All posts by rolade

Goodbye 2021, Hello 2022

In January 2021, I wished my family and friends good health and success. I thought the COVID pandemic would be over before December. How wrong I was! The Delta and Omicron variants arrived swiftly and worrisomely.

We’re still in the pandemic; consequently, restrictions have been reintroduced or tightened. COVID passports and tests have become pet peeves for travellers. They have hampered many people from being with their families on two of the dearly celebrated occasions of the year: Christmas/December and New Year.

So, what is an appropriate wish for our family and friends in 2022? Is it the usual “good health, peace, prosperity, and happiness”? Which of these is the most important thing to have? Can someone be happy when suffering from poor health? Many poor people in developing countries are naturally happy. Peace is not easy to attain when you’ve poor health. Prosperity contributes to happiness and peace of mind (i.e. not worrying about food, shelter, medicine, etc.)

What is a good New Year’s greeting or wish? What does a sincere message do to us? For family and friends afar, it’s a way of letting them know that they have not been forgotten. Greetings and good wishes bring in positive feelings. They translate into smiles and nods. 

Yesterday, at noon in France, I wished friends in New Zealand a happy New Year (They were the first ones to welcome January 1, 2022). Then, at 3 pm, I rang my family in Queensland, Australia (midnight there). From 12 pm, my mobile phone and e-mail box have been busy with greetings from France, Luxembourg and Belgium. This morning, at 1 am, I greeted our son in London; at 4:30 am, our other son in Canada; at 9:00 am, our friends in the USA. (The difference in New Year times made it possible for me to greet the lovely people in my life. I’m going to bed after posting this).

Aside from texting and phoning, I looked at the photos of my sister’s birthday party in Australia held a fortnight ago. One of them is a table with a copy of the song “That’s What Friends Are For”. I imagined myself singing along, particularly the chorus:

“Keep smiling, keep shining

Knowing you can always count on me for sure

That’s what friends are for

For good times and bad times

I’ll be on your side forevermore

That’s what friends are for”.  

Some friends become family in real terms. Some family members are friends forever. Some colleagues are friends to lean on during tough times at work.

I wish you sincere and lasting friendships. Marvellous New Year! Bonne Anne! Feliz Ano Nuevo!

Coincidence? Globality!

What happened last October 30 overawed me. Was it a desirable coincidence? Was it pure luck? Was it the work of what my Polish student calls an “angel” (a word she uses when a fortunate situation passes my way)? Whereas, my French friend said: “C’est magique”. I have no way to test these suppositions, so I have decided to share this story with you; you might have ideas about it too.

I was scheduled to be interviewed by the co-founder of the podcast “Qui a peur du feminisme” (Who is scared of feminism) at 7 pm. At 6:25, I got a text from a former student’s daughter saying they had left something outside our apartment door. When I opened the door, they had gone.

I put the paper bag under my desk and resumed practising my pronunciation of French words that I was likely to use during the interview. (Though I live in France, I hardly use this tricky language). The interview was on Zoom; at 6:50, I started to have a mixed feeling of anxiousness and boredom. So, I opened the bag and was surprisingly glad to see a beautifully wrapped t-shirt with the phrase “Excuse my French”. I put this t-shirt on right away, just on time for the interview.  How appropriate for the occasion!

My former student’s family saw this t-shirt while shopping in Metz and thought of me. They decided to go out of their way to drop it in my place. Only my husband knew that I would be interviewed that evening, and he didn’t tell them.

Coincidences are ubiquitous; I am sure you’ve experienced these too. What do you consider a coincidence and not? A coincidence can be described as a remarkable concurrence of events without a visible causal connection.  Can you explain coincidences?  I can’t, so there’s nothing more I can say here. Instead, I’m going to translate the first and last questions of that interview.

Rolade, hello and welcome. Could you explain to our listeners why you define yourself as a citizen of the world?

The Earth is my home; it is the same Earth where everyone lives. This Earth is our world – the world of all peoples and countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the interconnectedness of nations. It’s like being in a boat: if one part sinks, the other part will also sink sooner or later. We have the right to be in this boat (our world), but we also have the responsibility to keep it floating. What can sink this boat are: environmental degradation, war and conflicts, poverty, illiteracy, injustices, crimes, and other societal ills. As a world citizen, I think globally but act locally.

(If I were to answer this question now, I would include positive identification and belongingness).

One last question. In this podcast, we like to highlight women. Can you briefly tell us a woman who is a role model for you?

The first one that comes to mind is my former work supervisor, who became a friend. Barbara Young was an Australian who dedicated her life to helping non-governmental organisations, especially those caring for children (such as Save the Children Fund), refugees and women.

My model is not a woman but women. I wish I could put all their exceptional traits together. All women who think globally but act locally, like you, Marie Pierre. You and your friend started this podcast to advance women’s causes, and that’s admirable.  (Of course, there are women on the international stage who actively combat poverty, inequality, illnesses, environmental concerns, etc. They are many and commendable)

My late mother’s my model for her kindness and forgiveness of those who had hurt her.

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Maria Ressa from the Philippines, caught my attention. A courageous, intelligent and humble woman, like her, is my model.

I admire generous female bosses and managers and those who help their fellow women progress in their careers.

In closing, I would like to say that I believe there is something precious in every woman, in each of us, in all your listeners. We have to dig the wonders in each of us. With these wonderful attributes, we can be better global citizens.

Kindness

Last month, I requested information from the Ministry of Higher Education and Research (known here as CEDIES). I was surprised to receive a response at 11 in the evening, just when I was about to switch off my phone. At first, I thought it was a scam or something, but it was the help I needed. Hence, I thanked the male sender and added, “I hope you’ll receive a trophy for working very late”. He answered, “Thank you for your kind words. We have been receiving many enquiries due to our move to online application and sometimes there’s a bug in the system, so I have to work longer”.

Was he only doing his job, or he is a naturally kind and helpful person? His kindness was evident in our email exchanges afterwards.

Two weeks later, I received an email from an EU public servant at 9:08 PM on a Sunday. I thanked him for the list I requested and said, “You deserve a gold medal for working on a Sunday evening?” He wrote back explaining that he would have meetings all day on Monday and didn’t want me to be inconvenienced for not having it.

Another kind and considerate public servant! Has work ethic, mentality, or behaviour been impacted by the COVID pandemic or teleworking? I hope this doesn’t jeopardise their personal relationships.

Are these two public servants exceptions to the rule? How many kind and hardworking people stay under the radar every day? I believe such dedication and kindness at work should be recognised.

Kindness makes our world a better place – this sounds clichéd; however, the reality is kindness builds trust that develops into meaningful relationships online or in person. At work, staff who stomp on their colleagues do not last long in the same office. Unkind superiors attract disloyal or disengaged subordinates.

Several days before receiving acts of kindness from the above-mentioned civil servants, I heard on BBC that they, in collaboration with the University of Sussex in the UK, have launched a huge online research project called “Kindness Test”. Many thousands of people from all over the world have already completed it, and they will publicise their analysis early next year.

In the meantime, my Internet readings have yielded the same conclusion: acting kindly can improve one’s wellbeing and reduce or eliminate anxiousness. One of these articles mentions a neuroscientific finding that when we do something kind to another person, we experience a sense of reward comparable to receiving a present or eating chocolate.

An act of kindness has no age, gender, cultural, professional, economic and political boundaries. My friend, who’s between jobs, donated cooked meals to health workers during lockdowns. Other acts of kindness that I have witnessed are:

A colleague mentoring a new joiner in their company;

A lady picking up trash at a bus stop;

A child giving used books to a classmate;

Neighbours and acquaintances helping someone move home, bring the furniture inside a building, or tend their gardens;

People saying the magic words: “I love you”, “please”, “Good morning/afternoon”, and “thank you” (and mean it), and “I’m sorry” when they’re at fault.

On October 14, I wanted to use the photocopier in the staff room but couldn’t remember the password, as I didn’t use it for almost two years. I sent a Whatsapp message to my colleagues; one of them responded right away (i.e. in less than one minute). That kindness contributed to making my one-hour lesson more engaging. If he had waited 15 minutes, it would have been useless for me.

Kindness is contagious; spread it around because it makes us more humane and our world a better place to live and die.

(Two nights ago, I was interviewed in French; it was my first serious conversation in this tricky language.  As you’ll hear (link: https://anchor.fm/quiapeurdufeminisme/episodes/Interview–Rolade-Brizuela-Berthier–citoyenne-du-Monde-e19hmv3), there’s room for improvement in terms of pronunciation. Since I live in France, I thought I didn’t need to do the latter. However, like most skills, if you don’t use it, it stagnates or even becomes rusty. This podcast is also available on Apple podcast, Spotify and Google Play. Kindly pass on this information).

You are coaching or being coached!

Two weeks ago, I received an email with this phrase: “If you’d like me to coach you to confidence and self-belief, reply to this email and let’s talk”. This had made me think about the essence of coaching and the talents of coaches. I don’t need coaching on confidence and self-belief; but, perhaps, in some areas. There is always room for improvement, and I’m perfectly imperfect.

What is coaching? Cambridge Dictionary defines coaching (UK – kəʊ.tʃɪŋ/ US -ˈkoʊ.tʃɪŋ) as “the act of giving special classes in sports, a school subject, or a work-related activity, especially to one person or a small group” (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/coaching). Collins English Dictionary’s definition of it includes “training staff in business or office practice” and “giving a person special teaching in a particular subject” (HarperCollins Publishers, https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/coaching).

When I was young, I associated coaching only with sports. I have since changed my understanding of it. Coaching applies in every professional and personal area and in every aspect of one’s life.  

According to the International Coaching Community (https://internationalcoachingcommunity.com/what-is-coaching), coaching should help a person change how they wish and go in the direction they want, supporting them at every level in becoming who they want to be, and building awareness that empowers choice and leads to change. This is the definition that I relate to. My ex-colleague has converted into a wellness coach. She is not an expert in her clients’ field of work and does not transfer knowledge and skills, unlike when she was teaching English, but helps them cope with their personal and professional challenges. When she speaks about her newfound profession, her eyes glitter. Is it because of money?

With an annual salary of AUD 1,11,895.60, Ravi Shastri of India is the highest-paid cricket coach (https://www.australiaunwrapped.com/how-much-do-cricket-coaches-get-paid/). Diego Simeone is the highest-paid football coach (US $50 million with a current net worth of US $130 million (https://briefly.co.za/106878-20-highest-paid-coach-world-2021-top-paid-coaches-worth.html). Non-sports coaches, however, earn anywhere from 20 euros an hour to … The rest of us are unpaid coaches. We help family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, neighbours and friends of friends change in the way they wish, supporting them at every level in becoming who they want to be.

Should you spend money for academic, business, finance, professional, or relationship coaching? That depends on several factors. I think the answer is no if it is just a way to feel like you’re doing something about a problem that you can solve on your own. Wouldn’t you rather find time to figure out what and how you want things should be?  Unless your goal is to fully optimise an area of your life (e.g. financial investment) or you are passionate about improvement (e.g. more healthy and fit), you might not need a paid coach.

On the other hand, if you decide to have one, remember that you won’t get value for money, even how good the coach is if you don’t have any direction or a clear understanding of the intended outcome. As such, define your desires, goals and ideas before you engage a coach.

“Who, exactly, seeks out a coach? If you ask a coach, the answer is usually the same: Winners who want even more out of life”. – Abigail Pickus (seen on https://positivepsychology.com/coaching-quotes/ article by Kelly Miller).

Like most professions, there are good and bad coaches. Like most services, there are trade-offs and downsides in coaching.  It’s for you to do the weighing.

Either you’re a paid or unpaid coach or being coached, keep in mind:

1.       The goal is not to solve a specific problem

The purpose of coaching is not to fix problems. Therefore, avoid providing a solution before hearing the views of the person being coached.

2.       Manipulation has no place in coaching

Nudging the person being coached to come to the same conclusion as the coach by asking condescending and obnoxious questions is unethical.

3.       Avoid interruption and distraction

Interruption and distraction can sweep away vital information. Silence is part of communication and can encourage the person to think more profoundly about the issue at stake. Do not be in a noisy or messy place as it is not conducive for coaching.

4.       Be patient

A coaching process is longer than seeing a physiotherapist or dentist. It is about building self-belief, which takes time and patience. 

 “Good coaching is good teaching and nothing else.”  – Pat Conroy (seen on https://sharpencx.com/blog/quotes-for-coaching-inspiration/ article by Veronica Krieg).

Unavoidable travels

You might have read, heard, or experienced the hustle and bustle of travelling abroad during this period of the pandemic. If you had an annual leave last summer, you probably checked every day where to go, which destinations were on the green and amber lists. In addition to being fully vaccinated, there were travel restrictions and sanitary “must do” things. 

We were in England for a week for a family reason. From July 19, France has placed the UK on its amber list; the UK has ended its quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated travellers from amber countries, like France. However, there was more to comply with.  We had to present our EU or French COVID certificate.  Additionally, we had to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken a maximum of 72 hours before our departure. Then, we must complete a passenger locator form, which could only be done after purchasing a 1 x COVID-19 travel test that cost about 50 euros (PCR Test is free in France). Those from red countries and not fully vaccinated must book and pay for 2 x COVID-19 travel tests before arrival; once in the UK, they must quarantine for ten days and take a COVID-19 test on or before day two and on or after day eight.

The few days before our departure was a race towards getting COVID-tested and filling in the required locator forms (had to be completed individually).  The locator form asks for information on where you will stay in the UK.  In our case, it included five hotels in Ashford, Oxford, and London.  Typing the names, addresses, postcodes, etc., took time.  Then, deciding where to buy the post-arrival test was another challenge (the order reference number was needed to complete the locator form). There were more than one hundred providers on the UK Government website.  We ordered our Day 2 tests on August 18, but they were delivered to our nominated address on the 28th (two days after we had left). 

Today, at 6:07 AM, the global COVID statistics are 217, 632, 545 confirmed cases and 4, 518, 377 deaths (Source: CDC, WHO, ECDC, The New York Times, Wikipedia – Microsoft/COVID-19 Widget). Even if vaccinated, we must continue wearing masks, hand sanitising, and social distancing.

Was the travel worth the time, energy and expense? Not if it were just for the hotel pool, steam room and gym; breakfasts were substandard. I’m for “prevention is better than cure” and won’t argue against packed or home-delivered breakfast. However, my jaw dropped when four-star hotels handed us industrial (commercially processed) pastries and artificially flavoured juice. An apple, banana or any fruit would have lessened the financial blow.

It was worth it when it came to family in-person interaction. There are ample online articles on the importance of face-to-face socialisation. Research “shows that young people who have strong family connections are far more likely to be well adjusted and make a better success of their lives in terms of getting better education and jobs” (https://www.finglobal.com/2019/06/20/importance-of-family-gatherings/). Although we Skype with our sons every Monday evening, being with them physically was more superior. Their stories and reactions to our jokes were more nudging. It was fun playing the “guess the bill” during restaurant outings.  The loser (the one whose guess was the farthest from the actual bill) had to pay. Since I always forgot to add the 15% service fee/surcharge that we don’t have in France, my wallet was almost cleaned up.

When a family gets together, memories are made, especially when we live far from each other and in situations like the COVId-19 pandemic.  Many years later, we will be reminiscing about these times we had with our parents, children, and relatives. We will soon forget the logistical and financial hurdles. However, the beautiful moments are preserved in our brains, iPhones, computers, or albums, which can gift our grandchildren and future generations.

Vanity or career necessity?

Last month, during my Skype lesson, I noticed my student looked prettier than previously.

“You have got sparkling eyes; what’s the good news?”

She giggled and lowered her voice. “I don’t know the word in English; in French, it’s ‘rehaussement de cils’. With this, I don’t need a mascara; when I do, it takes only a second, unlike before”.

After researching on this “rehaussement de cils” (eyelash enhancement), I wanted to do mine too. The eyes are a focal point of anyone’s face. Women with long eyelashes and large eyes are often considered to be beautiful. Was I vane to wish for full and long lashes that would give me a youthful and healthy look without mascara or eyelash extensions?

I was only a few steps away from our local beautician to make an appointment when I turned around. Walking back home, I bumped into my Irish friend. I told her that I had intended to have an eyelash enhancement but didn’t have the guts to do it. Smiling, almost laughing, she said: “You don’t need it; you look much younger than your age.” *

Whether my Irish pal was being nice to me or telling the truth was not the point. Has the rampant use of online platforms for work meetings and seminars since the pandemic led to an increase in cosmetic procedures? Is this vanity or a way to improve self-esteem, confidence and image?

“I had Botox injection because I had enough of seeing my Zoom-fatigue face”, an acquaintance confided in me.  Could she have done something else aside from resorting to this minor cosmetic procedure?

Minor cosmetic operators can be registered and unregistered providers and their costs can be more than one thousand euros per session. The procedure must be repeated, ending up as a permanent feature of one’s budget. How many people can afford this? Those who have money to do it should choose someone or a company registered with their local health or professional regulatory agency.

As well, they should discuss it with their doctor, who might be able to recommend a cosmetic practitioner. Even though they are only thinking of a minor cosmetic procedure (e.g. fillers, neurotoxins and the use of laser and energy devices), there are still possible side effects, such as infection, pain, bruising, dryness and stiffness.

The most popular forms of cosmetic surgery for men are rhinoplasty (nose) and blepharoplasty (eyelid); women’s top three are breast augmentation, liposuction and eyelift.

There are abundant online reports on poorly or incorrectly administered cosmetic procedures that resulted in lifetime scaring and long-term rashes.  So, when you look at your wrinkled or drooping eyelids in the mirror or on Zoom, Teams or Webex, weigh the pros and cons.

The skills, attitudes and behaviours of any teacher, supervisor, colleague, or service provider are more important than physical attributes; therefore, these should be harnessed first. Looking professional and presentable is a sign of respect for your students, colleagues, and collaborators. However, isn’t it a mistake to have a cosmetic procedure only to please others or attain career success?

 “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.” ― Coco Chanel (1883-1971, French fashion designer, businesswoman and founder of the Chanel brand).

*Why do we want to appear younger than our biological age? Age is only a number, and it is the quality of our daily experience that matters.

It could have been you

Football mania, here we go again.  My, my, how can I resist it?

Indeed, I can’t resist watching and talking about the 51 games of 24 national teams vying for the 2021 European Football Championship trophy (simply known as the UEFA Euro, scheduled initially in July last year but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

However, it is not the focus of this article. On 12 June 2021, Christian Eriksen collapsed during his Danish team’s match against Finland. According to media reports, the referee acted quickly by alerting medical staff, who administered promptly cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) treatment and took him to the nearest hospital in Copenhagen.

A CPR involves uninterrupted chest compressions of 100 to 120 a minute until paramedics arrive. It is a lifesaving technique necessary in emergencies, such as a heart attack or near-drowning experience. Although it can be done by untrained bystanders and first responders, I’m unsure of being able to do it.

Last September, on my way from work, I saw a man lying on a cemented ground. When I asked him what was wrong, I got no response. He didn’t move and kept his eyes shut.  It was one of those “Law of Murphy” days; my phone had run out of battery. I ran across the road and stopped a jogger, urging him to call the Service d’aide médicale urgente (SAMU – 15). “The man there isn’t breathing, and my phone is dead”.

He did not call emergency, but he came with me, dashing to the seemingly lifeless creature. He, too, did not apply CPR. However, he checked if the man was conscious or unconscious by tapping him on his shoulder and asked him loudly, “Are you OK?”

He fumbled in his pocket then dialled a number. It probably was less than 15 minutes since he had called the SAMU, but it felt like ages.  When I heard the loud siren coming from the eastern part of the city, I decided to leave, as I was late for my appointment with the City Hall to renew my French identity card.

Should I have applied CPR on him? The difference between doing something and nothing could be someone’s life, and I wish CPR was included in all school curricula in all nations. As well, all companies should have this in their staff workshop, training or development programme.

When the heart stops, our bodies do not get oxygen-rich blood, which causes brain damage in a few minutes; thus, time is the essence. The CPR can keep oxygen-rich blood flowing to the brain and other organs until emergency medical staff arrive and treatment is applied to restore a normal heart rhythm.

For untrained people, like me, it is primordial to remember the emergency number: 112 for Australia, all EU countries and some parts of Asia; 911 for North America and many US territories; and 999 for the UK and British overseas territories. It’s also useful to remember the Police’s (e.g. France – 17) and Fire Department’s (France – 18) phone numbers, as their dispatchers can instruct you in the proper procedures until help arrives.

Then, of course, there are many emergency apps that you can install on your cell/ mobile phone. (Cell – US. Mobile – Europe. In Australia, it’s “mobile”; but for my family and friends, it’s only “phone” because landlines have become a rare household commodity).  Phone apps are valuable when the unexpected happens, such as saving a life or surviving a disaster, and some of them are free.

(You could have been me, the man approached to help out, or the person lying on the ground)!

What’s behind a name?

I facilitate an English roundtable in Luxembourg every Friday, and we discuss professional, social and personal-interest topics. Last month, it was about names; one of the participants mentioned a girl initially called Nutella, a popular hazelnut chocolate spread. I checked it out and came across a Guardian’s article about a couple from Valenciennes in northern France who registered their daughter Nutella ( https://www.theguardian .com/world/2015/jan/26/french-couple-name-girl-nutella seen on 04/052021). The registrar alerted the local prosecutor, who referred the case to a family court judge. The court ruled that Nutella is a commercial brand and such a name was against the girl’s interests as it would cause “mockery or disobliging remarks”. The couple had to rename her Ella, which means a pleasant young woman.

According to Ms Catharine Smith (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/baby-named-facebook-egypt_n_825934 seen 04/05/21), an Egyptian father, Jamal Ibrahim, named his daughter “Facebook” to honour the social media site’s role in Egypt’s revolution. Ms Smith quoted this from TechCrunch newspaper: “A young man in his twenties wanted to express his gratitude about the victories the youth of 25th of January have achieved and chose to express it in the form of naming his firstborn girl “Facebook”. 

In Marcio’s Italian family, all the children’s names start with the letter M.  According to Marie-Pierre, her name’s male version is Pierre-Marie. The Arabic name Shadi means happiness. Do names reflect an individual’s personality? There are studies that show names make a difference in professional, social and financial standing.

My late uncle was Silverio Carangan, Sr. My cousins’ legal names are Silverio Carangan 1st, Silverio Carangan 2nd, and Silverio Caranagan 3rd; to everyone, they’re Ono, Dos, Tres.  I was already eight months pregnant, and my hubby and I couldn’t agree on a name for our firstborn. We decided to play chess; I won two out of three games and had the privilege of naming him Sidney, which is easy to pronounce in almost all languages.

My late parents, Roberto and Adela, named their first daughter Rodela; from this, they came up with four other names by rearranging the letters, and mine was one of them. If you know of another person with the same name as mine, please notify me. So far, the closest is Rolande and Rolanda, which are both of Latin origin and mean “known in the land”. My French acquaintances call me “Rolad” (/ruːˈlɑːd), as the last vowel is not pronounced in the French language. They also have a dish roulade (/ruːˈlɑːd) de boeuf“, which is a filled rolled meat.

S.J. Velasquez’s 2018 write-up spoke about nominative determinism, a theory that people are drawn to jobs matching their names, e.g. Baker for a pastry chef and Dennis or Denise for dentists (https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20180404-do-our-names-push-us-toward-certain-jobs). Two weeks ago, I grinned watching the French television station TF1’s interview of a restaurateur Didier Desert (“Desert” is pronounced by English speakers as ‘dɪˈzəːt’ (dessert – a sweet course eaten at the end of the main meal, e.g. cheesecake or chocolate mousse).

If you had a funny, weird or embarrassing name, would you change it? If your family name was Head, would you keep your first name Dick knowing that dickhead means a stupid or ridiculous man? You are probably one of those who would go through all the legal fuss to do so.  Many people, however, never change their names. Are there names that employers find, either subconsciously or sentimentally, attractive or ugly?

Ms Stéphanie Thomson’s article revealed the Canadian Ryerson University and University of Toronto’s finding that people with Chinese, Indian or Pakistani-sounding names were 28% less likely to get job interviews than the fictitious candidates with English-sounding names, even when they had the same qualifications (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/05/job-applications-resume-cv-name-descrimination/). Ms Thomson also mentioned a French government’s conclusion that employers were less likely to interview candidates with North African-sounding names. Likewise, in the UK, “an all-parliamentary group study from 2012 found that women who ‘whitened’ their names or made them sound more British had to send only half as many applications before being invited to interview as those who sounded foreign”, she wrote. 

Has our society progressed in terms of addressing bias and discrimination associated with names? Have you had a good or bad experience because of your name? What’s behind your name?

Training and Learning at Home

“The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.” – B.B. King (1925-2015, American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and record producer).

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented teleworking, including banks that used to disallow this for security reasons. In-person staff development training programme came to a halt for a while, then picked up virtually.

Staff development training is still arguably necessary in today’s world because competitiveness and changes are our society’s norms. Therefore, employers should continue providing this even during a lockdown or when their employees work from home. Governments in developed nations subsidise and consider such expense tax-deductible, which is an additional enticement. Though online training may not be cheaper as companies expect and more manageable as learners or participants like it to be, it is worthwhile.

Online training requires at least as much effort and time, and sometimes even more. Trainers need to buy or update their equipment, adjust their practices and style, and deal with disturbances from students’ family situations and technological hiccups. I have heard stories of participants cooking, texting, and feeding cats while on language training. It’s not the moment to multitask! I must admit that I cut my nails and did aerobics during boring webinars that did not allow participants to ask questions (guilty as charged!).

Virtual training can mirror only some face-to-face interactions (i.e. trainers going around the classroom and having water cooler conversation during breaks are impossible to reproduce).

How can teleworkers make the most of their online staff development training? My answer is WALPAH:

W –     Working technology – A (hu) “man is only as good as his tools” is especially true when you are training online: high-speed internet connection, a computer or modern laptop, camera, microphone headset, mouse, etc. (Do you say “I’ve two mouses or two mice? I.T. specialists seem to prefer the former, but the latter is correct, even if this sounds like you’ve pets instead of handheld devices on a flat surface in front of your computer).

A –      Avoid absences and late attendance (However, better late than never).

L –      Learning space should be quiet and tidy.

P –      Participate – ask questions and make comments to the trainer and other participants.

A –      Adapt your learning style – take notes, listen to everyone, read shared messages, and discuss personal views.

H –     Have fun – smile, share appropriate jokes and anecdotes.

How about trainers’ best practice? (I couldn’t come up with an acronym; perhaps you can help me with this).

1. Know and prepare your technology – Ensure a stable Internet connection, clean monitor, working camera and microphone, and mobile and laptop ready on the side in case the main computer fails.

2. Conduct the training in a quiet, disturbance-free and professional-looking environment.

3. Choose a platform that allows for interactivity – Use whiteboard annotations, chat and breakout groups (dividing learners into small groups of two or three).

4. Start the training by welcoming the participants, then providing them with a clear understanding of the session’s scope and content.

5. Meaningful experience – Call participants by their names. When the training is finished, encourage them to share contact information and continue improving their knowledge and skills.

Involve everyone throughout the training by prompting them to ask questions and share anecdotes and knowledge related to the activity.

6. Stick to the schedule – Your participants are professionals who have work and family commitments; therefore, start and end the session on time.

“For the best return on your money, pour your purse into your head.” Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790, stateman – helped draft the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution)

My FB account was hacked; Not Linkedin

A fortnight ago, I received a message from an acquaintance saying he believed my Facebook account was hacked.  There’s no compromising information in it, but I had to react quickly to make sure that this wouldn’t have consequences on my contacts.  I changed my password right away and posted a warning.

It was one of the “why me” moments. I should have paid attention to the red flags. Last February, I tried to open the message sent via Messenger by an American writing pal. It looked encrypted/coded, similar to the one sent by someone pretending to be me. I did tell him that I couldn’t open it, but he didn’t reply. I should have changed my password right away.

I had the same password for many years – too lazy to change it and thought I was a small, non-attention grabbing fish.

If you notice that a message has been sent that you didn’t write, you have been hacked. I’ve heard stories of hackers changing people’s email addresses, passwords, or birthdays.

How is this unethical and illegal behaviour carried out? 1. Using stored password on FB making life easier in the short-term but a security issue in the long term. 2. The hackers “fish” for your information by creating a Facebook main page’s look-alike and asking you to log in. When you enter your email and password, this information is automatically recorded for future use.  3. A software or virus that records and steals information has been installed in your device, without your knowledge.

Don’t leave your device – cell phone, laptop, etc. – unattended, don’t trust public networks, and always log out after using Facebook.  These have been my social media principles; yet, I was hacked, which gave me a headache and sleepless night. I felt like someone had stolen something personal and of value from me.

How about Linkedin accounts? Yes, they can be hacked too. Dean Seddon’s 13th January 2020’s article “How to protect your Linkedin account from being hacked” advises us to:

  1. Link our phone to our Linkedin account and turn on two-step verification, as this “will limit the use of the account and a hacker’s ability to change or access your account from unfamiliar locations. When you log in from a new device or unfamiliar location, Linkedin will send you an SMS with a verification code, limiting the potential use of the hacked account”. You can use this link https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/answer/544/turn-two-step-verification-on-and-off?lang=en
  2. Not open any PDF project proposal. Session cookies allow hackers to access your account using your current Linkedin session. “That unexpected Google Drive doc, Dropbox link or PDF which is sent to you from a connection. You’ll get a message like ‘Hi Dean, I would love you to take a look at this project proposal and give me some costs’”. If you do open this, “you’ll lose your access and find that your Linkedin account will start messaging people ‘confidential project proposals’ too”.
  3. Have a password that is complicated and not easily guessed.

Better be careful and secure than sorry later.