Career Path

Keep a goal ahead

by Jacky Wong

Dennis Tam, group finance director, Melco International Development Ltd
Photo: Edde Ngan

Mainland China now has a shortfall of up to 160,000 qualified accountants. However, that doesn't mean young and inexperienced practitioners from Hong Kong can "walk into" a job there and become a success.

"First and foremost, they must have a career goal," says Dennis Tam, group finance director, Melco International Development Ltd. "They must determine what they want to acheive as their careers develop, and always keep that career goal in front of them. No matter what profession anybody chooses, this is necessary if you are to succeed."

Mr Tam's own success story proves him right. Following his own career goal, he rose from a successful accounting career to become finance director of a dynamic conglomerate focusing on leisure, gaming and entertainment activities.

He held various challenging jobs during his initial years but built on these experiences to shape his professional development. While studying in Vancouver he began a career in accounting by working in the professional accountant's wholesaling business. Though the company was not large, its business was a success and he learned a lot from his boss. "My boss was a successful entrepreneur with strong business acumen. He used all his energy in his job. His hardworking persona motivated me to be more devoted in my career," he says.

After obtaining a handful of accounting work experiences, Mr Tam then worked for a listed land development and communication company before returning to Hong Kong where he got a temporary job with the world's largest insurance brokerage company Marsh & McLennan. His hard work and "can-do" attitude impressed his bosses so much that he became a permanent staff and within seven days promoted to assistant manager. Within one year he was promoted to manager and was given the global title — assistant vice president another year later. However, adhering to his personal career goal, he moved on to Quality Healthcare Medical Services Ltd, spending six years as finance director and head of finance and accounting before joining Melco.

"Don't jump from one job to another"

Today, his responsibilities mainly cover financial planning and reporting, management accounting and internal controls. He also oversees the corporate treasury and the group's working capital management functions.

He advises young achievers: "Don't mind the job nature and count how much effort you have given to your company at the beginning. Only through hard work can you lay a good foundation for your career. However, once you have a lot of work experience, hard work is not enough and you will need to finetune your strategies to advance yourself."

Success factors

Mr Tam says two important qualities a go-getter must cultivate are "substance" and "appearance". He rates "substance" as being the accumulation of one's professional knowledge, qualifications and work experiences in the industry; while "appearance" means a person's image, comprising not only professional performance but his or her personal attitudes, attire and etiquette.

"When people meet you, first impressions are significant," he says. "Factors other people take into account when judging your character include your appearance, manners and presentation. It is one thing to acquire professional knowledge and qualifications; it is another to have the force of character to influence others."

He also points out that stepping stones to reaching a certain point in career include being able to demonstrate your competence, and building up good personal networks. "Try to make yourself look better on your personal resume," he notes. "Don't jump from one job to another; stick to a job for at least two to three years. Strategies should be executed step by step."

In addition, family support can be a significant driving force for people determined to move ahead in their careers. "A balance between work and family is an important factor in the success of many business leaders," he adds.

Compared with his previous jobs, Mr Tam prefers his present role, pointing out that leisure and entertainment is an industry that brings fun and happiness to people. In addition to the business aspects of the job, he is attracted by the scale of the group's development that brings both challenges and, ultimately, satisfaction.

A member of the Corporate Sector Committee of CPA Australia Hong Kong China Division, Mr Tam is active in sharing his expertise and participating in the professional accounting association's activities. He has also taught masters level programmes in accounting at Monash University, and corporate finance at Curtin University in Australia.

China Opportunities

Pointing out that the explosion of China's economy has created a huge shortfall in accounting talent there, Mr Tam says, "A golden opportunity awaits qualified young Hong Kong accountants willing to take the plunge and make the move over the border. Because of their international outlook and exposure, Hong Kong graduates enjoy added advantages if they move to the mainland. But I must emphasise that the advantages of such a 'flying start' are not sufficient to establish a successful career. To do this any talented young accountant must first determine his or her career goals, then work hard and develop strategies that will enable them to gradually move towards and eventually achieve those goals."

Taken from Career Times 01 June 2007, p. A20
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