Shadow a CEO Programme Report: Hong Kong’s brightest young jobseekers get a peek at the peak of the business world
The recent Classified Post Shadow a CEO Programme once again offered a chosen few students and recent graduates the unique opportunity to experience the world of business from the very top.
With leaders from four well-known organisations acting as their guides, the 11 candidates who made it through the programme’s selection process were given personal tours of the upper echelons of the corporate environment during December 2015 and January 2016.
The leaders from the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Pernod Ricard, Inchcape Motor Services and AsiaWorld-Expo welcomed the “shadows” into their organisations and working lives for three days.
Each shadow found it to be an eye-opening and enlightening experience, while the business leaders also took something away from the time spent with the talented youngsters.
“For me, this shadowing programme brought back the time when I first started working, and thus forced me to reconsider my own journey,” said Frantz Hotton, managing director of Pernod Ricard for Hong Kong and Macau.
“In the rush of a professional life, you don’t often have the time for such reflection. This exercise helped me to realise that the key milestones of my personal path to leadership were not only positions or promotions, but very often the people I worked with or for.”
Leong Cheung, executive director, charities and community, at the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC), enjoyed the chance to reveal the work that goes into the club’s philanthropic activities.
“It does make the day a lot more colourful,” he said. “It’s fantastic to have young minds around, reminding me of the importance of our work in youth and education.”
Patrick Lee, CEO of Inchcape Motor Services in North Asia and China, said that having the three students alongside him gave him a fresh perspective on the way his company functions.
“I have a business to run, so I had to be myself while they were with me,” he noted. “Of course, in our meetings we do have real-life problems to solve, but I try to run the company like a college where we learn lessons. So it was gratifying that the students said their three days with us were very educational.”
Allen Ha, CEO of AsiaWorld-Expo, appreciated the energy shown by the two students chosen to shadow him, as well as the useful contributions they made.
“I was glad to discover that the students were proactive and participating in various extracurricular projects, start-up businesses and other enriching experiences,” he said. “It also took courage, and an impressive amount of effort, for them to make a presentation to my colleagues and myself on suggested enhancements to AsiaWorld-Expo’s business.”
To win a place on this iteration of the Shadow a CEO Programme – which runs twice a year and is open to students and recent graduates – candidates initially registered online in the lead up to last October’s Classified Post Career Forum. Shortlisted candidates were individually interviewed at the forum by a team of experienced consultants from recruitment firm Kelly Services Hong Kong.
Those who impressed the interviewers based on their personal qualities, qualifications and aspirations were put through to a final round of interviews with the four participating organisations.
While 11 candidates went on to shadow one of the four leaders, one candidate, Caroline Wong Wing-suet, so impressed the team at AsiaWorld-Expo in her interview that she was immediately offered a job with the company.
HKJC’s Cheung noted that the programme seemed to have sharpened the focus of his shadows’ career ambitions.
“Two of them showed a strong interest [in working in the charity sector] immediately after graduation,” Cheung reported. “The other sees philanthropy as a longer-term goal and wishes to prepare herself by working in business first.”
Kelly sources sparkling candidates for Shadow a CEO Programme
This was not the first time that recruitment firm Kelly Services Hong Kong had run the selection process for the Shadow a CEO Programme and once again, representatives from the firm were impressed with the quality of applicants.
“Most applicants I encountered were very smart and were able to express themselves very well,” said Darren Tay, director of BTI Consultants, a division of Kelly. “Apart from the high academic standards and the demonstrations of leadership in college clubs and associations on display, I was amazed to see many already had hands-on work experience, either via internships, part-time jobs or summer jobs.”
Tay admits he was also surprised at the maturity of the applicants, given that most of them were students. He said it was difficult to select candidates for the next stage of the process, which began with students registering online and also saw them submit a short essay on why they should be selected for the programme.
At the Career Forum, Tay and his team interviewed nearly 100 shortlisted applicants, before hand-picking those with a sparkling personality and a passion for their career. “Successful applicants typically had the ‘complete package’, as opposed to just excelling academically,” he said.
Tay advised those applying to the programme in the future to research participating companies and CEOs. They should also take stock of their achievements, understand their strengths and weaknesses, and develop achievable career goals.
“I advise them to try their best to get as far as possible into the process,” he said. “Just the exercise of preparing themselves and going through the interviews is an invaluable learning experience. The opportunity to speak and interact with interviewers from different businesses and industries may also give them insight about their careers ahead.”
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as A peek at the peak.