We had the good fortune of connecting with Anthea Zeng and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Anthea, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I grew up with my parents always telling my brother and I to opt for safety over risk, which has of course influenced how I approach life. Being able to take the uncertain path is a very privileged option. I think depending on your responsibilities and circumstances, the riskier option can bring about amazing opportunities, but can also lead to more stress like not being able to pay your bills. So in the end, it’s definitely up to each person’s risk comfort level and other factors. However that being said, for the most part, I am a fan of risk (even though it makes me nervous!) if it means that it could lead to better opportunities or a happier life. I have always been an advocate for exploring new options–if someone approaches you about an opportunity, schedule some time to learn more about it! You never know what could happen. Entering the working world, I have come to learn that no matter how hard you plan, you just can’t predict the future! You don’t know that you’re going to get that promotion! You don’t know that you’re going to still want to be an [insert job title] in 5 years! In my experience, I worked a few minimum wage short-term contracts before I settled into my current position. And it was definitely worrisome not knowing what I’d be doing after that contract was up, but I definitely don’t regret it at all. Through my contract jobs, I was able to discover what type of work and work-life balance I wanted in my life. And even when I was searching for other opportunities during or after my contracts, it gave me the opportunity to meet new people, and learn more about different career paths and how that might fit my goals. The unknowing is scary because it’s just that — something you don’t know. But at the same time, I think it’s important to continuously expand your horizons in order to grow.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Most of my work experience is based in events. I definitely didn’t think that’s what I would be doing, but here I am! After graduation, I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do and the job search was a long and disappointing process. It took a lot of self-reflection and addressing internal and societal pressures to realize and accept that this type of work was what suited me best and what would make me happiest in my work life. Looking back on my experience entering the working world, I realize how naive I was. I hate to admit it, but I thought graduating from a good university and having a bit of work experience would be enough to land me a job within weeks of graduating. But it took me 6 months of actively applying for different positions before I started my first job post-grad. That was definitely a big blow to my ego, but I think I needed it. The 6 months and hundreds of job applications made me better understand what options were out there and taught me the importance of humility. I’m happy with where I am now. I love the rush in the lead up to events, the problem solving that’s required, meeting new people, and then finally seeing your event play out. In my current role as the Program Coordinator at CoMotion and NewCities, I also have the added pleasure of advocating to elevate important topics and voices within urban mobility–something that affects the daily wellbeing and quality of life of everyone. I feel grateful to be in a space where I can continuously learn and critically think about the issues that we face in society. It’s always fascinating to see how one issue can be solved by multiple solutions depending on the specific community. Our next conference is hosted in Miami-Dade County, and there are a lot of important issues which I’m looking forward to discussing with some leading experts. I’m definitely still growing career-wise and I can’t say for sure that I know what I’ll end up doing in the long run (I’m not too sure anyone can!), but I’ve come to embrace the unknowing and also learned to cut myself some slack if things don’t go as expected. If I could give myself one piece of wisdom back when I first graduated university, it’d be that looking for jobs is tough and that’s okay! There are so many amazing applicants out there who are also looking for jobs, but you’ll get one eventually and each application, interview, and rejection is still a great learning opportunity.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in Montreal, Canada, and I’m so in love with this city! It’s quite accessible by public transit, walking, and biking, and we have a variety of free events during the summer and winter. I truly appreciate how the city tries to make the most of the blistering heat and the freezing cold by offering free events and exhibits throughout the different neighbourhoods. Assuming this is in the summer (which is the best time to visit) we would firstly rent a bike for the week and get a few metro/bus passes in case we’re going anywhere a bit further. For food, we would absolutely need to go to Bagel Etc. for brunch (a small diner in Little Portugal that was frequented by the late and great Leonard Cohen), Café Santropol in Le Plateau for lunch which has the most charming outdoor terasse, Poutine Pro my personal go-to poutine place, and Sumac in St Henri for a nice evening. Other favourite spots are KazaMaza, Satay Brothers, and Qing Hua dumplings. In terms of activities, on Sunday, we’d have to bike up to St Viateur for some fresh rosemary and poppy seed bagels (sorry Fairmount), and then walk over to tam-tams at Mont Royal Park. We can then dance to the drum circle, or just lounge around with our bagels (and mimosas if you want!). On Wednesday, we’d go explore St Henri. We’d walk around the Atwater farmer’s market, then go to Allez Up for a climbing session on their outdoor silo (38m high!) while they give out snacks & play some jazz. After our climbing session, we’d go to the microbrewery next door, 4 origines, and grab some beers and snacks to have on the canal right outside. Alternatively, we could bike down to the St. Ambroise brewery. On Saturday, we could bike down to Île Sainte-Hélène — a man-made island that was built for Expo 67– and go to La Ronde, our Six Flags amusement park. You can also bike around and race on the race track or attend one of the multiple festivals that takes place on the island. After that, you can bike back through Pont Victoria past Habitat 67 and through Old Port. Or if there are fireworks, you can head back to Village au Pied-du-Courant (for free!) to sit on the sand with friends, dance to the music, and watch the fireworks and lights on the Jacques Cartier bridge. There’s always something going on in the city and there’s a festival pretty much every week in Quartier des Spectacles where you can easily catch free shows and walk around outdoor exhibits. All in all, there’s plenty to do and the best way to see the city is definitely by bike!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My family! I know that’s probably so obvious and you probably get that all the time, but it’s true! My parents have taught me so much (obviously) and even when we disagree over things, I value their input. It’s funny because I think I am quite different from my parents, and despite instances where they tell me to do something and I do the complete opposite thing, they remain supportive and believe in my efforts. It is also always a good idea to get an opposing perspective in my opinion. My brother is the only other person who understands what it’s like to grow up in the same environment as me, and for that, I will always cherish his insights.
Holly Hixson Lauren McAuley https://www.flickr.com/photos/154999754@N08/albums/with/72157712150073286