Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Thursday, April 7, 2016

"Amex office inspired by Silicon Valley"/ weird interview questions

May 1, 2015 "Amex office inspired by Silicon Valley": I cut out this article Kat Sienuc in the Globe and Mail on Mar. 18, 2015.

American Express has new chairs. And anybody who’s gone through the pains of searching for, testing and finding the perfect office chair will know just how big the payoff can be.

“I’ve had a few creative thoughts just by sitting in one of those crazy orange chairs,” said Naomi Titleman, the vice-president of human resources for Amex Canada.

That’s exactly the kind of result credit-card issuer Amex is trying to create with the with the move of roughly 2,000 employees to its new Canadian head office in Toronto completed this month.

In stark contrast to its former headquarters in Markham, Ont., Amex’s new digs evoke the look and feel of the head offices of Silicon Valley-type companies: From whiteboard walls to state-of-the-art fitness facilities, the workspace screams startup.

“[It’s] a very, very different environment here. We have lots of open airy space. It looks much more like a trading desk in a lot of ways rather than traditional cubicles with high walls,” Ms. Titleman said.

In an effort to woo employees with a new and improved flexible work style, Amex is in the process of redefining itself as an employer.

With business casual dress, and a Montessori school, dry-cleaner and convenient store all on site, every decision made about the new headquarters was focused on building a positive corporate culture, Ms. Titleman says.

“The world has changed and we need to change with it. So with our new home … we’ve really planned and designed the space completely around the needs of our employees.”

Those needs, Amex decided, include a subsidized cafeteria with healthy-eating options, a gym equipped with running track, salt-water pool and tennis courts, and and a free shuttle to the building from Don Mills subway station.

And open space. Lots and lots of it: for concentrating, collaborating, eating, exercising – you name it.

“Any time throughout the day if that space that you are in does not work for the purposes of whatever you are doing, you can choose to get up and go to a different space,” Ms. Titleman said.

In fact, working in the same place for too long is discouraged: while there are a number of executives who have assigned offices, everyone else keeps their belongings in personal lockers and filing drawers, and reserve a different work area each day, depending on the project.

“Many, many jobs no longer need to be done sitting at the same desk from 9 to 5, so we need work styles and work spaces to reflect this change,” Ms. Titleman said.

There’s no doubt the way work gets done is evolving. Technology has made it easier for people to work remotely and at their own rhythm. And a certain type of flexibility in the office is what top talent has come to expect.

Born out of Silicon Valley – where attracting and retaining talent is considered vital – the idea that luring the cream of the crop to your organization requires Facebook and Google-style office perks is catching on outside the tech industry.

In 2010, a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management found the biggest workplace challenge of the decade for HR is getting the best people to work for you. The same survey found the most effective way to attract that new talent was providing flexibility to balance life and work.

Amex seems to have got the message. The personalized gym classes, muralled walls and around-the-clock “technology concierge” suggest the company is pulling out all the stops to win over employees.

And if sparking creative thinking and collaboration among employees means giving them the flexibility to hold meetings over a quinoa salad in cafeteria or while sweating together during company Pilates classes, then head office is going to get on board with that.

Having already rolled out their flexible-workspace strategy, called BlueWork, in several of its U.S. offices, the Canadian market is its latest frontier.

And yet, even Ms. Titleman is first to admit Amex was late to the game in embracing the flexible work style in its Canadian office. “Tech companies have been doing this for a while,” she said. “We’re near the 12th [office in the global network] to embrace this ‘workplace of the future.’”

"You think you've had weird interview questions?": I cut out this article by David Kennedy in the Globe and Mail on Mar. 18, 2015.

If Ben Johnson is the first name to pop into your head when an interviewer asks you what person – living or dead – you’d like to high five, you should probably think a little harder.

Canadian employers in virtually every industry from tech to retail are starting to ask these types of challenging, somewhat oddball questions to test a candidate’s critical thinking skills. And the Canadian sprinter, who won a gold medal and broke the 100-metre world record at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, only to be ignominiously stripped of both shortly after, is likely not the positive association you’re looking for.

“The best way to answer is to take a minute, breathe, think about how the question and your response relates back to the position that you’re interviewing for,” Glassdoor career trend analyst Scott Dobroski, said.

A better answer would be someone who people associate with perseverance and a winning attitude, Mr. Dobroski added – someone like Wayne Gretzky, he suggested.

The high-five question, asked by an interviewer at Lululemon Inc., is just one of a variety of oddball queries Glassdoor Inc. identified in a new report about the Top 10 Oddball Interview Questions in Canada.

Wednesday’s report is the first time the online employment and career community has weighed in on stranger side of the Canadian interview scene.

Requiring what seems like a lot from candidates, Telus Corp. asked interviewees “how can we move Mount Fuji?”

Bell Canada put candidates in a similarly difficult situation, asking “how many traffic light are there in Canada?”

All but impossible to answer correctly, companies are asking these tough questions to assess how candidates react.

“Keep in mind these employers aren’t necessarily looking for a right or wrong answer,” Mr. Dobroski said “What they’re trying to see is how you can think out loud and come to your best solution on the spot.”

TD Bank’s challenging scenario was somewhat more mundane than transplanting an iconic Japanese mountain, but answering “how do you get a plastic ball out of a cup without touching the cup?” presents its own unique challenges.

While some oddball questions aim to test interviewees’ thought processes, others shoot to uncover a bit of their personality.

“If you were an inanimate object, what would you be?” Starbucks Corp. asked, and Prism Resources Inc. tested candidates with “what would you name a book about your life at this point?”

Bombardier Inc. on the other hand, is interested in what kind of apples Canadian job seekers eat. “If you own a grocery store and you have to sell apples, how would you determine how many different type of apples would you sell?” the company asked.

The social media manger, HootSuite put candidates in an awkward position, asking “how will you keep HootSuite weird?” And Labatt Brewing Co. tested interviewees’ money management skills with, “if Labatt gave you a million dollars with the condition that you’d have to pay it back in three years, what would you do with it?”

Blackberry Ltd. rounds out Glassdoor’s top ten 10 with the more straightforward, business-oriented, “if you only have one choice, do you prefer to work on time or correctly?”

So next time someone asks you to move mountains, you might just be on your way to a new job.

Feb. 29, 2016 Red Bubble: I was typing in Red Lotus Letter to check out this feng shui website.  However, this Red Bubble website popped up.  This is a fun website where they sell men, women, and kids clothes with home décor and stationary.  You should look at the art.

Mar. 19, 2016: I mentioned the Red Bubble because e-commerce is really disrupting the retail industry.

The words disrupting and disrupters are being used a lot in the business section of the newspaper to talk about change.

Apr. 4, 2016 Job search: I feel like my job search isn't really effective.  From 2010-2012, I read the business section of the newspaper from the Edmonton Journal, Globe and Mail, and the National Post.  You can read all those job articles I cut and I had put onto my blog.

I then got an office job in 2013 and worked there for 5 months.  I feel like I really was ready and prepared for it because I read so much business news and jobs.

In 2015, I did get an office job for 3 months.  It was hard and I found it hard to keep up. 

I find those job articles really helpful.  I have gone to see a career counselor at my college in 2012.  I even went to regular counselors to talk about careers.

I have talked to my friends and emailed them my resume so they can look at it and give me tips on how to improve. 

I had a few job interviews every month.

My Career Counselor says that if I go on Kijiji and Job Bank, that's where all the jobs are.  However, lots of people go there and there's lots of competition too. 

Apr. 5, 2016: Yesterday I was Facebook messaging my friend Dan L.  We were talking about me getting a driver's license.  He said I was in the driver's seat figuratively and literally.  This applies to my job search and life.

When you have a license (and a car), you can drive and go where you want to go. 


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