After two plus years with The Hoffman Agency, as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed AE, I found myself sitting across from Lou at a classic American diner early in the morning.
Eating waffles and talking PR.
Lou’s surprise proposal? To take part in Hoffman’s Building Bridges program. Leave for Hong Kong in two months. Return after four.
My immediate answer? Yes!
Was I prepared? No way — as in, I didn’t even own a passport, no way!
In the following weeks, these things happened:
- Locate Hong Kong on a world map.
- Expedite a passport — thanks Linda!
- Tell my parents I was temporarily moving to Hong Kong — then promptly dry my mother’s tears — “It’s so far!”
- Pack, plan and pretty much pretend like I knew what I was doing so Lou didn’t take back the offer.
Two months went fast and before I knew it I found myself in a taxi at midnight, driving down those famous florescent Hong Kong streets. Stomach churning. Thinking: “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.”
Those next four months working in the Hong Kong office were some of the best days of my life. To be honest, the hours were long and the work was hard, and I know I shed some tears from being homesick. But I don’t remember much of the struggles or time clocked behind a desk.
What do I remember most?
The delicious, delicious food! The culture. The region’s beauty and grit. And yes, the work, both challenging and complex, but always rewarding.
But above all? The people and friendships forged.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of my favorite memories:
- My first company karaoke experience. I remember realizing quickly that this was a very serious event and that pretty much all the Hoffman AD’s were fantastic singers. (Word of advice, if in a similar situation, choose “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia, it’s a real crowd pleaser. “Caribbean Queen” by Billy Ocean is not a fan favorite and will be met with silence — as I painfully experienced!)
- Eating durian in the stairwell with Lydia as the rest of the team screamed from inside the office that the smell was still too close!
- The breathtaking hikes with the team through the beautiful Hong Kong countryside to Shek-o for BBQ and up Victoria Peak. And day trips to Lamma Island for a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
- Accompanying the CEO of Friendster on his media tour around Hong Kong on the eve of the Moon Festival. I have never experienced such subway “traffic” and still remember Florence Chan expertly guiding me through the sea of people on the MTR like a hot knife through butter.
- The work break that included a Morgan Freeman sighting adventure on the Central Mid-Levels escalator while he was in town filming the movie Dark Knight. Cindy Wong’s photography skills had all the paparazzi beat! (And here’s a fun fact — that walkway system is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world — even the celebrities use it. They really are just like us!)
Those days truly changed my view of the world, of myself and others. But most definitely, they changed the course of my career and ambitions.
I’ve now worked in International PR for an additional six years in the U.S. and Europe managing multi-country PR programs for technology clients. I still draw from my experiences as a 25-year-old in the Building Bridges program to help make smart decisions. These memories are always accompanied with a smile and a deep appreciation for such a life-changing opportunity.
Congrats to Lou for 20 years in Asia and, especially from my standpoint, having the foresight to establish the Building Bridges program to enable such wonderful cross-cultural work experiences for so many people. If I haven’t said it before, please take this as my official thank you for those waffles!
Congrats to the Asia team for doing such great work to establish Hoffman as the go-to-technology agency in the region. You are true rock stars!
It’s been close to 10 years since I left Hong Kong, and every day I’m working to get back for a cup of milk tea or pigs blood soup, or dim sum, (or whatever, really) with my long lost Hoffman team. I know the food, company and conversation will be wonderful!