March 18, 2022

Q&A with Hong: Our Shoulder Strap Specialist

Q&A with Hong: Our Shoulder Strap Specialist
Photo: Hong at the TOM BIHN headquarters.
Read previous TOM BIHN Crew Q&As ~ Ben, TianYingMattIrmaDiTamMatthew and Kat

How long have you worked at TOM BIHN?

I have been here for a little over 2 years. I originally joined the company as a Floor Assembly Professional, and now I am a Shoulder Strap Specialist.

What experience did you have in production work (sewing, cutting, etc.) when you began working at TOM BIHN?

One of my first jobs was at a factory in China. I worked there for about 6 months. My job involved performing simple tasks like thread trimming, but I didn’t learn how to sew on the job. I actually had to ask coworkers to teach me during non-work hours. Because I was only with the company for a short period of time, I mostly learned sewing through observing.

What production work have you been trained to do during your time at TOM BIHN?

I learned many new skills on the job here at TOM BIHN! I learned to bartack and then eventually became an expert at shoulder strap assembly. I was hired on as a floor assembly professional, and Lisa gave me opportunities to learn bartacking, which I didn’t know how to do prior to this job. I wish to learn more whenever there are opportunities to do so, like the times when I was asked to help the shipping department with masks during the pandemic. Learning new skills is a fun experience for me. It also gives me opportunities to interact with my other co-workers and improve my English. 

You specialize in assembling our Edgeless Shoulder Straps; the quality, skill, and efficiency you bring to that process is very important, because our Edgeless Shoulder Straps are a unique design that our customers love. It's not uncommon for folks to tell us these are the most comfortable straps they've carried! The quality and care it takes to make the Edgeless straps is something that came very naturally to you. Can you share more with us about this process? 

The process itself was quite straightforward: I first observed how others assembled the shoulder straps, then I tried it on my own. I also thought I can challenge myself to assemble with greater efficiency. Making shoulder straps is not easy. Initially you have to practice by doing it slowly because the tape used is very sensitive. You have to feel the fabric and how the foam, tape, and fabric interact with each other. Once I got enough practice and a good feel for it. I was able to go a little faster each day. I am at a point now that I can start training others to do this. I have Victor to thank! I was able to learn from Victor what I know now.  That learning process provided me a road map to train others.   

You recently realized your dream of purchasing a home! Congratulations. Are you all moved in? 

Yes, I have just purchased a home, and it was one of my dreams to do so. I moved in November 2022. I am a little shy about sharing too many details. I am happy, but also a bit overwhelmed. There is so much to do and a lot of unexpected complexities and responsibilities.

You speak Cantonese, English, and some Spanish. How did you learn each? What's it like being able to understand and speak to different extents multiple languages?

I am fluent in Cantonese and my home dialect of Taishanese.  I only know a tiny bit of English. I do know a little more Spanish than I do English. My husband and I moved from China to Mexico for work years back and I had the opportunity to learn a little Spanish. We immigrated here to Seattle about 3 years ago and this is where I learned English.

Tell us about yourself outside of work! Everyone would love to learn more about you. What are your hobbies and what do you like to do for fun? Are you working on projects outside of work? 

The house is my main project outside of work, there is so much to do! I have been decorating and furnishing my home. It’s fun but also tiring. I have not had a chance to do much else. But being with my family, just enjoying each other for now is all that I can ask for and it makes me very happy. Some day in the future I want to go back and visit my family in China. I haven’t been back since coming to the states 3 years ago. 


Kelly Pillsbury - March 25, 2022

Congratulations on your new home, happy decorating!

Colette - March 24, 2022

It is cool to get to learn about the work you do, Hong. I bought a Techonaut and love the straps. Congrats on your new home!

Doni Walker - March 23, 2022

Congratulations Hong! And thank you for your hard work!

Laura Gayle - March 22, 2022

Hong, congratulations on your new home! I enjoyed reading this interview and about the care you take in crafting these critical materials — after all, shoulder straps are so important to a comfortable and functional bag!

Kirrily - March 22, 2022

Thank you for telling us a little about your work and yourself. It is fascinating to learn more about the sewing. I can certainly relate to your comments about home ownership!

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