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Constructing a solid career base

Last month, three students assigned to shadow Joseph Choi, managing director of Hsin Chong Construction, got an exciting opportunity to see the decision-making process that goes on behind the scenes of a huge multi-purpose project.

On a site covering approximately 66,000 square metres, Hsin Chong has been contracted to build a hotel tower consisting of two hotels, hotel villas, and retail and gaming facilities, which will make up the new Phase 2 of the Galaxy Resort & Casino complex in Cotai City, Macau.

But the visit was just part of an eye-opening three days that Jennifer Ma Yue, a MSc student majoring in telecommunications at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST); Scott Cheung, who is studying for an MPhil in computer science and engineering, also at HKUST; and Sunny Wong Kwong-yin, a BSc student in civil engineering at the University of Hong Kong, spent in Choi's company.

"We visited different construction sites, including the Galaxy Resort & Casino project site, where [the students] also attended a meeting and observed executive-level discussions," Choi says. "I also briefed them on the way the construction business operates and we exchanged views and opinions."

Whatever the trio said must have been impressive because Choi says he found his three shadows to be "outgoing, smart and brilliant".

The compliments flowed both ways. "He is a very kind person," Ma says. "He told us a lot about his experiences and also taught us how to make a choice when you are standing at a crossroads in your life."

Ma readily recites some of the memorable tips she picked up: "Don't be afraid of change; always get ready; keep learning new things or you will be left behind; and develop some interests - [Choi] plays many sports - which can not only help keep you healthy, but also releases some of the pressure."

Cheung adds two more pearls of wisdom he picked up during his time with Choi.

"First of all, don't be too calculating at the start of your career. If you are assigned more work to do by your boss when you are a young, fresh employee in a company, do not complain and try and escape it. This is a good opportunity to learn and enhance yourself," he says.

"Secondly, integrity is a crucial quality for a CEO. As a leader, you need to be trustworthy and able to motivate different departments or teams under your control. Integrity is what makes you reliable and earns you a good reputation and image with your subordinates."

With all three students aspiring to be CEOs one day, Choi outlines the qualities a good leader requires.

"You need to demonstrate commitment to the industry and to society, and be a leader with vision and passion that can influence and motivate staff to work together as a team to achieve their shared goals," he says.

But Choi adds that these are not the only qualities needed. To be successful at any point in your career, he says you must be "hardworking, proactive, caring towards others, and have good communication skills".

While he says he would be happy to offer the students advice, where appropriate, in future, at least one of the students was left with some serious thinking to do in the light of what he had already learned from Choi.

"The most interesting fact he told us was that the contracting business is more prosperous than that of consulting, which was quite different to what I'd understood," Wong admits.

"Most of the project sum was allocated to contractors, while only a small amount of money was spent on the design. I may have to change my career plan because originally I had wanted to work as a consultant."