February 27, 2008

The Personal Consequences of Professionalisation (or…how to save money on contact lenses)

I am a Management student in Warwick Business School. One of the topics in the Organisational Behaviour 2 (OB2) and Critical Issues in Management (CIM) modules is professionalisation and its consequences.  Essentially, professional qualifications and professionalism hold great sway in societies, particularly in advanced Western society. Put simply, you can't practice medicine, law, accountancy without a university degree and (minimum!!!) three years of exams that you have to pay to do and study for while you are working (that's just accountancy).

Crucially, we are not officially 'ill' until we have seen a doctor and we can't assess our own dental health without seeing a dentist or dental hygienist etc. etc. I say crucially because this is the bit where professionalisation creeps into our everyday life. Remember, we are 'pulling a sickie' unless we provide a doctors' note. Some University departments enforce this more strictly than others.

There are plenty of 'boring' and 'long' journal articles you can read about this (that you would have to for a seminar in CIM). A reasonable start is Michael Power and his idea of the Audit Society.

I think a better start is Kant.

Immanuel Kant is frequently lambasted as the most impractical philosopher there is (it seems like that to me). Many philosophy students who study him. The main problem is that we study him out of context - and that's an issue that NEARLY EVERYONE who comments on ALL KINDS OF PHILOSOPHERS is guilty of (For more info on this idea, see the first few chapters of Alasdair Macintyre's 'After Virtue').

I disagree with Kant's moral framework (his 'formula' for determining whether something is ethical or not) as I think it is impractical in TODAY's context, but I agree with Kant's spirit. The spirit of Kant is something that is still painfully relevant today (maybe even more than 1786). And what is that spirit?

The motto of Kant (and maybe the Enlightenment as a whole) is 'think for yourself'. Use your (own) head, your 'own reason'.

(This spirit is very much evident in his short essay 'What is Enlightenment', read it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_Is_Enlightenment%3F , scroll to bottom for English translation).

Just check out this quote from that very essay (and people think he is humourless!): 

"It is so comfortable to be a minor. If I have a book that understands for me, a spiritual advisor who has a conscience for me, and so forth, I need not trouble myself at all. I need not think, if only I can pay: others will readily undertake the irksome business for me".

(Quoted in Jones, Parker and ten Bos, 'For Business Ethics', published 2005, p. 52).

I currently pay £186/year to Specsavers for monthly contact lenses including solutions and 'aftercare' (a yearly contact lens check-up). One of my good friends told me that he buys his contacts from a website that would do my lenses (just the lenses though) for £52/year (at www.visiondirect.co.uk).

Fuck!

I have never had problems so far with contact lenses. And every contact lens check-up I'm told that my eyes are healthy. I know when my eyes are irritated and when it's time to throw lenses away etc. But some sort of regular check-up is needed - just look at all the various things that could go wrong: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contact_lenses#Complications !!

The staff at Specsavers ALWAYS say that if you have a problem (like irritated eyes), you should make an appointment. I prefer to use my own reason, and I'm happy not to wear a contact for a bit of time to let my eye recover. Ultimately I could understand all the various complications I could get, and know all the symptoms to watch out for. But I haven't got the time. And I don't ENJOY doing that. And that's what Specsavers make money out of. 

I can live with that. But I HAVE to have a regular contact lens appointment otherwise Specsavers will NOT supply with lenses. I recently tried to obtain a free replacement pair that you get as part of the deal. But because the staff at Specsavers Slough eventually said no as they could not find proof that I had a check-up last year (I thought I had). Plus I have to have the checkup at Slough, it costs £20 to have it an another branch. How inflexible is that?! I'm a student for fuck's sake! (Talk about listening to customers).

But this time I'm going to use my own reason, not just follow where my parents tell me with regards to my optometric needs. It will take more time. but it will be fun! And interesting where it takes me. And who knows, I might radically change Specsavers' business model. Or they might just send me a cease-and-desist letter.

I'm sure Kant would be proud!!!!!!


October 09, 2007

Want to make an impact, change the world and all that bollocks?

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I haven't updated this blog in sometime as I was manically busy over the summer. I now have two plugs to do, but I will make it interesting.

I've noticed several things over my time here at Warwick (as I have eyes, ears and a brain). 

- The desire of Warwick students and the Students' Union and other bodies on campus to want to 'make an  difference', 'change the world' etc. Many Warwick students are searching for the path to an ethical career, but finding that it is not easy to be ethical (after all, how does one easily assess what is good and what is bad).

- Attitudes towards enterprise and entrepreneurship. There are many Warwick students who aspire to run their own businesses or play a major role in society at some point in their lives. I am disappointed by students of other non-business/economics disciplines thinking that enterprise and entrepreneurship are something that they are not interested in. If you are passionate about people, animals, science, engineering, music, art, theatre, creativity, society, anything – taking that passion further is ultimately linked to enterprise and entrepreneurship – having the guts to do your own thing and ability to work with other like-minded people. Either way, I have found through my degree, that studying sociology (and psychology) gives you far more business acumen then any of my Business School modules and I run two enterprises of my own. Business is a human invention, markets are a human creation, wouldn't it make sense to study individual and social behaviour and practice?

- An interest from students in understanding and experiencing other cultures as exemplified by One World Week, WIDS etc.

So, given those trends, how many people have heard of AIESEC? It's actually the world's largest student-run organisation! The new exec and the exec before that are gradually raising awareness of the society around campus. Most haven't a clue what it is. Some think its just a business school thing.

AIESEC essentially develops people, gives them skills and real-life-experience, through either running or going on our exchange programme. I will look at running and operating the programme first, then going on the programme.


If you've ever had pretensions of running your own business, or social enterprise or anything (or being in any position of importance and seniority) you should get involved with AIESEC, and take up a role in our society where you will run your own small business while being a student. Your product? Graduates from overseas (usually with 1-2 years experience) who wish to gain international experience or start a career in the UK. Your customers? Local businesses, the public sector and charities who could benefit from having from having a graduate skilled in IT or engineering whom they cannot find in the UK or someone with actual sales and marketing experience for a tiny outlay. That company might be an SME who cannot usually get high-calibre grads. Essentially you get a great product to sell as you venture in the world of business. You will attend business meetings, make phone calls, attend networking events, meet and work with managing directors and influential people from all walks of life. You will build up contacts for yourself. You will give presentations and pitches for real products in real life. You will learn not through some skills session run by the Warwick Skills Certificate or some graduate employer, but by DOING. And yes, you can put it on your CV, if you really must feel the need to summarise yourself in a page or two (personally, I think I'm better than a generic and stereotypical document).


As a result of actually running my own enterprise with AIESEC, I have really improved my confidence, my communication, teamwork and interpersonal skills. That sounds rather hollow – what I mean is that I am more confident in my own opinion, more outgoing, I enjoy giving presetnations rather than being nervous, and I am more articulate and concise and good on the phone and write effective emails and know how to sell a proposal and the steps I should to take. I've been in charge of a team of 20 people. Over the summer, myself and our team of 5 were left to run the AIESEC exchange programme for the entire UK (all 23 AIESEC universities). I regularly apply what I've learnt by doing in AIESEC, in my degree and my business and other interests. These soft skills are what employers are CRYING out for. THEY FIND IT VERY HARD TO FIND PEOPLE WITH THESE SKILLS. And if you want to be a businessperson, an entrepreneur, or a politician, or a civil servant or an academic, or a lawyer, a scientist, a doctor, anyone...these skills will be essential. If you want to get anything done in this world, if you want to reduce poverty, spread Fair Trade or conserve the environment, you will need to master the above. You will need to be a good SALESperson. AIESEC has also made me more confident in myself. I've found I don't NEED to be someone else or change my opinions or act differently. I don't have to be cocky or very concise or to the point or impersonal to be successful in business or whatever I want to do. I can be my own strange self.

The second bit is EXPERIENCING our exchange programme, not running it. AIESEC was founded by a bunch of European students soon after the Second World War. They thought that the idea of exchanging students and graduates and arranging work placements for students in other countries might be a good way of getting people to understand others' cultures. As borne out by the 4000 exchanges AIESEC globally does per year, we have found that experience you get actually WORKING in another country is far more affecting and powerful than just going their on holiday. If you really want to experience life in Jordan, Afghanistan, Uganda or China, why not work there?. Interested in experiencing international development? Why not work for a local NGO or charity in a developing country and experience it first-hand on placement set up by students of that country, not some charge-alot-of-money-and-get-some-comparatively-contrived-experience scheme (BUNAC, Camp America) . AIESEC remains one of the cheapest work-abroad schemes out there (around £250, that you pay on selection not application, AIESEC UK, a charity, actually loses money on Work Abroad, we also sort all the hassle with finding and going on a placement – the scheme's by no means perfect, but it is good).

Keep on hearing about how China and India will rule the world and how those countries are the business place to be? Don't just talk about it in some crappy lecture, go there, do it, experience it for yourself!

AIESEC essentially develops people, gives them skills and real-life-experience, through either running or going on our exchange programme. Upon going to a recent AIESEC conference, I realised something. I was sitting in a circle of people who had spent their university days in AIESEC and I realised that they were really amazing people. People who can actually start successful businesses or be politicians and 'change agents' and 'leaders' and what not. People who realise that a graduate job is more than just working for a big accountancy firm – working for an SME, or a charity, or being an academic or running your own show is just as great and fulfilling. People who are informed and intelligent and understanding of others' opinions and knowledge, rather than just assuming or jumping to conclusions or thinking they know better. People who appreciate and understand reality . People who are sarcastic and enjoy irony and who are interesting and funny and have feelings and opinions and who have a PERSONALITY. These final qualities, I feel, are VERY IMPORTANT to the future progress and security of our planet, or whatever you want. Wouldn't you?


So if any of what I've said chimes with you, come along to the final AIESEC intro meeting, tomorrow (Wednesday 10th) at 5pm in room S0.20 (Social Studies Ground Floor). You don't have to be a business student as I have argued above. Yes, losers, AIESEC UK is sponsored by KPMG, UBS, PWC, Deloitte etc. etc. They come in and give us skills sessions which are excellent as they are often run by AIESEC alumni. Yes several AIESEC alumni are handed jobs in swanky companies and organisations on a plate. BUT THAT ISN'T WHY YOU SHOULD BE IN AIESEC (and those CV whores can bugger off). In addition, if you've ever thought of setting up your own business, enterprise or initiative of any sort or putting your ideas into action, Come along to R0.03/4 in the Ramphal building tomorrow, Wednesday 10th October, for a showcase event featuring AIESEC, SIFE, Warwick Entrepreneurs, Unisparks.com, the Business Innovation and Marketing Society, the Make Your Mark! Campaign and the WBS Enterprise Hub. Your university years are the most free years of your life. Make the best use of your time here to gain contacts and support!

I won't be there as I am in a business meeting with an environmental consultancy in Leamington Spa, Encraft (www.encraft.co.uk) who have an AIESEC trainee (Pranay from India) with them at the moment, developing and marketing software to measure the carbon footprints of individuals and businesses. Now if anyone's saving the planet, Encraft and Pranay are.

P.S.

<
>I make no apologies for the length of this post. You can read for God's sake and I reckon reading it was the most useful thing you've done today. These views are independent of AIESEC Warwick and AIESEC UK, registered charity no. 274779 . Organisations don't have opinions, you muppet, however people do. The person who has these opinions is me, so sue ME if you feel you need to. > <
>


June 19, 2007

The University of Warwick: a massive contradiction!

Writing about web page http://www.warwick.ac.uk

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How can we take this University seriously?

This blog is all about life as a student at the University of Warwick. I'm currently sitting in the Learning Grid, a bleak dystopian future with reeks of the 'panopticon'. It grants you an illusion of freedom. Or, it's a 24/7 place with desks, light, vending machines, computers, TVs, funky design etc. where one can study. 

Now the thing about the University of Warwick, for me, is that it is (nearly) everything a University should be about. University is about the perception of freedom. Space and time to think. Some degree of community. Students shouting, swearing, singing, shagging and generally being annoying. I was not sold by the advances of LSE, UCL and anything remotely near London, when I was choosing a university. Firstly, it's too close to home, and when home is Slough, I think you'll understand my need to get away from it all. London is cool and busy and fun, but to me, a university where all your old school friends are still there, where everyone disperses after lectures, where its a long meaningless trudge to some crappy halls etc. is not a university.

I'm a student. I don't live by the rules. I do (to some extent) what I want when I want. If I want to sleep in the middle of the day because I'm bored with revision, I can (and do). If I want to do an all nighter and go without sleep with a day, and revise journal articles at 4am, even though my laptop recently died, I can. The University has computers available 24/7 and there is a possibility of actually getting on a computer (they do have quite a few). You can study in the library, the Learning Grid, empty seminar rooms, fields, bushes, the Student's Union, behind the bike sheds, in the Business School, anywhere you like. If you want your own office, you can. Just ask. There is an office in Warwick Business School that is bigger than the offices of most academics. It's for student society use, but I'm the only one who really uses it. The Resources Room in the Student's Union is great. In evenings, it's (relatively) empty, you can use several computers at once, you can print, scan, make phone calls, laminate, fax, generally do what you want. I revise and work in there, rather than the library, where as soon as you sit down, you have to get up and go down 2 floors for the toilets or 5 floors for some food. Though it's meant to be used only for student society work. 

So I seem to quite like the University of Warwick. It's great, because it does have the space to back its supposed ambitions. What I relish is its inherent contradictions. The University of Warwick (and its various, tightly controlled divisions, such as the Students' Union) is inherently contradictory (!). I'll start with the Union:

- There is the Resources Room in the Union. Woefully underused in the evenings, yet I get told to leave at 11.15pm because the Union steward says 'it's time to lock up'. I then say that last Saturday I was in the Room until 1.47am. The steward (just another student) basically implies that he is just doing his job. I then say that I like to revise in here. The steward toes the party line and says that it shouldn't be used for personal use and reminds me not to print for personal use (I don't actually). I say that I do student society stuff and revision at the same time. After all, I see no conflict or division between the two. Why are the 'academic' and the 'practical' seen as separate?

- http://www.sunion.warwick.ac.uk/portal/charitycollections/ Does anyone follow the code? How is it monitored? How are agents kept accountable? Or not? Apparently, if a society does not follow it, there may be disciplinary procedure. Why may? What criteria are used? (It's my Union, I want to know!)

- The same goes for student society equal opportunities policy. Is it followed? Are there equal opportunities? When I see people dancing, singing (very badly), shouting, screaming and generally playing around in the Student's Union's administrative building (one of largest of any Students' Union in Europe), I can't take the SU's rules and policies seriously! Especially their stance on Iraq. Coke. Exxon Mobil. Palestine. Some people would tell me that there is a serious side and fun side to the Student's Union (something like "work hard, play hard") so that's why it all makes sense. But why this division? After all, I see no conflict or division between the two. Why are the 'serious' and the fun seen as separate? The 'public' and the 'private', for that matter? 'Work' and 'home'?

www.sunion.warwick.ac.uk (Sports Fed Ball is a over a hundred ticket sales down on last year, and the Union budgets to break even on selling out on this event, so help them by buying a ticket!!!).

[Above image Copyright a fellow Warwick student, not me. Happy to formally acknowledge this academic debt, with express permission of creator]. 


Tuesday morning. 3:28 a.m. Learning Grid.

Writing about web page http://www.le.ac.uk/ulmc/academics/mparker.html

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Read this. Now.

I love this blurb. What I like about it particularly is the quote from Christopher Grey. He is a distinguished academic, former director of programmes at the Judge Business School at Cambridge University who thinks for some reason that it might be an upward career move to come to Warwick Business School (which he did at the start of April 2007).

Grey says:

- "I really enjoyed this book" (I couldn't agree more, I tried to enjoy it)

- "It is original" (yep, it is quite)

- "It is provocative" (definitely, it seems to think that managers are a waste of time and that there is no point in managing)

- "It is scholarly..." (true, everything is very well referenced)

- "...in a positive way" (nothing wrong with producing evidence to backup your assertions, and Parker even references stupid things for amusement purposes only)

- "It is extraordinarily well written" (if you read it, you'd have to give it some credit)

- "lucid..." (presumably Parker is trying to illuminate some issue in this book, probably by sticking a light bulb behind it and seeing if anyone notices)

- "...as well as witty" (Parker doesn't take himself or his subject too seriously).

"Against Management" by Martin Parker is one of my most favourite books. I don't really read many books, I mainly skim though them and pretend that I know what the author is trying to say. I read "Against Management" once and hated it. As you can see the blurb says that it suggests some new ways of organising: "it opens up the possibility of non-managerial alternatives". I got over-excited and thought he was gonna suggest something really radical. In the end, he just suggested co-ops.

But then I re-read it. I dipped in and out of it. I made no attempt to interpret it in the way that Parker thought was best. And I bet he loves that.

This book is full of witty gems about a life that everyone of us (or everyone I know, given that I am white, middle-class and live in the UK) leads. It's time we stopped just joking about work, or thinking that the company we work for is going crazy, or that our boss is stupid or that that car mechanic is actually evil or that McDonalds isn't 'high' culture. We should just plain accept it. And love it. And celebrate it.


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