600km Walking Pilgrimage through Spain

Written by Denise Chng Lisan & published on September 2 2008

From the moment I discovered an ancient pilgrimage path in Spain in June last year, the attraction of walking hundreds of kilometres towards an assured destination grew on me daily. My eagerness to go on a month-long journey on foot across the steep slopes, lush valleys and forests of the Pyrenees, and through countless small towns and villages, was part of a subconscious quest to find depth and meaning in my life. At the age of 33, I was approaching – prematurely, perhaps – what seemed to be a mid-life crisis.

Straits Times Life! Article,Denise Chng Lisan,Camino de Santiago,Camino Frances

Letter from Quebec: Preserving Heritage

Written by Denise Chng Lisan & published on November 8 2008

'TRAVEL is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living,' wrote Miriam Beard. Life in Quebec is now my teacher, pointing out my knowledge gaps and honing my ideas of living - be it language, culture, life-skills, or the environment.

Denise Chng Lisan

One day on Wall Street

Posted by Denise CHNG Lisan On Thursday, September 18, 2008
My days on Wall Street, as I can remember, were filled with lots of sweat and sleepless nights that I can now laugh about. I suppose it is like war stories soldiers can tell their grandchildren - the more painful and gory it is, the more interesting it is.

The beginning is usually glorious, filled with expensive recruitment dinners for the potential candidates. Those dinners where bankers smooze, wine and dine you are called 'screensavers' - because once we sign on the dotted line, we go right straight to 'hell'.

'Hell' can be described in many ways. It is 100-hr work weeks, filled with many 'overnighters' where we sleep at (or under) our desks. A good day's work ends at 12 midnight. A bad day ends at 3 or 5am. A day that ends at 9pm is called a holiday. 'Hell' is also being chained to modern technology called 'voicemail'. Today, it is more advanced and takes the shape of blackberries. But ten years ago, analysts had to check their voicemail every half hour once out of office. It was often very likely to get 'the arrow' in the middle of a nice dinner with friends. The request would come in a simple question like, "Can you come back to the office?" In other words, analysts get no life.

One of my personal favorite stories goes like this.

It was 6pm on a work day for me, as an intern with a NYC bank the summer before I graduated. It was my first real job, with suit and heels. I was pulling some research when a senior analyst tapped me on my shoulder and asked, "Do you have your passport?" I blinked and said yes, but it was at my studio. Where do you live, he asked. 10 minutes drive away, I said. Good, he said.

Then he pulled me to take the elevator, and we went into an office. It was the in-house travel office that issued flight tickets. It was then he said, "I want you to take the 8pm flight to London, and you have to leave right away. I will send you a limousine which will take you to your studio to pick up your passport. Tomorrow morning at 8am, these presentations have to be at the board meeting." He had missed the fedex deadline for the day, and I became the express courier instead.

I was whisked out of the office in no time. I hadn't even had the chance to cancel a dinner appointment I made with a friend who visited me from Singapore. My poor friend was left stranded with no idea what happened to me. And I was on my way to London, without any luggage nor change of clothes. It was my mission to deliver the books and then fly the next flight back to NY. Within two hours, I was in business class, sipping my first champagne, feeling really excited about this adventure.

At 8am London time, I arrived at the board meeting of a British cable company, with 'the goods' (24 pitch presentations). Just as I was ready to head back to the airport, the associate retained me. He wanted me to stay for a couple days to work for him. I didn't know whether to be happy (because I wanted to see London for the first time) or worried (because I had no clothes/nothing with me).

That evening, I was booked into a five-star British antique hotel room. I marveled at the softness of my lush bed, gold brass and pure marble of the bathroom tiles. Just when I thought I was well-compensated for the intense thrill of the day, I got a call at 2am in the morning. The associate wanted me to get out of my bed, take a cab to the office and pick up a fax and deliver it under his door. I became his personal express concierge. In that one day, I began to realize that all this luxury comes with a price.

To compensate for this 'no-life' status, Wall Street bankers get paid a lot of money. To me, it seems very much like the 'money or life' situation. Unfortunately, there are many people who are willing to make that trade. While some are truly in their grain on Wall Street, others would end up always trying to cover up the gap between their complex and the title of their job - selling their soul for a little while for the money.

1 Response to 'One day on Wall Street'

  1. Anonymous Said,'> 21 September 2008 at 11:37

    see girl. you should have stuck with marketing! come to seattle and work with my company. we are the one of the largest digital advertising agencies in the world. we drink beer and party all of the time during work hours.

    tony t


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