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Journal Journal: I was called up that day by the agency...

"Want a new job? Yes, you do. Let me send over to you the job specification, and please reply with your updated resume and a CUSTOM cover letter..."


So, when was my last writing of a cover letter? Seems like a long long time ago. We exchange jobs nowadays by word of mouth, by brief phone calls, by broken emails, by bewildering writings (a.k.a. white paper), by the many jobs databases all over the Internet. We take pre-built forms and fill in the blanks. We care about keywords and PowerPoint. But what? A complete letter with structured sentences and full grammar custom made for ONE job? Spare me!

However, at a deeper thought, it reminds me something. In today's world, we emphasize in all our talks about speed and flexibility - quick time-to-market, rapid application development, zero-day emergency, one size-fits-all, agility, mobility, and even speed dating. All sound very nice except something fundamental is missing - sincerity.

When I first learned computer language, I was given the luxury to experiment (the luxury was there, although some preferred to do copycat). To make mistakes, and to learn from mistakes. It was not only of tremendous value in one's learning, but also of great fun. I fell in love with computer actually. This is sincerity.

In my first 5~6 years of work, the luxury was still there in the work environment. I once did a product, in today's standard, pretty primitive, but it did help the sales of the company's flagship e-mail system. It was a telex gateway. Well, for the younger folks, perhaps telex is a strange word (Wikipedia). Anyway, it wasn't rapid application developed. In fact, we had to study the telex modem and test for days and nights. It took 2 people (myself and an intern) to work for 4 months to make it work. It took us 4 months because we want to make sure that it's robust enough to stand regular production hazards. This is sincerity.

Today, you will be grateful if management gives you 4 weeks to develop a MQ gateway for data exchange across heterogeneous systems between geographically dispersed locations together with teams which speak different languages. We have advanced in tools, but our brains need hundreds of years in order to evolve to the real next step. System building is still 100 years behind civil engineering. We have buzzwords and unconnected components all over the place that changes its landscape every year. We have XML except that it is no more than "enhanced ASCII" - it doesn't do much unless we have industry standard tags with business context, but have you seen one set so far? Yes, white papers, sure, bewildering writings, and on occasion, success in limited scale because they have predecessor (in my example, SWIFT) to model from. So, system building, and particularly design, still depends heavily on the builder's brain. Tools can help, but not to the extent as advertised.

Needless to say, most "modern" business applications are of beta quality. We cover up the flaws with PowerPoint instead. We end up needing still that 4 months afterwards but in form of production fire-fighting and acrobats performance with all sorts of ugly duckily patching to "stabilize" (but in fact, massive rewrite) the product. Yes, after all, it's still 4 months of total development but the end product is so crooked that you don't ever want to extend it, and probably, don't ever want to touch it again in your life. This is insincerity, and almost to the point of dishonesty.

So, yes, I should thank the agency instead. It reminds me about sincerity, which is what lacks in our lives nowadays. This is what lacks in my soul comparing to the me 20 years ago. The only irony is - insincerity buys me my daily bread, pays my bills, and makes me more socially accepted by the general public.

For the letter, I didn't make it after all. I know I have to lie a lot in order to write a good one. After working in the corporate environment for so many years, there is no moral issue for me to do that (...Mmm, not as bad as Enron, at least...). However, I am just tired - I am just too tired to hear my own larger-than-life elaboration of how I fit the job exactly with interactively simplified seven-habits-conforming mindset and 6-sigma enhanced process engineering skills set so that we may endeavor to nano-technological network performance based infrastructures because that is what the customer expects and that's what fits the company's agenda with surgical precision and engineered excellence...[more at here].

So, maybe next time. Or maybe next life.

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