Week 2 of Summer Internship
Time flies, if I were in my heels one year ago, I would never have thought that I would have landed into my first summer internship after the first year here in Hong Kong! As I met Jessica from HKU, my friend from High School also interning here this summer, we were both overwhelmed by the transformation that took place in the past year, from stepping out of Taichung’s 18 year comfort zone to facing cultural and personal challenges, from being disoriented to adaptation, from the comforts of school to the rituals of the office.
One of the earliest lessons I learned in my internship is to take initiative, proving your dedication, and realizing accelerations leading to mentorship in the workplace. Today I asked Steve if there’s anything I can assist him with, and he gave me two interesting tasks -first was consolidating a 57 page FCA Fintech report and summarizing it into a Powerpoint pitch, and the other was to try out 10 wealth management apps developed by China Insurance (CPIC) and writing a customer journey report for it. As it was mostly administrative tasks or marketing research tasks before this job, I was really thrilled to do some “real work” haha. Reading through the pages of introduction to the Fintech industry, deploying CAT taught PPT construction skills, and flavoring it with a bit of design and innovation made the work fruitful and fun. Steve is a great mentor in the workplace. As he’s also from Taiwan, went to school at Berkley and held positions in JP Morgan, Citibank, among other banks before coming to Prive. Putting these titles aside, his way of communication-even-tempered, decisive, and precision were among some of the emotional intelligence and good delivery skills I observed. The major difference between workplace and campus is communication, as I was struck by how courteous, composed, and efficient people are when contacting clients or interacting with colleagues. Beginning the phone call with a “How was your weekend?” to break the ice, and ending it with “Thank you very much. Great talking to you. Stay safe.” Are among some of the lines I picked up in their conversations. “Let me explain this to you.”, “I was disappointed by what happened. Let’s have a meeting.” with a perfectly reasonable tone. “Perfect.”, “Exactly.” “We charge 1000 dollars a day. Pitch it to them that it’s only the labor costs.” were the other interesting lines conveyed. I was inspired by the high level of emotional intelligence and clear articulation skills from senior managers, during conflicts of ideas they stayed composed and reasonable, they have a deep understanding of people, and onstage/offstage authenticity really displayed itself for leaders in the group.
Upon visiting First Code Academy and Prive, I was surprised by the bountiful energy, fast movements, and hard-working ethic that both startups radiated, and now I realize the bountiful energy comes from the hard set goals and passion for what they do to lead the market.
Chatting with other interns from Indonesia, the U.S., Hong Kong, and also my roommate from Bangladesh, I learned a lot more from their culture from my inquisitive nature haha. “Every individual has a story to tell, and it is always friendly to ask questions to unlock insights and anecdotes.” From racial discrimination that led to corruption in politics in Indonesia, huge cultural differences on drinking, partying, driving, working for part time jobs in the U.S., social norms and fasting in Bangladesh, to social problems in Hong Kong, I feel enriched with the stories people tell. I feel great as a listener, letting the others do most of the talk and absorbing these life stories, enriching our souls and letting the stories flow. Catching up with Pallavi and learning about her internship in Boston was a great first time experience, as I always thought that it’s time consuming to squander time on social media or Skype friends, as I feel that chatting face to face is more of an authentic experience, and I’ve always doubted the “quality” of the conversation when connected with the virtual web. Yet, connecting with Pallavi, sharing our internship experiences and summer vibes just for a brief 20 minutes felt great, we should always cherish human connections, letting love in and giving it out.
After 2 weeks of living in the dorms with Shaoli, I learned so much more about Bangladesh and Islamic culture. During this week of Islamic fast, Shaoli has to wake in the middle of the night to eat, as she strictly follows the practices of no drinking and eating during the day time. I was struck by how pious and devoted she is, Shaoli says she has absolute freedom to not wear the scarf, dress up as we do, but it’s her own choice to take up the religious practices. From religion, education, environment in Bangladesh, travels, exchange, to adaptation in Hong Kong, we talked so much about our experiences and drastically different background. Never have I had such close observations and first hand interactions with Islamic culture, I feel that walls of false impressions crumbling, and her taking me to the 重慶 mansion was one of the highlights of the weekend.
Dad has always warned me to stay away from the building, as people of mixed races-mostly Indians and Pakistanis roam the area, wheedling you to go to their restaurants and stay in guest houses, so I kept a distance to the area. As Shaoli has visited with her father and knew quite a few Chinese food and South Indian food places, she ensured me of the food quality and cheap prices of the restaurants, and told me that is very common for people to “stare” as it is part of the culture. I was a bit uncomfortable in the presence of so many South Asian people gathering in the entrance, but it was a different world inside the mansion. Stalls of authentic South Asian food: from Indian sweets, vegetarian curry, South Indian lento cuisines, and so much more that looked exotic and tempting. Had a great night enjoying great Chinese food and trying out Indian deserts with Shaoli, would definitely want to visit the mansion again!
We also visited 2 Chinese calligraphy exhibitions before going to TST, and I was really impressed by the high standards in Hong Kong. I’d say the major difference in HK and Taiwanese exhibitions is that masters of Taiwanese calligraphy mostly devise their own way of writing, often times too artistic for me to understand. They might be to cursive, too paint-sy, or too vague, yet exhibitions in Hong Kong showcase semi-cursive, clerical, traditional styles in familiar poems that made the experience even richer. It was a nice experience introducing Shaoli to calligraphy culture, could tell she really liked the art, will write her something when I go back haha.
Lastly I’d like to talk about the Hong Kong society, it’s people and social issues. I felt that I gained much more insight to the hectic and bustling city during my 2 weeks of internship. From commuting to work to Cyberport daily and passing by Central-Hong Kong’s banking hub, I observe the hectic and fast-paced lifestyles of office workers day to day. From exploring districts I’ve never been to before-mostly residential districts with rows of identical towers featuring “cage homes”, I note the struggles of Hong Kong people and the dicomforts of squeezing in little quarters that are relatively affordable for modest wages but never reaching basic comfort standards in Taiwan. From the views of Rebecca (fellow HK intern) and Michael (mentor/senior advisor for HSBC), they both hold concerns of the problems of the housing markets-for youngsters with a modest income they can afford housing after saving and living frugally for about 5 years, but then comes the 30 year mortgage that follows you to the rest of your life. This really strikes a bell with the description from “No place for slow men”, saying that Kongers have such a fast pace because “They have a 12-hour workday before them and a 30 year mortgage to pay.”
Fast paces, uncomfortable housing, and dense environments might be the aspects that I will never get used to in Hong Kong, but I feel that the convenient transportation, the fusion of old Hong Kong and western influence, the industry, and the true essence of the beauty in people is what I learned to integrate and love. I’m truly grateful for the people I meet, especially when wandering in places outside the tourism districts. Kind-hearted vendors in traditional wet markets, track and field lady who open the court every day, happy runners in a marathon, are among those who radiantly spark the true essence of Hong Kong. Last week I was a bit lost on my way to Kowloon Bay’s IKEA despite navigating with Google Map, and randomly asked a woman on the street for directions. She turned out to be going to Mega Box (where IKEA is located) as well, and we struck up a friendly conversation. It’s incredible how much you can learn about a person and their culture in a 10 minute walk, I learned that she thinks summer is way to humid in Hong Kong and the livelihoods are hard for the middle class, her business trip to Cape town, and how to take free shuttle buses to IKEA next time. She showed me the way to IKEA, and how to take the bus to the MTR station. We didn’t ask for each other’s names, but I guess the sweetness in human interaction and helping others out is more than enough for such a pleasant and unexpected encounter.