An email dropped into my inbox today: do I want to buy the .com version of my domain? Well, thanks, not just now. Thanks for asking, though.
I am genuinely grateful, because that email reminded me that this blog still existed! I’ve been keeping up my blogs on Chinese and Russian martial arts, but this domain had dropped so far off my radar I’d forgotten I had it…
This blog, though… Well, back in 2013 when I was looking to exit from Swansea University, I looked into freelance consulting and started to put together a website. Updated it a bit while I was in Russia. Since I never promoted it, it never led to anything beyond a couple of hits on blog posts. When I moved to China, it became irrelevant, and to be honest I completely forgot about it…
So, now that I’ve been reminded about it, what to do with it? The old content, long since of date has gone. The blog’s the only part worth keeping.
I’d still like to do something with my copy of Suvorov, which I brought with me to China. Events in the wider world have moved on quickly, and I’ve been in some heated debates recently about Russia, which raised issues I could usefully develop…
One reason for taking my MBA in Singapore was that most of my fellow-students would be coming from India, China, and south-east Asia; I would be learning from them all kinds of invaluable cultural experiences and insights. That also happened in the classroom: as well as the normal MBA fodder taught in every business school everywhere, Nanyang Business School offered a course in Sun Zi’s Art of Strategy, taught brilliantly by Professor Wee Chow Hou, an authority on the application of Sun Zi’s insights to business strategy and management.
One of my professional areas of interest is strategic analysis, which I’ve taught to undergraduates and postgraduates in universities in China and the UK.
The tools of strategic management can also be used by individuals, to help plan career directions, and to make significant life choices in an informed way. This is becoming essential; powerful forces of change are overtaking us, and we should all be planning and preparing.
The main issue is that the globalisation of the world economy, a process that’s been underway for almost thirty years now, has reached its limits. Indeed, it’s going into reverse, which is likely to have unpredictable and unpalatable consequences for its biggest beneficiaries: those of us who live in the West.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been on the move. The lease on my Soviet-era flat in Primorskaya ran out, and I’ve moved into a new studio apartment right in the centre of historic St. Petersburg. The availability didn’t quite match, so I had to spend a couple of weeks living out of my suitcases in a temporary apartment in Dekabrovista Ulitsa, just around the corner from St. Isaac’s Cathedral. This is one reason why I haven’t posted any updates for a while – but not the only one! I’ve been setting up some online learning systems, and listening to what my students would like the world to know about their country…
Last Sunday I went into central St Petersburg with the aim of going to the Defence of Leningrad Museum. It was the day before the anniversary of the German blockade being lifted, and it seemed like a good time to see the exhibits of life in a modern city under siege conditions.
It turned out that I didn’t need to get to the museum – the exhibits had come to the people! One of the central streets, a couple of blocks away from Nevsky Prospect, had been turned into a siege re-enactment. Tank traps sealed the street off; wooden barn doors were leaned against building walls to protect some windows, while others had sandbags stacked up against them. The barn doors were covered with posters, exhorting the citizens to maintain their defence efforts, as well as with hand-scrawled messages. Trucks, trams, motorcycles, and anti-aircraft guns from the period were parked here and there, monitored by museum staff and volunteers dressed in period Red Army costumes – and who were fighting a losing battle, trying to stop crowds of hyper-excited small children from clambering onto the vehicles!
I’ve been in Russia for slightly over a week now. After the initial disorientation, I’m starting to find my feet, and have worked out the essentials of how to live and work here. I haven’t really had the opportunity to relax much, or to get to explore the city, but I already know that I like St. Petersburg, and I like the Russians.
St. Petersburg, of course, was known for most of the 20th century as Leningrad, and that Soviet history is still palpable. I only realised today that a week tomorrow, the 27th of January, is a very significant date: it will be the 70th anniversary of the lifting of the siege of Leningrad.
It seems hardly any time ago now, but in August 1989, I was heading into a revolution, and the birth of the world as we know it today.
That summer, I wasn’t long back from a year working in Southern Africa. I had a bit of money from a temp job in my pockets, and two months to kill before I started at university. While I’d been in Africa, I’d been reading Time and Newsweek whenever I got the chance, and I knew that things were stirring in the Communist countries of Eastern Europe. I decided to take the train to Poland to see… well, whatever was there to be seen. I tried to persuade friends to come along but no-one was up for it so, armed with Fodor’s Guide to Eastern Europe, I went alone. What I found was an upswelling of hope and idealism; a feeling that a better future was on the verge of arriving.
After three years at Swansea School of Management, I’m moving on. It’s been an eventful period of my life, and one with a lot of positive takeways. I’m pleased with the work I’ve done under challenging circumstances, and I’ve learned a great deal from my interactions with a diverse and interesting student body.
However, as I teach my students in my Strategic Management modules, the environment is always changing, and we have to change with it. The skill set that I’ve built up over the years is no longer appropriate to the new direction my role was taking; at the same time, the strategic direction that the organisation has chosen wouldn’t help me achieve my personal or career goals.
Taking the decision to leave wasn’t easy. Contracts for lecturers require a full term’s notice, which at best means around three months. Since I was leaving the Higher Education sector, this was a problem. I interviewed with a few potential employers who were interested – but the three-month wait was a deal-breaker. In the end, I had to jump without a parachute, and hope that something would turn up…