China calls for telecom engineers

by Mary Luk

Thomas Tse, director of Asia Pacific core engineering, global telecom solutions sector, Motorola Asia Pacific Limited

China's telecom market is on track to become the world's largest so experienced professionals in Hong Kong should be prepared to consider a move by Mary Luk

If you are looking for change then you may just be ready to work in China. You should be prepared to give up your present lifestyle, adapt to a new work environment, master a new language and build up a different social circle but the overall payback in career terms could be exactly what you are hoping for.

In addition, if you have at least six years' work experience in telecom network services, have reached managerial level or are a specialist in engineering support, you could be another step closer towards landing the perfect move to the mainland.

According to Thomas Tse, director of Asia Pacific core engineering for Motorola Asia Pacific Limited, demand in China for telecom network engineers far exceeds supply.

"The mainland plans its strategic development for the communications network every year and demand for such professionals is definitely on the rise," he explains.

Mr Tse is in charge of the global telecom solutions sector which designs, manufactures, installs and services wireless infrastructure communications systems. The sector, which includes hardware and software, provides comprehensive wireless networks, radio base stations and base site controllers.

Impressive growth

Motorola entered the Chinese market in 1987 and has since become one of the largest foreign companies on the mainland, employing around 10,000 people. In 1992, a division was established in Tianjin, where the company today runs one of the world's major manufacturing facilities for communications equipment.

The rate of business growth has been impressive and, in January 2004, China Mobile awarded Motorola a US$510 million contract to expand a GSM network in Beijing and 13 provinces.

The company's overall focus has switched from being a supplier of equipment, providing network installation and maintenance, to concentrating more on the development of technology and providing "end to end solutions" through forming partnerships with customers. Steady investment is being made in software research and development in anticipation of burgeoning demand.

While around 80 percent of network communications staff in China are locals, there are still opportunities for professionals from elsewhere. Motorola Hong Kong supplies staff with at least six years' experience in project management or specialised engineering disciplines to support projects on the mainland.

Qualifications obtained in Hong Kong are recognised in China and Mr Tse believes Hong Kong tertiary institutions provide adequate engineering training. "However, languages such as English and Putonghua should be made mandatory subjects to improve undergraduates' communication skills," he adds.

Mr Tse points out that a second language became compulsory in engineering degree courses in Europe many years ago and he believes local universities should do more to develop second language skills.

"Language plays a vital role in network engineering, which often involves teamwork and frequent dialogue with peers in other parts of the world," he says. "Being able to express oneself effectively and clearly in video conferences and emails is essential. We are also required to write reports and make presentations for overseas colleagues."

Daily challenges

What has kept Mr Tse dedicated to his profession for over 20 years is the constant challenge he faces every day. "The good thing about technology development is that it is always changing and every project has interesting aspects, " he explains. "We keep in touch with fresh concepts and new information technology and have to address different problems in our daily work."

Capable engineers looking to work in China should be willing to learn about and accept the culture on the mainland. "There is no doubt that people go about things in a different way compared to Hong Kong," Mr Tse notes. "If you are used to your clients and contacts dealing with you in a very straightforward manner in Hong Kong, you may have to spend time and effort encouraging new colleagues to tell you what they think and to get their input in decision-making."

Job satisfaction, though, can be found in building up a loyal customer base and bringing in new business for your company. The experience of working in a successful team and overseeing the introduction of new technology also provides a form of reward which goes beyond financial payments and personal recognition.

"In dealing with customers in China, you need to provide very clear, timely and accurate information and keep in regular contact with them," Mr Tse adds. "If you can really help subscribers to solve their problems, they are quick to show their appreciation. We have received letters of thanks from bureau chiefs, provincial managers and customers," he recalls.

Business regulations in China are often cited as an obstacle but Mr Tse has never felt his hands tied. "Every country has its own rules and regulations and China is no exception. However, you must be sure to build up a network of personal contacts which is needed for anyone working in any foreign country," he says.

Taken from Career Times 21 May 2004
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