ANDY CHENG received his bachelor's degree in engineering from the University of Hong Kong in 2003, but instead of becoming a computer programmer or systems engineer like many of his peers, he struck out in another direction. Since childhood, his secret ambition had been to pursue a career in journalism, so when he spotted an advertisement for a cadetship with the South China Morning Post, he decided it was time to follow his dream and immediately applied. The cadetship training programme is like an internship, but without the problems of being too short or superficial. It is also a sure way of landing a future job in newspaper journalism. Those who qualify are allowed to test the waters by getting involved in areas such as general news, business and features before spending a longer stint in the section that interests them most. Cadets undergo a two-year training period before becoming full-time South China Morning Post staff journalists. Each year, there are around 150 applicants for seven cadetships on offer. Cheng submitted a portfolio of his student articles, personal writings and editorial pieces which had been published in other newspapers. He was called by the Post and invited to take part in the intense recruitment process, including a written test, group interviews and an interview with David Armstrong, the then group editor-in-chief. Of his unorthodox route into journalism, Cheng said: 'At first, I was worried that it would be difficult to convey my ideas, given my limited background in languages and writing. I was scared that everyone except me would be an expert in communication.' However, his fears were soon dispelled as he was given in-depth training during his first few months at the Post. 'I spent a few months being schooled in how to develop my news sense, shorthand and language skills,' he said. Cheng also credits his trainers for instilling in him the basic principles of journalism. 'Having the correct news sense is very important. As my trainer said, 'You have to find your own story',' he said. Cheng spent the bulk of his cadetship outside the office, following up on stories that he planned to write. 'You can't produce stories just sitting in an office; you have to get out and follow the scent.' He recalled how he was often sent out to experience different events, simply to get a feel for the atmosphere surrounding a story. In particular, he remembered attending a district council election during his first year. 'I wasn't assigned a story for the vote count, but I attended anyway because I had a feeling something important might happen,' Cheng said. 'One of the candidates demanded a recount after the results came in and it turned out I was the first reporter to be informed of this. 'So, I got to write my first real news story on something as significant as an election campaign recount.' Cheng is completing his cadetship on the business desk and will graduate from the programme later this year. He said he learned that there was nothing to prevent graduates from different academic backgrounds becoming successful journalists. 'I have actually come to understand that the management is more open to people who have different degrees,' he said. 'They want to find a group of journalists with diverse backgrounds, who can approach stories from more interesting angles.' Cheng believes his degree in engineering gives him a competitive edge when writing about the sector and technology-related topics. 'It's okay to come from another discipline because you can bring your own special strengths to the workplace as well.' could this be your calling? 1 Do you have an inquiring, inquisitive mind, with a literary slant, and the social skills of a party planner? 2 Are people always telling you: 'Wow, (insert name)________, you should become a writer!'? 3 Do you have an eye for detail and strong powers of observation? 4 Are you constantly updating your online blog about the events in your life? 5 Will you be mourning the recent death of renowned journalist Peter Jennings for the next two years? 6 Would the sight of your byline on a newspaper scoop leave you on cloud nine? Did you have an emphatic yes answer for all of these questions? If so, you should consider taking up a career in print journalism. Check the newspapers, make your job application, and be on your way!