Paul Dickson is beverage manager (racecourses) at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, and he is taking the leading for success programme at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He tells Michael Taylor his thoughts on the programme. Dickson has worked in the industry for 21 years in various countries, including his home country of England, the United States, Ireland and Australia. He has been in Hong Kong for 16 years. Having worked in small and large organisations, such as Marriott Hotels and Sheraton Hotels, private restaurant groups such as the Aqua Restaurant Group and Epicurean Group, and the HKJC for more than five years at the Happy Valley Clubhouse, he decided to take a break from Hong Kong in 2000 to launch a restaurant business with two outlets in Melbourne, Australia. Missing the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, he returned to Hong Kong in 2003. Dickson has a bachelor of science degree in hospitality administration from New Hampshire College in the United States. He has taken additional courses in catering related topics. Why did you enrol in this programme? I wanted to refresh my academic skills and support my career development with a few key topics that would trigger my creativity and help to sharpen my management approach to my job. Having completed my degree years back, I felt as though I needed a platform to challenge myself further and integrate/bounce off ideas with academic professionals and business professionals alike. Did it meet your expectations? Yes, and more. I was not expecting to be in such a diverse class of industry professionals from completely different backgrounds. I had the joy to work with an international group consisting of Hong Kong Chinese, mainland Chinese, French, Italian, Kiwis, Koreans, Dutch and, of course, me being British. We all have different cultures which we learned from and we all represented a wide range of professions with industries covering optical, furniture, international shipping, electrical (CLP), transportation (MTR), health care, strategic marketing and my industry of hospitality. Not only that, we all represented many different positions within our companies from operations to finance to marketing to small business owners. Even our professors were international and brought their own humour, background and experiences to share. How did you benefit from it? I learned to think out of the box and hardly focused on my industry at all ... unless I happened to be talking about my experiences. This gave me a completely different point of view and thinking that was new to me. By reviewing the case studies from the professors and listening to my classmates' opinions on real-life issues, it helped me to expand my own views and opinions that I can apply back to my own job. Even though the tasks and assignments were not directly related to my profession, they were all relevant management topics that I could use to motivate myself and try to think differently. How did the scheduling affect your personal and professional life? It was tough to schedule time to attend the classes and work on assignments, but my team at work was very accommodating. Most modules had classes on Wednesdays, and this happens to be a race day ... so I went to the classes during the day and went back to work in the evening with a stimulated mind. As long as you commit yourself to the programme and put the time in to read the case studies and do a little research, it is possible to balance work and study. As each module was only two to three days each over three months, we had plenty of time to manage ourselves. Have you taken other short courses? I have taken various short courses over the years, but these have been taken at work with colleagues I am working with and related to the industry I am in. This was the first course not directly related to my field with such a diverse range of professionals as students and was very rewarding on a personal and professional level. Do you plan to take more? If the opportunity arises I would certainly consider taking more such courses. I thank all the team at HKUST and my great classmates for the experience.