One way for graduates to secure a seat on the train to top posts is by joining large organisations' management training (MT) programmes. Facing strong competition, candidates must show both ability and passion for their jobs from the first moment they join a company. However, a good head start still does not guarantee success unless it is supported by consistently good individual performance.
Eddy Li, Arrow Asia Pac Ltd's marketing director for China and Hong Kong, joined the Fortune 200 company in 1998. At the time, only about 30 recruits were taken on for the international electronic components and computer products distribution firm's management training programme.
Armed with academic qualifications in computer studies and business administration, Mr Li completed the one-year programme within six months and quickly moved up the ranks from product marketing engineer to product manager, followed by the position of marketing manager and, subsequently, to his current role as marketing director. "Arrow Asia's MT programme is a comprehensive and supportive one for new joiners. It lays a good foundation for employees who will be delegated to different job tasks upon completion," he points out. "By being rotated through various departments, participants gain an in-depth understanding of the company, as well as the chance to work in a variety of roles. "This makes them more flexible and versatile when it comes to carrying out different aspects of their work," he stresses.
Equipped for the role
"Although I took up the position of product marketing engineer in the sales and marketing team right after completing the programme, my hands-on experience in other sections of the company has been a great advantage to me," Mr Li notes. "For instance, the time spent in our operations department allowed me to learn about inventory management processes, which now help me to make decisions related to sales and marketing."
The opportunity to build an internal network has also helped Mr Li adapt to the company's culture. "It benefits all of us in the company to know what our colleagues in other departments are doing. By understanding the challenges that others face, we can work effectively as a team. This is an important aspect, as it is our priority to offer useful solutions to our clients in a timely manner," Mr Li continues.
Arrow Asia's product marketing engineers are the bridge between the sales team and the suppliers and it is their responsibility to ensure that customers are offered the products of their choice in terms of function, cost and other concerns.
Mr Li recalls his previous role as product marketing engineer was challenging. "We distribute products from over 170 international and local suppliers. To keep abreast of product information in their respective business areas, product marketing engineers take the initiative to learn continuously so that they are able to provide professional advice to customers on matching the appropriate products with their needs," he explains.
Meanwhile, there is intense competition in the field. "With more distributor companies eyeing this highly lucrative market, the competition among product lines internally and externally is fierce and the sales and marketing team inevitably feels immense pressure from suppliers, particularly at quarter-ends," he says.
"Although the job is demanding, we need to continuously improve in every area, from allocations and the pricing of products to shipments and debit arrangements for our clients. To do so, we must work hard and work smart," Mr Li emphasises.
Today, Mr Li oversees the marketing functions for the greater China region, including Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. In spite of a tight schedule and heavy workload, he spends a lot of time communicating with his team members and sharing his experience.
"In team meetings, I continuously coach the team by stressing concepts that lead to successful sales, for example the skills needed to build good relationships and efforts to reduce the time taken to respond to business partners. It is important to emphasise these so as to build a strong team," Mr Li points out.
Along with the necessary technical background and an interest in high-end products, Mr Li's position calls for interpersonal skills, creativity and crisis management techniques in order to overcome daily hurdles. "Contingency is a big part of our life. You should expect to face and react to this element all the time," Mr Li remarks.
Arrow Asia's business grew over 60 per cent last year. Talented employees who perform well in their work are rewarded through a fair incentive scheme. "Besides monetary rewards, this interesting profession offers job satisfaction," Mr Li concludes. "The right candidates will be driven to move forward in their careers."