the week that was 30th – 4th May 2018
Singapore, Weekend 5-6th May 2018
Always expect the unexpected…
The week started as unexpected as you can imagine…hardly an hour into the office on Monday morning, our street was hit with a power failure. But while our laptops have a battery and allow us to continue, lights, internet, landlines and air-conditioning stopped working making work rather difficult. We kept our patience for a while as lights and power came back on at times only to fail again after a little while. When a big truck arrived with what looked like a new switchboard cabinet, we got the message and many moved to the nearby Starbucks Café to continue working in a more pleasant environment. I gladly offered for the company to pay for coffees and snacks… When it became clear that power would not be back anytime soon, most decided to head home also with the knowledge that Tuesday (1st May) was a public holiday. Always expect the unexpected…😊
The public holiday was reluctantly but also thankfully (nice and quiet) used by me to put together a complex RFP tender submission for the lighting consultancy for a large-scale project in KL, due by this Fridays deadline. As it had to be physically (hard copies) delivered in Kuala Lumpur we had to make sure it was ready to be couriered by Wednesday. By the end of the day my input for the basic submission documents were all ready for final editing and formatting and I gladly sent it out for the team to complete the submission packages.
Spending a lot of speculative time in preparing submission documents is a decision that is not made lightly. Just because we are keen to get a job does not mean that we accept whatever is thrown at us in terms of submission deliverables. Specifically, after I had read through the hundreds of briefing document pages (more than half with no direct relation to lighting!) I was kind of sceptical about this (new) client. However, the tender interview conference call we had last week appeased me enough to decide to make the effort. Also, the preferred operator lined up for the project is a good friend and I know I can count on his support and recommendation…
Through my China connections I also received a WeChat request to travel at my earliest convenience to Hangzhou (preferably in the next day or so!) at my own costs to meet with a retail chain owner that wanted to meet me before confirming I would get the job to develop a lighting concept for all his stores in China…sounds very attractive right? It would require me to pay for a return ticket Hangzhou including one hotel night, without any guarantee he would actually “give” me the job…My experience is that they love (the idea of) engaging a foreign designer, but most of the time when we start talking about the fees it falls in the water so to speak. So even if the Hangzhou trip expenses are not dramatic in the scheme of things, the uncertainty of success and in my case the time squeeze requirement (basically drop everything and go there) was not really something making me jumping with joy. So I played it a bit differently, keeping the communication going, acknowledging the need to meet (at one point in time), sharing key lighting design considerations of relevance he had not thought of to make him think and confirm the importance of engaging a lighting designer and building up the communication line for information exchange first. I had not even seen any of his shops so at least some pictures and plans would be a fair request before dashing of in the unknown! This approach now seem to work well and as I write this blog the communication line is still in progress, I now have a good feel of what he wants and I can give a fee indication first before I decide to make the trip, or if not me, one of my senior (Chinese speaking designers). If he accepts the fee direction and proposed scope of work at least I will feel more confident that a trip will harvest some good 😊
Our quest for partners in LDoT is continuing and on Wednesday morning (Tuesday late in the USA) I had a lengthy conference call with the executive management of one of our potential IoT partners, a reputable American based lighting control manufacturer. As we are discussing in confidentiality I can not go in details, but it was exciting to hear that we are pretty much on the same page in regards to lighting (design) and the IoT. While present in Frankfurt where I had my initial discussions with them, they had refrained of showing any IoT systems preferring to look around first to see who is doing what while their IoT kitchen is developing recipes at full swing. We have agreed to sign an NDA to further exchange confidential information. With many of our projects potentially a case for implementation of IoT systems, I can’t wait to see what could be possible with this partner in the near future!
Celebrating my birthday with my trusted team at the office was a real pleasure this week. They work so hard throughout the year that being able to just being with them (and not somewhere traveling in a far-away country as has happened often over the years) was really nice. They are sort of my extended family! I will have the opportunity to celebrate my birthday with my “real” kids later this month when I go for my annual leave in France together with my Mum who the day before mine reached the respectable age of 90! Well done Mum, I hope I have your genes and will still drive a car and play golf like you do at that age!
An article in the Singapore Strait Times about disappearing jobs just made me think how quickly our world is evolving. We now live in a world with AI, 3-D printing, driverless cars, robots and drones, virtual reality, social media and fake news and more. For today’s generation perhaps “normal” but for my generation, born in the fifties, when this all sounded like science fiction, it is quite an assault on our mind…just trying to comprehend what it all means and how it impacts our daily life… The artisanal art of making neon tubes for instance is about to disappear, who still makes them? Everything is LED today. So when I read about a new start-up creating a new type of light source, with investments from amongst others, big boys like Amazon, I checked it out. Finally Bulbs they are called, you can find more at finallybulbs.com and if you believe the descriptions, the lights are better than LED, warmer, more efficient, longer life! IKEA for instance seem keen to sell them in their stores. They just have one type but are apparently making a killing with millions sold already!
But also the job of lighting designer as we know it today is on the verge of radical change to allow it to survive. We need to acknowledge that the world is changing and if anything, realise that this change is happening much faster then we might anticipate! Finding the balance between practicing our lighting design as we know it today and adapting to the changes created by the IoT world arriving on our shores is probably the biggest challenge we face today…
The one cent cheque!
Finally something that seemed out of this world today, nothing to do with lighting but typical nevertheless. All lighting designers have bank accounts! Last week I had closed a personal account I had with HSBC and this week (on my birthday actually) I received a cheque for…yes 1 cent! I checked and double checked, but yes it was 1 cent. Some over zealous computer program I assume, had calculated that I was still owed 1 cent (interest I guess) and decided to spent money (writing a letter, printing the letter and issuing a cheque, then putting it in an envelope and post mailing it to me) to make sure they were not indebted to me…the time and money involved! Interestingly when I cleared out the account last week, the amount owed to me ended with 29 cents. When they handed the amount to me I received it with 25 cents. When I asked about it they said they rounded it off! When I argued it should then be 30 cents, they said it was against the company policy. Needles to say I then insisted to receive my 29 cents. It took them nearly 10 minutes to find the 4 extra lose cents! To now receive a cheque for 1 cent seems out of this world! Banks!!!
Enjoy the weekend!