Climbing up the corporate ladder takes personal strengths and hard work. Joining the right company at the opportune time is of equal importance.
Connie Tang, general manager, DHL Express Hong Kong, believes that the key to career success is to make the best efforts for the benefits of the company while building a strong foundation and broadening your personal horizon.
After graduating from the University of Hong Kong with a bachelor's degree in business management, Ms Tang immediately joined a three-year group management trainee programme offered by Swire Pacific Limited.
She was attached to several of the company's subsidiaries including the trading division, Cathay Pacific Airways and Coca Cola Bottling, and performed various roles in sales management, operations management and merchandising.
"Having been equipped with general management skills and knowledge, I became a manager immediately after completing the programme," Ms Tang says.
In 1995, Ms Tang joined DHL Hong Kong and her career started to take off. In the following 10 years, she held several managerial positions in pricing, planning, product development and marketing. In 2001, Ms Tang became director of marketing, responsible for formulating sales and marketing strategies to boost revenue and grow market share.
Her dedication paid off when she became general manager of DHL Express Taiwan in January 2005. "That was a wonderful career move which also represented a great challenge. I am most grateful for my husband's support, considering that I actually flew off to Taiwan on Valentine's Day."
In just two years under Ms Tang's leadership, DHL Express Taiwan recorded double-digit growth. Market share, brand awareness and customer satisfaction also grew significantly.
"It was a rewarding experience because we achieved so much in an already shrinking market," she stresses. "The situation was much like what it was in Hong Kong during the 80's when manufacturers relocated their plants to mainland China. I was glad that I could apply to the Taiwan market what I'd learned from Hong Kong," she says.
With such outstanding business achievements under her belt, Ms Tang was given further responsibilities in November last year when promoted to the position of general manager of DHL Express Hong Kong.
"Put things into perspective and take time to pace your long-term career"
Looking back, Ms Tang recommends that graduates should always look for opportunities to work with reputable and sizable companies. "These companies usually have well-established procedures and operational systems," she notes. "Within a big organisation, you can learn to work systematically and widen your perspectives towards a variety of job functions."
Continuous learning also contributed to her success. In 2004, Ms Tang obtained an MBA from the Henley Management College UK. "The world is changing rapidly and there are always new things to learn. I need to keep myself equipped at all times," she says. "Learning doesn't simply mean getting another qualification on paper. The true value of learning really lies in the application of knowledge. Most importantly, learning enables me to make a contribution to the company's business and further enhance my capabilities."
As a member of the company's senior management, Ms Tang always keeps abreast of the latest industry developments. "Every day, I'd spend time decoding the changing market and pay attention to the industry trends such as the development of regional airports in Hong Kong and the mainland, the trade and logistics trends, or the supply chain development in the Pearl River Delta," she says. "I need a full view of all that so that I can steer our business in the right direction. I focus not only on today's work but also on the coming three to five years."
Best day every day
Today, Ms Tang describes her internal role as a counsellor. "My colleagues don't usually come to me for routine stuff. But when they have any issues, I will make myself available and give them advice," she says.
She firmly believes one of the important attributes of a successful leader is "the art of delegation". She explains, "One way of making contributions as a member of senior management is to facilitate our colleagues' strengths for the benefit of the company. People management is the key. You must know your people well and put them in the right place."
Ms Tang's motto is to give her best to the company every day. "When I became marketing director at DHL, I thought that would be the farthest I could go in my career. Giving my best at all times, I didn't mind doing some extra work. This, in return, gave me the opportunity to develop my potentials while learning about other job functions such as operations, quality management and human resources. In short, you must put things into perspective and take time to pace your long-term career."
She has this advice for the young and ambitious: "Gain as much experience as you can, and don't just look at the monetary rewards."
DHL experienced an annual growth rate of 35 to 45 per cent in China in the last few years. The rapid development of the China economy is creating enormous opportunities for people with a burning ambition. "Working in China may mean earning less at the beginning. But if you have gained China experience and are able to add that to the international exposure, you'll have a much more promising career ahead of you. That's the investment you have to make," Ms Tang says.