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Shadow a CEO Programme Report: Building key career skills at Johnson Controls

Three students got an invaluable glimpse at how a global heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) firm is run by shadowing Ricky Chan Hoi-ki, general manager and managing director at Johnson Controls, for three eye-opening days.

The students were attached to the company’s building efficiency department, which creates products, services and solutions to increase energy efficiency and lower operating costs in more than 150 countries.

Chan was keen to share with his shadows information on how the business operates and allow them to witness a typical day in the life of a senior manager.

“They got a holistic view of building services in a multinational company, and the chance to attend site management and department meetings,” he said, adding that all three were eager to learn.

Chris Chan Kwan-lap, a surveying student at the University of Hong Kong, described the shadowing programme as an excellent experience, with a site visit to Cyberport as a definite highlight.

“Ricky gave me and the other two shadows a ride to the site, which meant we could chat quite casually on the way. He shared his ideas about managing such a large company, and the importance of reaching out to staff,” Chan said.

“During the meeting, he asked what problems staff had encountered, listened, then responded in a highly skilful manner. After the visit, he looked for the root cause of problems and came up with ways to solve them.”

Connie Chan, an engineering student at City University of Hong Kong, also singled out the Cyberport site visit as a highlight of the three-day programme. “This was the first time I’d been to an operation and maintenance site, and I learnt a lot from listening to Ricky and other department heads talk to staff working in the site office.”

While Connie is keen to pursue a career in this field, the shadowing experience made her realise there’s more to being an engineer than technical skills. “Even though Johnson Controls is an engineering company, I found that communication and leadership skills are also important, as I may need to present my ideas in front of others or work with people that don’t have an engineering background.”, such as HR and admin staff.”

Kevin Tse Ki-fat, a building services engineering student at City University, found the opportunity to meet four senior managers from different departments during the programme particularly illuminating.

He also realised that exceptional communication skills are key to being an effective leader, as is encouraging others to speak up. “Ricky actively encouraged his colleagues to raise questions or give comments during meetings. In addition, he is capable of making sound decisions while balancing the needs and expectations of various parties, so the execution of policies can be completed without major disturbance.”

Ricky got the impression that each of his shadows had been impressed with what they saw. “They seemed to appreciate our openness and the care we demonstrate towards our staff.”

That definitely rung true for Connie. “The most important thing in running a large company is the people in that company. Johnson Controls puts a lot of emphasis on staff training, and it seems that staff are its greatest concern.” 

Ricky gave two pieces of advice to his three shadows. “Build on your basic knowledge to keep learning new things and hone your communication skills, as this will be important no matter what you choose to do in the future.”

This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Building key career skills at Johnson Controls.