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A two-way learning trip

Student and mentor alike gained invaluable insights during job-shadowing exercise at Deloitte

Ask Philip Tsai Wing-chung, audit partner at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, why he enjoyed being shadowed for two days by Chinese University (CUHK) global business student Alice Kung, and he comes up with interesting reasons.

"My favourite [magazine] column in my youth was 'A day in the life of …' in Reader's Digest," he says. "I always learned a lot about other professions from reading it."

Another reason is curiosity. "I like to ask [students] their thoughts about what I do. It is a nice learning experience for me," he says.

Tsai also acts as an adviser for CUHK Business School and is curious to learn from international business students like Kung about their career aspirations, as well as the effectiveness of overseas study placements and internships.

"I tried to understand more about [today's students] through this unique programme - what they would like to do in the future and what they would like to learn in school, because one day they will become one of us," he says.

For the last decade, Tsai has dedicated one week a year to mentoring and job-shadowing exercises. He says he was deeply impressed with Kung, who while benefiting from wide exposure to Deloitte, also retained a curious mind and stayed sharp during the entire exercise. In particular, he noticed Kung show great interest in his public service meetings with the Red Cross.

During the two-day job shadowing, Tsai took Kung to lunch with clients and arranged for her to sit in on most of his meetings. This included the filming of an internal promotional video and a small audit task.

Kung herself describes the job-shadowing programme as "unforgettable" - particularly the opportunity to lunch with Tsai's external clients, which she says is different to what she got to experience on previous job-shadowing exercises at banks.

"It was a very special experience because I had never eaten with external clients in formal business meetings before," she says.

Kung's first on-site audit also made her realise that real-world accounting work was different to what she had learned in school, because it required much more attention to detail and analysis.

A graduate of the Diocesan Girls' School, Kung says she easily negotiated the programme's screening process. "When I was interviewing for the programme, I was quite confident because I had done my preparation and elaborated on my previous experience with the interviewer," she says. "I think my relevant industry experience in the Hong Kong Joint School Economics Association and my alma mater helped me convince the interviewer I was qualified."

She adds that the most important piece of advice she received from Tsai was about relationships with colleagues. "Philip told me that when it comes to work, the most essential thing is the ability to manage people around you," she says. "This skill is not just limited to how you treat your subordinates or people working with you, but also your friends, colleagues and bosses. His advice has made me realise that it is not just hard work and ability that matter - the way you treat your bosses and your fellow colleagues is also important."

Kung also took to heart Tsai's advice on exploring different aspects of campus life. Tsai believes that while experiences such as camping and going on trips may not seem that relevant when preparing to embark on a career, they can equip you with people skills and provide unforgettable experiences.

"I still don't know what my eventual career will be, but this experience has definitely heightened my interest in the audit industry," Kung says. "It is important that you work in an industry which you are passionate about as it is the only way you can excel."