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
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