Teach (1).

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Our small team of five full-time staff has recently slimmed down by two. That’s right. The three of us now, we churn out a magazine with a circulation of 750,000 every three months, with the help of freelancers and interns. My job is to lead the creative team to make sure all the pieces fall together and that our magazine improves issue on issue. But my not-so-secret motive (and this is one of the most meaningful aspects of what I do) is to help everyone on the team shape their careers.

Of course, I am just lucky enough to work with a group that is as enthusiastic about this as I am, and am at a position where I am able to instigate plans to make things happen. So aside from just “What would be best for the mag?” there are also many conversations of “How does this help you grow?”

But before even landing a job, we all have to start somewhere.

As an editor who first found her footing from a slew of internships, I feel for those looking to break into the challenging, and often times fickle, world of magazines. So I was upset when I saw Condé Nast pull the plug on their internship programme altogether due to a dispute with former interns. It just doesn’t seem right when interns carry out supporting roles so that we can do our jobs better. And while I’m at it, they really should be paid. (I am familiar with the considerations to be made in terms of payment for interns, but allow me to vouch for the newbies here…)

In both the programmes I’ve run in my work place, we treat interns as mini-editors. They do what we do, albeit with more guidance and clear-cut reviews. We hope to support mistakes (acceptable ones!), build interest (or discover lack thereof), hone talent, and for a lack of a better term, ignite passion and  encourage curiosities. Never once has anyone made coffee for someone else. Interns are just as beneficial to us as we are to their budding careers. It’s also fun to see what “grow up” to become. Some of my past interns are now a co-ordinator for a non-profit organisation, a scholar, a food editor, and more. So great.

In another lifetime, I would be a teacher. I owe a lot to the wonderful mentors that I had during my school days – I am fortunate to call some of my past teachers and instructors, friends. They are the ones who taught me, among other things, that there is no point in acquiring skills and knowledge for yourself if you’r unable to pass that on.

What I’m trying to iterate here is, I suppose, that the more you lead, the more you learn. And the more you realise you’re still to learn. So fellow managers, let’s make sure the team of the future is as good as what we share with them, and that one colleague you mentor, among the many in our working lives, rises to become another star in the industry.

PS. I realise this entry is laden with cliches, but sometimes that’s just what it’s all about.

Image: If I Knew Then
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Snap Happy.

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From one kind of “style” to another.

Today’s photo was taken on a kiddie clothing shoot in London. Usually photoshoots with kids can get pretty crazy but the mini-models we had that day were so well behaved and one little darling in particular, Pepper, totally stole my heart. The theme of the shoot was spring (shot in the dead of winter, as all shoots go),  so we had these delicious treats to accessorise the set with.

I’m running a creative workshop tomorrow back here in Shanghai, a chance for our photographer, editors and designers to brainstorm and discuss all things related to food photography.

Rule of Thirds, backlighting, composition, white balance, depth of field – these are all things that we rattle on about, second nature to us when we’re so used to scrutinising each speck of pepper (the spice, not our sweet kiddie model) or each trail of sauce. It’s trickier when dealing with Chinese food since we can only be so creative with our plating before overwhelming the actual ingredients. So, this powwow is an extra push for us to think apart from the obvious so to give our readers an improved experience with our mag in the coming issues.

People make fun of me now because I style the heck out of every photo I take, even just with my Blackberry. But what’s wrong with wanting to create and capture the simple beauty of otherwise mundane details?

Photo: London, 2012.