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Hungering for more

Published on Friday, 25 Jan 2013
Desmond Chan, regional service delivery manager for North APAC at AON, says he was promoted shortly after graduating.
Photo: Nora Tam

Desmond Chan’s first degree sparked a love of learning which saw him gain a PolyU MBA and a senior job role

The Graduate

Desmond Chan’s insatiable thirst for knowledge was triggered by the bachelor’s degree in applied computing he took while working his way up the career ladder in the IT industry.

Now the regional service delivery manager for North APAC at Aon, he says that after the degree, he realised he didn’t want his learning journey to end, so he then went on to study a master’s degree in knowledge management.

At the end of the two-year course, he says he was “a train going at full speed” and he didn’t want his education to stop. He enrolled on an MBA course at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and graduated in 2011.

What prompted you to pursue an MBA?

My first master’s degree prompted me to pursue another master’s degree because I found that the more group projects and presentations I accomplished, the more room for improvement there was. At an MBA seminar I attended at PolyU, the speaker said that studying an MBA is exactly like putting yourself in a real-life situation. When students work together to achieve a goal, it’s just like a group of co-workers from different departments having a meeting together to get a job done. I agreed with this and I was sure I could apply what I learned from the course to the real world.

What were the reasons behind your choice of school?

There are a number of reasons why I chose to study at PolyU. Firstly it was because of the ranking of the Faculty of Business. According to UTD’s (University of Texas at Dallas) Top 100 World Rankings of Business Schools, PolyU’s Faculty of Business is ranked 60th. The MBA course at PolyU also admits over 100 students every year, which I thought could let me build a large network with people from different industries.

Did you fund your own studies or did your company subsidise the costs?

I was self-financed.

How did you balance your job demands with your studies?
I always put work as my top priority to ensure that my study did not affect my job performance. Finding the right time to schedule project discussions with classmates, however, was never an easy task. Modern technology helped a lot, as we used collaboration tools such as Skype and Google Docs. This let us share our documents even though we were in different countries and time zones and I was better able to juggle school and company work at night to ensure I achieved my goals.

Sometimes when we needed to discuss issues face to face, but found that it was really hard to come up with a time that suited everyone, Sunday morning would be the best option. It was never easy to get out of bed early on a Sunday morning, but we were glad that we were able to get things done.

What were the major challenges of your studies?
The major challenge was, of course, time management. After the course commenced, I had less and less time to spend with my family. Luckily my wife was very supportive. Another challenge was that I needed to be patient. The workload was heavy, plus I had job duties that needed to be fulfilled. I learned to prioritise tasks and be very clear on what I wanted to achieve in terms of work, family and personal goals. I found all I needed to do was to practice mindfulness – to be present in the current moment and focus on what I had planned.

What kind of support did receive from those around you?

Before I decided to pursue an MBA, I discussed it with my wife and she supported my decision. I also received a lot of support from my manager. After I told him of my plan, he not only wrote a letter to present to PolyU’s admission office, but also granted me examination leave whenever necessary. I really thank him for that.

As for my colleagues, I would let them know beforehand which days I needed to attend classes and asked them to try and not have meetings on these days. They were also all very understanding. I am very grateful that I work for a company which supports my development and trusts me to balance work and personal objectives.

What was the biggest gain you received from your studies?
The biggest gain was enlarging my network with a large group of alumni. PolyU’s strong alumni network enables me to know more about the best practices and business trends of other multinational companies, and is beneficial in helping me tackle challenges I face at work. I am also actively involved in the Alumni Committee which organises events to provide a platform for collaboration and continuous learning.

What has happened to your career after graduating?

Just before I graduated, the company I worked for was acquired by another company. There was a vacancy for a senior management role and I got promoted to that position.

In the coming years I will continue to build up my strong network and keep contributing to Aon while progressing in my career development. I believe what I learned from my MBA will foster a stronger development in my professional skills. 

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