SMALL WINS

It was just a week ago, on a Friday night, when I was walking out of office at close to midnight, that a tinge of emotions (just a tinge) ran through me.

I don’t know how to explain the feeling, but it was a mixture of: satisfaction, relief, and reassurance.

I always think and feel a lot, but this time it was somewhat different.

It truly was a moment for me to sink in.

.

No, I didn’t win an award, neither did I get a compliment from a director, nor was I given some amazingly good news.

It was because my package had been approved by the chief editor — and I did almost the entire process (at least, the ones which I was quite worried about) on my own.

If only I could let you in on the planning and execution behind it all…

To be sure, I was never worried about researching and scripting. If there’s anything I believe I am able to do, it will be these two things.

But it’s the MANY many steps behind getting a package out, i.e. uploading footage (that’s a whole process on its own with many set requirements), editing from scratch and selecting appropriate footage (including archive ones which require Chinese typing and hunting), submitting the video (and amending it according to the editor’s comments), that I have been a bit concerned on.

As a foreign hire, we are lucky to have a multimedia editor assist us with most of the administrative parts, such as liaising with Mandarin-speaking interviewees, translating the interview, uploading footage, other logistics, etc. However, unlike others who do not know the language, because I am able to read and write Mandarin, I needed to learn all of these admin stuff pronto because I can’t always be relying on others for help. And plus the quicker I learn, the faster I am able to focus on my main role which is reporting.

But beyond the above — this story wasn’t really a straight forward one. Don’t get me wrong, I was really happy when I was first assigned to do this package, which is on foreign banks in China achieving win-win solutions with China, as part of the side-stories leading up to the Fortune Global Forum. After all, I did use to work in a bank for a bit and used to cover only business news…

This wasn’t a newsy piece, neither was it a follow-up to a very recent announcement. The angles given were so broad, I researched and read-up all over to come up with a few possible angles — wearing the hat of a ‘foreigner’, of course, like what would I be keen to know if I were watching back home in Malaysia. Alas, last minute, a director wanted a human angle as well, and to make this story-telling as interesting as possible. I was scratching my head worried as hell, wondering how to deliver this the best way.

Then came securing the interviewees. This took up a lot of time, and all within a short period (a week) since my colleague and I only started contacting the banks a bit late after my other assignment. On hindsight, given that we were given sufficient time to lock in interviewees, I should have started early on. I wanted to give myself time to research first, initially.

Anyhow, after managing to speak to the corporate communications department of a few banks, came the many questions they have for us, understandably, like which other bank are we going to feature, when will it be aired, specific questions ahead, what’s my background, etc. Then came securing the date and time, if and whether I should fly to Shanghai, amidst getting a second bank confirmed there to make the trip worthwhile… all while I was doing my rotation in the newsroom.

Gotta say though, the corp comms people in foreign banks here are solid — prompt and professional. It was great working with them.

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I also wrote a separate piece for our new media platforms here, which I thoroughly enjoyed! There were so many things I couldn’t insert into my package, including context, soundbites, etc so I am glad we also have this platform to input these other stuff. I do miss print so much.

The article is found here.

Thank you, Deutsche Bank and Societe Generale, for speaking with me 🙂

Now, to many of you this may seem like a small matter perhaps not even worth celebrating or even thinking about.

But to me, it was a sense of progress and evolvement; from not knowing anything about video editing, to now being able to even nick and pick (I can already imagine being a perfectionist about this in the future — I hope not!). I suppose it was fresh for me as well, not having used Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere before, and hence I can’t compare it with our Sobey system here (which is all in Mandarin).

Plus, this video editing was tough (I am still at the learning stage!) as both interviews took so long — one was 45 mins and the other, 25 mins — and to transcribe and pick-up the best sound bites was hard. And making it sound natural as I cut and combined their answers while overlaying appropriate footage… But it was thrilling, as I searched for music on our system and added in it as well in my intro and ending. Haha.

This package reminded me of my Silverlake interview — in terms of the whole erm post-production of it. Except, I didn’t have to edit my own videos back then. But I was SO NEW, literally MY FIRST or SECOND video interview done where I knew nothing about sound bites and crafting a story then.

There is so much more I can improve in terms of making my script snappier, more creative, etc… but this small win has reaffirmed me that at my various times of doubt (trust me there were TONS), that ‘Hey, see, you can do it.’

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FIRST-TIME GONE LIVE!

I’ve been in Beijing for 2 months.

I know it’s ONLY been two months but honestly? I still can’t believe it myself — it feels way longer than that. (I also feel like I have aged tons since I got here… but as they say, the steepest challenges are right at the beginning… like, handling broken household appliances, for one…)

I am still taking things one at a time, though not easy. If you know me, or even if you have just met me, you may deduce easily that I’m an A to Z person wanting to know and get everything right quick. Learning to breathe and take it all in (in all due time) is not my forte but I’m working on it.

And on some days when I thought I can’t make it (gosh I can be so drama!), I did… but not without tons of determination, people skills, grit, an attitude of wanting to learn and also accommodate (to my best ability but can be improved). Oh, and humour, too.

It also feels like a completely different life here because most, if not all, of my colleagues here do not use instagram, facebook, twitter, gmail, etc… So the only social media contact we have is WeChat moments. Not that this matters, of course!

Anyway, funny how it was a nice coincidence that I reported on my first assignment with it being aired on TV exactly in my first month here.

And now on the dot to mark my second month in this city, I did my first ever LIVE-streaming for our social media (they call it new media here) platforms. It may just be social media, but it is a milestone for me nonetheless, never having gone live on any platforms (except for my own insta-stories la…) before.

Also, this was a HUGE event — China’s Double 11 festival. CGTN has prepared a 6-hour streaming, a kick-ass studio with seasoned hosts and guests from around the world, live-crossing to correspondents all over the country and the world!

If I may describe the entire experience in one word, it would be: thrilling.

I learned SO many things from this live-streaming — both professionally as well as on the personal front. Won’t go too much into detail but here are just bits and pieces of it:

  • As this was a mega event with dial-ins from all over, know the entire schedule and not just your own little slot or segment. This is to ensure you see the big picture and prepare (the content and approach) accordingly, so you can ‘connect’ with the hosts as well as the audiences seamlessly
  • While one needs to liaise with the director, cameramen, anchors at the live studio; the most important person to heed to is the on-the-ground director. He or she will point out the remaining time you have, where you should be walking towards, etc. (I did a mistake by first checking with the cameramen but noted on this right after)
  • There are bound to be shouts, cries, along the way. I suppose this is only natural as the entire process is 24 hours long! Don’t take it personally
  • That said, we should try our best to keep our morale consistent, even when we are tired. And if we notice our team mates’ energy to be low, we should try to perk them up as well. For a team is only as strong as its weakest link
  • Lastly, when you have agreed to do something, be sporting, do it till the end and give it your best

I am also a tiny bit proud of myself for all communication within the group were done in Mandarin!

Anyhow, here’s the link… you can catch me at the 49th minute onwards, and the 3rd hour and 48 mins onwards 🙂 **my first time doing LIVE so don’t expect much yeah…**

Truly it’s always about progress. I wonder how will I feel about myself looking back in months or years to come!

We were together from 9am up until 5am the next day. But this picture below says it all.

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谢谢你们的指教,大家辛苦了. 以后有缘再相聚 ❤

GREAT SERVICE

I am pleasantly surprised AND impressed by the services rendered here (mostly via app platforms) so far in Beijing. It’s something my mom has observed as well in just the few days she was here visiting me a month ago.

Before I go on, this post is not meant to be a comparison post. I am not in a position to place benchmarks because I have yet to experience a lot of these similar services back home or in any other countries.

So, what prompted me to write this post was a Didi (China’s ride-sharing platform) ride a few days ago. I remember having spent over 15 minutes trying to guide the driver to my place. It wasn’t his fault — my location tag just doesn’t show the entrance of my apartment accurately and so I always had to call the drivers prior to let them know which entrance to come to. Most of them get it most of the time. But it was tougher with this driver.

I felt frustrated and at that point, with me explaining in full-blown Mandarin to and fro; and it just felt like yet another challenge adding on to my daily pile here. The other passenger in the car kindly helped (it was an express pool ride). But instead of being angry, a feeling of admiration came out of the whole situation. I thanked the driver for being so patient with me, knowing he really tried his best and meant well to find me. He did NOT have a single word of complaint.

(Some of you may say they are in the service industry after all and they should be nice to customers, but at the end of the day they still have a choice I believe, and I have seen one or two who are not hesitant in showing their annoyance or anger)

In the car, he explained that he only started driving Didi three weeks ago, and had only started using WeChat since then as well. While it made sense, as I completely understand the feeling of dabbling into something new and still in the process of getting familiar; this reiterated the importance of being empathetic to those around me. I praised him for his willingness to learn new things and technology at his age.

Alas, it didn’t end there. When the driver (or 师父 as how we call them here) dropped me at my destination, he did not end the trip on the app. And because of that, I couldn’t hail a ride back thereafter (it was about 10 minutes since). I called the driver to inform him to end the trip. Thank goodness I could still contact him because when a trip ends, we are not able to contact the driver (vice versa) anymore. These are all private information.

And ah, I realized I was charged 59 yuan instead of my initial 23 yuan.

I was taken aback as this difference in rates never happened before in the many times I took a Didi ride. My first thought was because maybe the driver spent over 15 minutes trying to find me initially and there was a surcharge in that (?). I immediately clicked on Didi’s customer service icon on the app and pointed this issue out to the personnel in charge. The personnel replied me and got it fixed it right away.

Turned out I was overcharged because the driver didn’t end the trip on time, and continued to charge me as he was on his way to drop the other passenger off. The refund came in the day after to my bank account as my WeChat pay is linked to my bank account. I dropped in a good word of the driver to the customer service personnel, thanking him for his patience, as I was unable to thank him (again) myself thereafter.

Speaking of (the promptness of) refunds, I ordered something from 饿了么 the other day, only to realize it was sent to my previous AirBnb address. I contacted the restaurant and informed of the mistake. They too helped me cancel the order and the refund came in the day after (although they said it may only come within the next 3 to 5 days).

The same thing happened with JD as well. The refund is so efficient (I thought the first transaction didn’t go through and did another one) it came in within hours.

Also, the other day I got an air purifier online and wanted to verify some facts and usage of it. The seller was so responsive and informative in answering my queries over the app.

My commendation for China’s service industry does not end here.

One of the days last week, my Wifi just couldn’t work. I wondered if it was because I didn’t pay for part of my October’s fare (my one year contract starts from November). I called China Unicom the next day, and immediately they arranged for a technician to make an appointment with me to come by and check/ fix. The technician even called me multiple times, more gan zheong than me. I was still out then but turned out it was just a temporary glitch and the Wifi worked when I got back. Well, the technician did ask me to give him a good star rating, regardless, and I gladly gave it.

Another case of good service is the delivery of my drinking water pump. It is heavy, no doubt; and the personnel sends it over ever so willingly (and he does it fitting to our timing), for a mere 30 yuan.

Truly, while speed and promptness (in answering customers’ queries and delivering goods) is crucial and I’m also amazed by that, it’s the attitude of these service personnel I am most impressed with. They do their best to serve us, without a single complaint, and I as a customer can see and appreciate that.

We should always keep in mind to drop them a nice word of thanks and acknowledgement when we have received a treatment we are happy with. We should also strive to be patient towards these service personnel, as they are, to us.

How nice would it be if all of us can work with this same attitude — I’d like to say for all profession, but understand it can be hard as the work requirement and circumstances vary from one another. But that does not mean we shouldn’t be our best selves when we do something, be it working or not.

STRETCHED; BUT ALL WORTH IT

I am stretched – in ways I never thought possible. Chop, let me rephrase: I never knew I could be stretched to this extent, until I got here. And just to set the record straight, I meant stretched in a good way 🙂

That’s because I am learning loads, not just in terms of new (technical video editing) skill sets, workflow (SO many steps!), systems; but also the softer side of things like how, what and who to text in various WeChat groups, people’s names (dozens of them)… and they are all in Mandarin. Lol.

Over and over again I am amused that on top of the million and one things to pick up here, I am, in fact, also unconsciously taking Mandarin classes on the job. That can be a deal-breaker in a reporter’s job, in my opinion. For without a good grasp of the language, how do we fully understand and able to ask follow-up Q’s? I did learn the language up until SPM, but I have never used it vastly it back home.

More importantly, though, what I have learned and am still learning is — the true concept of professionalism and diplomacy; all while staying true to myself.

I know it’s only been 5 weeks here in Beijing, and there’s going to be so, so much more waiting ahead of me (I can already envision). It should get easier once I get a good hold of the workflow, but plenty of other challenges await. I’ve said this before, but I want to go through these bits and pieces of tough learning curve one at a time, devour them, and look back telling myself I enjoyed the process.

I was just thinking the other day, hey, I have gotten more positive ever since I got here.

Two scenarios prompted this thought.

The first was, well, my first assignment last Saturday. Although it was a soft story to cover (a media tour organized by the press center), I was in scrambles as we couldn’t get what we were initially aiming for: to interview foreign journalists. I didn’t know what to say in my stand-upper as well. Alas, I was surprised (and impressed too, if I may add) at myself for staying calm throughout, and managed to churn out a story out of…nothing, initially. This wouldn’t have been possible without the assistance from my colleague (who came with me) and the cameraman; both whom have been here and doing this longer than I have. Their input was invaluable.

The second ‘positive-awakening’ scenario came from my third assignment filming a commuter’s journey to and from work. Due to my back-to-back assignments, admittedly I didn’t put too much forethought in planning this. I thought I could just film it and come back with a story. But as it turns out, TV journalism isn’t like that. And so, I could only do the best I could (what what I have) when scripting and editing the video.

Different week has presented itself with different challenges.

I was just thinking (I’ve been thinking a lot…) the other day, up from waking up in the morning till I get back home, every step can be quite an ordeal: fighting through the subway, braving through the cold, juggling through the new environment, etc. From a print background and small company, to a huge one and a different medium (broadcast) at that… It can be pretty tough. But at the end of the day, you can choose to see it in a positive light; or down it in negativity. I choose the former.

A huge perk though: My colleagues, or basically anyone in the firm, has been helpful. They are all so smart, with exposure possibly even larger and wider than mine, and yet they have been kind. Am grateful for them.

Now onto some of my past few weeks highlights (yes, I take notes):

Second week

A colleague went through with me on how to use the news production management and video editing system, etc; all while I continued to work on writing web stories for The Big Picture series. It truly was an honour to be able to do that for Han Bin laoshi, one of the most senior reporters and correspondents in the team. It gave me a good bird’s view of China.

Towards the end of my second week, I moved into a new place after scouting for a few of them in this area where I lived in my AirBnb. Of course, I took into account location, near the subway (then I started using Didi haha), rental, payment terms, etc. I just wanted to settle down quick.

This week was the week where the wide usage of Mandarin language kicked in. Not so much in terms of work, yet, but in terms of the other stuff like goods delivery (JD.com yo!), on how to communicate with the delivery man when I wasn’t home, bank accounts, mobile credit, etc. I also started using AliPay beyond just WeChat pay.

As I am neither here nor there with the language, it can get a little too much to take in – at first! Little did I know this feeling will only get worse weeks on…

Oh, and not forgetting my trip to and fro IKEA. World-class. Only a 13km journey, but took us one and a half hours. Blame me for not checking with the agent first where he was taking me to get my household stuff, and also blame me for not checking out myself where is the nearest place to get those stuff. It was the day before the Oct 1 National Holidays.

Third week

This week I learned to see the ‘big picture’ (LOL), and get the important things done quick. And if and where possible, delegate.

For example, I should have gotten my kettle first things first. Online delivery took 4 days! Which is long by average standards here. I should have also allowed the agent to install wifi for me.

And because those weren’t done, mom didn’t have that when she came. And yet not a word of complaint from her. Yes, my dearest mom came to visit me this week. She volunteered, knowing I could need her help (even though honestly it didn’t cross my mind I needed — at that point).

And boy did she help! From reorganizing my apartment (maximizing spaces by rejigging furniture or lack thereof in this case haha), getting the important things (to clean and cook simply etc), taught me to make soup hahaha, taught me a system to clean and wash my place, etc. She has been so patient with my pettiness, God bless my future husband hahaha. THANK YOU MOM!

We didn’t do many touristy stuff or even hang out much at all outside; we mostly just got me settled down quick…by visiting Carrefour 3 times LOL. We did have Peking Duck and watch Sing China! 2017 together and had a great time 🙂

Fourth week

Oh, this week was pretty erm hell! The weather turned cold in a whim, like from 22 degrees during the day to as low as 10.

I almost fell sick, ALMOST… had mild flu and headache, but thankfully it didn’t turn to a fever. I just kept consuming Lingzhi & Pollen and after 2 to 3 days, I felt back to normal again. Mom brought over some extra supplements for me as well.

This week was at the tail-end of me completing writing web stories for The Big Picture series. In total I wrote almost 20 of them! I didn’t do the video packages, I merely turned the repoters’ packages into read-able stories with a mild input from my own. It was a good assignment that I treasured doing.

And not forgetting, I also did my first package at the end of this week (mentioned right above). The call was a pretty last minute one, amid juggling other stuff. And to top it off, I was given two other assignments thereafter as well.

Like they say, no better than to just throw yourself into the deep sea and start going… the tougher at the beginning, the faster you learn, the easier you’ll learn to accept and adapt later on.

Excited for what’s more to come ahead.

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BEIJING,我来了

[Wrote this at the end of last week, only uploading it now]

My first week in Beijing… has now come and gone. This time last week I was getting ready to head to the airport, with my heart the heaviest it has ever been.

I figured it’s because I have been back home since graduating abroad many years back, and have never quite worked overseas for a long(er) period. I do consider myself an independent girl, but I am still a close knit-family person and I suppose it only makes some sense that I will miss home.

Although it’s been a week, I still can’t quite believe that I am here. I mean, it hasn’t quite sunk in just yet. Maybe I have been psyching my mind to sort of ‘tone down’ my move here, to reduce expectations, and just take each day as it comes. This is a vast contrast to how I felt before I left home – I was worrying so much prematurely about so many things! Thinking back, it was pretty hilarious.

I suppose first things first, I just wanted to say – everything has gone by smoothly so far!

Initially, I was concerned about many uncertainties: job expectations, my translation standards, video editing (part of our scope here and I haven’t attempted), budgeting expenses, etc. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have spent time worrying so unnecessarily. Not even when I have never worked in a TV station before.

My first day here went by in a rush. Landed at 6 am, and didn’t anticipate the queue at immigration to be THAT long (close to two hours I reckon). A colleague greeted me and picked me up, and we went to settle stuff like getting a local SIM card and opening a bank account done. Barely had time to wash up and I took the subway (for the first time!) to office. Had a HR policy mini briefing and I was introduced to my producer – who was so nice and kindly brought me around to meet others who are around.

At the end of the first day, I was completely knackered. Didn’t sleep in the plane the night before — you can imagine.

Workplace

Everyone has been so helpful and hospitable so far!

My team mates have eagerly extended their welcome wishes and help should I need them, one has gone through the systems processes with me, also the company has arranged someone to accompany me for my medical check (relieved I didn’t have to re-do the whole process and could use my Malaysia’s one as it’s just days before the 6 months validity ends). 

The locals acknowledge they do treat foreigners better.

And admittedly, I do still feel a bit foreign being referred to as a foreigner if that makes sense haha. I mean, I am one, but I don’t look like one. Plus, I don’t sound like a Westerner. So what does that make me?

That said, it IS a huge advantage if you’re able to speak Mandarin here. I didn’t realize the importance and usefulness of it, until I needed the language not just to get me around, but to also be in the loop of things (although WeChat has a translate function…).

And of course, by understanding the language, it also helps to learn one’s culture better. (So, thank you papa and mummy for sending me to a Chinese primary school and to a public speaking class as well).

Over here, my colleagues call me anything from my name Lynn, to 惠莲, 小谭, 马妹 (one of them). This reminds me of my time in Yingkou, Liaoning, 6 years back when my peers then also called me the same thing. It was my first taste of China then. Good times.

In terms of the workplace itself, it is magnificent. The building? I was, still am, and will still be (for however long), in awe. From afar, which I got to see yesterday in the CBD, it looks – WOW. A landmark on its very own.

As if the city and my horrible sense of direction isn’t enough to take-in already, I also now have the building – with its two towers and various offices/ floors – to figure out as well. Thousands steps a day, if I may!

This is on top of my colleagues’ names (so many!) and various WeChat groups… all in Mandarin. Thankfully – I consider my memory good with names and have been okay so far with remembering most, if not all, of them.

Observations thus far

Wanna save money and know more? Mingle with the locals. When you speak to some overseas people, they will say cost of living is high. But from my few conversations with some locals (and they may not necessarily be from BJ), they will say it’s pretty “cheap”, highest is of course rent. But food, clothes! 超棒.

And you guys may already know this but no one really carries cash here. I used WeChat pay on the second day, thanks to my colleague who picked me for the medical check. She’s IT savvy and helped download some other useful apps for me as well. Even in convenience stores and all, the cashier seemed quite surprised if I choose to pay by cash.

Also, Chinese really love their emojis or emoticons. They almost reply anything with that. And apparently, the emoticon I always use – the smiley face – is hardly used here. Another colleague shared with me (no harm intended, of course) and ooh, ok, I will use the other more common ones next time! Haha.

And, while most here are educated abroad, they still feel most comfortable speaking Mandarin. My WeChat groups are mostly (if not all) in Mandarin — workflow, discussions, video editing software, etc. The commonly used terms, normalities, etc. But really, it is beautiful to be reading and replying in Mandarin.

In terms of formalities, most seem to call one another (or at least, the seemingly more senior one) 老师. Unless he or she is a director, you refer as 主任.

And in conversations, for example, like instead of 很 or 非常, they use ‘挺’, although the meaning varies slightly. Northern or Beijingers also tend to add ‘er’ to their last word in a sentence. Like, 你下班-er 了不?

Food delivery is huge here. In fact, everything delivery. I was told about this by two Malaysians hahaha. One who has been working here for over 2 years (introduced by a friend WS), and a parents (who so kindly introduced me other apps too and to keep body moisturized)…deliver household goods, groceries, fruits all to their place. Really pampered to the max, I tell you. Lol.

Oh, and the colleague who picked me up, one of her names (沁) is part of the title a poem Mao Ze Dong created called 沁园春·雪.

There is just something to learn from everyone – be it what apps to use, how best to do something, etc. (Learned this from my mom – always so willing and open to learn and share thereon)

Transport! Many colleagues bike to office… you’ll see plenty of OFO and Mobikes around. But no thanks for me. I can ride a bicycle leisurely but not in the city. Don’t wanna be bumping into anyone or anything. Didi would be much more preferable though I have yet to try it (though I have downloaded and registered).

Also, pretty quirky that bags are being x-rayed in subway stations here.

Finally, Beijing in Autumn is the best, I have been told countless times by many. Of course, blue skies greeted me when I landed. And for (only) 3 solid days it was clear. 

Moving forward

I am still taking it one at a time without thinking too much. To also sort of fit-in with how things work around here.

I worried too much prior, thinking if I will perform. Problem about me is I want to know everything and get comfortable pronto – systems, software, operations, workflow, etc. But these take time. I want to learn to enjoy the process instead.

Apartment hunting! The AirBnb I am at now is at an awesome location convenience wise – took me over a week to get something, but I made the right choice. Just 2-3 mins walk to the subway stop! My endless conversations with the host also enabled me to feel comforted that my choice is right…

Gosh this sounds like a diary post. Haha. I really LOVE to talk.

Till the next time, everyone ❤