With wireless broadband, video downloads and internet access via mobile phones, what was once just science fiction has become part of everyday life. The advances in IT and telecommunications, which allow users to do shopping or banking online, share photos via a smartphone, or watch movies on their notebooks have brought a wealth of new products and services and put the sector at the forefront of technical innovation. 'Customers expect mobility, high-speed bandwidth and a wide variety of services,' says Paul Lam, vice-president of human resources and employee relations for PCCW. 'To serve the burgeoning demand for mobile data, network technology has evolved. [We are] now developing 4G and have built the largest Wi-Fi network in Hong Kong with over 8,000 access points.' The advance of network technology and the widespread use of more powerful mobile devices give scope for a host of new applications and services. PCCW, for instance, recently launched a 'roamsave' feature, offering significant savings for customers who make or receive calls when travelling overseas, and a timetable application is on the way for fans of international sports. The company also makes much of its 'quadruple-play', the delivery of content and services via four distinct platforms - mobile, TV, broadband and multimedia - making it possible to support the full range of a customer's likely IT and telecom needs. 'Innovation is one of our core values,' Lam says. 'It results from our team's understanding of the market, customer needs and what can be achieved through developing technologies.' He adds that successful implementation also depends on careful competitive analysis, detailed business planning, due diligence and strict adherence to the best principles of project management. To push ahead, the company's technical staff require a sound knowledge not just of existing systems but also of emerging platforms, such as the passive optical network, internet protocol television and cloud computing. 'Generally, we want staff who take the initiative and keep track of the latest technologies and marketing trends to develop and provide best-in-class services,' Lam says. 'It is not sufficient to be a technical expert alone. [You have to] work as part of the wider commercial team.' To enable this, the company arranges both in-house and external courses to give the necessary all-round training. For example, there are programmes covering customer service, communication and interpersonal skills, leadership practices and project management techniques. '[When recruiting], we look for talent, competence and individuals who will make good leaders in the years to come,' Lam says. The priority is to take on university and technical college graduates keen to build a career in the sector. They can expect to enter either the IT/engineering or managerial stream and to learn through formal courses, mentoring and supervision, and on-the-job experience. Candidates should have a strong academic background in a relevant discipline and personal attributes that include business acumen and self-motivation, and an innovative mindset. Professional certificates and a willingness to work overseas are often seen as advantages. 'The convergence of services will continue to be a major trend in the industry,' Lam says. 'The exponential rise in the use of the internet and video streaming on mobile devices will change the way people communicate and consume infotainment. Staff who are interested in new technologies will have a bright future.' City Telecom (HK) is equally upbeat about the overall prospects for the sector. The firm is quick to highlight the dynamic nature of the market and the fact that consumer needs can change 'overnight', but believes the interest lies in meeting those challenges. It recalls the general view when symmetric 100M broadband services were launched in 2005 that no one thought consumers would actually require that much bandwidth. However, with the development of high-definition formats and video portals, 100M has become a normal standard for internet access in recent years. 'In the past, customers expected high-speed connectivity,' says Jessie Cheng, associate director, corporate communications at City Telecom. 'Now, they expect more than competitive 'hardware'. They also look at the software side - your service - so apart from speed and stability, we [focus on] delivering the best customer experience.' One aspect is to offer private-bank-style personal account management, providing a one-stop contact rather than the usual hotline type of service. The firm will look for a range of recruits, from engineers and technicians to sales and marketing staff. 'We need people who aspire to a challenging career rather than a stable job,' Cheng says. 'We are now looking into the free TV market as we see a convergence between internet and TV content.'