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IT wins odds-on

Published on Friday, 07 Sep 2012
Ian Dickson says IT systems at the HKJC must be as secure and reliable as those at banks.
Photo: Berton Chang

Job-hunters in the field of information technology (IT) looking for an environment with high expectations and continuous learning opportunities will find the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC), with its staggering range of projects, a good place to stretch their knowledge.

The organisation’s IT function is responsible for a diverse range of activities such as high-transaction-volume, mission-critical wagering systems that demand extremely high reliability; corporate systems such as finance and human capital administration; and websites and mobile applications. It is also charged with continuously modernising these systems.

“Customer expectations are extremely high. The systems must be robust, secure, reliable and available, similar to banking and stock trading,” says Ian Dickson, HKJC’s head of strategic business solutions.

As part of HKJC’s 5,000-plus full-time staff, successful candidates will join an IT division with some 400 employees, with 200 engaged in solution delivery, 160 in operations and around 30 in IT strategy, architecture and project management.

“We have a wide range of interesting and challenging roles,” says Dickson, including business-portfolio and project managers, architects, business solution analysts, testing staff and technical specialists in key operational areas. “Project managers and architects are a particular area of focus right now,” he adds.

Staff in these roles need strong awareness so that they can engage with businesses and understand the requirements and IT solutions that are involved.

The workforce is highly competent and motivated, says Dickson. To fit in, applicants should not only have a degree and relevant IT experience, but also be proactive and comfortable in engaging with business people at various organisational levels. They should be flexible and ready to come up with different options to help solve business problems.

In an organisation that employs more than 26,000 full- and part-time staff, teamwork is crucial in working with different departments and divisions.

Cantonese and good spoken and written English are necessary. Putonghua is desirable for communicating with offshore development partners in mainland China.

Fresh hires will be taken around all the facilities to acquire a good understanding of the breadth of the business. They will also have a buddy assigned to them for a few months to help them settle in.

There are targeted activities for career and personal development. Last year, full-time staff received an average of 4.5 days of training each, while part-time staff received 1.5 days’ worth. This added up to the company setting aside the equivalent of more than 55,000 days of training across all departments. Development opportunities are open to both full- and part-time staff at all grades, and benefit nearly 26,000 staff members annually.

Learning opportunities include on-the-job training, sponsored schemes and e-learning. Training courses offer counselling, interpersonal skills and emotion management as part of the company’s five-pronged, award-winning Corporate Wellness Programme launched in 1999 to promote the holistic well-being of employees.

“Staff facilities cover 7,500 sq ft of gym space and we have 740 yoga and fitness classes a year. We have stress-management classes, family-bonding activities, art jams, wine-appreciation sessions and other corporate-wide programmes,” Dickson says.

Staff development is balanced between personal development and technical training.

The company supports employees’ study through an extensive online training programme that even offers training in management skills. IT staff can also study for different certification programmes, and having reached a certain level, can even obtain financial support to study for an Executive MBA.

“Those who have either reached a certain level, directly report to senior management or are in roles where leadership capabilities are particularly important, can undertake mentoring through the company’s IT leadership programmes, enabling stronger succession planning and further opportunities for growth,” Dickson says.

There are also IT work attachment programmes from between two weeks and two months in length to help IT employees understand the work and needs of other departments. Mentorships are arranged with IT leaders outside the HKJC.

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