BACK IN THE mid-1970s, when Simon Leung was finishing high school in Canada, computers were still a novelty and not the everyday essential they are today. 'Apple was starting up, PCs had only just come out and the first graduates were just completing computer science programmes,' recalled the current president of Motorola Asia-Pacific. Mr Leung likes to joke that his decision to study computer science was more a stroke of luck than anything else. 'I had no idea what the subject was about, but it sounded interesting,' he said. 'It was like engineering but seemed less technical and involved more logic. The truth is I was not very good at physics and chemistry, and computer science was very new. You really didn't have to know very much.' The decision to study computer science was indeed serendipitous. When Mr Leung graduated from the University of Western Ontario in Canada, the world was waking up to computers. Every leading company wanted to know about the new technology and use it. Trained computer scientists were suddenly in huge demand. 'I was definitely in the right place at the right time,' he said. Mr Leung's first step was to join Canadian insurance giant Manulife. His job was to support the company's new computer system. And, although he did not quite appreciate his good fortune at the time, he was about to get another lucky break. He was recruited for a far-sighted project by pioneering computer firm Wang which, like Apple and Microsoft, emerged in the vacuum created by IBM's view that personal computers would never catch on. His undertaking was to manage a team of computer whizz-kids developing program applications on the mainland. Mr Leung's background - his family had emigrated from Hong Kong to Canada when he was a teenager - probably helped him land the job. What might seem a fascinating challenge today was quite a different one 20 years ago. 'When I packed my bags and went to Beijing, China was just opening up,' he said. 'Looking back I realise it was a good experience, but at the time it was a big culture shock. It was a very different world.' He had to learn Putonghua, get around in a city where you could not just flag down a taxi, and cope without McDonald's and KFC. 'You had to drive for an hour to find a burger,' he said. However, the hardship posting paid off. It became the springboard for high-flying jobs with Wang, Brightpoint Inc and Tandem/Compaq Computers, where he handled Asia-Pacific operations. In 1999, Mr Leung joined Motorola, now a global leader in wireless and broadband communications. His job was to run the networks and infrastructure business. Last year he was promoted to president, with responsibility for overseeing Asia-Pacific. 'We are the only company that provides end-to-end solutions,' he said, referring to the corporate slogan that promises 'seamless mobility'. In essence, this means that Motorola has broadband solutions and wireless technology in a world where communications are increasingly important. The company has helped to transform the mobile phone into a versatile and affordable tool that few people can now manage without. Mr Leung considers himself fortunate to be at the cutting edge of the broadband and wireless revolution. 'I suppose the moral of the story is that it is all right to be adventurous in your career, take risks and broaden your horizons,' he said. 'If you think like that, opportunities will present themselves and the rest will come.' He was quick to emphasise, however, that 'you had to make your own luck' to climb the corporate ladder, and this happened by 'working hard and performing to produce results'. 'When I was given opportunities I grabbed them, and I suppose people saw I was keen to learn,' he said. 'Also, in each job, I showed dedication to the company and the market, and that helped me to enjoy the work.' Dedication should not be confused with long hours, he said. 'It is not the quantity of time spent on a job that matters, but the quality,' he said. 'I believe in excellence and energy, helping the company and your colleagues. Also, as far as I'm concerned, if you don't enjoy your job, you should move on.' Mr Leung heads a workforce of 20,000 deployed in bases stretching from China and Japan to Australasia and India. He oversees everything from manufacturing and retailing to marketing and research and development. 'It's a very sizeable operation to run,' he said. In the mainland alone he heads a manufacturing base in Tianjin, and 17 research and development centres and 25 branch offices. 'We see tremendous opportunities to innovate here. Mobile communication is already an important part of the lives of over 400 million users, and that number will continue to grow.' He stressed the importance of the very latest technology. 'To do well in this field you have to understand and appreciate the trends and pace of technological development and know how it all works together.' He spends a large portion of his time travelling, but takes it all in his stride. He says his main priorities are leading from the front and helping the younger generation develop their careers. He skipped the conventional management step of getting an MBA, but went on to acquire a doctorate in business administration. His doctoral thesis focused on marketing. He also felt inspired, while studying, to consider someday passing on his considerable experience. 'When I retire from management I want to do something very different, which might be teaching or consulting,' he said. 'I enjoy teaching. With my experience, I think I can contribute new knowledge in the field. When you help others, you also learn from them.' SERENDIPITOUS Simon Leung began his business career at the dawn of the personal computer era Studied computer science almost by accident, 'because it seemed interesting' Had a job opportunity in China in the 1980s that was a 'hardship' posting, but was well timed because the mainland was opening up to international business Held a series of senior management positions with hi-tech firms and joined Motorola in 1999, managing networks and infrastructure Last year promoted to president, heading Asia-Pacific operations and a workforce of 20,000 Being in the right place at the right time helps, but taking risks in your career does not hurt either Hard work, dedication, commitment and enjoying what you do are the keys to success Motorola is known around the world for innovation and leadership in wireless and broadband technology Monthly salaries IT Management Regional sales manager HK$50,000 to HK$70,000 Eight years' experience or more Sales/channel sales account manager HK$30,000 to HK$50,000 Eight years' experience Management information system manager HK$25,000 to HK$50,000 Seven years' experience Transition manager HK$25,000 to HK$40,000 Five years' experience Source: Adecco Personnel New topic Next week, Classified Post proudly begins its new 'Women of Influence' series. You have heard about them and now it is time to find out more about the secrets behind their ambition to succeed.