Thursday, November 10, 2011

#6 Reflection on the course

Reflecting back on my initial motivation to take this module, I can confidently say that I have gained more than I expected to. (If you cannot recall, you can refer to my blogpost #1. If you are too lazy to, well… basically I wanted to improve my verbal communication skills, in particular to be able to effectively articulate my thoughts and intentions into words.)

In what sense have I gained more than what I hoped to? I did learn how to better communicate with others verbally. But more than that, I believe I have also learnt how to communicate appropriately and effectively, whether non-verbally or in writing, and in different contexts. For purposes of this post however, I will share my reflections on what I have learnt from giving presentations.

Presentations are nothing new to me, but the rubrics for this module demanded something more from me (not implying it is a bad thing!) The first “presentation” we did was the business story-telling. I received my first comment that moved too much (as mentioned in my blogpost #5).

The next was peer teaching. Preparation of content was not difficult, because we were given links to the relevant resources. I enjoy sharing and talking, so I thought it would be comfortable for me. However, based on peer feedback, I gestured too much, and was too repetitive in the points I made. And again, I received the same constructive feedback – I move too much!

The same feedback was shared to me when I did the elevator pitch and the mock oral presentation. I realized it was a very bad habit of mine. Also, as I have mentioned, I tend to beat around the bush, or say the same thing in different forms (thinking that I have not illustrated my point well enough for others to understand).

However, it only served to me improve in my presentation skills. I learnt to be more mindful of my posture, and the words that I say. I start to be more attentive to these bad habits when I practiced for my oral presentation. I practiced in front of the mirror and in front of my friends. I wrote scripts so that I would not repeat the same points, but keep them clear and concise. And I think my effort did pay off for the final oral presentation.

Even though this module has come to an end, I don’t think my learning is done. I believe by intentional practice and with more constructive feedback from others, I can only become a better presenter: someone that engages the audience and effectively brings her intended message across.

Cheers to ES2007S, Professional Communication!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Good idea for presentation preparation?

I know our oral presentation is over already, but I just suddenly thought of a method we could use to prepare for future presentations! But first things first - sources of my inspiration:

I remember how my sister used to prepare for her countless presentations and interviews (she's from SMU, haha)
Grab some stuffed toys. (animals or dolls - those with eyes)
Line them on the table, all facing toward her.
Present her "speech" to them!

This helps to practice eye-contact!

Also, people often say it is good to practice in front of the mirror.
This helps you see how you gesture/talk and appear.

And so... My idea is:

Grab some stuffed toys.
Line them in front of the mirror (facing the mirror)
Practice your presentation in front of the mirror.

So you get to look at yourself, plus practice eye contact with the stuffed toys!
Quite cool huh?
I will try that next time. :P

#5 Reflection on Oral Presentation

The mock oral presentation definitely helped me and my team gauge the quality of our presentation. Although I had prepared a script for my part, I had no inkling of what the rest of the team was planning to say. With no coordination, I believe it was a disaster.

However, from there, we saw the urgency to be well-prepared. We reorganized our parts, discussed what we each would cover, and went back to craft our own scripts/points. Then we emailed each other our scripts, did a mock run-through together, identified overlaps or discrepancies in content, and revised what we were going to say.

So more meetings followed as we settled on our audiovisuals, the style and mood we wanted for our presentation, and practiced our presentation together. Also, it was very helpful that we gave each other feedback as we practiced together. My bad habit of stepping forward and backward is just one of the constructive comments I received for me to work on when I practiced my part on my own.

For the presentation itself – I believe I appeared confident about the benefits I was proposing; a good pacing of words and an appropriate stance (not moving as what I normally do). I tried emphasizing on words for messages that was important to convey, but I think it went both ways – I sounded passionate, yet artificial (as if I memorised a script). I made it a point too to establish eye contact – not just glance left and right.

I believe the slide graphics/pictures were used appropriately as well. For example, the multi-purpose usage of rooms was illustrated with a swissknife: one device (discussion room), many functions (uses).

However, I think I stumbled over my words at times where I had to click the change the slides, especially towards the end – I don’t think I am very good at multi-tasking! In future, I think I need to practice more with the audiovisuals that I will be using.

Also, I don't think I did very well for the Q&A - I went back to speaking the very "Noelle" style, which was quite informal, and I know I started my tip-toeing/ moving forward and backward again. Old habits die hard. :(

In general, I felt that I had prepared sufficiently for my oral presentation, both individually and with my team. Thus I think I managed to do a pretty decent job in delivering our proposal, and hopefully have successfully convinced our class!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Job interview questions and tips

Sorry for the delay!

I was thinking of having a whole list of common interview questions, but I decided that I will just post a link to the Oxford Careers website which has a lot more useful information!

Preparing for Discussion:
Remember the 5 'O's I highlighted during the peer teaching presentation?
Here is the link for the questions to ask yourself based on the different sections.
As a recap, they are:
1. Own self-knowledge
2. Occupational knowledge
3. Organisational/sector knowledge
4. On-going/current affairs
5. Objective questions to ask

Navigate around the Oxford Careers website for more useful information, like the post-interview details - handling offers or rejection.

Hope it is useful!
Cheers :)

Friday, September 30, 2011

#4 Evaluating Intercultural Behaviour

My paternal relatives are Chinese Malaysians; my father and his siblings all grew up and lived in Sugai Siput (a small town in one of the districts of the Perak state). While my father married my Singaporean mother and settled in Singapore, most of his siblings started their families and continued living in Malaysia.

It was Chinese New Year, and my family was at my grandmother’s place in Sugai Siput about to have a steamboat reunion dinner. All the mothers were busy preparing the ingredients for the steamboat… All the mothers, except one. My mother was watching television with my father, along with all the other fathers. The house was filled with hearty conversations, and no one mentioned anything about this odd scenario.

However, I felt discomfited that my mother may be giving a bad impression by not helping out in the food preparation with all the other mothers. In fact, I felt ashamed, afraid that my relatives may view my mother as arrogant as she seemed nonchalant about her actions (or rather, her lack of action). So I went over to my mother and whispered my concerns to her.

“Oh, it’s O.K. All along, I have never helped out before, and they know I don’t do such things. I’m the only wife who doesn’t know how to help out in the kitchen!” My mother replied, with a slight hint of bemusement at herself.


This scenario highlights the different cultural norms with regards to the role of the mother in a family. My mother was a working mother; kitchen work was left to our domestic helpers. The other mothers were homemakers; kitchen work was typical as one of their “duties”. My relatives’ have a more traditional approach towards the function of a family, which is unlike that of Singapore where it is not uncommon to have mothers who don’t cook.

Based on what my mother said, I believe that there was a mutual understanding about the differences in culture. Being aware of such, there was also some sort of acceptance towards this difference which enabled everyone to have “hearty conversations” and communicate well with each other.

However, to give it further thought, my interpretation is based on only what I see on the surface and hear from my mother. There might be a possibility that my aunts may be baffled by my mother’s lack of involvement in food preparation each time. Can it be just be because my relatives consider being modest is more polite than expressing one’s opinion, and thus did not bring up their concerns?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

#3 Job Application Letter

Email subject header: Mechanical Designs Engineer Position Application

September 10, 2011

Teh Xiaowen Noelle
123 Pet Avenue
Singapore 123456
+65 98765432

Dear Hiring Manager,

I am expressing my interest in the above mentioned position as advertised online at Jobstreet.

I will be graduating from National University of Singapore (NUS) with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and a specialization in Product Design come May 2012, thus I believe I possess the necessary product development knowledge, innovative design skills and enthusiasm to be a Mechanical Design Engineer in your company.

In the course of my study at NUS, I have gained relevant knowledge and skills in mechanical designs and processes, product management, and 3D modeling with SolidWorks. My previous coursework projects include conceptualizing and designing an electric bike for urban use, and designing and prototyping a grocery trolley which doubles up as a walker for the elderly. For my degree dissertation, I am currently working on the design of a rotator cuff spacer for an orthopedic surgeon at National University Hospital. To ensure its feasibility, I modeled the spacer using Mimics (a medical modeling software) to produce prototypes for testing and ran simulated tests to analyze the stresses and mechanics involved.

Furthermore, I have successfully led and managed committees in organizing youth camps, and have achieved several awards representing NUS in sports. These accomplishments demonstrate the importance of team spirit, cooperation and enthusiasm for success, and I believe that I can bring these qualities to your company.

In review of Novo Design’s objectives to generate unique and iconic design whilst leveraging on engineering and technology, I feel that my strengths and skills will be an asset to the company. I am eager to speak with you to discuss the possible contributions that I can bring to your company. I can be reached in confidence at any of the above contact information. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,
Ms Noelle Teh

Link to job advertisement:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

#2 Resolving Interpersonal Conflict

As a preface to my account of a conflict, I am declaring myself as the fussiest eater I’ve ever known. Unless you know me well and long enough, to describe what I do or do not eat will probably require you to read my encyclopaedia of “Noelle’s Food Preferences” – if I ever have one.

When I was in Nottingham for SEP last semester, I made a new friend who asked me out for lunch. It was very hospitable of her because I didn’t know many people or the places there. Before our lunch-date, she asked me about my food preferences and I told her simply that I didn’t fancy food with lots of sauces.
She brought me to a Latin restaurant. Having the impression that Latin food was full of spices and sauces, I was initially quite hesitant. However, I did not make my thoughts known to her because I did not want to make things difficult. Thankfully, while the menu’s features were Tapas and Fajitas (dishes full of dips and sauces!), there were other options available for my liking.

But then, our conflict came: she asked me if I would like to share some Tapas with her. I declined without explaining at first, but she kept insisting, so I told her that I didn’t like such food. She might have had assumed that I was very weight-conscious, because she started sharing her opinion on what one can afford to eat whilst being young, and cautioned me about my supposed diet! I was quite offended and contended with what she said. Although we seemed to exchange our differing opinions with polite words, I could feel the tension between us.

In the end, I did share Tapas with her – but eating it was agony for me. I think she may have concluded that I don’t like to eat. Actually, I absolutely adore eating, but the food must suit my picky palette! That is my problem, but I am not sure how much I can or should compromise in such situations (of which I often encounter). Any thoughts, anyone?