Live and Work in Shenzhen

Interview with Mathew Julian Melvin

The interview was conducted by two summer intern students Yunzhi Liang and Xiaoming Su from Hong Kong Polytechnic University, working at GT-Shenzhen office. It presented GT-Shenzhen’s current industrial involvements from a student’s perspective.

Interviewer: Nice to meet you. Can you please introduce yourself?

Melvin: Sure, my name is Melvin Mathew, I grew up in Botswana, which is right above South Africa. I did my Bachelors in Mechatronics at The University of Cape Town, which is in Cape Town, South Africa.

Interviewer: What makes you determined to go such a long way to China for study and work?

Melvin: My main reason was to get better exposure to the engineering world, and with China developing as fast as it is, it presented many great opportunities for industry experience. And Georgia Tech is a great school, so this was a really amazing combination.

Interviewer: What was your first impression of Shenzhen? Was it different after you have been living here for some times.

Melvin: Shenzhen is amazing! Botswana may be wealthy, but they are not as technologically advanced as China. So for me, it was thrilling to find such a well networked public transportation system, with the social bikes (mobike/ofo), the metro, the abundant bus lines... I have always traveled by car, but it is not at all necessary in Shenzhen. At the end of my stay, I still felt the same. Actually, I came to love Shenzhen even more, for all its variety in delicious food.

Interviewer: Do you have any working experience before?

Melvin: No actually, my first real exposure to a working environment was in China.

Interviewer: How did you get your internship offer?

Melvin: The day I got to Shenzhen, I was being helped around by Fandi Peng, who was involved in an ongoing project at the time, collaborated between a Professor at GT and SF Express. I mentioned I was interested in Computer Vision, and this project happened to involve it. So I joined the project in 2016, along with 2 of my classmates, and as we made progress over time, we were eventually able to present our work to the company in 2017, which was basically our interview. Through that whole process, we were able to obtain the internship positions. GT had helped organize internship programs with a few companies in Shenzhen. We had the chance to visit Intellifusion and Dorabot as well, where some of my other classmates got internships at.

Interviewer: Can you describe your job at SF Express?

Melvin: We basically worked on Handwritten and Printed Chinese Character Recognition. The task was to be able to process the shipping bills and invoices at SF Express automatically by a computer, into a digital format. This involved image processing and machine learning.

Interviewer: Overall, how’s your internship experience? Does such experience match your expectation before starting the intern?

Melvin: It was a really great and humbling experience. I did not know what to expect as it was my first exposure to a working environment. I learned a lot from the perspective of a graduate student seeking academic knowledge, and also as an employee, working with a team under a company's hierarchy system. One of the things I hoped to get insight on was what it would be like to work in industry, as opposed to continuing down the academic route, delving into research and publications. I felt my time in Shenzhen allowed me to gain that Insight from the industry perspective, where one focuses on getting a working solution over researching into what might be the most innovative way to go about a problem.

Interviewer: Have you ever encountered any interesting or unexpected things during your internship?

Melvin: Haha, well, I had the chance to intern at SF Express, and during lunch hours, they had a nap time, which I found amusing but in a good way. They would close the curtains, turn off the lights, and some people even had stretchers and blankets to really go to sleep in! Every company should adopt that practice! That was pretty cool.

Interviewer: How’s the relationship between the colleagues, and between the colleagues and the boss?

Melvin: In general, it was a good working environment. Although because I was not fluent in Mandarin, it made certain interactions time-consuming and occasionally led to misunderstandings on the procedures to follow. But at the end of the day, my colleagues were quite patient with me and we always managed to get the messages across the board and get good results. Other than the work itself, we had most of our meals together and it was fun commuting to and from work everyday with my colleagues. The nap time is also great to manage energy so that we can work more efficiently.

Interviewer: Did you encounter any difficulties throughout this internship, and does the internship affect your future plan?

Melvin: Again, any difficulties were only due to the language barrier. It took some time to navigate the company's internal websites since it was all in Chinese, and I had to rely on my colleagues to help with translations. But other than that, it was an enjoyable experience. The internship actually helped me narrow down options for the future. After I graduate and seeking a job, if the company would be willing to take me in again, I would be thrilled to come back to Shenzhen to work full-time! But of course there are many factors to consider with such decisions