Danwei Plenary Session: Event Report

Moderator Robert Ness and panelists Hari Vaern, Mei Fong, Patty Lee and Phillip Pang

The first Danwei Plenary Congress was held on November 15th, 2007 in a courtyard restaurant in central Beijing. The theme was Careers in Tech, Media, and Communications, a discussion about the jobs available in these industries, how to get them, and which sectors of these industries are growing.

Our panel members were:

Hari Vaerhn of GroupM
Mei Fong of The Wall Street Journal
Patty Lee of Edelman
Phillip Pang of Google

Hari Vaerhn and Mei Fong

Mei Fong used the example of her unique start in journalism—reporting on car wrecks for a Malaysian tabloid—to demonstrate that there is no set path to a career in her field. She revealed that top publications like The Wall Street Journal actively scout potential hires by paying attention to what a journalist publishes. They are especially interested in journalists who have a fat rolodex, or who have access to insiders in organizations or fields that are hard to report on. Mei also explained that while Chinese laws prevent Chinese nationals from working as journalists in foreign media, foreign media have other roles open to Chinese nationals, which can serve as stepping stones to greater things.

Hari Vaerhn of GroupM assured that unlike many other Western firms, there is no glass ceiling for Chinese employees at GroupM nor other companies in the WPP family. WPP companies have a local focus, and Chinese nationals occupy key executive positions at Chinese offices. Foreigners are not excluded, but they must have local experience and language skills, as well as something to bring to the table.

Salaries are not divulged, the crowd is amused

Patty Lee of Edelman described why the PR industry in such an interesting space in China. While in the West, where the PR industry is set in traditional ways of doing things, the industry and the major players in it are young in China, and is constantly reinventing itself. The media industry in China is also heavily influenced by the Internet, making the field even more exciting and unpredictable. This can be difficult because the work is heavily client-focused, meaning that people working in PR need to be prepared for an unpredictable range of client issues that arise daily without warning.

Wine and good conversation

Phillip Pang of Google said that the Google offices in Beijing are exactly the same as Mountain View and New York, down to the desks and the chairs. Even the perks are the same—the Beijing office employs a chef that formally worked for a five star hotel. Philip demystified Google's hiring process, explaining that a system is in place for matching applications with specific needs. Applicants that perfectly meet the needs of an open position could expect to be called in for an interview within two weeks. Successful applicants go through several rounds of interviews after the first phone call. Pre-screened applications are forwarded to Philip's inbox, and if he fails to address them within a set period of time, they are forwarded to his boss. So it seems that if Google does not get back to you, they just aren't interested.

On salary specs:
Hari: We pay competitively and on a performance basis.
Philippe: 75% above the market average.
Mei: Pitiful. You don't do this for the money.

On the typical workday
Patty: Expect unexpected issues to ruin your work plan for the day.
Philippe: Flexible, because you can do work where ever you can get online. This is good and bad.

On work-life balance
Philippe: "We have a team member who just became a mama. After she had her baby, she went offline for five months--nobody could see her. After that, she came back to work like normal. Google also has great insurance, so she could go to the best hospital for the delivery."
Mei: "Life?"

Special thanks to our event sponsors:


• This event's major sponsor was the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business MBA program. Founded by the Li Ka-shing Foundation, the Cheung Kong GSB MBA Program is committed to providing a high quality business education to future business leaders both in the Greater China region and around the world.

Please visit the Cheung Kong GSB website for more information about the school and the MBA program.

ASC Fine Wines provided the Californian wines.

Standards Group designed the giveaway bags, banners and Danwei Plenary Session chop, while Soundfactor, who produce royalty free music for films and radio, provided the music.

Some more photos from the event:

Mei Fong, Patty Lee and Phillip Pang




Tianjin TV in the house

There are currently 7 Comments for Danwei Plenary Session: Event Report.

Comments on Danwei Plenary Session: Event Report

It was very nice to hear others talking about their experiences in PR in China, made me feel less lost.

Most interesting moments were Mei Fong berating her fellow panelists for being so reticent about salaries--she did finally get Mr. Vaerhn to admit that 2500rmb/month was a possible starting point at GroupM. I guess journalists and PR people are natural adversaries anyway...

Is that Mr Peking Duck I can see at the Q&A?

looks like a wonderful event, congratulations!

looks like a good event--however packed it may have been with witless foreigners who have no idea how to make a decent living in china, and their chinese counterparts who have no idea how to market their talents to the west.

"The first Danwei Plenary Congress was held on November 15th, 2008"

have we missed the Beijing Olymics 2008?

Ooops, no Helen, I don't think you missed the Olymics, mistake corrected, thanks.

"looks like a good event--however packed it may have been with witless foreigners who have no idea how to make a decent living in china, and their chinese counterparts who have no idea how to market their talents to the west."---said by B.

First off do you mean china or China? If it's the former why would foreigner's try to make a living in dishware? If it's the latter, I hate to tell you but most of the riches being made in China these days are from foreigners. Maybe not in media (wait until the media is open to the west then foriegners will dominate that market too) but in almost everthing else short of badminton.

If some native has talent why do they need to market it? Shouldn't their talents speak for themselves?

China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
From 2008
Front Page of the Day
A different newspaper every weekday
From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Culture and corporate propaganda in Soho Xiaobao (2007.11): Mid-2007 issues of Soho Xiaobao (SOHO小报), illustrating the complicated identity of in-house magazines run by real estate companies.
+ Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship (2010.03): Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship at an officially sanctioned meeting in Shenzhen.
+ Crowd-sourced cheating on the 2010 gaokao (2010.06): A student in Sichuan seeks help with the ancient Chinese section of this year's college entrance exam -- while the test is going on!
Danwei Archives