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Career Path

Careful planning before career change

by Wing Kei

Denise Che, chief executive officer, Wisers Information Limited
Photo: CY Leung

When people decide to switch jobs, they can have any number of reasons, ranging from the desire for a pay rise or faster career advancement to the need for less stress or a more inspiring working environment. In the case of Denise Che, chief executive officer of Wisers Information Limited since 2004, the key factor has always been the chance to take on different challenges.

"It is personal growth that I am looking for and the opportunity to learn by taking on something new," Ms Che says.

She originally joined the company in 2000 as chief financial officer and, coming from previous jobs in audit and private equity with major investment banks, found there was definitely a lot to learn. Wisers, which was founded in Hong Kong in 1998, offers aggregation of articles and news sources. It converts a huge range of content written in simplified and traditional Chinese characters into a single searchable and flexible database, allowing readers in Greater China to stay abreast of market news around the clock.

"My career change was not a sudden decision," Ms Che says. "I had thought it through very carefully and could see the company's growth potential and the business need for better methods of reaching out to the public."

She readily admits that, at first, there was a certain amount of culture shock to contend with. Being used to working in a grade A office with the investment bank, it took time to adjust to being part of a business where running costs had to be kept tightly under control and everyone had to pitch in.

"It was a small company at that time and maintaining steady cash flow was a concern," Ms Che recalls. "That was the key if we were to have the chance to grow."


"People in Hong Kong must keep thinking of ways to upgrade themselves"

Early changes

One of the initial challenges was to strengthen the management team by hiring people who were adaptable and multi-faceted. They also had to have a certain amount of entrepreneurial flair and some real-life experience in actually running a business.

"In a company like this, members of the management team need to be able to assess potential risks and show good business judgment," she says. This is particularly important when dealing with the mainland market and trying to extend the customer base and distribution network there. Wisers has a well-developed search engine and a series of advanced online applications, making it possible to provide tailor-made services and media analysis for mainland clients. "However, with the economy expanding so fast, we also want to offer new value-added consulting services," Ms Che explains.

Nowadays, in order to bolster its position, the company puts a lot of effort into recruiting the right people in China. A persistent problem is the tendency of management-level mainland staff with a good educational background to keep switching jobs. This creates difficulties with staff retention, but also opens up more opportunities for employees from Hong Kong, who tend to be more stable in this respect.

Special qualities

"We look for recruits who are persistent and want to grow with the company," Ms Che notes. Obviously, it also helps if they have hard skills in specialist areas, integrity, fluency in Mandarin and English, and an interest in continuous learning and hard work. In return, the company offers a career platform, good training opportunities for both frontline and back-office roles, and substantial room for growth.

"People in Hong Kong must keep thinking of ways to upgrade themselves," Ms Che points out. "Their counterparts in mainland China are on a steep learning curve and improving very quickly." This is a lesson she has taken to heart and it has conditioned her to be always on the lookout for new opportunities to learn and grow.

"I won't necessarily set any hard targets, but I think continuous learning is the key," she says. "I give extra credit to staff who show they understand that. There is no end to what you can learn and every step forward puts you and the company in a better position. For me, job satisfaction comes from being able to offer people this kind of room to develop and also having the chance for personal growth myself."

China Opportunities

Wisers currently has offices located in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Macau, Beijing, Shanghai and Taiwan, which employ a total of around 220 staff. The company plans to increase staff in Hong Kong with new recruits in the areas of R&D and product management.


Taken from Career Times 17 November 2006, p. B20

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