28 February 2010

A Thousand Words

From a friend:

27 February 2010

From the Trenches

Interviews with Those Who Service I First in a Series

How a former Executive Assistant to a Senior Vice President at Polo Ralph Lauren survived, and even managed to grow.

What services did you provide at Polo?
I supported the Senior VP in whatever capacity was required. Functions ranged from being administrative to retail, wholesale, merchandising to production driven.

Were positions as yours ones where one could advance his/her career from?
I think movement within the organization is complicated. I believe that to a certain degree, it's human nature to pigeon-hole people and their abilities. However, in more general terms, I think an individual's will and determination are equally if not more influential than a title when it comes to job advancement.

Was there an established mentorship philosophy at the company?
I don't believe there was a deeply rooted mentorship philosophy within the company. I think mentoring was
evident on more of a case-by-case scenario. Shouldn't mentoring be a given for any company regardless of
its size?

Ralph Lauren employs a lot of people, and not just in New York. How did you learn and manage to
navigate your way through such a large organization?
I was able to navigate my way around Polo by continuously asking questions and developing key relation-
ships. Flexibility and diplomacy were once again imperative in dealing with the diverse personalities, coupled
with maintaining an appropriate level of distance. Furthermore, a conscientious choice of not engaging in
office politics proved to be valuable.

Tell me about the Human Resources department at Polo. How did they contribute to your
professional growth?
I had absolutely no personal interaction with the HR division during my time with the organization.

That's surprising. What do you feel was the perception by them or the company in general of the
Honestly, I'm not sure but there was a clear hierarchical structure that made itself present on a daily basis.

Did HR check-in with you during your tenure there?
Not that I can recall, but only when I had my exit interview.

What about employee annual reviews? Were they helpful?
Well this is an interesting topic, particularly considering all of the paperwork involved. Personally, I wouldn't
say annual reviews were life-changing. And my review only involved my manager.

Then, did your interaction with your superior contribute to your professional growth?
In my case, my interaction with my manager definitely contributed to my growth. I appreciated having a manager who believed in mentoring and who encouraged me to be exposed to the various facets of the business. I don't believe this is common-place. At the end of the day, isn't it all about learning, collaborating and

What would you have done differently at Polo knowing what you know today?
In retrospect, I would have been more venturous and taken more initiative.

Should this have been more encouraged by the organization?
Perhaps yes, but I'm not sure it's feasible considering the size, scope and structure of the organization.

What satisfaction did you have in return from your job?
Personally and professionally, it was a great and satisfying learning experience, which allowed me to identify my strengths and also my weaknesses. Furthermore, my previous job allowed me to better determine my
future career path and goals as far as the type of organization, position and environment I would like to

Why did you decide to resign?
It has always been my intention to pursue a Masters degree and challenge myself academically.

Did your experience at Polo open doors for you?
I believe so, but I also believe it is truly up to oneself to determine what happens next.

15 February 2010

Speechless, and Cardless

Drukkerij Joachimsthal Printer, Amsterdam

An E-mail exchange:


I compared the business cards that you gave me yesterday and they are exactly the same as the first batch.

I can see through to the backside of the card.

As a printer, he should have known if the card stock was too thin.

I would like a refund since it is unsatisfactory work.

Please advise -

Thank you.
- - -

"Hi Marisa

I have spoke to the printer about your cards.

According to him the cards are oke and therefore he will not give a refund.



Soap or Burrito?

Fresh (bath and body products brand), Columbus Avenue store, New York

The tissue paper used to wrap my purchase reads:
"chicken burrito: with chopped tomatoes"

Career Information on www.fresh.com:
"Fresh is committed to hiring new and diverse talent. We are always on the lookout for candidates who possess a strong work ethic, passion for the industry, enthusiasm for the brand, and the drive to succeed!"

11 February 2010


Gendarmerie Restaurant, Berlin

"How is the filet of beef prepared?"
"There's the plate, with the filet on top."

A Thousand Words

art supply store, Soho, London

10 February 2010

A Shanghai Homecoming

Din Tai Fung, Shanghai

Immediately noticeable were the welcome smile of the hostess, the cleanliness of the restaurant and the precision by which the staff at Din Tai Fung functioned. And this is a chain restaurant with international locations in Singapore, Australia, China and Los Angeles.

Founded in Taiwan as a steamed dumpling shop, its most popular item remains the pork dumpling inspired by the Shanghai soup dumpling. It was only fitting that if I go to a Taiwanese restaurant in Shanghai, I would have to try the "local" dish. Delicious is a banal description. Authentic is an unchallenged declaration.

Hot bamboo steamers and bowls of noodles on trays held by waiters filed out from the glass windowed kitchen like ants exiting their ant hole. There was a constant flow of orders with no lull in sight.

It is clear that the training of the staff remains a high priority for the brand. Each member walked deliberately with objectives per his or her responsibilities to service the best they could. The uniforms were crisp and clean. Various colors denoted rank from hostess, manager, order-taker, server/clearer and chefs. The efficient computerized ordering system not only kept the ants in line but also delivered the bill in little time.

Din Tai Fung’s website notes that they have turn overs every 40 minutes due to their investment in the electronic ordering system which allows almost no mistakes from the customer to the kitchen. And every menu item is prepared when an order is placed. It also states their 'Service Philosophy" that:

"At Din Tai Fung, we put the customer's needs first. This is both what we aim to deliver and strive to achieve. Our highest expression of service philosophy is to meet customer's expectations before they have even voiced them. "

Imagine a fast food restaurant where you can be served with punctual, efficient and friendly service, and food that is fresh and tasty. This should not be a revolution. This should be standard.


08 February 2010

A Thousand Words

London Taxi
(Crystal clear, with humour)

05 February 2010


Ping Pong Dim Sum, London

"I'd like to have a tea. Which would you recommend?"
"If you want to lose weight, I suggest this Oolong tea."