Drew does HR

Here’s the full text of the response I got from my best friend in college when I told him about my new job:

And how on Earth are you going to be an HR guy?
That strikes me as the least likely career choice for you.
I’m not sure I can even think of a job you would be less likely to have.
It’s not even your dislike of people – I would say your direct confrontational style and history of disregarding people’s feelings would have excluded you.
Maybe you can spin out a reality show . . . . something like the Chinese version of The Apprentice maybe?

Jesse Cook, everybody!

To be fair, Jesse and I haven’t seen each other since graduating back in 2005, and we don’t keep in close contact… so, you know, he hasn’t had a chance to observe all the progress I’ve made through counseling and stuff!

And, see, I think his specific choice of phraseology is a bit misleading…

…direct confrontational style and history of disregarding people’s feelings…

could just as easily have been written as:

…consistently rational and goal-oriented, as well as able to resolutely lead when needed in order to rein in distractions and petty bickering whilst driving those around him to succeed…

Honestly, it’s pretty much the same thing right? Good, I’m glad you agree – moving on.

How did I get from reinforcing the Past Tense and proper use of Counting Words to Human Resources? Good question!

Starting in April ’08 I began teaching night classes for a local tech company. They have two main branches in town – one develops software for mobile phones and the other is a joint venture with the medical division of a major international company. Most of my students were in their 20’s or early 30’s and of the programming, engineering, or sourcing persuasions. In short, of similar age as I and well-educated. Over the course of 2008 a large portion of their workforce took my classes, and I won them over with my Nescafe instant coffee-fueled passion and pervasive laidbackedness. (“Don’t worry dude, it’s gonna totally work out!”)

As 2008 drew to a close I was assigned a new class for the company – a VIP class. VIP is Chinese marketing speak for one-on-one. Your student could be a pregnant 12 year old with meth mouth and my company would still declare it V-I-P with a flourish of trumpets and banners gaily lilting in the (smoggy) breeze. Anyhow, so I get this VIP 1-to-1 class with what I’m told is a high-level representative from the joint venture.

1-on-1 private classes on the side are a great way to make extra cash in China because your student’s pay doesn’t get skimmed by the company you work for. 1-on-1 classes for a teaching company are decidedly less awesome. Not only do you just get a tiny hourly wage bump, but working with only one student necessitates preparing a great deal more course materials because virtually no time is wasted having X number of students repeat something. Obviously, 1-on-1 is of tremendous value from a student’s perspective — but I’m not a student so screw them!

The first day of class rolls around and I show up dressed a little less casual than usual (seriously, I wear GWAR t-shirts to work at the university on a regular basis) for my very important person.

"Business Casual"
“Business Casual”

After exchanging pleasantries and before any sort of lesson could begin, my 40ish HR & Admin Director cut to the chase:

“Why are you working for this company?”

Not the question I was expecting, but one I’ve heard enough times to be able to answer it without revealing my surprise: “Because I’m studying Chinese, wanna do environmental work in China soon, etc. etc.”

“Why don’t you come work for me?”

Now this one caught me completely flat-footed. The best reply I could come up with smoothly was to politely laugh it off and point out my rather obvious absolute lack of any HR-specific qualifications.

My VIP had not come to be denied, though: “I know all about you from my employees’ reports about your classes with them. I could use your energy and intelligence, and we could give you valuable joint venture experience and help you finally master Chinese. After a year or two, you could move on to a better job. Don’t stay here, you’re wasting your future.

…well, when you put it that way!

And that was how it started. I was still under contract with my university until July ’09, so we spent the rest of winter and spring having occasional classes and talking about my new job.

Oddly enough, the very last class I took in graduate school at APU was Human Resource Management. I recall not wanting to take it, but as things sometimes happen it was the only course available in my open time slot that fulfilled my last graduation requirement. I did enjoy the course, but I credit that more to the talents of Prof. Drummond than to the material at hand.

Compared to continuing to teach English, I’m taking a massive pay cut and quadrupling my average monthly working hours (without counting overtime). BUT I’m getting a job with a future and experience that is tangibly valuable. Let’s be honest, which would you rather see on a resume?

  • Taught conversational English at a university in NE China for two years (~20hrs / week)
  • Chinese proficiency – Basic.


  • Human Resource Management at an {international industry leader} & Chinese domestic industry leader joint venture, 2 years.
  • Chinese proficiency – Certified Fluency.

In the absence of additional choices, I think it’s an easy decision!

To make up for my lack of job-specific experience, I’m going to be in an intensive rotational training program for the first several months of work. Fortunately, half of my coworkers are former students with whom I have a particularly good rapport! Also, through our VIP classes over the last few months I’ve really come to like & respect my boss – that’s always good for morale!

Starting Monday – August 3rd – Drew hangs up his… heavy metal t-shirts and, umm… chalk? and dons neatly tailored slacks and dress shoes to begin conquest of a new foe – The Corporaticus.

  • Can a 26 year old whose entire inner monologue consists of “Dude!” , “Awesome!” , and “No Way!” survive in a sanitized office environment?
  • Can a misanthrope succeed in Human Relations?
  • Most importantly – does Drew look totally awesome in dress shirts & slacks?

Time will tell. For now, though, I leave you with this:

Some people just shouldn't be allowed to use Photoshop.
Some people just shouldn’t be allowed to use Photoshop.

May Day in Benxi

May Day Holiday Plan A – Gaizhou!

A little late writing this one up, but I’ve been very busy – which will be explained in a subsequent journal entry. Originally for the May Day holiday I was supposed to go to Gaizhou (盖州, Gàizhōu) with my maternal grandfather-in-law. He’s getting up in years and hasn’t seen his hometown in decades. He also knows that I’m all about the coastal lifestyle and don’t enjoy being landlocked here in Shenyang one bit. So we three – grandfather, mother, and me – made grand plans to go to Gaizhou and go fishing and eat seafood until our stomachs exploded.


The only problem was Gaizhou is a good 3~4 hours away on the train and when the appointed day was on the morrow, Maternal Grandfather-in-Law wasn’t feeling up to the arduous trip. Taking a train anywhere in China is an adventure in its own right, but to do so on a crowded holiday for 4 hours plus queue times at his age just seemed to be a little to much. So we changed plans! Instead, I was to go to Benxi and we were all to go fishing – huzzah!

May Day Holiday Plan A Plan B – Fishing in Benxi!

So off I went to Benxi with my mother-in-law. The train was packed and we had ‘standing tickets’ rather than assigned seats, but we squeezed into a car with sleeping berths and I soon found an unoccupied top bunk and snoozed away most of the 45 minute rumble there. We were met at the station by Dajiu (literally ‘big maternal uncle’) who regretfully informed us that the water temperature up here in the mountains was still a little too cold for the fish to shake off their wintertime metabolism and start feeding. The fishing trip was scratched. Instead, he had borrowed a minivan and we were going to take a trip through the Benxi countryside – huzzah?

May Day Holiday Plan A Plan B Plan C – Scenic Tour in the Benxi Countryside!

Our first destination was Ping Ding mountain, located on the edge of the city. It’s one of those things where you’ve seen it a million times and always said to yourself “one day I’ll climb that…” Well, May Day was the day, except we drove it – ha. According to the massacred English on the park sign, Ping Ding mountain is a nature reserve and used as an outpost both by Japanese and Chinese forces at different times during the War of Resistance. The ruins of the fortifications amount to little more than a few low stone walls at this point, but it’s interesting to stand among them and try and figure out why on earth anyone would ever feel the need to guard Benxi.

Continue reading May Day in Benxi