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Shadow a CEO Programme Report: Giving aspiring young professionals the chance to learn from the best

Last October’s Classified Post Career Forum once again gave students and young professionals the chance to talk to top employers and glean career advice from expert speakers. But as always at this biannual event, a major attraction for those planning to attend was the chance to win a place on the Shadow a CEO Programme.

Up for grabs was the opportunity to spend three or four days looking over the shoulder of a top executive from one of Hong Kong’s foremost businesses.

Being held for the sixth time, the programme provides a unique opportunity for aspiring professionals to observe at close hand the daily workings of a busy senior executive. As well as accompanying them in meetings and around the workplace, they also have the chance to ask the executive questions about their role, the company and how to build a successful career.

Of the 85 students interviewed at the Career Forum by representatives from recruitment specialists Robert Walters, 18 made it through to final interviews with the programme’s participating companies. Eight were finally selected to shadow one of three executives: Stanley Yau, director of human resources and administration at Hong Kong Airlines; Andy Ann, founder and CEO, NDN Group; and Anna Yip, CEO of SmarTone.

Not only did those chosen see, from the inside, how a leading organisation functions, they also got to learn about management, entrepreneurship and leadership – all vital skills for those wishing to become the business leaders of tomorrow.

The eight that made it onto the programme say they relished the opportunity. Anson Lo, a student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, explained how his time at Hong Kong Airlines gave him insight that went beyond the scope of his major. 

“My previous internships were in the finance sector,” Lo said. “This programme broadened my understanding of business by giving me a glimpse of another industry and the issues that senior management encounter.”

Janice Li was one of two final-year students who shadowed Yip at SmarTone. “Spending time with such a competent CEO and her managers made me feel special,” said Li, who will complete a BBA at Hong Kong Polytechnic University later this year.

Moon Yiu, who spent four days with NDN’s Ann, absorbed a range of both business and personal insight. “A valuable takeaway from our time with Andy was the importance of enriching yourself as a person, not just the technical things about the running of his company,” she said.

The experience was just as rewarding for the three executives. Yau said he enjoyed sharing his personal experiences and industry knowledge, with a view to helping “cultivate their potential to progress in the future”.

“I hope they can be groomed as future leaders and that they’ll demonstrate their own strategic agility and management style,” Yau said.

Yip said that giving her two shadows a guided tour of her working life was a genuinely positive experience. “It was a pleasure to have the company of the young people for several days and for me to learn about their perspectives,” she explained.

For Ann, his time with his three shadows allowed him to conduct some self-reflection. “I enjoyed the few days with the students as it allowed me to rethink my business strategies while teaching and guiding them. It’s also good to gain insights from the younger generation as they are always our future.”

Students and recent graduates wishing to apply for the next iteration of the Shadow a CEO Programme can do so now at The application period runs until the next Classified Post Career Forum, which will be held on March 15 at the InnoCentre in Kowloon Tong.

Background research vital to getting through

In selecting candidates for the Shadow a CEO Programme, consultants from recruitment specialists Robert Walters were not only looking to find the most talented and motivated candidates, but those who would best fit the culture of the company they were targeting.

The first round of the selection process involved the online submission of a written application and CV. Tiffany Wong, associate director of the human resources division and transactional services division at Robert Walters, said she was happy to see most applicants’ CVs were well prepared, and that their short essays on why they should be selected for the programme cut straight to the point.

“This creates a good impression with employers and helps them to understand the applicant more clearly,” Wong said.

Following face-to-face interviews at the Career Forum, Kelvin Chong, manager in the transactional services division at Robert Walters, was broadly impressed by candidates’ desire and ambition, though he did have some words of advice.

“Most of the applicants demonstrated a strong passion for gaining work experience, were very eager to demonstrate their strengths, and were able to present their past experience in a structured manner,” he noted. “However, only a few applicants were able to demonstrate enough understanding of the company that they applied to. It would be better if more were able to quote some of the company’s latest news, and information they have read about the company.”

Wong explained that the standout candidates were not necessarily those with the highest grades, but those who had taken part in extracurricular activities and summer internships that had brought them a broader understanding of what is demanded in the workplace.

“They also tended to be the ones who had researched the companies they applied to, and understood the role, and the company, better than others,” she said.


This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Seeing the bigger picture.