Colleagues often joke that as “Master Hong”, I might be Jebsen’s best known employee (I share a name with one of China’s largest food producers). There is no relation there whatsoever, though the story of how I came to join Jebsen at the age of 22 did have to do with food. I was having dinner one day while flipping through the papers when I saw a job advertisement from Jebsen, seeking a camera repair technician.
It was 1983. Television was the major source of entertainment, and though I didn’t know much about the world at the time, I had already heard of Jebsen. “Jebsen Wheel of Fortune” was a regular feature on Enjoy Yourself Tonight (EYT), Hongkonger’s favourite nightly show back then. I remembered thinking how visionary Jebsen was, to be a distributor for German TV brand Metz.
I was captivated by the job advertisement. Since my youth I have enjoyed repairing machines and electronics. In the 70s I would save up my monthly allowance for a subscription to Practical Radio World, from which I learned theories and assembly techniques for high and low frequency electronics. Armed with this knowledge, I bought some electronic parts and tried building a high-frequency radio transmitter. I eventually succeeded, giving myself the gift of nightly chats with a long-distance friend through an antenna on the roof. How satisfying! But my biggest obsession of all? Cameras. Looking at the job ad, I knew it was calling to me.
My interview at Jebsen was a complete eye-opener. The 9th floor of Scomber Building in Wong Chuk Hang, site of our previous headquarters, housed the maintenance department of PMD film equipment. It was stacked with AV electronics products. Jebsen was representing a variety of high quality, brand-name gear: Rolleiflex, Minox, Agfa, and Vivitar lens from Japan. Automatic zoomless autofocus cameras, made popular by the PENTAX Zoom 70, was in high demand in Hong Kong; Jebsen was the sole distributor for PENTAX in the territory and the ZOOM 70 was consistently topping sales charts. I was both thrilled and surprised when Jebsen hired me as a camera technician. I was determined to give it my all.
My first duties were repairing Rolleiflex SLR cameras and projectors. My boss Master Cheung taught me a lot and, in 1987 – just four years after I joined – the company sent me on a two-week training at the PENTAX factory in Japan. I think that is why many technicians stay with Jebsen for years: the company is deeply committed to developing its employees.
I also found ways to enhance my skills in my own time. I frequented libraries, reading about the composition and components of different types of electronic and optical devices. My other long-harboured passion – collecting and researching clocks and watches earned me recognition from my superiors, and in 2017 I began managing the maintenance team for NOMOS watches.
Things were constantly changing in the electronics market. CASIO, for example, was originally known only for its watches and calculators, but in 1996 it ventured into digital cameras. Jebsen was already leading the digital camera market with the PENTAX Zoom 70 SFX SLR camera in the mid-90s. We had the majority market share, which meant loads of maintenance orders. The workload did not bother me; I loved repairing cameras, and the more orders we got, the more fulfilled I felt.
As times changed, so did my role: I now also oversee watches and different Dyson home appliance products. Especially in such a fast-paced market like Hong Kong, we need to keep pace with the world, and with the changes brought by the Internet. My team and I work seamlessly together to harness technology and teamwork, which enables us to shorten maintenance times and deliver better, more efficient service.
“Opportunities come to those who are prepared,” a colleague, Ms Ho, said to me before she retired. I saw this happening at Jebsen: its remarkable foresight and unique eye for the electronics market, coupled with its commitment to nurturing people, have created a loyal group of technicians who are happy to grow with the company. I am proud to be part of this strong maintenance team supporting Jebsen’s consumer goods business.
And just like that, I have spent more than 35 years in the Jebsen family, a place where every lesson has proven to have lifelong value. In closing, I hope that my motto: “Keep looking forward and never stop. Go! Go! Go!” will be one to be remembered.