This year's graduates of the Master of Technology Management programme offered by Hong Kong University of Science and Technology are convinced the course has provided them a leg-up in their career - although they came to the course with a wide variety of backgrounds and experience. Chris Chen Chi-yun is from Taipei but has lived in Hong Kong for the past nine years. He earned his first degree, in civil engineering, from the Taipei Institute of Technology. After that, he moved to the United States to pursue further studies and received his master's in civil environmental engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He graduated in 1987. Since 1990, he has worked at Camp Dresser and McKee International (CDM), where he is an associate director and office manager. One of the top 10 environmental consultants in the US, CDM has designed and built water- and waste-treatment works for the Hong Kong government. 'I took the [Hong Kong University of Science and Technology's] programme because I thought it was time to go back and upgrade myself. I found out about it through an advertisement in the South China Morning Post,' Mr Chen says. 'I wanted to know more about the information-technology field, which would help me in my work, and also wanted more management knowledge. I decided on the programme because of its good reputation and because it follows the US system, which I was already familiar with.' The programme took 18 months to complete and was concentrated at the weekends. It also required occasional overnighters at the university's Sai Kung campus. One of the most valuable aspects of the programme was the diversity of his fellow classmates, which was invaluable for networking and developing different perspectives. 'It was not only learning from the lecturer but from my classmates with their wealth of experience.' The group assignments promoted co-operation, and the field trips to Nansha in the mainland and Kuala Lumpur were well received. The visiting lectures were also helpful in giving students a sense of things in practice, Mr Chen says. Born in Guangzhou, Peter Chu Chirk-man emigrated to Canada with his family when he was seven years old. He returned to Asia in 1990 and now works at Emerson Electric, a Fortune 500 company with 41 manufacturing locations in Asia. As the director, Greater China, procurement and technology, he heads all sales and marketing for the Asia-Pacific. He is based in Tsingtao, Shandong province. Like Mr Chen, Mr Chu found out about the programme through an ad in the Post. His company sponsored his participation. 'The greatest value of this programme is in providing a comprehensive curriculum on the fundamentals of the new-age economy,' he says. 'As a manager working in the non-IT field, I come into contact and face issues and challenges every day that involve information technology. 'Business has changed in a fundamental way and the development of e-commerce and the productivity enhancements offered by IT will change the way we work and manage.' Mr Chu believes the knowledge gained from the programme will enable him to make decisions faster. It also helped him better understand how his decisions could be affected by the availability of information. 'The mix of IT and non-IT students proved a good mix of expertise, especially in class discussions and group projects. The diversity provided new and innovative ways to analyse and solve problems,' he says. 'And the broad base of courses provided me with the knowledge to understand and stay abreast of the latest developments in IT and electronic commerce.'