Assessing your skills portfolio

I’ve been recently mulling over some new learning project that I can work on to further improve my skills portfolio. My current work doesn’t really provide any training so I’m pretty much left to my own devices. There’s quite a lot of administration tasks involved in what I do. The problem is, administration is brain rot.

To prevent further zombification of my professional life, I decided to go about my three-step program of assessing where I stand in my skills portfolio. Here’s my three-step program.

Step 1: Redraft the resume. A great way to take a look at your career progression is to redraft your resume as if in job search mode. That forces you to take a good look at what you’ve been up to for the past X years. It really gives you a good picture whether you’re in a rut, coasting by, or really milking the teats of your situation.

Step 2: See what others are up to. If you’re immersed in a particular field, it can also be beneficial to check what organizations in your industry are looking for today. This can be a cheap workaround This would show you what about your skills and knowledge are still relevant. If you’re planning a career change, it’s also worthwhile to compare what the expectations are of your target industry versus your current skill set.

Step 3: Compare. By comparing the two, you could have a good idea of the gaps that need to be filled. Filling these gaps would make me better in what I do right now, and, in case I have to shift gears, allow me to function in a different environment.

Redrafting my resume proved to be tricky. My first dilemma was to figure out for which position do I write my resume. The problem is that I I do tasks for a dozen positions. I could possibly fill pages upon pages of my resume of duties and accomplishments that narrowing it down to what’s relevant to one position is quite an injustice to my body of work. Push comes to shove, I could always credit my extra work as “going above and beyond.”

My second dilemma is that I’m not quite sure how to progress professionally. I have been seriously considering a career change – whether to continue the corporate route or be an entrepreneur and finally build something of my own. Either way, I have to continue building my skills portfolio to get make me competent, or in the very least, function.

Figuring these two out is quite an interesting task. I guess I have a new project.

The never ending saga of getting an NBI clearance

The awesomest person in the world i.e. my wife is in a professional transition. She’s already on board with her new firm and as always, part of the documentary requirements is an NBI clearance. We both had semiflex schedules so we decided to take a gamble and secure her clearance yesterday. And being that I’m also going with her, I decided to secure one for myself. You’d never know when you’d need one anyway. *wink*

Backstory

I’ve secured/renewed since I got one around 2006. It was almost always an adventure. The first time I tried getting one was at the QC Hall satellite office which prompted me to queue for 4 hours only to get sent to their Carriedo renewal center because I got a hit. My first employer never bothered with a clearance so I didn’t bother going anymore. The first time that I really tried was in 2006 when I started teaching and needed to submit one to UP. I went straight to Carriedo, dealt with plenty of jackasses, got a namesake “hit,” went back, and finally got my “no remarks” clearance. I tried renewing every year after and it was the same tedious process. I gave up around 2009 since I didn’t need a new one since.

New System

Since I already filed for a clearance, I should only be renewing. Unfortunately, NBI supposedly fired their old contractor and developed their own system. As with all changes in government IT contractors in the Philippines, that meant they had to start from scratch. Pretty dumb if you ask me, but this seems to be just the way things are. So all clearance applications are technically new so that meant going through the whole process all over again.

The experience

We got a bit worried since news from January had it that securing an NBI clearance was absolute hell. Some people had to queue up at 8 PM of the previous day only to get a slot for the day after. That meant spending your night on the street. That’s an adventure we’d rather not have.

We opted to go for the NBI clearance online application since that supposedly cuts your process a couple of steps. Filling up the form was straightforward though we had to be extra careful since the site’s pretty clunky and user unfriendly. An errant click of a button will submit your application (bad luck if you haven’t double-checked the details) and an errant window close without printing/saving your page as PDF meant your left with a filed application with no reference. The form asks for your email but doesn’t furnish you with a copy.

We assembled our document kits composing of the printed copies of our clearance application and supporting documents like IDs and a copy of our marriage certificate. We gambled going to the main clearance center at UN Ave at around 6 expecting it to open at 7 or 8. We got there and found out they open at 6 AM. Online applicants were ushered to the payment step. There were queues of around 40 people per counter but that was easy for anyone who went through registration and class cards in UP.

After payment, non-online applicants had to have their forms encoded but online applicants can proceed to biometrics (fingerprinting). Lucky us as bulk of those securing clearances were non-online. Lines at the biometrics station were around 6 people per queue.

At the station, we were asked to verify and correct the information. The online form has a bug that labeled a form supposedly for spouse’s birthplace as “Spouse’s Address” and for married women, the husband’s surname doesn’t get submitted properly. So fret not if you get these errors with the online form, there’s a step where you can get them corrected. The tech then entered our fingerprints via scanner and checked if we had a “hit” in the system.

We both had hits and were asked to go back next week to get our clearance. We saw others with no hits who were able to proceed to printing their clearances and be on their merry ways. (Lucky bastards. Kudos to their parents giving you unique names.) Hopefully, we do get our clearances hassle-free next week.

To be fair, we only spent around an hour there. We were in at around 6:40-ish and got out at around 7:30-ish. That is actually my quickest visit to an NBI clearance station since I always had to go back because of that darned hit.

Unsecure?

So it was actually a pleasant surprise that we did not have to waste a day securing a piece of paper. We even got back in time to report to work with hours to spare. But as with any system, there are plenty of things to fix. It’s not because we had a relatively good experience far from the horror stories that we should be content with an obviously flawed system.

First beef – security. Being in IT, one of the first concerns my wife had was security. The online application website was not encrypted. Check out the url: http://nbi.njis-ph.com. Try adding an s: https://nbi.njis-ph.com. That’d get you nowhere. This meant that the information being transacted from your computer and the NBI’s server is not encrypted making the system more vulnerable to hacks. If you’re paranoid about identity theft and whatnot, this would really bother you.

Hit!

Another beef we have is the darned “hit.” I’m on their system for almost 10 years and every damn time I get a “hit” due to a namesake. That meant that I had to wait a week since they had to “check” whether or not you’re a felon. Then you have to go back . Total waste of time.

Shouldn’t you already be cleared of namesake hits after the first time? All that time, they already have my fingerprint and information which they can use to check if I have a real record. This makes you question the whole point of having all that information which apparently they can’t even decently use for the purposes of a quick clearance.

Online Everything

Or at least most of the process. Make the filing and the payment online. That way online applicants can even cut the process more. If you’re renewing, the whole process should be done online since you shouldn’t be re-entering your fingerprints anymore.

Database Subscription

Why not just make this a database subscription to companies? I’m not saying full access to all information but just a mechanism to see if a particular applicant is indeed clear of felony cases or not. This way, workers don’t need to spend an additional P115 pesos every time they have to switch jobs or apply for one.

Employment Requirement

I’m really puzzled by an NBI clearance as an employment requirement. Sure, as an employer, felons wouldn’t be my priority hires but should this be a burden to the applicant? Shouldn’t burden of proof lie on the accuser?

In my experience, companies only ask you to submit a clearance after they’ve hired you. So you’ve already signed a contract but sorry, they’ll let you go if your clearance doesn’t check out. Here’s where the database subscription idea comes in great. Let the HR people do their work doing background checks.

In the end, there’s really no way of telling whether or not a person is decent through a piece of paper. Heck, even by being in the trenches with that person, you’d only be able to know part of that person.

If you want to look for felons or felonious acts, just take a look at the government, NBI. Work for us for once.

Postscript

We went back a week later to the NBI and got our clearances. We were basically there for five minutes. Combined travel time to and from is essentially twenty times the time spent inside the facility getting our clearances printed. Still, quite inefficient.

Healing factor

Now that I’ve pushed passed the big 3-0 mark age-wise, I sorely miss the days when I can just shake off viral infections overnight. I used to pride myself of my “healing factor.” I used to be able to shake off colds, flu, and fever quite quickly. But plenty of things wear off with age.

Never imagined that a flu-like bug would put me out of commission for an entire week. It’s pretty scary, really that garden variety flu can take me out like dengue. I never really heeded the advice to have flu shots once in a while. After this, though, maybe that’s not a bad idea at all. Spending a week in bed and drinking plenty of water with rehydration salts isn’t what I’d never put in the ballpark of fun things to do.

That only means that I have to take care of myself a whole lot better. Gone are the days of wanton food trips bingeing on greasy food. Gone are the days of all-nighters working. Gone are the days of not minding temperature changes (like darting out a freezing airconditioned room and out into hellish Manila summer and vice versa). Anything that can compromise my immune system, really.

It’s even pretty discouraging how these things can throw off your routine. After my recent health ordeals, I resolved to get back into pretty good shape – start working out and eat better, Then this happens and it sidelines me in doing what little I could squeeze into my schedule. Anyway, setbacks are setbacks. Time to bounce back.

Utak bola

Hindi kaila na tayong mga Pilipino ay sadyang mahilig sa basketball. Balang araw, mababasa ko din ang Pacific Rim (‘yung libro, hindi ‘yung pelikula na may mga robot at halimaw) ukol dito. Sabi nga nila, tatlo lang ang interes natin – showbiz, politika, at basketball.

Football talaga ang masasabing sport ko. Hindi kasi ako nabiyayaan ng height o liksi man lang. Walang naipamanang athleticism sa akin at wala ding sport na naituro ang tatay ko sa akin. Pero hindi din nawawala ang interes ko sa basketball. Ang hilig ko sa basketball ay dala lamang ng exposure sa laro.

Naglalaro din naman ako kasama ang mga kababata kapag bakasyon sa court ng subdivision noon. Hindi ako nakapag-Milo BEST man lang kaya lumaki ako sa larong kanto at agawang buko. Tamang palipas oras kasama ang mga kaibigan. Hanggang sa nabalian ako ng buto noong Grade 6. Mula noon, hindi na ako na-engganyong maging babad sa laruan. Naging manonood na lang ako. Buti na lang at nadaanan ko ang 90s PBA at NBA. Sa mga panahong sikat ang Purefoods, San Miguel, Alaska at Ginebra. At siyempre, ang epic na dynasty ni Michael Jordan at ng Chicago Bulls.

Noong kolehiyo naman, halos hindi ko pinansin ang laro. Kung minsan, may mga kasamang nanonood din. At minsan, kapag nai-schedule, umaarkila ng basketball court sa campus para makasingit ng kaunting laro. Nito na lamang tumanda ako at nagtratrabaho at saka ko nabisitang muli ang basketball.

Nang nanirahan akong mag-isa, natiyempuhan kong may naso-solo akong court kapag umaga. Kaya nagawa kong routine ang makapag-shooting. Naisipan ko ding araling muli at matuto ng fundamentals. Naituloy-tuloy ko din ang routine na iyo nang mga isang taon kaya naman natuwa ako nang nakita kong napabuti ko ng kahit kaunti ang aking laro.

Natigil itong muli nang malipat kami sa isang condo dito sa Ortigas. Walang court. Hindi na ako nakalaro. Mahigit isang taon din akong natengga. Tulad ng kahit anong skill, kapag hindi na-praktis nawawala.

Ngayon naman, pagkatapos ng ilang beses na pagkakasakit dahil sa stress na gawa ng trabaho at kawalan ng ehersisyo, naisipan nang mga boys sa opisina na mag-schedule ng lingguhang laro. Masaya naman. Tamang laro lang din dahil bawal ma-injure at maka-injure. Pangatlong linggo na naming naglalaro. May schedule ulit sa susunod na linggo.

Switching over?

I’ve been really stressing over this Globe FUP thing, mainly because it’s affecting my productivity. My work is predicated on connectivity and the cap limited the things that I can do online.  Our current housing situation is temporary so investing on a wired DSL connection and phone isn’t really a practical thing to do especially since these also have lock-up periods. This was why Globe supposedly offered the best deal for us. Both my wife and I have smartphone with unlimited data plans and Globe’s DUO landline service. These effectively substituted for the DSL and landline.

Now, I’m contemplating on who can be the best service provider for me. Since data was my primary concern, I unlocked my old Globe pocket wifi and tried out prepaid internet for both Smart and SUN just to check they’d be of any good in terms of signal (in general) and speed. I finally have enough testing to have an opinion on three providers.

Intended use

  • True unlimited mobile data without shaping or throttling
  • Unlimited intra-network calls
  • Landline calls

Globe

  • Pros
    • Unlimited calls to Globe and landline (through dedicated landline number)
    • Great signal in places I frequent
  • Cons
    • FUP cap on data (1 GB/day and 3 GB/month)

Smart

  • Pros
    • No (actual) mobile data cap (FUP says 1.5GB/month but never enforced)
    • Fast internet (especially when in LTE spots)
    • No apparent shaping or throttling
    • Great signal in places I frequent
  • Cons
    • No unlimited calls to landline or landline number

SUN

  • Pros
    • Lots of unlimited promos
  • Cons
    • Throttled P2P traffic
    • Frequent mobile data disconnections
    • No landline number
    • Fluctuating signal

So, it really looks like Smart gives me the best deal as far as internet is concerned. Too bad, I also still need a landline. Whether or not that can be managed is still something to vacillate. It’s really tempting to just hope over to provider-unlock my devices (both the S3 and S4 are Globe units), hop over to Smart, and be a happy camper again. Unfortunately, Globe just wouldn’t let me out of my contracts without going full Shylock topped with a dash of Rumpelstiltskin.