Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lies My ‘Friends’ Told Me #2

That when you are going in for a job interview, you can’t ever show your back to the interviewer. Even when leaving the room. You have to maintain eye contact all the time.

Following on from the corporate theme, I was told this pearl of ‘wisdom’ sometime last term during my job application phase when I would freak out on a daily basis and run to various people for advice. Being in a vulnerable state of panic at the time, I drank in everything that I was told – not once did I question any bit of advice I received. After all, these were people who already had job offers, right? Of course they held some secret elixir of knowledge, some golden key that would unlock the gates of employment-dom for me. Uhm, yeah. About that…

Once again, I fell for it: hook, line and sinker. I even went so far as to try it out in front of them – got more than stuck when attempting to leave the room though. Fumbling around for the door handle with your back to the door and desperately trying to maintain eye-contact would make any normal person realise that you were being had, but no, not I – I still didn’t realise, until they burst out laughing. Yup. There was a reason why I hadn’t come across this piece of advice anywhere on the Internets and now I know why.


I don’t even think that there needs to be a moral to this story.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Unilever Assessment Centre (Summer Internship)

Here’s a quick summary of what I experienced at the Unilever Assessment Centre for a summer internship in Research and Development:

Optional Lunch

If you are given the chance to sign up for the optional lunch, do it! You’ll get there early, have a chance to settle in, and you’ll be looked after by someone on the graduate scheme. You may even get to meet other applicants, and I found that to be one of the key factors as to why I was much less scared – I was really lucky and got on really well with the other applicants on the day, which made such a huge difference to my attitude. I contrast this to the time at my ASDA assessment centre where I turned up ten minutes later and had no rapport with any of the other applicants. Horrible day.

Case Study and Presentation

You are set a business related scenario, and get given a big handout full of data which you need to analyse in forty five minutes. I was asked to make three decisions based upon how a newly acquired company should be run and to give an eight minute long presentation, which would be followed by twelve minutes of questions and answers. Criticism I received from this was that I focused too much upon the opinions of customers and not enough upon the facts and figures.

Competency Interview

Standard forty five minute long joint with one other assessor. You are asked why Unilever, and then five competencies that are assessed via the STAR method. Make sure all of your answers conform to this: Situation, Task, Action, Result! Went in having done next to no research on Unilever, other than knowing the names of a few of the products, and the fact that they’d recently been involved in a price-fixing cartel so that ruled out ‘reputation’ as a possible answer I could give. Advice: research your chosen business function, and get in key words like ‘consumer need’ and ‘product development’. Luckily for me my interviewer was really nice (or that they were really desperate for interns), for I had to be spoon-fed all of this during my interview… >__<

Group Exercise

Standard forty five minute long exercise. If you’ve done one of these then you’ve done them all. We were given a set amount of time to read through some information before being assessed for twenty minutes on how we solved a problem together. This was the one that I enjoyed the most because I’d already gotten to know the other applicants really well, so it just felt like more banter, and as I was so relaxed, it was easy to forget the presence of the assessors in the room. Feedback from this was that apparently I led (I led?!) the discussion, keeping everything on focus and that I made some very good points. Hunh…

My Advice:
1. Make sure you know the key competencies that Unilever are looking for
2. Turn up early!!!
3. Try to get to know the other applicants beforehand - this will make you feel more relaxed if you can establish rapport with them
4. Drink lots of water throughout the day
5. If they offer you free Ben and Jerry’s, take it!
6. Take your time with your answers.
Finally, good luck!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Going Corporate

HR lady: You’ve got the internship!!!
Me: Omigaarghghghggghhhh!!!

I’ve actually known about this since last Friday, but kept quiet about it because I wanted to personally thank the four friends who’ve supported me throughout this entire job hunting ordeal: shout out to the two members of Drop Table Artists, to Claud and to Agent Double T. Couldn’t have done it without you!

Not gonna lie, I’m not the most career-orientated (or study-focused for that matter) person you’ll find lying around. I’d much rather be writing, drawing, or frolicking under the sunshine i.e. I never ever want to grow up (Peter Pan Complex). Sadly, the laws of nature dictate otherwise, and after being told by friends and family for two and a half years to get off my lazy ass and find a job, I finally decided to pull my act together. So this year, I made a half-hearted attempt to shoot off some apps and quickly learned that I’m probably not investment banking material. Much to my simultaneous amusement and horror, I also learned that Sainsbury’s, ASDA and Morrison’s don’t want me either.

What the hell are these people looking for?! I cried out in despair.

There was still one company that I had hope for: Unilever. After putting off a telephone interview for a month, I received a few ‘if-you-don’t-sign-up-for-an-interview-NOW-then-we’re-dropping-you’ emails and decided to give up the avoidance act, man up and just go for it. Apparently, I sounded like a high schooler giving a presentation, according to a Belgian who overheard my interview whilst walking past my room. High school retard or not, it turned out that they liked me (why!?) and decided to invite me down to their assessment centre. Joyous!? I think not, said the stress-head in me.

On the day itself, a series of personal disasters led to me becoming so stressed out that I turned somewhat hysterical on the train – to the point where I would burst out laughing every few seconds, as my message outbox can testify. The other people on the train must’ve thought I’d gone insane. By the time I arrived, I was in the mental state where I couldn’t take anything seriously anymorewhich actually turned out to be a good thing.

In the end, there were only three of us being assessed on the day (one girl didn’t show up). I quickly discovered that our gathering consisted of a mini Leeds Fest down south, what with one of the other applicants being from Leeds, and the graduate who was looking after us too. Never had I been so joyous to hear my local accent being uttered.

Now, for anyone who is thinking of applying for the Unilever summer internships, there is very little in the way of help on Wikijobs, so I’ve made a separate post here with a brief breakdown of my day and what I feel are the best bits of advice I can give you.

Things I have learned from this day:
1. The benefits of turning up early to events
2. Make the most out of optional lunches and drink lots of water all day
3. Don’t ignore the data when they give you data to analyse!!!
4. If someone is speaking really slowly and winking at you during an interview, it means that they are probably trying to give you a hint
5. If you’re applying for Research and Development, you won’t be assessed on how good you are at your degree (yaaaay)
6. Maybe I’m not such a failure after all!
Went home for the weekend for some personal time, and on the way back to Cam, I met a guy who gave me two hours worth of life coaching – he made me remember that my self-esteem was not always this crappy and that there is a world outside of this little sandbox. Always good to keep things in perspective.

One of the little pearls he imparted:
F - false
E - entity
A - appearing
R - real
Oh, and remember my last posts about my little wasp infestation? Well, they’re back… >:|

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Lies My ‘Friends’ Told Me #1

That if you sit on a chair and pull upwards on the seat hard enough, then your chair will lift up off the ground.

I'll admit it right here and right now that I'm too gullible (stupid) for my own good, especially when you consider that this happened to me a few days/weeks before my Physics exam in first year. Oh how I really should have known better.

Of course I was skeptical at first i.e. translates to: didn't believe this bullcrap.

But, my two dear friends were very persistent and persuasive, so being the nervous wreck that I was at the time, it did not take long for them to screw over my mind and have me doubting the very foundations of Physics. Perhaps I wanted to believe that I could fly, the poor naive fool that I was (still am). I can still remember the exact second I broke - it was after they'd finished talking about world records when they started making up force diagrams; that was when I put my hands up in the air, backed away and admitted defeat. "Woah, OK, OK." After all, these were Cambridge students taking Maths and Physics, two of them versus a person who hadn't done Physics since those GCSE Triple Award days and didn't know what the hell a transistor was (much to the irritation of my lab partner Tiiiing ^_^:;). Much cleverer than me, right? What the hell am I doing at Cambridge?!

Suffice to say I did not do so well at Physics.

The moral of the story is: no, you can't fly like a G6 and not even force diagrams have the power to make you that fly.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Wasps Must Die.

Since I started working (learning, procrastinating, stressing) next to my window, I've noticed something: insects seem to really like hanging out here. Whether it's throwing themselves against the glass, or going round and round in little circles, there's always at least one Insect Incident every three minutes. Yes, I have been counting (blame it on my revision stopwatch), and no, I do not know why they do this. Especially wasps. Before I realised that my window was the equivalent of an ASBO-philic street corner, I thought I was going crazy.

I'd hear a buzzing sound, look up, and see...a pigeon staring at me from the leafy branches of a tree, i.e. absolutely nothing. Much to my bewilderment, this would continue for a few hours every day. Was it the exam stress that was making me go insane? I even started talking to myself. And then, one very recent day, I finally spotted the culprits: the wasp! And to my horror, it was not just one wasp, but TWO, emerging from my window frame to go forage for stuff before returning!

It dawned upon me that these wasps were attempting to nest in MY window. NononoNO, this could not do, I thought. It's not acceptable for there to be any extra tenants in my room unless they are of the homo sapiens variety, so in classic Luo fashion, I decided to ask Facebook for help:
~ creative methods for getting rid of the pair of wasps that are attempting to nest in my window, anyone?
Yesterday at 18:43

Let's have a quick look at the responses, shall we?

1. Unicorns!

I'm not quite sure that my friend has grasped the fact that unicorns are mythological for a reason. Moving on...

2. Get a bunch of these mofos and swarm the mothefucker

MOAR BEEEES?!?! Sadly, this is not the most practical method with my limited resources.

3. wasp and fly killer, or deodorant

The most sensible one so far: thanks Agent Double T.

4. Vacuum cleaner is the best way.

Hmm. Trying to explain why I'm waving a vacuum nozzle out of my window sounds like a good test of my sanity.

5. surely lynx/lighter

This was also suggested by my brother. People seem to like this idea: "that doesn't set off fire alarms actually, that's some good shit"

6. chopstick an wok, belly tastee!!

Orly? I hope this person wasn't implying that I stir fry and then consume the wasp with rice.

7. Set the room on fire. seems to be a very popular theme here... O_o

In the end, I waited until the wasps left the hole in my window frame and then proceeded to slam my window shut. As summer is fast approaching, I realise that this is a very short term strategy. The wasps seem to know this because after throwing themselves against the glass for a little while in a fit of rage, they buzz off elsewhere and then return when I can't take it any longer and open the window again.

Could they be smarter than crows?

I know they're watching me...

And nowadays, I keep on hearing the buzzing...

Even when they're not there.


On a side note, I have a job interview tomorrow which I'm supposed to be preparing for so I don't know why I'm writing this. Also going home for the weekend, so no updates for the next few days. Happy 22nd to the 25th of April, folks!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Into the Deep End...

I've always hated swimming. 95% of the reason was because I didn't know how to; the other 5% lay in the nasty smell of chlorine that clings to your skin for days. Oh, and there was also the matter of hygiene. Verrucas. People taking a sly widdle. Swallowing a mouthful of said sly widdle. But at the end of the day, I knew that not being able to swim is a pretty loser-ish (not to mention embarassing) status to bear in life. After all, basic life skills and all that? I knew that, yet...

Growing up, my primary school would take us to the local pool every Wednesday, and I would just watch as one by one, my classmates left the baby pool for the Big Bad Pool on The Other Side. Don't get me wrong, of course I'd try, but it was a combination of bad teaching, a lack of confidence, and a fear of drowning that led to me 'graduating' from swimming lessons with a big fat zero. Not even a fucking Dolphin One Award.

Naturally my phobia escalated, and with these memories at hand, I went through the next ten years of my life avoiding contact with water unless it was: in a bath, in the rain, or occasionally in a large bed of H20 with a water-aid in the form of a float. Hydrophobe? I think: yes. But it wasn't a complete No-Man's-Land; something must've gotten through to my brain, for I had residual memories of knowing how to do the breast stroke, mushroom float, and how-not-to-drown-when-lying-on-my-back. Latent memories, things that do stick for life like learning to ride a bike no-handed and look like a complete and utter prat whilst doing so.

With this background in mind, on the 8th April, I finally decided to quick being such a pathetic loser and learn some life skills. It was that, or revision. And in my mind, any form of useful procrastination was better than revising. So, that afternoon, Claud and I took to the waters of Parkside Pools: me scared out of my wits and feeling completely and utterly insecure at just how damn exposing a swimsuit can be. It was OK, I quickly learned that no one gave a crap.

In the first session, with the everlasting patience of Claud, I learnt the proper technique for breast stroke, and my humiliation at being crapper than the children half my age there gave me the resolve to NOT go for one of the damn floaty things. After a bit of faffing around, Claud convinced me to go to the forbidden zone i.e. the Deep End, the One Terror that I had managed to avoid for the duration of my entire existence. Not gonna lie, I was shit scared. But like a ray of guiding light, Claud took my hand and literally (yes, literally) led me to the deep end and made me go down to the bottom to try to get over my fear. Yes, it was as deep as I'd thought it was. Yes, I thought I was going to die. But...I didn't. And surprisingly, it was OK. I also learnt how to tread water, and left the pool in ecstatics at having braved the One Terror. Next stop: attempting a length.

That happened a week later, and this time, I swam TWO WHOLE LENGTHS, learned that it was OK to put my head underwater whilst swimming, and treaded water as if there was going to be a tomorrow. Hallelujah and all that jazz. We celebrated by getting Chinese takeout and updating my Facebook status with an edited lyric from The Lonely Island's song entitled I Just Had Sex:
~ ♫ i just swam a length (for the first time ever), and it fe-elt so gooood (felt so good) ♪ ♫
15 April at 22:27

(guess that counteracted my one small step away from loser-dom)

Today though, was the big big day in which I completely got into the game. I came into the pool determined to do five lengths, and with the encouragement of a stranger from Catz, managed to swim TWENTY WHOLE LENGTHS.




I could not (and still can't) believe how far I've come in just three sessions. Gives me so much hope in my degree; that if I do apply my mind then I can actually achieve results. Maybe there is still hope for me yet as a Nat Sci...!

Sunday, April 17, 2011


So, at the end of last term, someone suggested a game of Monopoly and I agreed because I thought it would be a nice and relaxing thing to do to wind down at the end of term. Civilised, even. Perhaps at home yes, with my gentle Asian brethren, but here in Cambridge?! How naïve.

I knew I’d lost when I realised that the rules I’d been playing for life turned out to be not quite correct: that if you land on something you have to buy it otherwise it goes out for auction to everyone else, whereas I’d grown up playing a rule where only you can choose to buy or not if you land. Oh dear. So my whole strategy (or lack thereof) turned out to be a grade A fail in Management Operations.

My one and only property for a looong time. Time to turn on the Waterworks... *sniff*

After a stroke of luck, the scene was dominated by a civil partnership between Belgium and Australia, who proved to be merciless and were absolutely barbaric when bankrupting the other players ~ i.e. the shoe and the horse. If only there had been more of the customary cheating that comes with every game, but being Cambridge students, you can imagine that it was a pretty straight-laced affair...although many many glares were exchanged in the crossfire.

Anyway, long introductory ramble over. So, whilst almost everyone has heard of Monopoly, I wonder how many of you have heard of the board game: Anti-Monopoly. Which is exactly what it claims to be.

And how might one go about playing this game? Well, for a start, there are two sets of rules and you get to choose which set you wish to play for the duration of the game ~ as a competitor or as a monopolist. Competitors are allowed to build houses as soon as they own a single street and charge low prices for rent, whilst monopolists have to wait until they own a whole street before building houses which come to extortionate prices for rent. Basically, here the good guys are the competitors, whilst the bad guys are the monopolists. In the real world, monopolists would crush competitors, so a system has been implemented to ensure that the game is more or less fair.

Now this gem has been out since 1974, and with its successful release came a storm of controversy, including legal threats and a decade long court battle between General Mills (the owners of Monopoly) and Anti-Monopoly. According to the Anti-Monopoly website:

It informed Anti-Monopoly that it had exclusive rights to the dictionary word monopoly and any title remotely close to it, including its opposite, the dictionary word “anti-monopoly.” General Mills went on rather bluntly that if we didn't take our game off the market at once, it would crush us. And they were serious. For example, they had already stopped Catholic laymen from marketing a game called Theopoly and a famous black comedian, Geoffrey Chambers, from marketing Black Monopoly.

After seeing this on sale in a niche alternative store ~ you know, those ones that are springing up everywhere now ~ I remembered being intrigued but thought no more of it, and it was only when I was watching myself get destroyed on the Monopoly game board that I remembered the existence of Anti-Monopoly. And that no one had believed me whenever I’d tried to rave about it. So maybe you will now after reading this blog post and seeing the evidence before your eyes!! Upon realising that I don’t have what it takes to be a monopolist, perhaps it’s time to check out this game and see if I fare any better as a competitor...!! I think not, will be the case.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Poker Face - Drop Table Artists (Cover)

Look at Harry's face! ^_^

Jokes. So they finally made it onto Internet TV huh? Well, what can I say? Been friends with these guys ever since the 'What I Want To Be When I Grow Up' bop of Fresher's Week when one of them turned up in a home-made Pokemon master costume that got upstaged when someone showed up in a real life Pokemon master costume. Complete with Pokeball. But you had to hand it to Harry for effort. After all, who would've guessed that the clementine he was holding was meant to be a Pokeball? Don't really remember much of Harald, other than that he was the 'tall white guy' standing next to the Pokemon master.

Jokes again. Anyway, ever since we became friends, I've watched them continually evolve upwards (and on occasions laterally) as a 'band'. Although they mainly play covers, their imaginative arrangements and gravelly vocals do stand out a lot, so over the years, they have attracted a small but loyal fanbase who go to support them whenever they are on tour...i.e. playing in the college bar.

Anyway, more about this song. Guess it's kind of a special one for them, for it seems as if they can't stop playing Poker Face (since dropping their all time favourite, The Great Escape) so over the years, this cover has continually been built on and improved, with the latest version showing off some extra arrangements and a new set of backing vocals. Pity the rap has never made it into any of the incarnations:
I won't tell you that I love you
Kiss or hug you
Cause I'm bluffin' with my muffin
I'm not lying I'm just stunnin'
With my love-glue-gunning
Just like a chick in the casino
Take your bank before I pay you out
I promise this, promise this
Check this hand cause I'm marvelous

Guys, if you're reading this entry ~ I know you are ~ then I'm gonna throw this one out: you need more stage presence!! And you need to quit looking so serious, even on video when no one is watching you live!!! After all, stage presence is what gets you laid when you're in a band, heh.

Now this is supposed to be a serious entry, but I think I've failed miserably here, hehe.

Anyways, if you're around in Cambridge at all, then keep an eye out for this pair of jokers ~ they'll be playing at the Wolfson June Event this May Week, so if you fancy shelling out more cash than you'd pay for a Muse concert, then come along and support these fine specimens of humanity.

Sadly, I know I will be there.

(x-posted to my music blog, betterinbass)