Shadow a CEO Programme Report: Engineering a bright future with Thales twosome
Thales doubled up on its behind-the-scenes insight into management life by enlisting the expertise of not one but two of its most senior executives in Hong Kong.
Both Henry Cheung, CEO of Thales Transport & Security (HK), and Richard Mallett, vice president of Thales Critical Information Systems & Cybersecurity, Asia-Pacific, gave students the chance to find out what it’s like to be on the senior management team of a multinational engineering company.
Cheung said that by shadowing him for three days, students Frank Park Myung-keun and Vincent Tse were able to experience what it is like to be immersed in a professional environment. “The programme helps students make that transition from the protective school environment into the working world.”
Cheung made a discovery of his own – that the mindset of the younger generation has changed in recent years. “In the past, the engineering students I’ve met were a little uptight and concerned about their marks, but this time around, they were open-minded and more well-rounded.”
Park, who is studying accounting and finance alongside engineering at City University of Hong Kong, enjoyed the chance to observe how Cheung engaged his staff during an executive committee meeting.
“It was not just about listening to how the company is doing,” he said. “The CEO also needed to make sure every department is working how it should be, analyse any problems, then find appropriate solutions or alternatives, while listening to employees’ concerns or other issues.”
Another highlight for Park was a site visit to observe some new equipment installed and in action for one of the company’s customers.
During the programme, Park discovered that if things don’t run smoothly in one department, it can affect other divisions. “A delay in purchasing certain hardware equipment, for example, leads to low work efficiency and project delays for the engineering department. This can cause loss of profit and damage the company’s reputation.”
Tse, who is studying business management and engineering at the University of the West of England, also enjoyed seeing Cheung in action during the executive committee meeting. “It provided insight into the balancing act required to satisfy everyone in the company. It was interesting to see how the CEO calmed down conflicts and got people to work together,” he said.
Tse added that the shadowing experience also made him realise that pursuing such a senior position might result in being less hands-on at a technical level, and helped him think about whether that was the path he wanted to take.
Over at Thales Critical Information Systems & Cybersecurity, Marc Yip, an engineering student at Imperial College London, said he really enjoyed the chance to talk to Mallett and the department heads. “They not only shared management advice, but also gave me a picture of where the industry is headed in the future,” he said.
Mallett was impressed with Yip’s enthusiasm and inquisitive line of questioning. “I didn’t prompt him because I wanted to see if he’d take the initiative. I was a bit nervous about whether he’d get it, but I think he found it all quite ‘cool’, especially as we can do things like simulate distributed denial of service [DDoS] attacks,” he said.
Mallett’s key piece of advice for Yip was that honesty is always the best policy. “If you want to get to senior level, you’ve got to be able to tell your managers when things are not going to plan and what you’re going to do about it. Even if the numbers might go a bit nasty for a while, tell them – don’t go in and say everything’s OK.
“A lot of people hold things back and then senior management have to come in and sort it out. We don’t want that – we like to hear, ‘I need help, I need guidance.’”
Two other vital takeaways for Yip were the importance of employing the right strategies and creating accurate forecasts. “Very often, problems arise because the wrong strategies were used, so you have to monitor that,” he said. “Accurate forecasting is also important as it shows top management that you understand your business well.”
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Engineering a bright future with Thales twosome.