By Jeff J. Brown
Pictured above: the front cover of the book, “Huawei Stories: Pioneers” and a team of North American Huawei employees donating 80,000 meals to a worthy recipient.
Right here, it takes just a second…
Sixteen years on the streets, living and working with the people of China, Jeff
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Book review of Tian Tao’s and Yin Zhifeng’s Huawei Stories: Pioneers
LID Publishing Limited (2018)
By: Jeff J. Brown
After reading this book, is it any wonder that Huawei is the global leader in ICT?
Note to begin: the best format to review this book is to let the contributors tell their stories. Therefore, I perused each chapter and pulled out extracts that reflect the spirit of Huawei, with a few comments along the way...
Before even reading this book, the front matter sets the stage. Repeated themes are, (Mao Zedong’s) “Serve the People” (society and the customers), military images of battles, danger, survival, sacrifice, perseverance, dedication and victory, along with youthful learning on the job. This is much different than most Western businesses.
After reading this review and/or the book, is it any wonder that Huawei continues to be the dominant information and communications technology company across the globe?
Finally, I lived and worked in Africa and Middle East for ten years, traveling to most of the countries in the regions. I was working in agriculture, so spent most of my time in the field. Therefore, the experiences recounted in this book really brought back a lot of fascinating, exciting and at times, dangerous memories for me.
Inside book covers
This is the best of times. Why don’t we work hard to create miracles in the prime of our lives? We have only one life, and youth only last several decades; there are only a few critical moments in life; and we must live our lives without regrets.
Huawei has always had a very simple goal as a business: to survive. Most employees at Huawei are from modest homes. They want to contribute to society through their dedication and commitment, and also want to change their fate and live a happy life.
Ultimate success is built on firm belief, and firm belief is built on a strong focus.
Huawei’s sole weapon is unity, and our only tactic is to open up.
“In a field of straight hemp even the weeds grow straight.” – Hsun-Tzu, Encouraging Learning
“A life full of memories makes for a happy life.” – Ren Zhengfei, CEO, Huawei
Picture yourself in the harshest of environments. You are alone and far from family and friends. You face every sort of threat you can imagine. Malaria. Robbery. War. This is what Huawei staff face as they grow the company globally. Despite these hurdles, their courage and confidence never waver. They come from different fields…everyone has their own unique role to play, and everyone always remains dedicated to the cause. It is the commitment of each wave of young people that has propelled Huawei to today’s leading global position. These young people have had the opportunity to hone their skills, and have gained memories that will last a lifetime. This is a book written for the dedicated people of Huawei. In this book, you will find the dreams and enthusiasms of youth. You will also find the hardships and struggles they face. All depicted, true to life, right before your eyes.
It is the toughest hour, when the battlefield is obscured by thick layers of smoke, that dedication and perseverance are most important. That is the spirit that drives people at Huawei to charge ahead and seize the strategic high ground. It is no different in business. Including the field of information and communications technology (ICT). In difficult times, it is more important than ever to rally one’s troops and gain a competitive advantage. A methodical and strict approach, the pursuit of excellence, and being customer–centric are what ensure the high quality of our products and services. These beliefs and practices are the essence of the pioneering spirit of craftsmanship that is at the root of Huawei’s success.
Chapter 1: Preface, Flawed Heroes Are Still Heroes, by Tian Tao
Note: extracts from the Preface will be more than the other chapters, since it really helps define the foundation of Huawei’s spirit, philosophy and purpose…
In early 2016, an image of Olympic champion Florence Griffith Joyner (“Flo-Jo”) appeared in Huawei’s “Breakthrough” advertising campaign, stirring up quite the controversy both inside and outside the company. In 1988, Flo-Joe had set new world records for both the 100- and 200-meter races, shortly after she was accused of using performance enhancing drugs.
It’s natural to question why a global information and communications technology company like Huawei chose Flo-Joe for its ad campaign.
Controversial heroes are still heroes.
And heroes or those who work hard, with unequivocal purpose. As Huawei’s CEO Ren Zhengfei often says, “What’s the point in scrubbing a piece of coal?” In other words, those who don’t create value with their actions cannot claim to be dedicated – no matter how hard they work.
(Chinese author) Lu Xun wrote, “The fighter for all his blemishes is a fighter, while the most whole and perfect flies are still only flies.” Of course, what Huawei needs is fighters, their various flaws and weaknesses notwithstanding.
Huawei has 180,000 fighters, generals and commanders of different backgrounds, personalities and ethnicities. Every single one of them is a coin with two sides. but they are all accepted in the Huawei crucible, where they’re tempered into something stronger.
There is no such thing as an immaculate environment, nor are there perfectly spotless people. According to Ren Zhengfei, Huawei uses its competency and qualification (C&Q) system to build effective, results–oriented business teams, not a saintly choir.
Heroes at Huawei come in all shapes and sizes. Those who gave their all, excelling in the roles they were best suited to – these are heroes in the annals of Huawei’s history. Perhaps some of them were only heroes of the moment, acting in the heat of battle, never to shine again. And what’s wrong with that? We can’t let the contributions of heroes fade from our memory, nor deny heroes their do prestige.
Showing tolerance for idiosyncrasy and rewarding heroism are prerequisites for the ongoing expansion of any successful organization. If an organization starts examining its employees under the lens of a microscope, it will weed out all the eccentric and otherwise flawed geniuses.
Heroes aren’t without their flaws, but they pick themselves up after setbacks, bumps, failure and fault.
The old saying, “Victory has one thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan”, is not necessarily true.
Those who do not succeed are seen as failures – especially the fighters who have met defeat time and again in the course of hard work – should also be recognized and treated with respect.
Ren Zhengfei gave the following response to one manager’s public moment of self-reflection: “No one can always win, and there is no success without failure. Failure is the mother of success.”
Ren Zhengfei talks about how Huawei must focus all its strength – the so-called “Van Fleet Load” – on strategic opportunities. He also notes that a considerable part of the “load” will be spent on “valuable waste”, meaning that exploration in uncharted territory doesn’t come without a price.
Bai Zhidong, the head of Huawei’s Blue Team, once asked: “Since when has Huawei stopped calling upon individual heroes to rise? And for the eccentric heroes out there, since when has Huawei taken the wind out of their sails and allowed them to be sidelined?”
Note: Huawei uses internal Red and Blue Teams to create competition and self-reflection among employees.
Ren Zhengfei always stresses collaboration between Wolves and “Bei”, highlighting the indomitable spirit and heroic tenacity of wolves.
Note: Bei is a mythical Chinese animal that is the physical opposite of wolves, but they learn to work together.
Chapter 2, Mosquito Tornadoes, by Xu Haiming
Note: common to Huawei’s customer-centric service is that no matter what you are doing, what time it is or where you are, if a client calls with a problem, nothing else matters.
Our customers told me why they love to work with Huawei in Malawi. The first reason is that we give customers immediate service, at any time. The second reason is that we help our customers succeed. Malawi had frequent power outages. We would always help our customers reboot their networks, Huawei and competitor equipment alike, and our customers ultimately came to appreciate the humility and respect we showed them.
My life changed, and it all started with the pledge we made: to deliver or go down trying.
Chapter 3, A London Courtship, by Victor Zhang
Note: great story about how Huawei as a company of people learns on the job, from practical experience and trial and error.
In 2003, Huawei was looking for avenues into the European market. In a reflection of the company’s international ambitions, a European strategy team had been put in place even back then. It was Ren Zhengfei’s “wheels on the ground” market strategy that kept us moving on, kept us searching, and the place where the breakthrough opportunity presented itself would become our European headquarters. The foothold that we found, and that ultimately led us to make inroads into Europe, was BT.
We had passion on our side. We feared nothing and we never stopped to worry about how anyone else saw us. We just went out there and said what we had come to say.
Chapter 4, A Young Bookworm Turned Leader, by Linda Han
Note: hiring young, not-necessarily experienced people is still standard practice at Huawei. My younger daughter was just transferred from HR in Germany to a high-profile Admin Assistant position in France, with zero experience in the latter field. Huawei believes that the hard knocks of in-field, hands-on training helps create heroes and heroines! It’s also very much a part of Mao Zedong Thought…
In addition to the threat of stray bullets, there were also people taking advantage of the confusion to steal and rob. One incident of looting occurred less than 10 minutes’ walk from our residence.
I am grateful to Huawei for having brought together a group of focused and dedicated people, and for tolerating the impulsiveness and growing pains of youth. My time with Huawei has made me believe that – as long as I work hard towards my goals and strive for a little progress every day – I will eventually arrive at the destination I am hoping to reach. Thank you, Huawei, for giving us a fair platform upon which we can “work together towards the same end and receive income from a single source”. As long as we contribute value there will always be a reward. Thank you, Huawei, for putting together a special place where the enthusiasm and passion of youth can flourish, for lifting us up, and for enabling us to achieve incredible dreams in our youth.
Through the ups and downs the good times and the bad, Huawei has been there, helping to expand the horizons of life, and giving us a wider vision of the world.
Chapter 5, Manly Scars, by Eman Liu
Note: food is a frequent theme in this book. Something to think about if you are working away from home…
When our founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei came to Ethiopia, he told us not to scrimp on our food budget. “You must spend all of the food allowance we give you. If you don’t spend it or try to save it, we will stop the allowance altogether. If you’ve got a full stomach, you don’t get homesick. Your first priority is to keep yourself properly fed. The most important thing is to keep morale up, so don’t ever squeeze on your food budget.”
Support also comes from our parents. At Mid–Autumn Festival, the company used to send a box of traditional mooncakes to the families of all Chinese employees who were working overseas. My father used to look forward to that gift every year. It’s not that we don’t have the money to buy mooncakes, but the fact that the company thought about our parents while we were away in Africa. His neighbors would see the delivery and say to him, “That’s a good company your boy is working for. They send you mooncakes because they know your son can’t come home and be with you Mid-Autumn.”
There had been many near misses like that, and it was clear that sooner or later someone was going to get hurt.
To Take New Land
(adapted from a poem by the patriot hero Yue Fei)
Ambitions not yet realized, the rain is cold as
I stand by the rail;
I look back at the past: Our fighters could never
do enough, the battle is unfinished.
A decade in Africa nothing but dust to show;
Summer and winter, thousands of miles.
But I never gave up, I bore it for ten years,
No base to speak of; Our allies fickle. Let the
bugles sound, and we shall see their true mettle!
On the midnight road, ready to present; from
dusk till dawn drafting bids. Let us show our
steel, storm new cities, and shoot for the moon!
Chapter 6, Holding the Fort in Iceland, by Shu Jianzhen
Note: personal sacrifice for the greater good is a common theme at Huawei.
I happened to be on vacation back in China at billing time. Since I was back at my parents’ home, we had no access to broadband, I had to book a hotel in town for two days. I got the customer’s permission and worked on the problems remotely. Finally, I was able to help our customer produced bills for its end users.
That was the way we worked: identifying problems and immediately responding to them. That was how we practiced Huawei’s core value of “staying customer–centric“. It was sometimes painful, but the results were worth the pain. Thanks to our persistent efforts, the customer developed more trust in Huawei, and signed a three–year contract with us to support their billing and maintenance.
At first, the Iceland office was quite lively. We would visit the volcanic baths, have meals together and play cards. Life was certainly not boring. Then my colleagues left, one after the other.
It would be very difficult to find staff from other countries willing to work long–term in Iceland. We also tried hiring local engineers. With no one available to replace me, I ended up remaining in Iceland for five years.
Chapter 7, Mission to Medog, by Wang Wenzhang
Note: I saw many Huawei towers hanging off mountains and up impossible valleys on the Tibetan Plateau, during the travels I took to write, 44 Days Backpacking in China (https://chinarising.puntopress.com/2018/06/30/praise-for-the-china-trilogy-the-votes-are-in-it-r-o-c-k-s-what-are-you-waiting-for/). Thus, this chapter really resonated with me…
Medog (Tibet) is hard to get to, in fact unreachable during some seasons. If we were short of just one screw, we might not find another one for sale in the whole county.
Rainfall, snow–capped mountains, virgin forests, mountain springs, waterfalls, villages of indigenous Monpa people, porters, packhorses, shared sleeping mats at the way stations, 100–plus kilometers of footpath into and out of the county, landslides, avalanches… all of this and more contributed to the mystery and adventure of Medog County.
When I first received the order to start work, my excitement turned to anxiety and worry. It would take eight days of hiking to reach Medog, and the thought of the landslides, leeches and poisonous snakes along the way almost frightened me off.
Suddenly I remembered a famous quote: “Man’s dearest possession is life. It is given to him but once, and he must live it so as to feel no torturing regrets for wasted years, never know the burning shame of a mean and petty past.” It’s true. We only live once, and few people have the opportunity to visit a place like this. Now, I was lucky enough to have been sent on a mission to Medog. It would not only be a conquest of nature, but also a challenge to myself.
When I returned to the path and rolled up my sleeve to look at my watch, I was astonished to see a big yellow and black leech stuck on my left arm.
After trekking for four straight days, traversing 144 kilometers through a landslide danger zone, we arrived.
Back in Lhasa, whenever I closed my eyes, I would visualize the trek to Medog. It was a road with no end. It was a road that only bull–headed stubbornness could get us through. In fact, the so–called “road” to Medog was no road at all – it was merely a route that people chose to walk. It is a rare opportunity to choose our own path, no matter what the difficulties or dangers that may entail. Taking the road less traveled will reward you with extraordinary experiences.
Sometimes I think that passing through landslide danger zones from time to time is a way to remind yourself to value the path you have taken. You should appreciate what you have and work hard for what you want. There will be flowers in full blossom along the way, and there will be withered flowers, too. There will be ups and downs as we march on. As long as we keep moving forward, not fearing the hardships down the road, we will get through it. On the long and hard journey of life, I believe we all have the guts to face up to the many difficulties life throws at us.
I’ve been thinking that if I have the chance to go to Medog a second time, I would be happy to take it. The path to Medog has etched a deep groove in my heart; it was a lifetime experience I’ll never forget.
Chapter 8, Living the Frontier Spirit in Africa, by Song Yu
Note: Huawei employees do not just talk about team building, they do it spades.
Burundi was not very safe, and there were a lot of power cuts. We only had electricity from 6:30 to 9:00 or 10 each night.
Take good care of your family, lest it falls apart.
You may be wondering why everyone had to jump off the diving board. First, we didn’t have any other kind of entertainment. Second, we wanted to create a tight knit team.
During our work, I would assess the resilience and adaptability of every member of the staff, and their contributions to the team effort, positive or negative. Sometimes, we played a party game called “Mafia”. Playing that game enabled me to see how each person thought, their ability to express themselves, and their overall character. People who are happy to talk to everyone are generally more positive. I used to encourage those guys to spread their positivity around. With the quieter guys, I would offer a little more personal support.
Our living conditions had improved, with the real difficulties lay in our work. Small countries can be quite challenging because the competition for a limited amount of business is so fierce. If you don’t have sufficient strength of mind, the challenges might easily force you to retreat. What pulled me through all the hardship was a simple thought: I wanted to prove my value.
The team in a small country is like a family. You need to shoulder more responsibility and if you don’t take good care of the team, it falls apart.
The thought of trying to reach that target was making my head spin, but once you’ve been given a job, you’ve got to grit your teeth and get it done. There’s no point trying to negotiate. Fortunately, everyone in my office had the same sense of mission. We were determined to get a firm grip on this market.
In terms of relationships, I missed out on some of the exciting moments in life, like being there when my son was born. I wasn’t able to look after my parents when they were ill, or say a final goodbye to departed relatives. But I gained the unforgettable comradeship that comes with shared dedication and laughing together even in the toughest times.
Today, I am no longer in Burundi, but I know there are still many “frontiers” in Africa. And there are still many Huawei employees struggling and making their own trade–offs out there. I believe that our spirit of adventure and dedication lives on, spread among countless Huawei people.
Chapter 9, Why Woks Are a Company Asset, by Shi Jian
Note: this chapter is about a chef who started working with Huawei in Côte d’Ivoire and over time, worked his way up the ranks in the company to great success…
I had always liked the energy of this young team. The company’s employees were not like anyone I’d worked with before.
As the Chinese proverb goes, “Even the smartest housewife can’t make dinner without rice.”
Chapter 10, Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining, by Long Feng
Note: Long Feng was in Sierra Leone during the Ebola epidemic.
As the saying goes: “Fate helps those who help themselves.”
During my time in Sierra Leone, I came to realize that ordinary and extraordinary are like two sides of the same coin. As long as you accomplish your ordinary work on the one side, you will embrace an extraordinary life on the other. In the face of the epidemic, I saw myself overcome my fear and anxiety, and developed a calm, brave attitude. I don’t think anyone would regret remaining at their post after being through what I have experienced.
The light of day penetrates into the room. The rainy season is just about over. Clouds will always blow away eventually. And I, back in China, working at an ordinary post at Huawei, will keep forging ahead to pursue my dreams.
Chapter 11, True Grit and Grace, by Rina Lou
Note: Rina Lou is a service professional at Smartcom, a subsidiary of Huawei that provides travel, hotel and canteen services. Her story revolves around Huawei’s participation at the Mobile World Congress (MWC). To understand how dedicated Huawei is to its customers, this chapter really shows to what depth and breadth the company goes through to make the customer happy.
Though I miss my parents terribly, I am entirely dedicated to working with my colleagues to ensure Huawei’s success at high visibility events.
I remember when I started my job, I was given a thick volume of standard operating procedures (SOPs). At the time, I could not believe the SOPs consisted of 119 chapters and elaborated on all possible work scenarios and knowledge I needed to acquire. For example, the SOPs lay out a series of standards for what to do and what to say concerning serving a customer a cup of tea, including how to open the meeting room door, how to identify the guest of honor and what the recommended temperature of the tea is. There are even precise instructions on how many centimeters the cup should be placed from the edge of the table, for the convenience of the customer. No detail can be overlooked.
When I joined Huawei, I was a blank slate. The company helped me to gain rich experience over the past eight years, a period when I became familiar with my job and established my professional identity. I now take pride in being a service professional.
Over the years, I’ve also witnessed how Huawei itself has changed and grown through every professional event. I am proud to be part of this team and the company.
The service sector can be viewed as a battlefield, where every successful reception is a victory!
Chapter 12, An Earth–Shattering Birthday, by Hu Wei
Note: this story shows how Huawei works in product development and testing.
Time passes so quickly. I’ve been working at Huawei for more than 10 years now, and in that time, I’ve grown from a wild and reckless youth into a calm and seasoned veteran. More than a decade of exploration and pursuit has left me with a treasure trove of memories.
Our goal was to make the best products in the industry.
Looking back, the most difficult times in Huawei ended up being the most personally enriching.
Life is a tapestry of surprises and headaches.
Chapter 13, The Day I Was Robbed, by Xu Shanshan
Note: I spent a total of several months working in RSA (Republic of South Africa), traveling all over that incredibly beautiful country. Luckily, I never had a security problem.
It just goes to show that whatever situation you find yourself in, there is always a positive angle if you just look for it!
We can proudly say that we finally had the experience of being held up at gunpoint in Johannesburg!
Working overseas can be lonely, arduous, and at times downright dangerous. But with the help, care and humor of colleagues, it’s hard not to find a bit of fun even in the hardest aspects of the work.
Chapter 14, The Overseas Adventures of a Bemused Female Administrative Manager, by Tang Xiaoyi
Note: this chapter gives a good example of being held accountable at Huawei…
There wasn’t even a decent hospital in the area. During the two days that we waited for rescue staff from our office to arrive, I hired someone to apply cool water to my colleague around the clock, to keep his temperature down. That was the first time that I felt frustrated and helpless. I was terrified he might die at any moment.
I worked alongside my colleagues to prepare emergency supplies and to coordinate security and rescue resources.
It began with a regional administrative staff member who, just as she was leaving the company, suddenly realized she still had about 16,000 Chinese yuan in cash advance that hadn’t been verified. The money was used to pay for the office’s utilities and rent. Her electronic verification records were impeccable but HR and legal colleagues later told me that, based on her salary level, I really shouldn’t have approved such a large cash advance for her. In the end, HR informed me that, because of my management errors, I would be subject to a penalty of 10,000 yuan and a public notice of reprimand.
Over the course of that decade, I spent time in Ethiopia, Djibouti, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. I sometimes find myself thinking back to that incredible time in my life. Those memories will always be with me.
Chapter 15, Fists Up, by Fan Siyong
Note: more great metaphors about how succeeding in business and beating the competition is like a battle.
It wasn’t a good time to be in Burundi. One day, while I was having a meal at a restaurant, a grenade went off across the street, followed by a billow of white smoke.
In Uganda they didn’t have much confidence in Chinese communications technology and equipment. During the product presentation, we would state that Huawei’s smart networks complied with various international standards. We would often be laughed off stage, with the audience finding it impossible to believe that a Chinese company could meet such high standards.
A tall building relies on sturdy foundations.
I have a habit of simplifying complex things in my work. I don’t like skirting around issues. I think that business is all about who you deal with and whether these people do what they say they’re going to do. It essentially boils down to whether they are worthy of your trust. You also have to see if the interests of both companies are aligned.
The first step was to rebuild confidence. I had a pep talk with the team, telling them that in a boxing match, it’s unrealistic to always expect to hold your ground. There will be times when we have to duck and cover, when we have to step back. We have to know when to take a step back, so that we could deliver a harder blow the next time. We had just taken a step back – that was where we were at this point. We had to defend our position.
During that time, we had “fists up”, we looked inward and found new vitality. We carefully looked back on and analyzed the project we’d been engaged in over the past year. With an open mind, we visited customers and found that we had become somewhat distant from them.
During my year in Ethiopia, I grew a lot as a person as well. I learned to look at things from different perspectives, including how I viewed myself.
Compromise is not always a good way of resolving a problem to everyone’s benefit. After countless phone conversations (to be paid), we sent written notice to the customer advising that all of Huawei’s managed services personnel would be leaving the customer’s central equipment room. This time we didn’t compromise. Of course, we were also prepared for the consequences.
Thinking back on things – from my business development work, to the “rescue work” in Ethiopia, and onto entirely new business domains – even though I faced a lot of uncertainties, I really enjoyed the excitement of the unknown. Some people might say this is a form of self-flagellation, but I think it was an opportunity for personal growth.
Chapter 16, Born in the ‘90s, I’m Now Making a Difference in West Africa, by Gan Yingkun
Note: this chapter shows how Huawei sends very young and inexperienced employees to learn hands-on in the field.
At the time in Cameroon, I had millions of West African francs in my bag (equivalent to thousands of US dollars). I would carry that bag everywhere with me so that I could pay for any expenses that arose.
The first time I went to see a customer, I was led along by a colleague at the office. I was scared stiff, and just stood to one side listening and not saying a word. I didn’t know what to say to the customer. Later, after my colleagues left and I became the General Manager in the Central African Republic, I was forced to lead the charge on my own. Before each meeting with the customer, I would write down everything I was going to say to them. I would rehearse the conversation in advance. Finally, when I was face–to–face with the customer, I was able to appear well prepared and capable. The customer sensed my conscientious attitude, and friendships gradually grew between us. On holidays, we would even exchange greeting cards.
We had to earn the trust of customers through our actions, one day at a time.
Watching out for the customer, I was never alone.
Succeeding in business demands a constant and tireless effort. Succeeding in difficult, often dangerous physical environments also requires great courage.
The harder you work the luckier you get. As Forrest Gump says in that old movie, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”
Through it all I’ve come to realize that on the long road of life – even though you don’t know what you’re going to face next – as long as you persevere, even against all the odds, then you will experience the joy that comes from a life well lived.
Chapter 17, Living on the Tower Tops, by Zeng Bo
Note: this is a great chapter about Zeng Bo, who got the courage to work on mobile telephone towers, at 80 meters in height (in Indonesia)…
At first, I thought the sensation was my own body trembling, and for a moment I even suspected that, consumed with fear, my mind could no longer distinguish between illusion and reality.
In the early stages, I went through a long, hard struggle inside before I could convince myself to climb each tower. It was the ultimate test of will. While my stomach was churning, I would check all of our equipment to make sure that it was running properly and safely, and would manage each assignment to the encouraging beat of my own drum. I had a mantra that I used in those days, something I would say to give myself a boost when I needed it: See it. Climb it. Conquer it.
This battle against the elements was both thrilling and hard, but it instilled in me a sense of pride and happiness that I’ve never felt before. I will never forget all the bittersweet things that happened along the way. They forged in me an iron will, enriched my life and have paved the way for my ongoing development overseas.
Chapter 18, At the Epicenter, by Matsumoto Yasufumi
Note: this is about Japan’s earthquake, Fukushima nuclear power station meltdown and the amazing courage and dedication that the author and his Huawei colleagues demonstrated to help in the disaster relief…
People often say the Japanese people value teamwork, while Chinese people prefer the heroic individual. After spending some time with Chinese colleagues, I saw that this simply wasn’t true. My Huawei colleagues were all great team players. Everyone worked hard towards the same goal. Another quality that I admire in my Chinese colleagues is that when they make mistakes, they turn inward and engage in self– reflection, which is rarely seen elsewhere.
To ease some of our worries, the company sent our families and nonessential personnel to Osaka, including the local staff. But not one of the 40 or so key project members left.
The Japanese government declared a quarantine area, to which access was strictly controlled. We did what we could do, delivering power supplies and power generators from outside the danger zone.
As power and transportation were gradually restored, 13 nonfunctional base stations were returned to service. In late March, eMobile asked whether we could provide mobile base stations and satellite transmission solutions help with the issues they were unable to resolve on their own.
All they had to do was ask. We were 100% ready to help. Without delay, our quake zone engineers went into the field. As they checked out the sites, they stayed in real time communication with those back at the office, so that we could quickly find solutions to the problems. Some base stations were soon restored, but there were other, more complicated problems too difficult for the onsite engineers to resolve. We needed experts.
The team consisted of one expert from China and three of our Japanese staff. I was one of them.
A few months ago, a Japanese magazine interviewed me about my experiences in the quake zone five years earlier. Looking back, I realize that our actions proved how deeply Huawei is committed to their customers. And on a deeper, more personal level, I’m just happy to say that I worked on the front lines of disaster relief.
Chapter 19, Living Life to the Fullest, by Zhou Yu
Note: Zhou Yu was expecting a job in sales and got sent to Africa for (technical) service delivery.
Sometimes the markets were closed, and we couldn’t get any groceries. In such times we just ate rice with soy sauce.
Two villages neighboring the Kano (Nigeria) warehouse were always up in arms with each other over the most trivial things. They clashed regularly and sometimes the conflict got brutal. There was even loss of life. Through it all, we did our best to keep our heads down and get the job done. The stress was crushing at times, but I kept telling myself that, no matter what, we were going to succeed. I buried myself in work, leaving no time for fear.
The lesson I learned from this experience was that without hardship you may never know how far you can go, how tough you can be, or really what sort of person you are.
I can say with pride that I did well by my customer, did well by the company, and most importantly I did well by myself.
You either make it happen or you leave. It’s hard to understand the sentiment if you weren’t there. The pressure we were under was beyond words. Many people on our core team were dropping out, one after the other. I’m one of those people who, for better or for worse, doesn’t like to admit defeat. “There’s just gotta be a way,” I told myself.
But we had faith. We believed there was nothing Huawei couldn’t do. So, we endured, we improved, and we started examining our problems from the customer’s perspective.
We can’t do anything about the length of our life, but we can do something about its breadth and depth. I have stepped foot in many countries and have seen what there is to see. I’ve perhaps endured greater hardship and difficulty than most people. But I’ve also experienced many moments of true happiness, by working hard to accomplish something. Without these experiences, I may have never found the answers to some major questions in life, like whether or not I have what it takes to stay true to myself at temptation’s door, and stay resilient in the face of adversity. I would never have imagined just how far I could actually grow.
I could go on and on. Looking back and all these years with the company, my personal belief in knowing how to win – and daring to win – has kept me going strong. As counter–intuitive as it may sound, things tend to be simpler when you’re working in hardship posts and dangerous regions. You’re all charging towards the same goal, you’re rewarded fairly for it, and this helps you persevere. Often times victory goes to those who can hold on just a little bit longer, which opens the doors to all sorts of game changing possibilities. And all you have to do is reach out and grab them.
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Why and How China works: With a Mirror to Our Own History
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