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The Classified Post Shadow a CEO Programme provided an invaluable opportunity for budding managers to see what’s needed to head up a major company

The recent Classified Post Shadow a CEO Programme offered promising undergraduates a unique opportunity to track senior management as they went about their daily business. Leaders from four respected corporations – the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks, Autodesk and Schneider Electric – opened their doors to 11 bright candidates for the three-day programme, which was held during December 2017 and January 2018.

The shadows gained valuable insights into how these leading businesses operate by taking part in a diverse range of activities. From preparing marketing event proposals and working on live project challenges to attending networking events and sitting in on radio interviews, the shadows’ schedules were almost as packed as the CEOs they were following.

Gary Liu, CEO of the SCMP, said he found the candidates to be incredibly sharp, bright young men and women. He was impressed by his shadows’ vision and illustrated the importance of oratory skills at the company’s staff meetings. “We started off by sharing our stories of where we wanted to go, and the shadows also attended our town hall meetings. By seeing a senior executive communicate with the entire corporation, they were able to understand our company strategy, and hopefully it taught them what it means to be a strong communicator too.”

Olivier Blum, chief human resources officer at Schneider Electric, said the programme was an enriching experience for senior management. “The younger generation are constantly seeking new ways to improve and do things. They are agile and can deal with ambiguity. They are not afraid to challenge the status quo. They want to progress faster in their careers and have more learning opportunities.” He also noted that they craved authentic leadership. “They expect their leaders to be role models of company values, and practise what they preach.”

Having young minds around reminded Dr Wendy Lee, country sales manager, Hong Kong & Macau at Autodesk Far East Limited, to keep thinking out of the box and establish a solid brand image that would appeal to the younger generation. She also noted that they had some worthy ideas. “The shadows suggested organising a school ambassador programme so as to better connect students with Autodesk and build an affiliation with them.”

Albert Wong, CEO of Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks, said the experience underlined the importance of reaching out to the younger generation. “They may know very little about our job but the shadows got quite excited when they learnt about what we are doing.”

To win a place on this iteration of the Shadow a CEO Programme, which is held biannually and open to students and recent graduates, candidates initially registered online and were required to write a short essay outlining why they should be selected for the programme.

Writers of the best essays were then shortlisted for individual interviews at last October’s Classified Post Career  Forum by recruitment specialists Kelly Services Hong Kong.

Those who impressed the most went forward to a final round of interviews with the four participating companies.