Friday, December 31, 1999

the boss's Thursday meeting

[Originally posted on December 30, 2022, at 2:20 a.m.]

Let's cut to the chase: after the Thursday meeting, nothing was settled. The CEO is auditioning us, it seems, and we now have until Thursday next week to get together as a team (my boss, my American coworker, and me) to produce something he wants—this after having produced something just yesterday, so... how many rounds are there in this audition?

On Thursday (yesterday), the boss told me that he and I needed to produce some materials related to AI in the classroom (my US coworker was absent). Specifically, how might a curriculum change if AI gets integrated into teaching and learning? The boss and I worked separately on the question, occasionally tossing ideas out to each other. The boss hammered out a couple pages' worth of easily digestible, outline-form notes. I took a more Q&A approach, highlighting my questions, which were along the lines of Will AI replace teachers in the classroom? How does one integrate AI into the curriculum? What, specifically, might an AI-integrated class look like?—etc., and writing my answers in regular font. The boss took his and my work to the meeting with the CEO, and several hours later, I got the call saying that we're now in Phase 2 of this audition.

The CEO apparently wants our team to act as his personal resource for when he makes presentations to large audiences. According to my boss, this may mean actually tutoring the CEO a few times a week in various subjects. For example, my American coworker is good with computers, so the CEO wants to learn more about how to use computers in his presentations (beyond the usual PowerPoint nonsense, I guess). I'm apparently supposed to help the CEO improve his English by teaching vocabulary, but I'm also teaching how to teach vocabulary since the CEO already likes teaching new vocab words to audiences (Greek/Latin roots, usage in context, etc.). The boss is going to help the CEO with more general, fluency-related aspects of English-language presentation like rhythm, intonation, better pronunciation, etc.

So we're supposed to put together material for the CEO, and he'll take a look at it this coming Thursday. How the CEO is going to set up his tutoring schedule, I have no idea.

The boss thinks the CEO is in the process of delegating many of his responsibilities to others as he slowly retreats from his leadership role in the company. He's been grooming his daughter to take his place in a shameless act of nepotism (plenty of nepotism in Korean companies, not to say that US companies are immune to the notion: in the States, we do have so-called "family businesses," after all), and essentially, what he's trying to do is free up more time for himself so he can do things like learn more English.

My assessment of the CEO's English is that he's easily functional in the language (he visits America often), and like a certain sector of Koreans, he might not be fluent, but he's learned certain English buzzwords (for him, those buzzwords would be in the fields of business and linguistics) that can make him sound more literate than he actually is. His English is better than my Korean, I think: I've heard him lecture at length in English, something I probably couldn't pull off in Korean. But he's a bit older, now, so I have to wonder how much more he can learn, especially after years of forming certain bad habits when speaking in English. Training people to let go of an accent, for example, is quite hard when they're in their sixties.

So the CEO is supposed to decide our future next week, on Thursday, after he receives our newest batch of material. My American coworker M will, in theory, come back into the office to help generate this material, and then on Thursday, it's in God's hands. M is away from the office right now because he was basically fired, and he's working with various recruiters to find new work. If we're to succeed with this audition, however, M's going to have to return to the office. This was not his plan: M told the boss that he wanted to hear an OK from the CEO before returning to work. Now, M is going to have to audition with us if he wants his job back. I'll be curious to see what he does. I feel that he's still being jerked around: he should be allowed to look for a new job in peace. But the CEO apparently wants to see what all three of us can do, so M either says "Fuck that" or joins us in auditioning.

My boss noted that he has a lot of enemies inside our company, many with administrative authority above his, and these people want my boss gone. Only the CEO is shielding my boss, but the way my boss tells it, the CEO needs a reason to justify keeping us, even if that reason is simply a superficial one. I don't buy the CEO's implication that he has to justify himself to anyone; either he's powerful or he's not. Since the CEO is the one who put us in this mess to begin with, I'd say he has plenty of power to toy with people's lives, and making us jump through these stupid hoops is his way of reminding us who's in power. "It's a test," the boss says, claiming that he knows the CEO's character. But I've heard the "it's a test" line quite a few times during my time at this company, and I have to wonder whether the CEO will ever come to trust his employees instead of constantly "testing" them. (And why do I have the feeling that we're the only team being tested?)

Anyway, I've already got some ideas that I'll be putting to paper, so to speak, once I'm in the office tomorrow. It's just a matter of getting through this nonsense day by day. One thing I'm dreading is the possibility that I might actually like this work if/when we get cleared to do it. I don't want to be sucked further into the maw of the system.


John Mac said...

So, assuming you pass the test (audition?), does that mean you've decided to withdraw your resignation? It does sound like it might be interesting work with more flexibility than the grind of creating textbooks.

Also happy to see you concede that we old farts aren't good candidates for learning a new language. Now I can live guilt-free in my Tagalog ignorance!

Kevin Kim said...

As to your first question: yes. See here.

Learning Tagalog might help you to at last find witty conversion with the ladies. How about coming to them, linguistically speaking, instead of having them come to you? You've talked about how some of the women have a sharp sense of humor, but I get the impression that it's never at a very sophisticated level. Imagine the world that would open up to you if you made the learning of Tagalog a project.

Charles said...

Yeah, I would not be happy with the situation, either, but if you can have continued employment and housing while you look for something better, that's a good thing.

John: That's not what Kevin said at all, though. His boss is already "easily functional" in English, and he wondered how much more he could learn. He also noted that it is harder to correct bad habits, but this does not mean that older people can't learn new languages. My wife will sometimes get older students who do quite well at learning Korean, as long as they put in the effort. Don't give up on Tagalog!