Early opportunity to put lessons to the test

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 October, 2007, 12:00am

Shirley Hung Mung-chi didn't have to wait until the end of the course to see how a Richard Ivey EMBA could boost her career.

In February this year, she accepted an offer to become vice-president of the marine department for American International Underwriters, part of the American International Group (AIG), which after 11 years in marine insurance, was exactly the sort of challenge she was looking for. It provided the chance to run a 10-person team, implement plans to increase revenue, and put her sales and marketing skills to the test.

'I had been trying to find a new environment in which I could develop my career by using more than my technical knowledge,' Ms Hung said. 'I wanted to contribute in terms of management and strategic thinking. And because AIG needs people with all-round management skills to run its profit centres, it valued this degree and the school's name.'

She explained that the new job had given her an immediate opportunity to apply lessons from the classroom in the day-to-day work environment. This was especially true in the area of people management skills and building relationships with customers and staff.

'By doing the course, I have learned the importance of seeing things from different angles and can accept that people have different views,' she said. 'I can now understand their behaviour and, therefore, make decisions in a more appropriate way.'

She has come to appreciate the need to be open-minded, letting others express their views and contribute ideas. She does this specifically by asking for opinions and giving staff a regular opportunity to speak on issues which directly concern them. This creates greater involvement, better buy-in for decisions, and a stronger feeling of team spirit.

'When you want to deliver new ideas, the best way is to plan every single step and to make sure you first know how to get people involved,' she said. 'But I also want them to share more between themselves about what they have learned, and not only about things related to the job.'

During the programme, Ms Hung found the finance and accounting modules most challenging, but also learned most from these courses. 'I can now understand financial statements and the background of a customer's company performance,' she said.

What she particularly liked was the wide-ranging case-study method and the vibrancy of the classes.

'I hate the traditional method of 'one-way' teaching and really enjoyed the discussions,' she said. 'It was always possible to leverage and learn from

other people's interaction and contributions.'