I sat down with Angela Yang at Quinary, a bar in Hong Kong. We sipped unique cocktails that looked like cotton candy. She came from work and was wearing a stylish sleek black outfit. Angela is now 23 years old. She was an architecture major and writing minor in college. She grew up in Los Angeles California, but has been working in China the past few months. In the past she was a design intern at Gensler Los Angeles and at Oatman Architects in Newport Beach. After college graduation she was a design strategist at DisruptivAgency in Los Angeles. Currently, she is the Vice Director of Research + Development at Great Aim Group in Zhuhai, China. Angela shared with us the challenges of working abroad and how to overcome those challenges and be confident in your work.
What do you love about architecture and how have you applied your creative skills to different aspects of your life?
“I think the best thing that architecture has taught me is how to problem solve. In theory, architecture is a discipline that requires a lot of research, planning and foresight; however, as the saying goes, the best-laid plans often go awry. The true beauty of the discipline lies in its blind spots. I love when I have to think on my toes and troubleshoot. During architecture school, some of my best projects started out as mistakes that turned into happy accidents. When you’re working and living in a new country, life tends to throw you a lot of curveballs. So to sum it up, I think creativity in my life right now means being open-minded and working flexibly.”
What have been some large and small differences you have noticed between living in LA compared to China?
“I think the biggest challenge in living abroad for me has been relearning convenience. Conventional to do list items such as ‘shop for bath mat,’ ‘print photos for frames,’ and ‘buy allergy medicine,’ can no longer be completed via a simple trip to a nearby Target, rather, they can become quite daunting and ‘inconvenient.’ But in reality, there are over a billion people who live in this country and they all seem be getting on just fine. It took me a few months but I slowly figured it out. I reframed my perspective: Be proactive. Let go of old ways if they don’t serve you. And again, be flexible. Be open-minded. After all, I didn’t move to a different country to live exactly the way I was living back home in LA.”
What does it mean for you to be powerful and confident? How do you show your power? Does this connect back to your life experiences?
“I think too many people are afraid to ask questions or admit when we don’t have the answer to something. We’re afraid that we’ll come off as stupid or be looked down upon and not accepted. We would rather not know the answer than to ask the question. Put simply, it’s arrogance, but look below the surface and it’s actually a lack of confidence.
Confidence means checking your ego at the door when you want to know. Power means being able to take that knowledge with you wherever you go, so that some day you may use it or even share it with someone else. This is especially relevant in my career at the moment where
everyday I am confronted with the challenges of working in an unfamiliar language and every other minute I’m asking a coworker, ‘What does this or that mean?’ I have to ask these questions in order to work productively and if I don’t ask, then the only person I’m doing a disservice to is myself.
However, I was definitely not always like this and I still struggle with it from time to time. English was not my first language and I actually failed my way through first, second and third grade. I probably would have been held back multiple times if it wasn’t for my mother who made sure to let the principal know that this was not going to happen to her kid. I used to be really scared to speak up because there was so much I didn’t know and I was always scared of saying the wrong thing. My mom was the one who forced that bad habit out of me through lots of practice. She used to say (in Mandarin), ‘You don’t have the answer. Great. Someone out there in the world does. So go find it.’
Be confident. Ask questions. Don’t leave yourself in the dark.”
Do you have a favorite product or item that you love?
“Yes! MUJI ‘Hair Band Black.’”
Why do you love the product or item? Do you use it daily? Why is it special to you?
“No matter where I’m going or what I’m doing, I always have to have at least one hair tie with me. It makes me feel ready to tackle anything that comes my way. My favorite hair tie in the world is from MUJI. The days of hair ties snapping and losing elasticity are over. Bonus, they don’t cut off your circulation.
I think it’s a huge sign of confidence when women pull their hair back especially in meetings or interviews instead of hiding their faces behind their locks. It’s probably some kind of deeper psychological effect of looking more trustworthy or transparent, but I just think that it makes you look more put together, alert, and ready.”
What advice would you give to others?
“If you ever have an opportunity to work abroad for a year or two, do it!— especially if it’s in a country that speaks another language. Do it while you’re young and don’t be afraid of being uncomfortable. It just means that you’re growing.”