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The ‘Awkward Turtle at Work’ Podcast: Exploring What It Means to Love Your Awkward Career
by: Rubin Verebes
November 18, 2021
Emery Fung started his podcast in early 2020 during the second wave of COVID-19 infections in Hong Kong, as the effects of the pandemic temporarily changed how we work and live in the city.
A self-described work junkie and recruitment guru, Emery launched “Awkward Turtle At Work,” a podcast offering a space to speak with industry leaders about their relationship with work and money, inspired by his six-year-long career in recruitment in a work-addicted Hong Kong.
Available on Spotify, iTunes, Google, Amazon, and YouTube, the podcast has guested Olympians, CEOs and business leaders, models, content creators, and entrepreneurs to talk about their entrance and identity as an “awkward turtle” in a modern career - awkward in a new or non-traditional career, and a turtle “coming out of one’s shell” in the workplace.
The podcast is a simple reflection about loving what you do for a living and his guests’ journeys in “embracing the awkwardness in starting something for themselves.”
Emery is a Hong Kong-born local with a posh London accent, an ode to his education of 12 years in the U.K. He is soft-spoken yet passionate about work, his career in recruitment, and his COVID-19-born side hobby running “Awkward Turtle At Work.”
“I always [have] enjoyed my work. I am never one of those wake-up-in-the-morning-groggy people. Work for me is an end in itself, not the means to an end, to fill my life with purpose and focus on the parts of work that I like,” Emery told The Beat Asia in an interview.
When he was sent to a boarding school after the age of nine in Cornwall, England, Emery began jobs at 14 and 15 in Chinese takeaways, lifeguarding, part-time door-to-door sales, call-center work, and flyer handout as a means to generate pocket money.
When Emery completed his studies at boarding school and his bachelor’s degree in Sports Management at the University of Winchester in 2015, he returned to Hong Kong and began work in recruitment.
Born and raised in Ma On Shan, Emery recalled his trips to Hong Kong Island, the business centere of the city, were scarce, “only to Admiralty to apply for my student visa to the U.K.” The real world of “paycheck collecting” work has much of a fantasy to him.
Emery’s role in recruitment, working for Michael Page until 2019 and Carter Murray until March 2021, involved meetings with clients and hiring candidates for open job positions in finance industries.
“All day I would hear long stories about why people hated their jobs and why they want to switch,” Emery mentioned of the gravity of complaints concerning workplaces in Hong Kong.
Whilst Emery enjoyed working in Hong Kong’s business hub and the element of meeting people and having face-to-face contact, he constantly would receive negativity from clients and friends of the unhealthy work grind; “weekly complaints on Sunday about Monday 9 AM work, grumpy Mondays, Wednesday hump days, and Friday work drinks,” a rinse and repeat schedule.
Four years into his role and return to Hong Kong, the sales side of recruiting, “the constant hustle” began to drive Emery away from his interest in the industry.
Emery's work-from-home situation when COVID-19 ripped through the borders of Hong Kong inspired him to begin reaching out to friends and contacts in his industry about their experiences working in the city, in modern and non-Asian traditional career paths, “people on the left field.”
Podcasting has a relatively low-cost barrier to entry and Emery had time on his hand.
After he “annoyed his girlfriend too much” discussing the possibility of launching a cross-platform podcast talking to Hong Kongers and beyond about their love affair with work, his girlfriend buckled and bought him a mic “to shut him up.”
Emery’s first episode, released in March 2021, was a conversation with keynote speaker Jerry Won on his journey on leaving the corporate world to build a media company focused on Asian American voices.
His second featured Hong Kong’s most popular female content creator, J Lou. He reached out to her in early 2021 to discuss her path from YouTube as a random interest to a blooming career, “a real life example,” Emery writes, “[of] how you can turn your interests into your own reality.”
With over 24 hour-long episodes published online, Emery has spoken to Hong Kong Olympian fencer, Moonie Chu, Hong Kong artist of the New Yorker series, Sophia Hotung, Miss Trans Global 2020, Mela Habijan, transgender activist Aydian Dowling, and Hong Kong’s first female football couch, Chan Yue Ting.
The more people he speaks to and explores the stories of individuals risking stable careers for passion projects, the more he began to like podcasting, Emery claims.
He typically finds his guests through Instagram and his social and business circles. “Anyone who has taken that leap of life [in their career] of pivoted from their money-dominated careers to their passion projects” is the types of guests he is attracted to and seeks to interview.
In reference to his podcast's name, Emery finds that “everyone [is] awkward in some ways. [W]hen you try a new thing or a new job you’re going to be awkward doing it.”
Conversations begin with the question “Why do you work?”, prompting an explanation and a journey through his guests’ risky career switch or struggles prior to reaching their pinnacle of success in their field.
What follows are candid comments about their upbringing and childhood and the differences of work perceived at a young age and realistic views as adults.
“The Awkward Turtle At Work” ultimately seeks to speak to those who made that awkward career move in a direction that has seen success.
Emery is running the podcast on the side whilst he still works in recruitment in Hong Kong. The connections he made working on the podcast “have been great” and he is in the process of building an online presence and awareness of the podcast and his name brand.
The flexibility of his job and his free -time in evenings and weekends allow Emery to still invest considerable time into speaking with guests and research. “Less partying, more playing in and doing this,” he says.
These days, Emery’s ADHD gets the better of him and his workaholic personality. He has his day job and nightly podcast gig, volunteers referring at football games, plays football twice or three times a week at the Hong Kong Football Club, and has monthly speaking engagements.
“I don’t find it that bad, it suits me.”
His mantra, along with his podcast to motivate others to love what they do, runs deep in the old adage of “if you like what you do, you won’t work a day in your life.”
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