Sumi Yang: Branching out in career and life
Her fluent Mandarin makes most think Metro TV’s news anchor Sumi Yang is a native speaker.
In fact, she originally comes from Bagansiapiapi, a small town in the Riau Islands.
“My childhood neighborhood was pretty much colored within Chinese culture and it was also quite an exclusive neighborhood [ethnically], actually. So, speaking Mandarin is a natural thing for me,” she says.
Joining the station as a part of the behind-the-screen production staff for the Xin Wen program back in 2002, she revealed that working in news television had never crossed her mind.
When she was little, her dream was to become a fashion designer.
“When I noticed the job opening, I just decided to give it a try out of curiosity,” said the 30-year-old, who went to the interview over the weekend in a sleek little black dress.
Sumi said at that time, she knew nothing about working on production for a television station, but the job description required fluency in Mandarin, not a background in journalism.
“Nevertheless, I applied with full preparation. I even wrote the application letter in Mandarin, just to make sure the company knew that I really mastered the language,” she said.
Metro TV is the first television in Indonesia that provides a special program in Mandarin.
As soon as she landed on the job, she spent a year as on the production staff before being put in front of the camera as the program’s reporter around two to three years later.
“Afterward, I became a presenter until now,” said the woman, who majored in computing systems and marketing from Bina Nusantara University.
In terms of experience, Sumi considered the Aceh tsunami in 2004 and her interview with actor Jackie Chan during his trip to Indonesia during a charity event for the disaster as her most unforgettable moments.
She said her work as a journalist has humbled her as a person.
“Now, I’m an open person. I mean, I was born and raised in an exclusive community. I used to shut myself down and didn’t like to make friends with people from different ethnicities,” Sumi said.
“But as soon as I joined Metro TV, I started to make friends with everyone. I’m so proud of this inclusiveness.”
The youngest of four siblings, Sumi said she was the one who made a breakthrough in her family with her decisions in career and marriage.
In her family, she became a journalist while most of her siblings are building their own businesses.
“I’m also the only one married to someone from a different ethnic background,” said the wife of journalist Timothy Marbun of Kompas TV, who is Batak from North Sumatra.
She attributed her good communication skills for enabling her to branch out from her community.
“It was actually quite a surprise that my parents could warmly welcome my husband. I’m so proud of that,” she said, hoping that her friends could follow her lead in blending in with people from various backgrounds.
After working in television for 12 years, she has decided to start her own business. She owns Sabang16 coffee shops with her husband and several friends.
Sumi said she was considering taking a serious step in developing her business.
In the early years of her career, she recalled that she could work 24 hours nonstop, without any sleep, at the office.
“However, what makes it hard for me to leave Metro TV is that it’s like my second family. I also have my own targets regarding my journalistic career,” she says. “I don’t know. I haven’t decided yet on whether I’m going to choose my journalism career or business — or do both.”
For the upcoming Chinese New Year celebration, Sumi plans to spend the day with her extended family at her parents’ home in Tangerang, enjoying a home-cooked meal prepared by her mother. Some of her siblings live in the US and Singapore.
“After living in the big city, we don’t do many typical Chinese New Year traditions as we did back in Riau,” Sumi says. “Yet, we still do our best to gather together, which is the essential part in celebrating the New Year.”