November 13, 2021

Q&A with TianYing

Q&A with TianYing
Photo: TianYing at the TOM BIHN headquarters.
Read previous TOM BIHN Crew Q&As ~ Matt, Irma, Di, Tam, Matthew and Kat

Can you tell us about the work you do here at TOM BIHN?

In 2019, I joined the company and started as a Zipper/Floor Professional. Assembling zippers was my primary responsibility. I was able to become really good at assembling zippers in a short amount of time, so whenever we had a bit of free time, Fong (Production Manager and my supervisor) cross-trained me on different tasks within our production department.  Later on, I was taught how to bartack and sew. More recently, I was trained to work in our Shipping Department. My jobs in production and shipping are very different. 

Did you know how to sew before working here?

No, I didn’t know how to sew at all.  

What was it like learning how to sew?
It wasn’t easy at first because I didn’t know how to operate an industrial sewing machine. The control of it was a bit challenging and I needed practice.  Once I was able to learn to control the machine, it became easier over time. It just became part of my regular responsibilities.
You originally began your work at TOM BIHN in the production department and, more recently, you've been working in the shipping department.  What's it like to work in shipping?
Back in April 2020, our company was focused on making and shipping reusable cloth face masks, and I was asked if I could work in our shipping department to help ship masks.  I was happy to be able to help.  Matt (Shipping Lead) showed me how to put mask orders together.  We were doing the best we can to send masks out as fast as possible.

In August of 2021, you began training to ship bags in the shipping department. What was that like?

Shipping bags is different from shipping masks! It's a lot more complicated to ship bags; there are so many different types of bags with many different colors and fabric choices. The colors were really hard to remember, because the names were very different or uncommon. One example: the color grey is not call grey, it's called Northwest Sky! Sometimes there are various shades of a similar color that are called different names.  So, it took a long time for me to learn all the colors and the names of the colors.  

On top of all of that, the bags also have very uncommon names and comes some come in different sizes with various colors and fabrics.  Overall, it was a lot for me to learn at the beginning.  Now, I'm more confident when I am picking orders because I know the names of bags, fabrics, and colors.  

Matt did a very good job training me on picking orders, and helped me understand the entire shipping process. I think Matt sensed that I learn best by doing: so, the second week of training, he allowed me to just be on my own and figure out where everything was, learn the names of things while I am picking orders. Through that, I started to be more familiar with where the bags were in the warehouse, and eventually I became better, faster, and more efficient as I picked orders.  

Matt also showed me each step on how to kit and package orders, and also how orders are processed and labels generated.  I know I may not have to learn everything, but I want to learn more: I like to understand the context. So, I ask to learn more as I get better at a task, and Matt is always up for teaching and helping me understand more. I prefer as much of the entire process as possible: I feel that's one of the best ways I can be better at my job.

Everyone is the shipping department is always very helpful and always answers my many questions, and have supported me during my learning process.  I appreciate that very much. 

The shipping crew has mentioned several times how much they value your contributions, especially on busy days. Darcy shared this story with us: "Back in March-April of 2020, we were quite busy making masks for a local hospital. One day in particular, I remember that the hospital was coming to pick up a large order of masks, and they needed more than we had originally thought. We had just under an hour to insert the conforming nose pieces and box the masks. There were about five of us working on that, including myself and TianYing, and we were both performing the same task. I quickly noticed that TianYing's method was far more efficient than mine and switched to hers." How do you determine the most efficient way to do something? Does it just come naturally to you, do you try different methods, or?

First, I try the method I was trained on. While I'm using that method, I think in the back of my mind about different ways or methods to do the same tasks but faster. So, I'll try a different method that I come up with in my mind, and put it to practice. I then compare the different methods to see which works best and go from there. My goal is to work hard and do my best to contribute.

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? 

I have two young kids and a family I have to take care of.  Sometimes I just want to have 5 minutes to myself so I can breathe.  Hehehe…  But, I know it's not a possibility most days.  When I do have time to myself, I online window shop!

What do you like most about your job and some challenges you may have?
I like opportunities to learn new things. I like a little challenge and I like to find ways to overcome some of the challenges that come my way. 

Initially, when I was asked to work in the shipping department, I was having some challenges. Not being able to speak fluent English, I was afraid that I wouldn't be helpful. But I quickly realized that I wanted to overcome that challenge and that this was an opportunity to do that. I wanted to learn more English, but I didn't have many opportunities to do learn it, so by being in the shipping department, I found that I could have conversations with my co-workers, which is helping me learn and practice English. It's a very rewarding feeling and I get to practice while helping the shipping department, so it feels like a win-win situation. 


Yin Yee - November 15, 2021

Thank you for sharing so much about yourself with us, Tian Ying. I like your positivity and drive. Your attitude will make you an asset to Tom Bihn. Keep up the good work!
TOM BIHN replied:
We’re very lucky that TianYing works with all of us — thanks for your comment Yin Yee.

Manali - November 14, 2021

I am always delighted to know about everyone and what everyone does. It is one of my dream to visit you in person. I am from Florida, currently living in Texas. Thank you for sharing your story and cannot thank you enough for making amazing bags and accessories. I will always be a loyal Bihnion!
TOM BIHN replied:
Let us know when you make your way to Seattle! Would be glad to give you a tour.

G42 - November 14, 2021

Thanks for sharing your story TianYing; it was cool to hear how you learn new things and figure out more efficient methods!
TOM BIHN replied:
Will share your comment with TianYing!

Laura Turner - November 14, 2021

I really love meeting the staff at your company. One of the reasons I chose to purchase your items is because I can see the real people who make the products and who genuinely seem to like working there. They all look like lovely people!

I had no idea there would be a zipper professional. I sure would appreciate a post about the entire process of an item – say, a backpack – from start to out-the-door. How many departments does an item passed through? (My apologies if there already is an article and I missed it.)

Thank you for making these quality things.
TOM BIHN replied:
That’s a great idea for a blog post — adding it to our list.

Leave a Comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

We're the TOM BIHN crew: we design bags, make bags, ship bags, and answer questions about bags. Oh, and we collaborate on blog posts, too.