Starting out at a Shanghai Start-up





Here v. Home

“Is the city too overwhelming for you?” A coworker asked as he gestured out the window at the beautiful downtown Shanghai skyline: skyscrapers were cutting through the clouds. The office is on the fifteenth floor, so it had a fairly nice view while not being excessively high.

I giggled a little before just shaking my head. I am used to people thinking that Texas is just farms and fields. I did not realize how the Texas stereotype proceeds me. We are not all cowboys who ride their horses to work. I am Texas born and raised and have yet to ride a horse. [I am actually quite disappointed about that fact because I feel like I am missing out on a Texas tradition like I cannot call myself a true Texan until I go through the initiation of riding a horse.]

“Dallas and Austin are comparable to Shanghai. We may not have buildings that stretch as tall, but our skylines are just as crowded with skyscrapers,” I explained. Working in the office. It actually reminds me a lot of visiting my mom at her work, especially the cleanliness and professionalism. This office is a bit posher than the offices that I have visited in the states. There is a café and bar in the workspace. The floor lobby is a collaborative center where you can have an amazing view of the Oriental Pearl. I am sure offices in New York City and Los Angeles also have these perks.

I am sure if I came from a small town, Shanghai would leave me more in awe. However, I think I feel more at home seeing these skyscrapers than my coworker initially thought. I am Texan, but I am definitely a city girl. Nevertheless, it is still interesting that he would think that I would not have seen so many skyscrapers in the states. This makes me wonder more of their perception of the US. Do they think that we are less industrially developed than they are? Admittedly, I think the US is beginning to lag behind, but I still think we are currently competitively in sync.

Cherishing Chinglish – the language bridge

In the office, we speak a combination of Chinese and English. They are not solely speaking English to accommodate for me. My boss actually grew up and went to school in the states. While her Chinese is still so much better than mine, it is nice to have someone else who is not entirely fluent in Mandarin. Therefore, when I need to tell her something, I will just use English, not just because it is instinctive but also it is more efficient.

However, with the other coworkers, I make more of an effort to speak in Chinese. I am in China after all; I should be speaking Chinese to improve my fluidity. They have gotten into the pattern of starting off the instructions in English, but as it gets more complicated, they will slowly transition into Chinese. It is very interesting because that is the opposite of what I do. Whenever I call my parents, I will start the conversation off in Chinese but throughout the call, I will catch myself saying more English words.

I need to be more aware of speaking more Chinese at my internship. I want to improve my Mandarin in the academic and professional setting. This is the perfect opportunity for me to practice with native Chinese speakers. There will be common phrases that I should be able to quickly pick up on.

Expecting the “extra-ness”

The work hours are fairly long. My coworkers have to work from 9:30 to 6:30. It is not that different from an eight-hour workday, but I know that they begin work much earlier than 9:30 and work much later than 6:30, especially if there is a major project deadline that week. For instance, they were informing one another of their schedule this weekend at seven in the morning. [I know because I am a part of the WeChat group and was woken up by their messages.]

This also means they work into the weekends. While this may not apply to other companies, I know that since this company is a client-based startup, there are many times when the client is only available on Saturday. This means that they have to rearrange their schedule to accommodate that request. I was also asked to work on a few Saturdays so I can get that exposure. Of course it was optional, but I do not think I would have given up that opportunity nor would I feel that it would be appropriate to refuse if I did not have a valid reason.

They are even on call during their vacation. One of my coworkers is attending a wedding this weekend; however, she still will only be a WeChat message away. I do not know how I feel about the idea of taking work home or on vacation. On one hand, I love being busy. I get anxious when I have free time.

[This may explain why I am taking summer classes while interning about 25 hours each week. Even when I am traveling, I love to make an itinerary, so I know that I am making the most of the time wherever I’m at.] However, I also want to keep my work life and personal life separate. It can become an issue if the line is too blurred. You should enjoy what you do, but you should also have time that is just to spend time with family and friends.