Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Business > The American Way...Napo's way !

I’ve been working with Americans for almost ten years now, and it’s been a very rich, challenging as well as rewarding experience.

How did I end up working with the Yankees?... It all started 12+yrs ago (aged 22) when I left the mother land mainly to study abroad.

I was an ISG grad who had the option to continue school in France, Germany or English Canada. My family & friends recommended that I stay away from Europe although some schools are pretty good there, but Europe was getting crowded, and opportunities were scarce compared to North America, especially in the technology field.

I first landed in Toronto, the economic capital of Canada & the largest city, a city where Canadians are now a minority. It didn’t take me too long to obtain a master’s degree from U of T in Computer Science, to start another one in Algorithmics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, commonly known as M.I.T, and that’s where I first started interacting with Americans, learn about their culture, speak their language (the American language) and then head to work for Corporate America.

My first assignment as an Engineer was at the Goddard Space Flight Center (NASA) in Maryland, it was short but extremely rewarding, got to work with double Ph.D engineers and scientists, and ultimatly peek at the engines that once propolled the lunar module into space (I always dream of going to space one day…with a Tunisian flag on my sholder) .

Around the 97s, the economy started to boom and the dot-com phenomena started cooking, that’s when I joined Andersen Consulting (renamed Accenture), one of the largest consulting firm in the world. As a Consultant I got to learn and practice -never read before- innovative methodologies, best practices & concepts that could in theory be valid for another 100 years. I was truly amazed how progressive and creative the people working for such a partnership could be. They were landing million dollar contracts with ease and confidence to follow up with delivery of state of the art solutions..., even to date, I still leverage those skills on a daily basis, sometimes crossing onto my personal life.

Around the 2000s, I had no option but to jump into the dot-com boiling market before i miss the train, i had to work the crazy hours, the weekends, build something from the scratch, live the ups and downs of VC shortages, the positive and negative press releases, the down-sizing, the NYSE listing, the good and the ugly. We were a bunch of multi-national team of engineers and techies that worked around the clock to envision an idea, build a market niche/need for it, sell a product and make profit out of it….THAT WAS REALLY TOUGH…but we prevailed at last…

Working with Americans, has no boundaries for creativity, initiative, challenges and innovation. These folks are focused, task oriented, delivery aware and business conscious, no wonder they’re number one the world stage and will probably remain as such for quite some time.

Nowadays, with family onboard, I’m more or less settled as part of the Management Team of a yet another American startup which future looks ‘so far’ promising (crossing my fingers). Needless to mention that concepts such as Job Security, steady stream of income and employment for life are things of the past in this continent. Very few do care about security, since opportunities of cashing out half a million dollar were at some point more likely to occur then loosing own job.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Finance > Budget 101

Among many things that I’m still struggling to understand is the concept of budget In Tunisian families. I keep hearing that people always have money and regardless of the inflation, anyone can live the lavish life.

Normally, a budget is set by an individual or a group to keep expenditures and receivables balanced. A good budget is when spending is controlled and income is assured. Accpetable exceptions include going over-board to finance an extra-ordinary need or a long term investment…pretty simple concepts.

In order to depict a Tunisian 'budget', I’ve tried to gather as much data as possible about living standards in Tunisia; such as rent, level of incomes, collateral and incidentals.

My Assumptions were:
  • Couple with 2 kids
  • No heritage, Parents not rich either (No Zitoun, no land, no villa ready for them)
  • Working hard in relatively high paying jobs.
  • One car for the whole family.
  • Outgoing family, always looking for fun enjoying good life overall.
  • No loan payment
  • Living in the Capital
I tried my best to be as realistic and as accurate as possible, however i may probably have missed few things here and there, therefore you are absolutely WELCOME to participate in the correction, addition, or omission of any item in the table below.

All figures are monthly in Tunisian Dinars.

Fixed Expenditure

Net Income / Capital

Rent: 450/m (a good 3 bedroom apartment or a level of a villa)

Salary for Dad: 1100 (gross: 1300)

Utilities (water, electricity, gas, etc): 80/m

Salary for Mom: 600 (gross: 800)

Car maintenance (1200/yr due to guaranteed accidents or scratches and road conditions): 120/m

Gas for the car: 50/m

Car insurance & highways toll: (800/yr, I may be wrong here): 70/m

Clothing for family: 150/m

Lady’s need & maintenance costs (makeup, weekly coiffeur, spa, etc) 100/m

Food: 150/m

Kids education needs (600/yr): 50/m

Restaurants (once in a month): 50/m

Doctors and Medicine (Medicare is extremely expensive in Tunis): 100/m

Home improvements, furniture, electronics & maintenance (1200/yr): 100/m

Cigarettes (I’m going to assume both smokers, each needs a pack for 3 days at 2DT/pack): 40/m

Communication fees (Tuntel, Tunisiana, land line): 80/m

Entertainment (Tunisians are ‘jawiste’ always on the look for concerts, shows, soccer games, etc): 80/m

Collateral or Luxury

ADSL: 50

Emergency or non emergency assistance (i.e. family member sick/dying, brother/sister marrying soon, loans, etc for 1200/yr): 100/m

Gifts for loved ones: 100/m

Trip planning (3000/yr per family: 250/m

Total Fixed: 1670


Total Collateral: 450


Grant Total: 2120


Budget Status: under-budget by 30 (excluding collaterals)

Well, overall, it’s not that bad, however such a tight budget is very hard to stick to and chances are the slim margin will be wiped out by unpredictable fixed expendituers or collaterals. So the outcome would be naturally debt since income level do not rise that fast in tunisia to match up inflation or the need to expand lifestyles. Such debts would be mostly informal debts through friends and killer debts through the banks…and that’s the outcome we see today.

No savings, interminable cycle of debts, stress and materialistic society..where human relationships become based on financial opportunities...

Again, if you feel you can add, alter or remove any item from the table, please feel free to comment about it, this exercise is really a collaborative effort among all bloggeurs.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Immigration > Why Romania?

Recently I’ve noticed a new migration trend where Tunisian students are more inclined to go study in Romania, a former communist state where education quality & standards are below average compared to European states or north America.

I’ve done some research and here are some answers:

  1. Schools there are qui offordable compared to Western Europe and universities in Romania do accept students without the baccalaureate, sometimes with no background at all, as long as they receive payments from foreign students.
  1. Many Tunisian male students are sent there to avoid military service at home and have not real interest in studies.
  1. Few Tunisian female students who go there, change their behavior drastically, they become heavy party goers, drinkers, and very liberal.
  1. Romanian degrees are not recognized in Tunisia. “La commission d’équivalence ne reconnaît pas les diplômes Roumains sauf si l’étudiant a été envoyé par l’état tunisien et possède son bac »
  1. Most students take courses in dentistry, an over saturated field in Tunis and everywhere else in the world.

I’m not marginalizing anyone here or offending anyone, just stating facts. I just can’t understand why they pick former Transylvania over so many other places, waste money and time for a useless degree, when they can stay in their home town get better & free education. After all if we refer to dentistry, I believe Monastir has an excellent track record of delivering solid degrees.

Am i missing something?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Off topic > I've got the power....(histoire vraie)

Conversation réelle captée sur le canal 106 Fréquences des secours maritimes de la cote du Finistère (Galice) entre des caliciens et des nord-américains.

Caliciens (bruit de fond) : Ici le A-853, merci de bien vouloir dévier votre trajectoire de 15 degrés au sud pour éviter d’entrer en collision avec nous. Vous arrivez directement sur nous a une distance de 25 milles nautiques.

Américains (bruit de fond) : Nous vous recommandons de dévier vous-même votre trajectoire de 15 degrés nord pour éviter la collision.

Galiciens : Négatif ! Nous répétons : dévier votre trajectoire de 15 degrés sud pour éviter la collision.

Américains (une vois différente de la précédente) : Ici le capitaine ! Le capitaine d’un navire des Etats-unis d’Amérique. Nous insistons, dévier de votre trajectoire de 15 degrés nord pour éviter la collision.

Galiciens :
Négatif ! Nous ne pensons pas que cette alternative puisse convenir, nous vous suggérons donc de dévier votre trajectoire de 15 degrés sud pour éviter la collision.

Américains (vois très irritée) : Ici le capitaine Richard James Howard, au commandement du porte-avions USS Lincoln, de la marine nationale des Etats-Unis d’Amérique. Le second plus gros navire de guerre de la flotte américaine ! Nous sommes escortées par deux cuirassiers, 6 destroyers, 5 croiseurs, 4 sous-marins et de nombreuses embarcations d’appui. Nous nous dirigeons vers les eaux du Golf Persique pour préparer les manœuvres militaires en prévisions d’une éventuelle offensive Irakienne. Nous ne vous suggérons pas, nous vous ordonnons, de dévier votre route de 15 degrés nord! Dans le cas contraire nous nous verrions obliges de prendre les mesures qui s’imposent pour garantir la sécurité de cette flotte et de la force de cette coalition. Vous appartenez un pays allié, membre de l’OTAN et de cette coalition, s’il vous plait, obéissez immédiatement et sortez de notre trajectoire.

Galiciens : C’est Juan Manuel Salas Alcantara qui vous parle. Nous sommes deux personnes, nous sommes escortées par notre chien, par notre bouffe, deux bières et un canari qui est actuellement entrain de dormir. Nous avons l’appui de la radio de la Corogne et du canal 105 « urgences maritimes ».

Nous ne nous dirigeons nulle part, dans la mesure ou nous vous parlons depuis la terre ferme. Nous sommes dans le phare A-853, au Finistère de la cote de Galice. Nous n’avons pas la moindre putain d’idée de la position que nous occupons au classement des phares espagnols. Vous pouvez prendre toutes les mesures que vous considérez opportunes car nous vous laissons le putain de soin de garantir la sécurité de votre flotte de merde qui va se ramasser la gueule contre les rochers !

C’est pour cela que nous insistons à nouveau et vous rappelons que le mieux à faire , le plus logique et le plus raisonnable serait de dévier votre trajectoire de 15 degrés sud pour éviter de nous rentrez dedans !

Américains : bien reçu, merci ……… !

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Climate > The year is 2105, North Africa under occupation, ... again !!!

The earth temperature has risen by 12 degrees from the current 2006 levels.

Greenland has melted…
The ozone hole has widened to reach the southern tip of Argentina
Hong Kong became a legend taught only in history books
Half of Bangladesh is under sea…
The Netherlands has relocated, its population now spread over Belgium & Denmark

The year is 2110, the North Atlantic Current carrying fresh water from the equator to the northern hemisphere has finally shut down, signaling the initial phase of a climate shift.

is not longer protected by warm waters carried by the conveyor belt. Temperatures has dropped by 20 degrees and Siberian winter became reality in England, Scandinavia, France and most of the western European states.

Crops have frozen and agricultural supplies have been critically affected...
Starvation has become widespread..
Financial institutions have shut down and governments are on the verge of collapsing..
Martial law in effect.

In the Mairie de Marseille, a makeshift government operations center, acting French President General DuPont calls North African counterparts with a message to tell:

“Dear Governors, we would like you to pay us back all of your long term and short term obligations, otherwise under national emergency measures; you will be considered French assets”

North Africans reply:“We will pay our debts to you as agreed on due time. We are sovereign nations, and we have friendly treaties between us, and you can not impose your will on us even in a time of emergency. We will however offer any kind of assistance during this crisis”

French president General Dupont - having in mind a different agenda - decides to dispatch 3 nuclear powered air craft carriers from Toulon with an ultimatum to Tunisian Gov to pay down the debt immediately, open ports for French refugees or surrender.

Tunisian gov refuses to capitulate and mobilizes the national army; sends the fleet to defend the north, the latter is wiped out by the French might.

French ground troops march on the capital and secures it after fierce resistance. Other special French units secure major airports and seaports. Regular troops began emptying Tunisian houses under a special law of land confiscation and other French emergency laws which calls for the use of force overseas to relocate affected French nationals.

Tunisian government -in exile in Libya- calls on the Security Council and the UNHCR to intervene and stop the occupation. The UN refuses to hear the case citing bigger conflicts between North Korea and the southern pacific islands that went nuclear.

Tunisian resistance regroups and starts a guerilla warfare against the French occupation forces, the latter pretends to install a Tunisian government friendly to their agenda.

The Security Council finally agrees to hear the Tunisian cause, and bluntly rejects Tunisia’s request for intervention, instead it accuses the resistance of insurgency and acts of terrorism, and throws its support behind the French, asking the latter to restore public order in the newly created French Republic of North Africa.

The year is 2120
, North Africa has been reclaimed by the 5 million strong Chinese People's Army...