donations from shoppers. Both the women had similar traffic patterns, but when they counted the money, the attractive girl earned $90 (50% more), while the plain girl earned $60.
  • The men and the women had carefully curated resumes which reflected nearly identical skills and experiences, and were both sent in for the same job interviews with hidden cameras. The handsome male was treated very nicely and was offered the job in all of the interviews, but the plain male candidate was given very brief interviews and was either told that he’d get a call back later (which never came), or that there was no suitable role in the company at the moment. The handsome candidate was described as more competent and fit for the job, even though he didn’t say much more than “uh huh”, “I understand”, and other generic comments.
  • Same with the females: the interviewers were very gracious to the attractive one and made the job seem pleasant and relaxing (“Our company policy is a 45-minute lunch, but we are very lenient and relaxed around here”), but told the plain female that exceptional performance is expected from all workers, and that there is a very strict 45-minute lunch rule.
  • When discussing salaries, the plain female candidate was told that the starting salary was $16,000 – $18,000, but the attractive one was told “at least $18,000”. The show cited an economic study in that beauty is worth around $2,000 more in salary expectations.
  • 2 teachers were brought in as substitutes for a first grade class and asked which teacher they preferred. 27/28 students chose the attractive one.

I wish I could describe exactly how all the interactions went down, because it was truly shocking and even disturbing. When the unknowing subjects of the experiments said particularly ironic things, the class would basically groan and “oh my god” in unison.

As someone who grew up in a Western lifestyle, and felt more like the ugly duckling than the beautiful swan growing up, I am no stranger to the effects of beauty (or lack of). But I always thought that it only mattered in things such as dating and high school popularity, or in how Abercrombie and Fitch hires its sales staff. I did not expect this to occur in the most innocuous of everyday events, like simply donating to charity, or when somebody’s car breaks down on the side of the road and desperately needs help.

Even though we give A&F and similar companies a lot of backlash for their discriminatory practices, we can see that society is attracted to aesthetic appeal from a young age- just look at the 6 year old kids in the first grade class choosing the more attractive substitute teacher without a second thought. These kids aren’t intentionally trying to discriminate- I think we as human beings are wired to be gravitated towards beauty.

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

When I was watching the video, my heart sank. What about the 95% of us that don’t look like Victoria’s Secret models or have A&F-worthy washboard abs? We’ve been working so hard in school and life, trying to make something of ourselves, only to be possibly passed over in amazing opportunities because we don’t look like a magazine cover model? No wonder plastic surgery rates are skyrocketing globally. There is so much pressure to look perfect. Whatever happened to positive self and body image?

An environment in which it is expected that only attractive people are hired is not one that I would see myself thriving in. We discussed this in class. I value diversity and acceptance, and when going out into the workforce, will look for an organization whose values align with mine. While I, as an individual, cannot change society and human biology, I can do my part to be loving and accepting of all different kinds of people, cause god knows we need more of both in this world.

Chipotle Hacks Its Own Twitter Account For Publicity

My first thought when reading this story was:

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Why?

Chipotle, everyone’s favourite Mexican grill, decided on Sunday evening to post a string of strange, random tweets, and then claim that they were hacked:

Apparently, Chipotle was holding a special promotion for its 20th anniversary by featuring a puzzle a day for 20 days, and the tweets were meant to be a play on that day’s puzzle. “We thought that people would pay attention, that it would cut through people’s attention and make them talk, and it did that,” said company spokesman Chris Arnold to Mashable following the incident.

Here’s my take on it: If you’re going to play some sort of ‘trick’ or something, at least make it funny or interesting. This is neither. People who would take the time to hack a company’s Twitter account usually wouldn’t only use it to tweet about their grocery list. It’s as if they didn’t even try to make it seem like their account really did get compromised. There are better ways to grab a customer’s attention, and this is not one of them, especially when executed so poorly. This is like an anti-social media campaign.

Hopefully Chipotle knows better for next time that this is not the way to gain more followers and drive traffic.

Tim Hortons and Cold Stone Creamery is the Most Delicious Partnership Ever

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I think I’m a little late on this news, but a few weeks ago while commuting to work I noticed that a Tim Hortons and Cold Stone Creamery opened up on Granville Street.

In addition to making my mouth water a little, it kind of baffled me. Why would a coffee chain and an ice cream chain decide to partner up? When I go into a coffee shop, I seldom crave ice cream, and vice versa (Besides, when I eat hot and cold foods immediately after each other, my stomach hurts). I mean, I wasn’t complaining. I remember back in the day, Cold Stone was only available in the U.S, so I’m happy that it’s finally come to Canada.

I was so curious that upon arriving at work, I googled news about the partnership between the two companies. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, co-branding will “offer customers a reason to visit … locations morning, noon, and night”, because Tim Hortons drives up tons of traffic during the morning and lunch-time periods, as it offers coffee, baked goods, sandwiches and soups, and Cold Stone peaks in the afternoon and evening as a mid-day snack or after dinner dessert.

“Our intention is to fill each other’s non-peak periods with new or even repeat customers.” says David Clanachan, Tim Hortons’ Chief Operations Officer.

Some may think that because Tim Hortons’ is more of a daily convenience good that easily fits into a busy lifestyle, while Cold Stone is an indulgent treat where customers are typically not in a rush, it would not work. But these differences actually benefit the company, as they do not cannibalize each other’s products, and draw both types of customers into the store, whereas normally they would not attract the other segment into paying a visit.

I visit Tim Hortons for my morning coffee on a daily basis, but now I would be tempted to pick up a treat because it’s conveniently placed and doesn’t require any extra effort. I am excited to see where Tim Hortons and Cold Stone takes this business partnership!