I could see the young man standing under the big screen in Times Square in Causeway Bay. But based on his position at the big company and the way he talked on the phone, I estimated that the person I was about to meet was over 30, which seemed rather green.
But he also looked at me, as if he were waiting for someone. I felt it would only be awkward to keep looking at each other, and was about to see if there was anyone older around when he tentatively called my name.
His name is David, a middle manager in a well-known Hong Kong fashion company. Before joining his current company in 1985, he was a product manager in China for another large womenswear company. In short, this is a young talent.
But unlike the conventional wisdom of young talent, he wore stud earrings, rolled-up pant legs, and a pair of not-so-clean Converse. But the crisis on Wall Street has taught us that it's not always smart in the suit and tie. There is also more than one standard set of talents.
I was writing a story about the fashion industry and needed an expert to guide me through the story. Then, I googled David on the Almighty Weibo.
Almost two minutes into our conversation, I noticed that David's personality was very distinct -- his confidence was written on his face and in every word he said. Without any modesty, he told me that people at the bottom called him a legend. In only five years, he had risen from a college graduate to a middle manager in this company. "I'm a very thoughtful person," he said when I suggested that his point was interesting.
I'm not trying to flatter him. He has a thorough understanding of his job, such as what his role is in the operation of the company, how he is facing a problem that may have long-term consequences, why it is happening, how it relates to him and the company system, and what solutions he can think of. Despite his confidence, David is not arrogant and is quite sincere.
I have to say, throughout the interview about the fashion industry, David's answers were so logical that I wondered if he had asked himself these questions enough times to get an answer. But all this thinking, he says, comes from a single question: "Why do people buy from us?" If a company doesn't do well, it's probably because it never asks itself.
David studied fashion marketing in college. He entered the fashion industry out of love, but he quickly transformed himself from a "hobbyist" to a "professional." Without constant thinking, David says, he would have become just one of the many screws on the production line of the big company while he was still working at the big women's clothing company, slackening, his hobbies becoming gags over time.
So he doesn't care if his old employer makes his title look good, or if the big company is safer. He knew his career path and jumped to his current Hong Kong company, which was just starting in mainland China.
This reminds me of a college reunion not long ago. Many of us don't care if we're young or middle-aged. Their security is achieved by merging into a low-risk track that can be driven to the old. Some were even paunchy and showed a hint of twilight -- it was too early.
David and I are about the same age. I'm not sure how many of my peers have David's self-control and thinking skills, and the same question applies to me. But ultimately, I believe, it is these two abilities that have led my generation to different middle and old age.