Today is my fourth day at my new job as [Senior Web Architect | Senior E-Business Manager | Director of Web Services] at Ports, an international clothing company based in Xiamen. I think I’ve had one job in my post–grad school life where, on the first day at work, someone knew exactly what I’d be working on that day. That job was my first Designer position at Headbone Interactive. As that was my first design job, however, I had no idea how to do the things I was being asked to do. Like use Illustrator or code CSS, for example. My boss recognized I had raw talent and gave me the structure I needed to develop it. Here, I have the opposite problem: I know how to use all the tools but don’t have a very clear idea to what end I’m using them. I guess this is a usual work trajectory in the New Global PostModern World™, but that doesn’t change the fact that I have no idea what to do at my new job where everyone speaks Chinese.
Most of my adult-type jobs have started like this one. On my first day, no one quite knows what to do with me (or what my job title is). I don’t know who will provide me with direction, and no one knows exactly what my actual product is. This job is probably the first I’ve had where I didn’t even start with a job title, however. So I’ll be spending the next few days (weeks? Ugh) figuring out what the hell I’m supposed to do. Also: I manage (drumroll) a Chinese staff, which is doubly challenging: one, because I don’t care to manage people, and two, because managing Chinese workers requires more intense management (of the unpleasant “get back to work” and “here’s exactly what you have to do” and “what the hell are you doing?” variety).
The Ports office is in Jimei, a close suburb of Xiamen. The Chinese reckon their cities differently that Americans, however, so Jimei is actually part of the city of Xiamen (as is, in fact, a large swath of farmland and hill territory.) This would be a little like saying “Portland, Oregon” stretches from the falls of the Willamette to the Columbia river, and from the foothills of Mt. Hood to the Coast Range. Think about this next time you hear that Shanghai has 30 million people; by the way the Chinese reckon city size, Portland has 2 million.
Anyway, Jimei is an improvement over Xinglin (the suburb where the school was located) in a couple of key ways. First, it has a nice-ish college, which lends a little bit of sophistication to the town. Second, it’s about 20 minutes closer to downtown Xiamen (where we live). And third, the Ports office is in “downtown” Jimei, handy to restaurants and shops, and whatnot. Contrast with XIS, which was on the outer edge of Xinglin, surrounded by farms and factories.
Some other advantages of working for a company, not an educational monopoly:
- Free Chinese lunch every day
- Daily contact with actual working Chinese people (whose working conditions, BTW, are a little better than American Apparel might lead you to believe, but let’s not kid ourselves, I’m now working for a Chinese clothing factory)
- A workplace where incompetence is punished and quality rewarded
But the real downside to working at a fashion comapny is that I have no clothes. For example I have exactly two pairs of work-appropriate (read: leather) shoes. The people who work in the office here (Chinese and foreigners alike) are all really nappy. I look like what I am, an unstylish hippie. So I’m gonna have to spend more money and time doing my least favorite thing: buying clothes.
I kind of wonder what the clothesy people I know Back Home (you know who you are) would think of my new job.
p.s. Here are the websites I’m working on: