Engineering a new role

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 March, 2011, 12:00am

On a side street in Hung Hom are the offices of Oregon Scientific, makers of highly stylised everyday home appliances such as digital clocks, pedometers, telephones and air purifiers. Walking into the showroom is like walking into a Sharper Image store, where every inch of the place is used to display the many classy products.

Showing us around is Dr Kenji Yum Tsz-yin, who in the short span of six years has transitioned from the role of electronic engineer to business development manager and is now the company's regional product manager for Asia-Pacific and China.

A City University (CityU) alumnus, Yum obtained a BSc with a first-class honours in 2002 and a PhD in 2005 in electronic engineering. Yum has received more than 30 awards in various competitions that include the Certificate of Excellence in the 2005 Hong Kong Young Scientists Awards.

Tell us about your career

When I was an assistant professor at CityU, I met Oregon Scientifics' chairman Dr Raymond Chan, who invited me to join his company. I started out as an engineer and after six months, I was promoted to what's called a radio frequency specialist. After about a year, I became technology manager at a group level.

Then after a short while, the chairman suggested that I try my hand at business and with that, I changed fields and became a business development manager. My unit began to grow and eventually became a subsidiary of this company. About a year ago, I became head of division, and then two months ago, after a company restructuring, I was made regional product manager for Asia-Pacific and China.

How have you applied what you learned at CityU to work?

What I'm doing now is completely different to what I learned. Before, it was all engineering - like how to use a resistor or transistor in a circuit, a very operational way of doing things. At CityU, I learned how to make presentations and logically think things through and, with Oregon Scientific being a product company that needs creative minds with engineering backgrounds, it made me a perfect fit for the firm because I could think up and design products.

When making strategic decisions, I would apply the logical thinking processes from my engineering days. I would get together with my team and draw on the whiteboard tree diagrams to illustrate what we should do, so that we were all clear about the options and what they led to. Marketing people don't do something like this or naturally think in this way.

What does your daily work involve?

About 20 per cent of my time is spent brainstorming with my product managers, while 20 to 30 per cent is spent with my business executives doing channel mapping and business data analysis. Then about another 20 to 30 per cent is spent in intensive meetings. Finally, I also have to follow up with key accounts and customers.

What are the challenges of your work?

In the space of six years, I've moved into the role of regional manager and the challenge for me is managing staff. I feel that I'm still 'green' in this respect. Among my team, I have people who are older and have more experience in staff management. Managing things that are 'inanimate' is easy because I have control over them, but with people, it's harder. We all have our own thought processes, ideas and ways of doing things. And as a division becomes bigger, office politics starts to come into play, which also becomes a challenge. Then when it comes to customers, like [handling] complaints, I'm still very inexperienced.

Hard work pays off

Yum's motto is 'no pain, no gain' - the more effort you exert, the more rewards you will get back

He thinks young people today are very ambitious and advises them to be humble

He believes that as long as you are working in something you have a passion for, you will find a place in which to excel