MBA degree helped trainee reach top

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 January, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 January, 1999, 12:00am

When Nicholas Jim Tak-hing was studying accountancy at Hong Kong Polytechnic in the early 1980s, he vowed to get his external and internal examinations out of the way as quickly as possible.

'I planned my studies according to the examination schedule. To save time, I studied some subjects on my own before they were taught at school,' he said.

As a result, Mr Jim was exempted from some of his internal exams. While everyone else was cramming for finals, he was working on his tan.

'I really enjoyed my last six months at school because I didn't need to study. I spent a lot of time at the swimming pool and at the London Theatre on Jordan Road,' he said.

But it was not all fun and games. Mr Jim also got a head start on his job search, perfecting his CV, sending out application letters and scheduling interviews.

By the time he graduated, he had an offer from Jardine Marketing Services to join the company as a trainee accountant.

During the next five years, Mr Jim's career at Jardine went from strength to strength and he was promoted to finance and administrative manager of various units.

In 1989, he was appointed finance director of Pizza Hut Hong Kong. The following year, he decided to further his studies, enrolling in a part-time MBA programme at Chinese University of Hong Kong. 'After six years working experience, I thought it was time to broaden my scope of thinking and to learn something that was more relevant to my job,' Mr Jim said.

'My objectives had changed. During my accountancy course, I was only interested in preparing for exams. Now I could focus on learning something.' Because Mr Jim's MBA course offered a number of electives, he was able to fill in many important gaps in his professional preparation.

'Since I studied accountancy as an undergraduate, I deliberately chose different subjects, putting more emphasis on marketing and business strategy to complement my training in accountancy,' he said. Pursuing an MBA while holding down a full-time job can be challenging, even for someone as skilful at time management as Mr Jim.

'You can manage your time to prepare for exams but, for projects, you must co-ordinate with your classmates, who are every bit as busy as you are,' he said.

'You also have to sacrifice a lot of time with your family. Fortunately, I have a very understanding wife, who was very supportive at that time.' In the end, however, Mr Jim said it was well worth the effort as many of the classes 'were very relevant to my job'.

Within six months of completing his course, he was promoted to regional finance director of Jardine Restaurants Group. In 1995, at the age of 33, he became chief executive of Pizza Hut Hong Kong.

One of the key advantages of studying at Chinese University, Mr Jim said, was the opportunity to form a useful network of business contacts in different sectors.

'I like Chinese University's MBA course because it puts a lot of emphasis on student mix,' he said. 'If I want to get some information about the retail trade, I can call one of my classmates from that sector.' Pizza Hut Hong Kong won Jardine Pacific's Managing Director's Award in 1996 and 1997, the first unit to win the prize two years running.