Opportunity to network attracts professionals from many countries

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 April, 2005, 12:00am

DAVID SOON, DIRECTOR of information technology at Credit Suisse First Boston (Hong Kong), came to Hong Kong looking for his roots. Born in Britain to parents that had emigrated from Hong Kong, he arrived in the early 1990s thinking that 'it might be fun to work here'.


He not only found a job and a new home, he also met the woman that would become his wife.


'I decided that I wanted to stay,' he said. 'My sister, my brother and my mother have also followed me back.'


He now has two children - a five-year-old son and a seven-year-old daughter.


Mr Soon has a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in computing from Warwick University. He has 15 years' professional experience in IT development and support management. He has been with Credit Suisse since 1999. Committed to professional development, he has taken many short courses, which he describes as 'snap shots'.


But he wanted the whole picture. 'I felt I had reached a point where I couldn't learn any more on the job,' Mr Soon said.


'I had been on one- and two-day management and leadership courses and I felt there was more to learning and management than this. I knew the technology in my field. So I thought it was time to do something more in depth and cover everything I would need to know.'


The class of 2005 at the Kellogg-HKUST programme is a highly diverse group. Close to a quarter of the students are United States passport holders - not surprising given the programme's US connection. Nearly a fifth of them hold British travel documents. Ten per cent are Singaporean, 8 per cent from the mainland, and 6 per cent from Hong Kong. Other nationalities include Canadian, Czech, Filipino, Indian, Japanese, Malaysian, Norwegian, Syrian and Taiwanese.


Sophia Wong, vice-president of GE Equity Asia Pacific, was upbeat about the chance to apply what she learned in class immediately on the job.


'I am on the board of directors for an investment company,' she said.


'A lot of the things I learned in class I could apply in my day-to-day job - not only business issues but also corporate governance and expanding business in different regions of Asia, and finding customers and suppliers for investors. I could do this through the network I met in class.'


Born in the mainland, Ms Wong has been with GE for 10 years, specialising in private equity, mergers and acquisitions, and banking.


She has a Bachelor of Business Administration from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, spending a semester abroad at the University of California at Santa Barbara.


'All of my working experience and education was in Asia except for the year I spent in the US as an exchange student,' she said.


'That is what attracted me to the Kellogg-HKUST programme. It is important to have the US connection, and Kellogg is a well-recognised business school all over the world.'


Based in Fuzhou, Fujian, for seven years, Gregory Gilligan, general manager for Southeast China for the McDonald's Corporation, is one of 20 participants who flew in from diverse locations.


He has a Bachelor of Arts in History from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Northern New Jersey and a Master of Arts in Law and East Asian studies from Washington University in St Louis, Missouri. He has been with McDonald's for 10 years.


'Travelling eats up half a day,' Mr Gilligan said.


'While working, it's extremely challenging. I found that balancing more than a full-time load at work, the rigors of the MBA studies and family obligations were such that this was an incredibly challenging year. In terms of energy, focus, and everything else, it has been tough to balance those three things.'


But it was worth the effort. 'The programme teaches you how to drive a business rather than simply manage it,' Mr Gilligan said.