Being Sucked In

I suppose I should blame myself, but I am definitely being sucked into work too much. It’s what I get for choosing to do an interesting job, I suppose, but I am not convinced I should allow myself to be drawn in too much. Um… end self-absorption.

The point here is that I consider it unhealthy to be too involved in one’s work, and I think I have crossed the border that lies somewhere beyond my definition of “health”. The question at hand is whether I need to shift my definition or adjust my relationship to work? I tend to lean towards the latter, but I am as yet undecided. What think you?



I am off to Orlando on Friday for almost a week on another work trip. The last little while really has been incredibly busy – I can only hope things quiet down once I get to the UK in six weeks’ time. I know for a fact that the next five weeks are going to be chock a block with goodbyes and events, so I am trying to squeeze everyone in before I leave.

This means that if you’d like to see me, please don’t allow me to forget you. 😛


To all my most sincere apologies: I’ve been increasingly caught up in work and my upcoming move to the UK. I’ve struggled to maintain any energy to read many blogs, never mind post to my own. In the last month or so, I’ve done far more travelling than I am used to and have found myself with increasingly less spare time as a result. I’ve managed to squeeze a five-day trip to Florida, eight full days of visits from my girlfriend, a day trip to New York and a six-day trip to the UK into the last four weeks, and definitely feel the need to slow down. Unfortunately, that’s looking unlikely, given that I have a business trip to Florida looming next week. Sigh…

I do have a less whiny personal update, however: I will officially be leaving the US in the first few days of May, so please do get in touch with me if you’d like to see me before I move across the Atlantic. (For those of you already in the UK, I will only be moving properly a week or so later, when I get back from Germany – the travelling won’t quite be finished.)

At some point soon, I will be officially reviving my feeble posting rate. [Please hold me to this.] So please do keep me somewhere near your radar.

The News

In my last post, which was in November [hanging head in shame], I tantalisingly alluded to great and wonderful news that was to follow soon. As it happens, the “soon” part was highly inaccurate, given that the delay hasn’t been due to laziness on my part. On the contrary, the corporate world being what it is, it’s taken until this week for me to get confirmation on my upcoming whereabouts. I’ve known for ages that my US visa is going to run out at the end of April, and that I don’t have any options for continuing to work in the US, so the only unknown has been “where next”. (Side note: I could, of course, marry my American girlfriend and remain in the country, but I can’t blame her for being unwilling to get herself stuck with me.;)) But now I know: my boss is going to try and get me transferred to the UK. So that’s where I’ll be in a few months’ time. All sorts of details still need to be hashed out, but I am happy that I now know where I am going to be.

All I need to do now is throw all my belongings into a box and hope I can get half of it across the Atlantic without incident…

Skills (and Affirmative Action)

Sorry about the break – my girlfriend, Kellie, was visiting for the weekend and I am also preparing for my maths comprehensive exams this week, so I haven’t had time to get back to the blog. This post was supposed to happen a few days ago, so accept my apologies.

After reading ggw‘s response to Exodus, my earlier post about how many people are working overseas, I came back to some serious issues that still plague South Africa. The problem is that of skills. In people above the age of 35, there are not many non-white South African professionals who have the same skills and experience as their white South African counterparts. Apartheid made sure that such equality was impossible. As such, many white South Africans have years upon years of experience in their fields, which makes them quite valuable to the country. That’s not to say that the last fifteen years haven’t rendered many of those skills completely defunct, but there is something to be said for twenty to thirty years of experience in a field. Furthermore, our education system is only now starting to produce students who’ve received (supposedly) equitable educations: schools became multiracial in the early nineties, making it possible for students to have been educated at schools and universities that aren’t designed to be bad. The result of this is that there is an entire generation of non-white South Africans who have been seriously disadvantaged by Apartheid, despite its collapse more than ten years ago. There are far too many non-whites who don’t have the skills or education to be eligible for skilled jobs. Furthermore, their white counterparts often have experience that outmatches theirs on many fronts: even if a non-white person managed to get a degree in engineering in the nineties, he or she would still be at a disadvantage to a white person with experience starting in the eighties.

Thus was the South African edition of affirmative action born. Given only the above synopsis of the situation, it should be clear to anyone that serious action needed, and needs, to take place. And that is before one takes into account the fact that less than 10% of South Africans are white. (At least in 2001, that was the stat: see 2001 Census in Brief for more.) That is why one sees “Affirmative Action Positions” advertised in public: drastic action is necessary to rectify the situation. That is why the South African government has tried to implement and encourage broad-based BEE (black economic empowerment) schemes between big business and non-white South Africans.

At times, however, things go too far. ggw’s comment about racial quotas on our national cricket team addresses that issue. With sport in particular, the issue of racial quotas has been discussed, argued, vilified and praised by all too many politicians to name. To some extent, that is a part of the problem: the suggestions and policies come from outside the sport because those participating in the sport aren’t trusted to change the sport. Business has been treated in much the same way: the government has enforced various policies encouraging or promoting businesses to transform its demographics. In both sport and business, the questions remain the same. Is the specificity of the reforms necessary? Are the reforms too drastic? And do the reforms cause more harm than good?

I hate solely delineating debates, so I am going to throw my two cents in. In my opinion, these questions about most of the reforms can be answered with a simple yes, no, and no. (In the case of sport, I think that sheer talent can’t be foregone, so a number of policies in that sphere are harmful.) As I’ve outlined above, South Africa has a serious skill imbalance. It also has a serious financial imbalance: whites are generally quite wealthy because of the aforementioned skill imbalance on top of their historically privileged position in society. As a result, drastic affirmative action and other policies are necessary. Without them, the country would have no clear incentive to change, so it wouldn’t. It will make life more difficult for many people for a number of years yet, but it has changed, and will continue to change the social structure in South Africa.

I am not a gung-ho supporter of all BEE/affirmative action legislation, however. More needs to be done to ensure that the average man on the township street benefits from BEE policies. Up to now, that hasn’t really been the case. A small number of people with the right connections have made millions that haven’t gone anywhere near the man on the street. And this needs to be guarded against.

Wow. That was long. And rambling. And it may or may not make a point. But I can’t try to process it all at once any more. I’ll shape my thoughts in the near future. Feel free to comment or contact me if you’d like me to elaborate or give examples.


I’m starting to notice the extent of the brain drain South Africa is experiencing at the moment. When I was at home, I barely managed to make contact with any of my friends from high school. A large number of them were working overseas during our long summer holiday, and I started thinking about where many of my friends are going to end up working.

It didn’t take me long to sense that a good number of them won’t be working in South Africa. The vast majority of my friends are white and live comfortably. More importantly, however, they have all received university degrees that are marketable elsewhere in the world. At the moment, a number of my friends were simply spending a few months in the UK or US earning some money. But the prospects of working elsewhere in the world are alluring. (I would know – I am thinking about staying on in the US for a few years.) In my case, it’s just easier to find a job because I am already here and companies are looking to recruit students to start work in June. The starting salary that I am liable to earn dwarfs what I would receive at home, even relative to living costs. And that’s just a financial motivator. As white males, my friends and I are right at the bottom of the pile when it comes to affirmative action, which is really aggressive in South Africa. Many posts are advertised as “Affirmative Action Positions” that are designated to go to groups disadvantaged by Apartheid. (Needless to say, white males do not fall into any such group.) That’s not to say that jobs are impossible to come by: a number of my friends are working in South Africa at the moment or have deals set up for after graduation. But the allure of foreign employment remains for other reasons.

If one’s involved in healthcare, social services or governance, then South Africa is a really good place to be. If, on the other hand, one’s an engineer or involved in a technical field like computer programming, it isn’t quite a hotbed of activity. So a friend of mine who’s just finished his Electrical Engineering degree wants to try his hand in the UK – he wants to be exposed to cutting-edge technology as it’s happening, and being in South Africa won’t give him much exposure. Another acquaintance of mine is currently in the US working for NVIDIA before continuing completing his computer science degree: in his case it’s also clear that he won’t be involved in the same level of development at home.

On top of all these things, South Africa is not the safest place in the world. Crime rates are really high (for reasons I’ve already touched on) and white paranoia (and wealth) doesn’t make the situation seem any better for middle- to upper-class South Africans. Going to live in Canada or New Zealand is a much safer move.

But it isn’t necessarily a moral one. I know that I want to return to South Africa, despite its problems. If anything, I should do something about its problems because I have access to so many resources. How to do so is a question I haven’t answered as of yet, but it’s something I’m thinking about. Any and all decisions I may make are littered with moral landmines, but I’ll see how I can navigate them as time goes by.

Exciting stuff: Charlotte and a (possible) job

So you may have noticed I didn’t blog over the weekend, which was entirely due to my being in North Carolina with my girlfriend. Seeing as I was only there for two nights, I didn’t really find the time to blog. But that was not a huge issue to my mind. It was a wonderful weekend, sans blog.

I will say, however, that I had a very unusual experience on Friday. For the first (and probably only) time in my life, I had a flight cancellation that saved me time: I was supposed to fly from Hartford to Charlotte via Newark, but one of those legs got cancelled and I was put on a direct flight from Hartford to Charlotte. It was made doubly wonderful by the fact that I bought the cheapest tickets I could find. So that was a good thing.

Another good piece of news is the fact that I made it through to the final round of interviews at the company in Boston I was really impressed by last week. I seriously hope I manage to get something sorted out with them in the near future. That would be a huge weight off my shoulders. So wish me luck. (Also, once I have things sorted out, I’ll probably share their name. So hold your fingers…)