People of (Metrohm) China: Part 1
Since I arrived in China, our local Metrohm colleagues have introduced me to various aspects of Chinese daily life, from everyday working life to family life to Chinese food to places of prayer and worship. Here’s the first part of my experiences with the people of China.
Metrohm China: From 2001 to 2018
With almost 300 employees, Metrohm China is one of our biggest sales organizations. The company is present with five offices across the country—the main office being in Shanghai—as well as various sub-offices and and home offices in remote areas.
Metrohm China has a great track record in keeping its staff happy at the company for many years. A respectable number of them has been with Metrohm China since its first days and have seen the company evolve from a small enterprise to one of the Chinese market leaders in chemical analysis instrumentation. By now, I’ve had a chance to talk to long-service employees from the Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai offices. Many of them told me that, in addition to prerequisites like good pay and work-life balance, they appreciate Metrohm’s unique company culture.
Metrohm China COO Hubert Wu, who joined the company 11 years ago, tells me that Metrohm China has changed a lot because of its fast growth. «But we still keep a family feeling and transparent communication with each other, even with those who do home office and service engineers in the field,» he adds.
Xing Guowei has been with Metrohm China since its first days and is responsible for the Metrohm Process Analytics brand. For him, the working atmosphere and the relationship with his coworkers are part of why he has stayed with the company for so many years: «In my opinion, the people in the Metrohm family are positive, uplifting people. We can support each other. Another reason is the Metrohm brand. It’s a very good brand, and all of us are proud to be working for Metrohm.»
Ion chromatography and voltammetry sales manager Jason, who’s based in Guangzhou, draws the connection to Metrohm’s Swiss roots: «Most of our competitors come from the USA. Metrohm is very different from these companies. The staff of our competitors changes very fast. At Metrohm, it’s very stable. That makes us feel like a family. It’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed at Metrohm China for 15 years.»
Metrohm China Cares!
Mr. Gu Shaoduo, Senior Account Executive at the Beijing office, took me and my host Grace of Metrohm’s Guangzhou office to one of his most loyal customers: Ms. Wang Qian, associate researcher at the Institute of Process Engineering of the Chinese National Academy of Sciences. Wang Qian works at the National Key Lab of Biochemistry, which mainly investigates the key elements in physical, chemical, and biological conversion processes. Their aim is to understand the basic rules that determine process efficiency and cost as well product quality to create new process designs, technologies, equipment, and products.
Some of Wang Qian’s projects include the optimization of biochemical processes such as the production of fermented organic acids and fermented amino acids as well as the cultivation of algae. All of these processes are used in the production of food supplements. «The lab work can be boring sometimes, and even frustrating,» Wang Qian tells us, «but when I find something new, something big—those are the moments that I work for. They are what I love about my job.»
As soon as we entered the lab, Gu Shaoduo was already on one of the three ion chromatography units, solving a problem that Ms. Wang Qian had run into earlier. She tells us that she can always rely on Metrohm for service: «Once, we had a problem with one of our samples. Gu Shaoduo spent two days at our lab until he had solved it.»
Another way to show customers that Metrohm China cares about them are events like an anniversary celebration that I was invited to join while visiting Guangzhou. The Guangzhou branch of Metrohm China invited some of their best customers to celebrate Metrohm’s jubilee with a Tai Chi lesson taught by an acclaimed master of the Chinese martial art. «By offering a Tai Chi class, which is good for health, we show the customers that we care about them—not only as customers, but as people,» Grace explains.
Food and Family Life
Our first official food appointment in Beijing was, perhaps unsurprisingly, Peking duck. The Beijing specialty dates back to imperial times. It was originally prepared in a closed stone oven, and most of the countless duck restaurants in Beijing have pictures or models of these old ovens on display. The equipment used for the preparation of Peking duck today looks a lot less romantic than the old stone ovens, and could almost be called high-tech. Whether the result is still the same is impossible to judge for me, but it was definitely a delicious meal.
I did also come across food that was far less appealing to me. The south of China is known for its more exotic cuisine. Metrohm China CMO Brett visibly enjoyed the expression of horror on my face as he told me about the southern food habits of eating snakes and dogs (in the best case) and brains out of live monkeys strapped underneath a table with a hole in it (in the worst case). It turns out that nowadays all of these exotic food habits have become quite uncommon.
Of the southern Chinese dishes I was served while in Guangzhou, the one I was least crazy about was chicken feet, or «phoenix paws», a local euphemism that didn’t make them go down easier. Gnawing the coarse, wobbly skin off the otherwise very bony chicken feet is very popular in China, especially in the south, but didn’t get me particularly excited.
I got a home-cooked meal at the home of Senior Account Executive Steve Zhao in Guangzhou. Cooking in China is a lot more complicated than it is in Europe, as there’s never just one dish: a Chinese meal always includes various meat, fish, and vegetable dishes accompanied by rice as a side. Steve invited Grace and me so I could see how a typical Chinese family lives in the city. Steve, his wife, and their two-year-old son share an apartment in a residential complex in downtown Guangzhou with Steve’s parents in law. This is a very common constellation in which the generations support each other by sharing duties like watching the children, the very laborious cooking, and taking care of the household.
Attached to the residential complex are temples to honor the ancestors. The family of Steve’s wife has a long history in the village that is now part of Guangzhou, so they have their own temple. A family tree on the temple wall illustrates the family history over more than 80 generations! The family temple is not only a place to pay respect to the ancestors, but also a meeting point. Many family members, especially of the older generation, like to get together at the temple to play cards and chat.