On an average working day, Horace Wong spends several hours digesting and reviewing reports and working on the technicalities of several projects. Alongside those tasks, his daily schedule is also peppered with both internal and external meetings. Staff management also constitutes part of the job which he finds only natural and equally important. "As you move into a management role you become less hands-on and more people oriented," he notes.
After another hour in the office reflecting on the day's work, he packs his briefcase and makes his way home. While maintaining his saltwater aquarium helps him keep a cool head, an occasional game of golf provides an energy boost. "Relationships with friends and customers can be cultivated on the tee," says Mr Wong, who is an IT elite holding the position of manager at PCCW Solutions, a strong-growing IT business arm of PCCW Limited.
Certain distinct characteristics and stereotypes used to surround people in the IT industry. As the landscape of the global economy changed, the profession followed suit. "We now live in a different culture where nobody works behind closed doors," says Mr Wong, leader of a team of 20 staff. "This means that maintaining a human touch with different stakeholders has become an indispensable component of the job."
Internally, Mr Wong's team offer comprehensive IT support to all of PCCW's business units, such as PCCW mobile and now TV. "Internal customers are equally important as external ones," he remarks.
When dealing with people, customer service skills naturally help, but Mr Wong finds his technical know-how and industry insights incredibly useful, particularly so during client meetings. "You want to look smart and feel sufficiently confident when putting forward a proposal or any suggestions that will add value to the client's business," he says. "Your performance can make or break the trust of a business relationship."
"Every market presents its own thrills and challenges"
Mr Wong graduated with a bachelor's degree in information system management from the US in 1994. Returning to Hong Kong, he spent nine months in a routine job, and subsequently made a bold move to PCCW Solutions which was then a start-up business looking for someone who had both the cognitive capacity and technical competence to build a database and system from scratch.
According to Mr Wong, young people must seek opportunities for horizontal and lateral development while building self-confidence and commercial acumen. One way of doing so, he suggests, is to join an established company. "If you're really good, you don't want to work on minor projects that require only one or two systems," he says. "You want as much exposure as the world has to offer."
Over the course of his fast-track career with PCCW Solutions, Mr Wong has worked in various IT-related functions including database, systems, security and even customer service and sales consultancy. "The company's infrastructure has allowed me to learn the trade from every possible perspective," he emphasises, noting also that ongoing training opportunities at PCCW make the whole career package worthwhile.
"PCCW staff are immersed in a learning culture where ongoing technical training plus a barrage of development programmes are constantly on offer. Staff are also encouraged to apply for course sponsorship and examination leave," explains Mr Wong who also keeps in close contact with the company's human resources team to formulate a range of training for members of his team, in accordance with an annual training and development plan.
As for himself, he makes it a point to take part in a plethora of corporate training programmes. "A few years ago I was assigned to IBM in the US for training purposes and I picked up a great deal of industry insights there," he recalls. Since last year he has also been attending a long-running cross-departmental PCCW management programme which gives him the opportunity to acquire a wealth of business intelligence from his PCCW counterparts.
Aside from an MBA, Mr Wong has attained a portfolio of professional certificates including UNIX, Oracle, project management and IT architectural design. "Your professional capacity is a personal brand," he advises. "Anyone hoping to stay on top of the market must adopt a lifelong learning mentality. I've often told my colleagues not to stay in a comfort zone but instead expand it."
However, he has yet to tap into the accelerating China market. "I welcome any opportunities to work in the mainland. The market is huge and exciting and there is enormous room for manoeuvre in terms of professional development," he states. "But every market presents its own thrills and challenges so I'm happy where I am with what I'm doing." He cautions that with IT professionals on the mainland becoming savvier, people from Hong Kong must make an effort to stay competitive. "You need to keep your connection to the current global market alive so as to stay in the game," he stresses.