Saturday, October 09, 2021

You do what you are

In the 2001 movie Along came a spider, there is an interesting quote by Morgan Freeman where he says "You do what you are" and then he further goes on to explain "I mean, you do what you are. You're born with a gift. If not that, then you get good at something along the way. And what you're good at, you don't take for granted. You don't betray it." 

Ive always wondered while watching the numerous talent shows, how the hell do they do what they do or sometimes you see someone do something at work and they are just so amazing at it. Corelating this to what Morgan Freeman quoted in the movie, they are just born with that talent to do it or it is through sheer hard work that they learned to do it. I believe that you would put in the hard work only in two circumstances, one if you are in a perilous  situation and you have to learn to do it you don't have much of a choice or you love what you are doing and want to become the very best at it. 

Finding out what you love doing and doing more and more of it until you are the very best is important to find value in what you do and thus giving meaning to life or as Morgan Freeman puts it if you don't "you will betray yourself. Its a sad thing.". 

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Process for freelance permit and visa through RAKEZ

I just went through process of getting a Freelance Permit and the visa to accompany that and I had to go through a few twists and turns as I learned about the process and accomplished getting my new visa. I did my freelance permit through Sajeev ( contact number +971 55 694 2016) at FMA Accounting & Auditing ( and they in turn used Al Baraka Typing Center to assist with the Immigration formalities. The whole process was done through RAKEZ ( and almost all of the process was done online without the need to visit their office. It was smooth, logical and straightforward. 

One of the limitations of the freelance permit is you cannot open a corporate bank account and you do not get any office space. If these 2 are not needed for those working from home in a gig economy this type of visa is perfect. 

The total cost came to about AED 19,000 for a 2 year freelance permit + one visa for 2 years (including all payments made to typing center).

Note : The amounts and process below is as when I did it in September 2021 and can change and be different when you are applying for it.

Approval for Freelance Permit

For the approval of the freelance permit you would require the following documents
  • Current visa copy
  • Passport copy of applicant
  • NOC from employer whose visa you currently are on. This NOC is needed only if you have dependent visas and need to move them into hold status before cancelling your visa.
Dear Sir/Madam,
We do not have any objection to issue a Freelance Permit to <applicant name>, Passport Number <passport no>.
This NOC is being given for the smooth transfer of visa from <current employer> to the Freelance Permit.
<applicant> has confirmed that the visa with <current employer> will be cancelled and moved to the freelance permit as soon as the permit is issued.
  • Signed application form (Standard RAKEZ form)
  • Payment of fees of AED 14035 once the application form is submitted
  • Declaration authorizing third party to represent you (standard RAKEZ form). If you are using someone to do the process.
The approval will take a couple of days and you will be issued the following
  • Freelance Permit License (will be emailed to you)
  • Establishment Card (will be emailed to you)
  • Login to the e-portal of RAKEZ

Holding Dependent Visas

Before you cancel your visa, if there are any dependent visas on your visa, you can put them on hold with Immigration by paying a deposit of AED 2500 for each dependent visa. For the holding of dependent visas the following documents are needed.
  • Original passport of applicant and dependents
  • Emirates ID
  • Freelance Permit License and Establishment card
  • Current employer license and establishment card
  • Deposit 2500 + pro fees will come (AED 150) for each dependent
You will need to wait to get confirmation that the dependent visas are on hold (PRO/Typing Center can confirm). Payment receipts have to be got for each dependent visa put on hold.

Cancel your visa

Hand over your passport to the current employer to cancel the visa. Process should take a couple of days.
  • Original Passport
  • Payment receipt of putting the dependent visas on hold
You will receive a paper confirming that the visa is cancelled.

Apply for e-visa

You would now need to apply for the new visa on the freelance permit. The documents required are
  • Photograph
  • Payment of AED 4700 (including visa, status change, emirates id and medical test)
They will then issue an e-visa. Once the e-visa is issued the PRO/Typing Center applied for a status change, application for emirates id and medical test.

Medical test

Get a copy of the medical test application and proceed to the health center to get the medical test done. You will receive a copy of the results as an SMS within 24 hours. They usually have fast track counters which you have to pay additional AED 45 at the center to use. 

Get visa on the passport

For getting the visa on the passport you will require
  • Original Passport
  • Medical report (received as link on SMS)
  • Tenancy contract of your residence
  • Translated copy of your degree certificate
  • Signed Employment Contract
You will receive by email the printed visa and a couple of days later that visa on your passport.

Refund of the deposit of dependent visas

Once the visa is issued on the passport, you have to apply for the refund of the deposit of the dependent visas that was paid earlier. This is done by the PRO/Typing Center. On approval you are issued a refund request with a bar code on it. You would have to go to immigration with the following documents to receive the refund
  • Original Passport with the visa
  • Emirates Id
  • Deposit Refund request
This needs to be collected within 1 month of keeping the dependent visa on hold.

Receipt of Emirates Id

About 1 week after the visa is issued you will receive your new emirates id by mail.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

You are not a machine

This is an interesting illustration that resonated with a discussion I was having recently about doing ones best. It perfectly encapsulates how you need to give your best each day, but the outcome is not always better than the last. 

Some days the outcome is amazing, a high that you need to cherish and the next day as you give your best, the outcome might not be as good or better than the last. This should not lead to disappointment and dejection. It is to be expected as we are not machines, and we have our good days and our bad. We are also influenced heavily by the environment around us and circumstances each day that may not be in our control that will not allow the same. 

Enjoying what one does makes it easier to give ones best. When you do not enjoy what you do it is hard to commit yourself to it whole heartedly. So find what is it you enjoy doing and then master that and deliver your best to get the best outcomes. 

Friday, September 10, 2021

Traits of an effective manager

Effective Managers are those that can leverage the strength of their teams and achieve their goals. But to be able to do this they need to posses and showcase some important traits 
  1. Effective Managers are not focused only on short term wins. They have a growth mindset that focuses on the goal. 
  2. They are able to work through the difficult challenges and keep their cool. The task of solving the problem or achieving the goal is never easy and they are able to weather the storms by keeping theirs and their teams focus. 
  3. An effective manager has a curious mind, they are always thinking of different possibilities on either solving problems or possible paths to achieve the goal.
  4. An effective manager is able to make tough decisions and they are ready to face the consequences. Quick informed decisions are important to be made in order to move the team forward. 
  5. A good and strong manager should be able to inspire their team. They are effective communicators that can communicate clearly and can articulate the tasks the team needs to accomplish to achieve the goal.  
  6. An effective manager gets a deep understanding of the problem they are trying to solve. By ensuring this deep understanding, they are able to provide the necessary direction and guidance to the team and are also able to cancel out all the negativity around them by having laser sharp focus. 
  7. Effective managers manage by taking into consideration the needs of the stakeholders. Its important to have empathy. They should have an open mind and listen to their stakeholders and work towards meeting their needs. 
  8. They see the bigger picture when it is fuzzy and hazy to everyone else and they strive and lead everyone towards that bigger picture. They are focused on the long term even though they suffer short term struggles.
  9. Strong Effective Managers show trust in their team and do not micro manage their team. They know how to break down the tasks and give it to the team and believe in their team to deliver on them. 
  10. They always protect their team. They share the successes with the team and absorb the failures. They do not call out or embarrass team members in front of outsiders and expose the weaknesses of the team. 

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Management Reporting

 All managers want reports at varying frequency or even ad hoc. The question is why do they need these reports? I feel it is for anyone of the below reasons 

  1. They need them for decision making. This is mostly analysis of the past data or a report predicting the future based on various options. 
  2. To give them an understanding on the working of a process. Are the key metrics being tracked, maintained within agreeable limits? 
  3. Understanding the overall status of the project, how is it progressing against a timeline are there any risks or bumps ahead that can derail the project. 
Most of these reports are expected to be done by subordinates and most subordinates find it hard to build these reports and end up spending hours if not days doing these reports, taking them away from crucial operational issues that might require their attention. 

When managers request for reports they need to carefully consider the following 
  1. Are the current systems and processes tracking the information necessary to produce the report? 
  2. If the information is tracked, is it credible and cannot be tampered with?
  3. How long does it take to extract the information and produce the report?
  4. Does it give you enough information to satisfy your needs?
Having good reporting systems and business intelligence systems is good, but these systems will not work if the information being tracked is not proper or is not accurate. The old adage "Garbage In. Garbage Out." holds true when it comes to reporting. If the data being entered is garbage, the reports you get are going to be garbage. If a subordinate is going to prepare the report, they are going to prepare it in a manner that is going to make them look good. 

Hence, one needs to start right at the root, digitize processes and ensure the processes capture the necessary metrics (the more you collect the better) and those metrics are used to prepare the necessary reports to give the necessary answers or raise the necessary red flags. If this is not in place, no amount of reporting manually prepared is ever going to tell a manager the true health of their processes or help them make the right decisions. 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Building Trust with your team

As a leader or manager ensuring that trust is built with the team is very important. Trust is what ensures the team works confidently and without any doubts. 

Gaining the trust of the team is not easy and it takes time. It has to be gained through words and actions. The behaviors one must portray to build trust are 

1. Being open and frank with your team

As a leader one needs to be open with their team. Ive had managers that would give a deadline 2 days earlier than the actual deadline. The team is eventually going to find out and they will never believe in the manager again. A leader should be able to give bad news as easily as giving good news to the team. Its necessary to be open and frank with the team. 

2. Showing courage in decision making

A leader needs to have courage. Courage to make decisions, tell a team member when they are not performing well, tell stakeholders when things are not going to plan and so on. They should not shy away from the hard decisions and should be ready to absorb the consequences and carry their team through. 

3. Keeping to your commitments and promises

The leader should stand up and ensure that the commitments they make to the team are achieved. As the leader keeps their commitment, the team will start trusting the leader more. At the same time they will also start to meet their own commitments thus helping the team meet their objectives. 

4. Keeping the focus of the team razor sharp

Being focused on the objectives and ensuring the team is aligned accordingly is very important. Ensuring that the objectives of the team are clearly articulated and conveyed to the team is very important. 

5. Having the respect of the team

Having the respect of the team is very important. Insubordination should be stamped out quickly. A leader should be able to run their team, the team should not run their leader. Respect can be earned or thrust upon. The one that is earned is more powerful and long lasting. Usually doing the above four - being open, having courage, showing commitment and being focused helps gain respect. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Communicate, communicate, communicate

 As a community manager it is very important to ensure that a 2 way communication exists between the residents of the community and the Community Management Office. I am not so focused on the modes of communication such as the call center, email, social media, messengers, walk-in and so on, this post is more about the types of communication that needs to exist. 

1. News and Information 

Everyone likes to be aware and more so aware of the things happening around them. News of happenings in the community should be sent out in a timely manner. These can be periodic once a quarter for the planned news information (Newsletters) and information that cannot wait for a newsletter. Some examples of such information that needs to be sent out are 

  • Utility service interruptions due to water tank cleaning, disruption in supply, breakdown, etc
  • Pest control activities and which areas to avoid
  • Community Events
  • Road diversions due to works happening
  • New rules/processes implemented 
The information should be targeted, if there is a service interruption in a building, the information should not be sent to the whole community. Nobody likes spam and also if there is too much information sent it will be lost and not read. 

2. Communicating Fees and Charges

Nobody likes surprises especially when it comes to money. It is very important to make sure all fees and charges are clearly documented and communicated and there are no surprises. Once these fees and charges are levied on a resident, the community management team should ensure it is delivered to the resident. These invoices and the statement of account should be available to the resident to access at any point of time. 

3. Complaint Management 

In a community there would be complaints from the residents, although all community managers wish this away it is not going to be so. Residents should have an easy way to record a complaint, be acknowledged immediately that the complaint is recorded and then the complaint should be tracked to closure in a timely manner. This is very important to have in place to make sure the residents feel that they are being heard and that their concern is being addressed. 

4. Face to Face Communication 

Sometimes residents want to be heard face to face. It is important to make sure community managers and building supervisors are always available to them. An appointment system can be implemented where for an hour or two community managers and building supervisors can meet with residents either on site in the community or at the office. 

Saturday, August 07, 2021

Having heart in what you do

13 years ago I wrote about how "Having pride is key to quality" and this was written in the context of the software services industry. But having worked since then mostly in the services industry, I have come to realize more and more that one needs to have "heart" in their work to give their best. 

What do I mean by putting your heart in what you do? It essentially means you care. You care about how the service is delivered, you care about the quality of the service, the timeliness of the delivery, you care about the happiness of the customer. 

When one cares, automatically every detail is addressed. This ensures a high quality of delivery, the customer experience is great and you end up with a happy customer. 

Happy customers end up giving you more business. 

Putting ones heart in what they do, has to come from within each one. It cannot be thrust upon or commanded. So find the job that you want to put your "heart" into what you do and excel at what you do. 

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

A case for ANPR Cameras in residential communities

 Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras are cameras that can capture and digitize vehicle number plates. We know them very well for the speed radars and that is how speeding fines are issued instantly. Ive known them to be around for 8-9 years but off late they have become affordable and more widely used with integration into resident portals. 

Once ANPR cameras are installed at all the entry gates and exit gates, the most important thing to do is to integrate it into the resident portal, so that tenants and owners can register their vehicles into the system and also they can register their visitors into the system. This way every private vehicle entering into the community can be recognized. 

What are the benefits of such a system?

  1. There is no recurring cost needed such as issuing RFID cards or tags. This reduces the cost of issuance of the access control. 
  2. Improves the safety and security as every vehicle that is entering and leaving the community is recorded and is there for ready reference at any time. 
  3. Violations with regards to parking, speeding and any other infringement can be strictly afford as you know now whose vehicle it is. 
  4. Visitors that are staying longer than they are permitted can be identified easily.
  5. Can understand the frequency of usage of the gates and deploy resources accordingly at high frequency hours. 
  6. Get knowledge about the performance of guards at the gates by analyzing the number of times they manually overrode the system to open the barrier. 
  7. Keep track of taxis entering and leaving the community with caps on how long they can stay inside the community. 
  8. Do occupancy and other demographic analysis based on the type of vehicles coming to the community analyzing such attributes such as type of vehicle, vehicle manufacturer and the number of vehicles coming in and going out.
  9. During any emergency you can filter exactly how many vehicles are there inside and make informed decisions accordingly. 
  10. Provide accurate information to law enforcement about any vehicle under surveillance.
 The two biggest players in the United Arab Emirates is SSK Technologies and Candid Camera Systems.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Show Empathy, deliver better

If one desires to be very good at what they do, they need to do their job with empathy. Empathy is defined as "the ability to understand and share the feelings of another."

Here are some situations
  • When listening to an issue on the phone/in person/in an email put yourself in the customers shoes and think about how you would react if you had the same issue and what would you expect the response to be. That would help you formulate the right response to the customer.
  • If a complaint has been outstanding for a long time and has not been resolved, imagine how would you feel if you had raised the same complaint with a service provider and it was not resolved for a long time. This will help you react and address the complaint a lot quicker, knowing that you would not have liked that to happen to you.
  • You want to make the numbers look good for your manager and you end up closing a complaint even though it is not yet resolved. How would you feel if such a complaint you raised is closed prematurely by the service provider without resolving the whole issue?
  • if you do not have the knowledge to address the customers queries and complaints, react and respond in a way that you would expect a service provider to react if you called in and they could not address your query or complaint.
  • You find a complaint opened for a long time with no response. Would you be okay if a service provider of yours had one of your complaints opened for a long time without closing it or responding to it?
  • When responding to a query or complaint, review it by putting yourself in the readers shoes and evaluate if you would be satisfied if you received such a response.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Customer Service in the Digital Age

Customer Service is defined as "the assistance provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services.". In the digital age we live in Customer Service goes much beyond how we greet and serve our customers. It also includes how and where we serve them.

1. Go to your customer

No longer do customers have to come to you to buy a product or a service, technology enables us to go to the customer and provide them with the product or service they require. At the very least, its important to have a good technology platform both on the web and mobile where customers can get their service or product at the click of a button. 

2. Provide services in a predictable standardized manner 

From the colors used on the website/app to the navigation to each service, its important to be standardized and at the same time the company needs to be very predictable in how the service is delivered. This is where automation plays a big part, reducing human intervention in the processes to deliver a service increases the predictability of the service. This in turn improves customer service. 

2. Understanding and predicting your customer 

It is possible with technology to understand and predict your customer through Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. The more they interact with your technology platform, the more you understand about their needs. The more you align with your customers needs, this way you can serve them better by giving your customers what they need. 

3. Serving them on the platform they already are on

Expecting customers to download an app or visit a website may not be soon the preferred way of reaching them. They will expect to get their service through their Alexa or Siri interfaces. They would want to talk and be able to get the answers they are looking for, book the service or order for something. It is important to make it easier for customers to reach you through the apps of their choice in order to provide them superior customer service. 

Not adapting to the digital age to serve customers better might result in the following. Hope it never comes true for any organization.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Communicate like a leader

In the last post I was looking at why is it important that leaders have good communication skills. But what do I mean when I talk about communication skills, does it mean just the fact that I can write a good grammatically correct email or can talk the fluently and clearly? Its far from that, yes those skill are important but leaders communicate differently, they have some additional skills that make them so effective.

1. Trust and Belief

When leaders communicates, they communicate so that the team trusts and believes in what they are saying. It is the foundation on which all teams are built. If at any point of time trust of belief in the leader is lost, the team is lost. So when a leader communicates he should build the confidence of the team to believe in what he is saying and he should stand by his word. 

2. Know your team 

However big the team might be, leaders take the trouble to know and empathize with individuals in their team. They know how to engage each and everyone in their team. When talking in a group they know how to make each one feel like they are addressing them personally. If this means getting down into the trenches to know your team, then thats what needs to be done by the leader. 

3. Communicating with an open mind

No leader is perfect and no leader is a know it all. Leaders should have an open mind that there are other people better in the team and should have the confidence to acknowledge it, appreciate it and nurture it. A good leader should be open to criticism and challenging opposing points of view. 

4. Be Knowledgeable

When communicating, the leader needs to do it from a position of being knowledgeable on the subject. They need to build confidence in the team, that they have someone to look up to and take guidance from. If you are not knowledgeable in some particular area of expertise, let those that are in the team take the lead and provide the necessary guidance. 

5. Listen more and read between the lines 

A lot of communication is done by silently listening with an open mind. Not all is openly said, its important to learn to read between the lines and to observe team dynamics. Its important for leaders to keep their eyes and ears open and to absorb everything around them increasing their awareness of everything happening around them. 

6. Body Language 

Leaders body language should always show confidence however dire the situation is. A sulking broken leader is never going to inspire their team. Giving the right encouragement, showing that you are in control, engaging with the team, rewarding their achievements and hard work at the same time being firm and positive goes a long way in communicating to the team how you feel. Emotions of the team reflect the emotions of the leader. A defeated leader is a defeated team. 

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Why leaders should have good communication skills?

We all start our careers in the junior levels and then work our way up the corporate ladder. As you rise up in the hierarchy it is very important to have good communication skills and to keep improving them, this includes both oral and written communication skills. Here are some of my thoughts on why communication skills important

Leaders need to inspire 

The team is going through a difficult phase, could be tough deadlines, things not working according to plan, unexpected roadblocks and so on. It is at this time you see leaders stepping in and inspiring a team to march on, to continue to strive forward and overcome this tough period. A leader should be able to raise the morale of the team and to remind them that they are capable of overcoming all challenges. This is done by communicating with the team effectively and inspirationally. 

Leaders need to show vision 

Leaders should always understand the bigger picture. They should be able to communicate this bigger picture to the team. This bigger picture needs to be clearly articulated to the team so that each one of them understands it and is on board to achieve it. 

Communicate team achievements 

All of the achievements need to be communicated by the Leader to the Stakeholders in a clear and concise manner. This will keep the team motivated and at the same time ensure the confidence of the Stakeholders in the team. 

Ensuring open communication in the team

A team that communicates well tends to stay together and work in a coordinated manner. Most teams are inspired to communicate better, when the leader of the team communicates well. 

The following tips can help leaders communicate effectively

  • Know your team well
  • Practice what you preach
  • Listen actively
  • Admit when you are wrong
  • Do not procrastinate/delay to communicate bad things
  • Be clear and concise
  • Use story telling to communicate ideas and thoughts

What I have realized over time is that one needs to start becoming more extroverted as they move up the corporate ladder or enter into entrepreneurial activities. They should not be shy to state their thoughts and opinions and should be ready to speak up both in public and private. Those that communicate well tend to rise up and get recognized quickly.

You do what you are

In the 2001 movie Along came a spider, there is an interesting quote by Morgan Freeman where he says "You do what you are" and the...