Social media as advocacy tool

Today, I was veryyyyy fortunate to participate in Rappler’s “Social Media for Social Good” campaign. I have been (super) wanting to attend this workshop , but, I end up not attending (either due to work or something else).

The workshop emphasized how we can make us of our social media accounts to promote our cause. In our case, it’s promoting rice-based researches all over the world. There were a lot of takehome messages. The bonus is that, Maria Ressa was one of the speakers and it was such an joy (an early Christmas gift, if I may say), to hear her deliver a talk/presentation. It hit right into my gut. Everything she said and the rest of the Rappler team said were very useful for us, as Science Communicators and enthusiasts (I’d rather fall on the latter category).

One of the key things mentioned in the workshop is that “Advocacy communicaiton starts with YOU.” It means you would be a communication tool to get the institute’s message out there. So it is very important that your purpose is aligned to the organization’s vision in order for you to say things effectively– that caters to the mind and to the heart.

One question, however, is “Are you ready to merge your personal life with work?” After all, we were told it is best to have one account name for your all social media accounts. In my case, I use my real name on Facebook, but my pseudonym on the rest of my social media accounts. This is because I want to keep my narcississtic tendencies to myself. I am like, opening a Pandora box out there, opening my heart to multi-million online readers.

If I merge my Instagram, Twitter, and other accounts with my FB account,that means increasing the use of my social media accounts for work, and less narcissistic bouts for me. I am still wrapping my head around the idea, but I think, in a couple of weeks, I would find it doable.

Kids invading the workplace

Today, we were invaded by some six to seven year old children, who had their field trip at IRRI. We always entertaining visitors from all walks of life, but this is the first time we handled children—and not just children, from a kindergarten class!

Imagine a horde of 20 plus, infinitely curious kids who could be rambunctious, ferocious, and naughty. We even role played that I would be the strict elder sister who would just shout “Quiet!” to children.

But then, all of these imaginary “terrorist” attacks dissipated the moment these children walked into our ordinarily quiet space. I was actually feeling nervous as they came in closer to our office. I remember our professor in Scientific and Technical Communication class, Dr. Tere Velasco, asked us, her Development Communication graduate students, “Choose a scientific theory and explain it to an eight year old child.”

I forgot what I have written in that exam, but now, I am more nervous because how the heck can I explain Postharvest process, or machines for that matter,to children, when the last time I was able to babysit a child was ten years ago? (Students, take your Graduate School exam questions to heart).

But then, I was fortunate to have my engineer colleagues with me, who happens to have children (well, one of them. The other is a bachelor, so we felt a bit intimidated with kids. Yeah, we’re that intimidated). Being a parent is quite an advantage because you would have the explanation how to explain an abstract concept to children. What would make them feel interested the most, but to let them see how rice is polished? So, my officemate showed the children how it’s done, and I feel pleased how curious children were. Quoting an Entomologist I recently interviewed, that sometimes, it’s more fun to teach three to six year old kids; “You just have to know how handle their erratic attention span.”

Kids, are always cute, and they are even cuter if they are curious. I hope that the children who visited us today had fun (I heard they planted rice), and learned a lot.

We’re thinking of switching on the laser leveling to reveal the beam it emits (for sending land leveling signals), so we could earn more “COOL!” expressions from the kids. I sincerely hope one of them becomes an Agricultural Engineer, or an Agriculturist someday. For now, I feel contented that they had the time of their lives to climb up a mini tractor and pretend they could drive it (If I have my own child, I would be really thrilled for him/her).

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Kids are forever adorable to me. 

the no-weekend weekend

Oh yeah, there are a couple of things to do…merely a few days left before I head off to Cambodia and VietNam. When people hear that I will travel, they always have this “Buti ka pa” (Oh, lucky you) expression. And I always reply “You. just. have. no. idea”

Oh don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate my job. I love it, especially the travelling that comes along with it. It’s just that when you travel for official matters, majorly, it’s not a bed of roses just what everybody think it is. Especially with what I do.

When a boss tells me that I will join a travel abroad, usually, it’s for a workshop. And being a Project Assistant, I get the nickname “mother goose of the event.” It means I have to take care of everything–booking the plane tickets, securing visas for the attendees, contacting the invitees, drafting the invitation letter….wait can I just attach my resume?

Kidding aside, travelling for official matters means that you don’t get the leisure that you want or everybody may expect it to be. I am the first one to get up, and the last one to hit the sack. If I get lucky enough, I get to have a meeting with the boss to ensure the next day’s event would go smoothly. And on the event itself, you make sure everybody is there, everybody gets refunded for their taxis or meals or plane tickets. I remember booking my Filipino, Cambodian and Vietnames participants in separate hotels (we booked too late and was not able to billet them in one lodging), I have to coordinate with the front desk of the hotel to get my Cambodian and Filipino participants taxis for airport and conference venue drop off.  And not everyone speaks English fluently, it has to be a mix of verbal and non-verbal communication, which works best (I remember a co-worker and I used to literally act out in front of  a hotel receptionist in Ho Chi Minh to book us in a separate room) sometimes. This time, it has to be over the phone, so I have to grab a Vietnamese participant and have him talk to the taxi driver and hotel front desk officer. While the bus is moving. And I don’t have to look panicky (when in fact, I’m a bit hypocondriac 😀 blame the 33% Judging personality blood in me).

During the workshop, you make sure you gave your participants the best venue, food, and services that they will get. It may sound stressful, but the satisfaction of getting a sincere “thank you” from the participants is just so priceless. Being on board in an international organization for just a few years, there’s still a lot to learn. And so far, the lessons are hard-hitting enough not be valued or leave a dent in my head. Being the perfectionist and cautious that I am, I learned to let go, embrace mistakes, and ensure it won’t happen the second time around. I learned to lessen my hypocondriac persona as life is a series of mistakes that turns into lessons, that turns into wisdom.

One of the best thing about this job is that after the event, yeah, you get to breathe and relax. You can throw the event away from your mind (else you need to work on the proceedings, but that’s another story). While the participants (that was ensured to have the best food, venue, and services) are pressured to write a paper or trip report about the workshop. I remember in one of my trips in Hanoi, I was able to rest for one day and walk around the water puppet theater in Hanoi. But most days, I don’t have the time (I still haven’t gone to Ho Chi Minh monument when I got there in 2008). But I just leave it as an indicator that I have to return. And the second time would always be a more relaxed one.

And yeah, the second best thing is meeting new people. Immersing into new culture. Something that you get to bring back to your home and makes you appreciate life more. Some little stories to tell kids and peers. Some little stories to put into this blog. Some experiences to thank God for.

So rather than looking forward to the new place (which is secondary), I look forward more to the new lessons I will learn (that will enable my cousin to exclaim “Lo and behold!” again) that will turn into wisdom.

So…back with the Cambodia and VietNam thing again. I have four days to complete everything. And on top of this, I have a Philippine meeting (National Level) to oversee. I missed the pressure, and so God gave me this. There is just no second best to this.

[pagoda cold wave lotion]

This day is mentally tiring. I feel like a week’s worth of energy has been sucked out of me. For the past 48 hours, I feel like I haven’t been doing anything right. There’s the Hanoi workshop I’m organizing, the Rice Congress I’m assisting with (which includes some materials development), and the Poster that I have to do (for self-development thing). The problem with me, the moody person, is that I lie in the extremes: I deliver better when I’m in a good mood and I tend to mess up things when I’m pressured. I can deliver, but not the excellent output that I hope I could get; and when that happens, it frustrates me.

There’s still a list of to-do things that sits in the dark accumulating with cobwebs and waiting for attention. Maybe I suck in time management; or maybe I am wishing to be doing something else which I am not sure I am capable of; or maybe I am simply making a stupid excuse of being the best in not doing anything right.

It’s “just a job”, at the end of the day, but I don’t want to treat this day to day encounter to be a job but a gift, something that I will feel that I am giving my best and getting the feeling that I am getting an equal result. A social routine that enhances my interpersonal and negotiating skills. An analytical task that challenges my cognitive skills. Today, my love for myself has decreased for a few notches and I turn into second-guessing myself again. If I said something wrong, in my effort to be in my best form; hindi ko na alam. It’s tiring to be always conscious. When I tell people that I am unproductive they say, “Akala mo lang unproductive ka kasi hindi mo nakuha ‘yung gusto mong resulta.” Could be true.

I think I should just go home and call it a day.

The virgin employee in Performance appraisal

This afternoon was quite productive. I just had my Individual Performance and Development (IPaD); sort of a performance-appraisal from our institute. It aims to level off the expectations from the supervisor and the employee; in my case, what am I being expected of in lieu of our unit’s goals.

Though I am just a newbie in this institute, I still need a concrete definition how to proceed in terms of our small unit and the whole institute’s goals.

So I jotted some of the objectives; some things that I felt I needed to do for the rest of the year. My boss is very patient with a stingy employee like me. I admitted that this is my first time that I will be talking to my boss and iron out gaps, and design career challenges for me. As a two month-old employee in an international organization, I feel I have to adjust; a relatively big adjustment. The IPaD manual that I read says that I have to set SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reliable and Time-bound). Since this is my first time to be in an performance appraisal activity, my boss slowly walked me through the process. In my end, here are some things that I did so the discussion will go as smoothly as possible.

Set your goal early on. In my case, as an Administrative Coordinator, I have set on my goal to make my boss’ life easier. This is something that I cleared from him as soon as we sat down, and asked him to walk me through how he wanted me to make his life easier. I told him that my purpose of being on-board is to make everyone’s life, especially his, easier. So that we can smoothly implement the project.  On top of everything, it has to be the project and the proponents.

Discuss issues encountered with boss. I have a small notebook wherein I wrote the issues I have encountered and I discussed the learnings I got from dealing with it; I also gave due credits to those who helped me along the way. My mom early on told me to do this, so it will serve as a discussion guide for me and my boss. True enough, some hidden issues surfaced and I was able to articulate it. I discussed all the things that I’ve learned from the most difficult task that I encountered and we both reach an agreement to do certain things when specific problems arises.

If there is any personal issue, bring it out. As an employee and in a diverse and more open environment, I feel that I can easily express my views here than when I was in the University. Maybe the fact that I am in an international organization, it sort of created a platform for open mindedness.  I brought out my issues to my boss, which will seem to affect me in the future so that I will get his advice how to handle it in the future. When in the first day, one employee seemed not to sit well with the idea that I edited his letter, I told my boss in this session. It’s because one employee’s attitude may hamper what I am expected to do; because I only do what is being asked of me: reviewing my terms of reference, I am expected to edit, proofread and enhance project documents and letter is a project document. If it continues, I won’t be able to perform my job well. My boss said to deal with it, and makisama na lang. Case closed. I can now move on.

Individual development plans. The IPaD has section for individual development. And so this is my chance to tell my boss how I do things in the University and how these tasks are important to me to be able to do my job efficiently. Like attending simple meetings, I immediately said that I appreciate that I am being asked to sit down during meetings because I become well-versed with the project; and the more I am well-versed, the more I won’t be needing much supervision from anybody else; the lesser burden for my boss to answer simple questions that are below his level. I have always put in mind that my goal is to make my boss’ life easier; and to know more is to make his life easier. I guess when things are like this way, the boss appreciates your idea and future effort.

Emphasize the importance of communication. As we are reflecting things, I told my boss that I always come to him personally so that I can break barriers. The more open I am with him, the more I can work effectively and vice-versa. I was even tempted to tell him not to be afraid to vent out his frustrations; because that’s how my former boss do. He vents his frustration and so I become more sensitive how to relay important information to our collaborators. I know where he is coming from and this will smoothen the communication flow between him and the other party; with me mediating.

Next post, hopefully, I can post the SMART objectives I have come up with.

After this objective-setting session, I will be evaluated at the end of the year; so better come up with SMART objectives soon.

When ATM goes wrong and it’s Monday

My friend, Sharlene and I just got into IRRI months ago (well, as for me, last month). Me, ever so excited to finally get an on time salary (that is, at the 15th; at IRRI, you can even get it on the 14th). It gives a seemingly eternal bliss to get your paycheck ON TIME, for someone like me who defines on time as at most 5 days after the payday.

Well, that’s what I thought for the first month of my stay. I’m now on the second month, about to receive my third paycheck. Although we have our own ATM unit inside the Institute, the machine goes on a hibernating mode WHEN IT’S ABOUT TIME and when you’ve got baryables left on your pocket.

So my friend Sha wanted to withdraw cash from the machine this morning, but, because it’s five days before payday, the ATM went on a hibernating mode again; or, I’d say, it slipped into coma. Oblivious to the forthcoming fury of x number of IRRI employees.

So what else will be left for us, Purita Mirasols, the cash strapped society of IRRI? Sha and I agreed that the notice board should be at least made creative; don’t limit it to the “machine unavailable” or “OFFLINE” only. There are several options to say that, simply, we have to remain cash strapped. Maybe the management can try any of the following next time it bogs down:

Machine recuperating

Machine moving on

Machine fixing a broken heart (insert a dead man with superimposed crying heart)

Mga pobre, uwi!

Ayaw niyo ba ng aking puri? Pera lang ba talaga ang hanap niyo sa akin?

Machine hesitating

Machine in identity crisis (hindi niya alam kung siya ba ay talagang offline o sira na talaga)

“Bro, sana po magkapera na ang sambayanang IRRI-Santino”

Emo mode

Machine in Coma; talk to it while you can, it can hear you, though

From IRRI Employee to ATM: Flat line na nga ang puso ko, pati ba naman ang wallet ko?

In case of worst case scenario, what will be left of us is to bring crown of flowers to this poor ATM machine with a phrase that reads “It will take a lifetime for us to be okay-alaala ng mga empleyado ng IRRI”

There you go,  more suggestions are welcome. The next time we pass by the IRRI ATM, we know what to post, at least to insert craziness in a hectic day. It’s another Manic Monday,  that may overspill throughout the week.  I have to stretch my less-than five hundred moolah until payday.