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Cross-Asset Reporter Isabelle Lee: Smashing Chinoy Stereotypes and Going Beyond Expectations

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Being a journalist is no walk in the park— and Isabelle Lee, a Cross-asset reporter at Bloomberg, knows the hardship all too well.

“There were so many times where you just want to give up because you make so much less. But you were so much more.”

Back when Lee was still a reporter in the Philippines, she would go to work at 6 am and go home at 6 pm. This also included Saturdays because Lee also worked for The World Tonight, and she was on this type of schedule for a couple of years. Thankfully, her friends and family made it easy for her since they were cool with her missing a lot of events because of her work schedule. There were also times when she had to choose between celebrating Christmas or New Year because well… news happens.

“And here I am [now in the States], the journalist who doesn’t really earn so much. But I was actually encouraged a lot by my parents and even my brother. I’m so lucky that I have very supportive families.”

A common generalization among Chinoys is that people always expect them to be involved in anything business-related. But for Isabelle Lee, she knew she wanted to stray away from that stereotype and do something entirely different.

“Being a journalist is definitely not a typical career path, especially for a Chinese Filipino. Both my parents are accountants by profession, and now they’re business people. My brother, while he’s a civil engineer by education, he’s also now a businessman.”

How did Lee’s journey as a journalist/cross-asset reporter begin? According to her, she got her bachelor’s degree studying Communication Arts at the Ateneo de Manila University. Then, she moved to New York and took a master’s in Journalism at Columbia University. After that, Lee took another master’s degree in International Affairs to support her journalism degree.

“But really, those wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my family. They’ve been so gracious and they’ve been so generous and I really, really credit a lot of whatever I have accomplished today to that, especially to my parents.”


On her Chinese-Filipino identity

Back in the Philippines, Lee identifies as a Chinoy. However, when she moved to the States, she started telling people that she is Filipino since it was easier for people to understand.

“It didn’t feel as complete because half of me or a huge part of me is very Chinese. From how we wear red on birthdays to just the mooncake dice, games, and other traditions that we do. So I really do identify as a Chinoy, although overseas it’s just a bit harder to explain. To some of my friends, I do say that I’m Chinese by ethnicity and I’m just born and raised in the Philippines.”

Growing up, Lee remembers having to attend Simbang Gambi with her family, which her mom was really strict about. She admits that this is the very Filipino and Catholic side of her family. Meanwhile, Lee says that her Chinese side is basically going to temples, visiting deceased loved ones, wearing red clothing at celebratory events, playing dice games, and eating in Chinese restaurants.

As a Chinese-Filipino, Lee admits that being a Filipino and being Chinese have their own advantages. For instance, Lee credits her Filipino side for her respectful and faithful nature; and her Chinese side for her hardworking and thrifty nature.

In quick social gatherings, Lee just tells people that she is Filipino since she does not want to really divulge her entire story to a stranger. Although, Lee has no problems explaining deeper to someone she trusts. 

“So that was kind of something that was a struggle— because you don’t want to just give someone your whole life story, but at the same time, it’s just so hard to reduce yourself to one sentence. But then if I’m talking in-depth with a friend, then I explain a bit more.”


Regarding her work as a Cross-asset reporter at Bloomberg

“At Bloomberg, I cover the stock market. So the stock market here in the U.S. opens at 9:30 and closes at 4. So I start my day at 7 a.m. I’m already seated at my desk reading research notes from Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, UBS, all the big banks, and just, you know, really trying to see common threads, themes that they’re possibly talking about. And throughout the day, it’s just really watching the market. Talking to investment strategists, analyst bankers, [and] portfolio managers, where do they put cash? What do they like right now? Are they overweight here? Underweight there?”

Lee ends her day at around 5 pm, but sometimes she needs to stay a bit later after the market closes since sometimes there’s still some action going on. Since her work also starts early, she always makes it to a point that she also sleeps early so that she is not cranky the next day, which may potentially affect her performance. 

Lee admits that this type of work was intimidating at first, but then she advises that if you learn how to be confident and carry yourself a certain way, then people’s respect will naturally follow. 

With Lee’s coworkers being all women and roughly the same age as her, Lee claims that these little things make her work comparable to just having a good time. 

“It’s a very generous and helpful and collaborative group. I would say that no one really is competitive or like me, and so again, I got lucky there. I’m really happy. As a Chinese Filipino in journalism, it sometimes feels a bit strange because I don’t know anyone who is in [the] news who is also Chinese Filipino. And I guess this just really underscores my point as well, that I was able to really pursue this path and some might say be good at this path because of support from family [and] friends.”

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