James Tong shares his story with us including his parent’s beginnings in war-torn Vietnam, his experiences growing up in his birthplace of Bristol and his role as Head of People at Condense. In case you missed it, find out more about our diversity-building partnership with Condense, including a 12 week study programme and scholarship right here.
I was born to parents of Chinese descent who had settled in Vietnam. Following the Vietnam War, they became victims of one of the largest and longest refugee crises in history. This forced members of my family to head in different directions around the globe, so my parents reluctantly made their way to the UK in the early eighties with my eldest two siblings in tow. After finally settling in Bristol, my other sister and I were born, and we remained in Bristol where we were raised and schooled.
Growing up in the nineties was a lot different to how it is now. The internet or mobile phones hadn’t even made their mark on the world, but the most noticeable thing to me was that England was not as visibly diverse as it is now. This made my childhood challenging at times because everyone outside my household was mainly caucasian, which meant that my appearance made me stand out and I often faced a fair amount of discrimination and racism.
My family never really talked about race so this left me wondering why I was different, but instead of being curious about it, I would ignore these types of conversations and never really talked about Chinese culture when I was around my friends. Despite these personal challenges, I really enjoyed my childhood and have made lifelong friendships because of it. I knew I wanted to study and ended up doing my A levels, followed by a degree in Law and then a postgraduate course in teaching.
I never really knew what I truly wanted to do for my career and the job market was a difficult place to be following the 2008 economic recession, so I spent some time working in low level temporary roles, including as a human resources administrator.
I ended up moving to a permanent position and managed to persuade the Head of Human Resources to fund the CIPD Level 5 in HR and Management, and that’s how my career in the people profession started.
I went on to work in various HR related positions at the National Crime Agency, completed the CIPD Level 7 in HR and Management, and specialised in areas such as recruitment and change management. I then left the public sector and joined a tech startup called Open Bionics which makes bionic arms for limb different people. I worked as a HR Manager, building their HR department from scratch. I eventually moved onto Condense as Head of People where I am now.
I have enjoyed every minute of my time at Condense. I joined this company because I am in awe of the technology and I can imagine all the different events our tech can be used for, especially in music and sport. I believe we can revolutionise how we all watch entertainment in the future, just like how the internet was so groundbreaking.
On a typical day, I will meet with the team in the morning and talk about anything we might need from each other for the day. I might then talk to other colleagues depending on what I’m working on, or work on recruitment and finding ways to professionalise the company as best I can.
The scholarship with Access Creative College is a proud moment for me because it provides such a fantastic opportunity for eight people to show us what they’re made of. I can personally relate to it because it’s something I wish was available to me when I was younger. Doing more for diversity and inclusion is important for innovation, so this project sits close to my heart due to my own past experiences.
You should apply for the Condense and ACC scholarship because while everyone has a story to tell, not everyone has the same opportunities in life. This is an incredible opportunity to carve out a career in engineering and metaverse content creation. It's a 12 week fully funded intensive course. You will meet other people with similar interests and ambitions, and it could even lead to a permanent job with Condense.
The most influential people in my life are the people who have either realised my potential or have given me an opportunity in some way or another, so I think you should at least explore this scholarship and think about what it could lead to when deciding to apply.