Passion to Profession: Christie Fong
Christie Fong, Search Engine Marketing Manager at Patagonia, stumbled upon her love of the outdoors when she agreed to climb a mountain on a whim.
By Kassondra Kloos
Christie Fong stumbled upon her love of the outdoors when she agreed to climb a mountain on a whim in college. She fell in love with climbing much the same way—when she went to a rock climbing gym for the first time in China in 2011. Since then, she’s made a career in the outdoor industry, in Patagonia’s marketing department, and has traveled the world seeking summits and sends. In this interview, we discuss why she’s made the outdoors such a major part of her life.
WHAT’S YOUR FIRST OUTDOOR MEMORY?
Climbing Mt. Emei in China, when I was studying abroad in the spring of 2009. It’s the tallest of four holy mountains in China, and that was my first very athletic or physically intensive activity. I did it on a whim. It was two days of climbing and walking up endless stairs on this mountain, with all these monasteries in between. We had to sleep in an abandoned shack. At the top, there was a huge golden temple and Buddhist statue. After that, I started going all over to different parts of China to travel and hike. It was challenging, but so rewarding in the end.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB IN THE OUTDOOR INDUSTRY?
I was working at a digital marketing agency in Phoenix and the North Face was one of our clients at the time, when I was just getting into rock climbing. Every now and then, I would check job boards, and one day I saw a job posting for Patagonia as an SEO analyst. I applied, and it just so happened to work out. Now I’m a Senior Analyst for Search Engine Marketing. If you’re searching Yahoo, Google, Bing, and see results from Patagonia, that’s my work.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PERK OF WORKING FOR PATAGONIA?
Definitely our 9-80 work schedule. We do 80 hours in 9 work days instead of 10, so we get every other Friday off. I’ve traveled a lot to climb with those long weekends, and it’s so nice to disconnect and not feel rushed on the weekends.
WHAT’S YOUR ONE PIECE OF ADVICE FOR WOMEN SEEKING A CAREER IN THE OUTDOOR INDUSTRY?
Be bold, be objective, and recognize when your own thoughts are limiting or preventing you from doing something. Then just do it or go for it, regardless of the outcome, knowing that you’ll learn from the experience no matter what. I say that because people I talk to in passing, when they read job descriptions at Patagonia, they tell me they’re not qualified for the positions. But I could probably argue the same thing about my job and the position I was in when I applied for it. Obviously, if you don’t do it, you never know what could happen.
HOW HAVE THE OUTDOORS EMPOWERED YOU?
They’ve taught me a lot of life lessons. There’s so much to see and do outside of climbing. Being in the outdoors means seeing the world, and with that, I’ve learned to be more aware of my surroundings, be mindful, and how to understand and embrace different people and cultures. That awareness is transferable to a lot of other things.
What’s your super power? Intuition
Outdoor adventure of choice for daily release? Climbing
What’s your spirit animal? Red panda
What’s in your thermos? Dark roast coffee
If you had an intro song, what would it be? Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”
Your number one outdoor hack? Bringing a Crazy Creek chair to lounge between bouldering routes
One word that you think of when we say “outdoors?” Reverence
What’s your favorite outdoor/adventure book? Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer
This interview was part of an ongoing series with Backpacker magazine featuring the careers of women in the active-outdoor industries.