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Career Path

Making the right call

by Ada Ng

Irene Leung
executive vice president, mass market
CSL Limited
Photo: Dickie Tam
Ongoing advances in mobile network communications technology are revolutionising the way people connect globally. Over the past 20 years in the telecom industry, Irene Leung, currently executive vice president, mass market, CSL Limited, has not only been at the forefront of rapid change, but has also enjoyed the gratification of applying the technology to the benefit of the community.

It was when a friend advised her to apply for a job with CSL's former parent company, Hong Kong Telecom (HKT) that Ms Leung ventured into the field in 1991, soon after graduating in sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

"Like many other graduates, I aspired to join a multinational corporation with a good reputation. I wanted to gain work experience and exposure to kick-start my career," she recalls.

When 2.5G mobile technology took off at the turn of the millennium, Ms Leung made the transition from fixed-line to mobile telecom services within the organisation. She then worked her way up in corporate sales, before assuming her current role.

Recently, Ms Leung accepted a fresh challenge: leading the cutting-edge mobile network operator's retail operations and indirect sales teams, with a specific mission to improve customer experience.

Effecting change

Extensive industry experience and exposure to different client segments have provided Ms Leung with a solid foundation. In recent years she drove a series of projects, combining the creative use of mobile technologies with the company's commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR).

One such project, launched three years ago, was the Mobile Link Service developed jointly with the Senior Citizen Home Safety Association (SCHSA) to provide 24-hour emergency support and care to Hong Kong's elderly population.

The service, using a specially designed one-button device to reach the association's support centre, won the grand prize in the Digital Opportunity Award in the World Information Technology Services Alliance Global ICT Excellence Awards 2010 in Amsterdam. It also earned four awards for outstanding achievement in the Hong Kong ICT Awards 2008.

Ms Leung describes the service as one of the projects that has offered the "most tangible returns" of her working life. "Our team is happy that we've been able to make a difference for society," she adds.

The project, a first of its kind for Hong Kong, was a breakaway from the traditional corporate sales model, Ms Leung explains. "It was the first time we partnered with a non-governmental organisation to create a mobile solution for a group with a particular social need. This thinking-outside-the-box mentality is exactly what we need to design user-friendly service improvements in a fast-paced and dynamic industry such as ours."

She credits the success of the project to CSL management's commitment to CSR, noting that the network provider has since widened its scope and is now working with other NGOs to improve the lives of disadvantaged groups, for example by participating in e-learning platform development for underprivileged families and by enabling mobile visual interactive voice-response (IVR) applications for people with hearing impairments.

"Technology's power to improve the lives of society's underprivileged has given me a real sense of satisfaction throughout my career," says Ms Leung.

Life-long Learning

Formal academic training in information or communications technology is not the only determining factor for career success. In view of the dynamic nature of telecommunications, Ms Leung believes industry practitioners should remain in a learning mode at all times. "The ICT industry never stops evolving and in order to maintain a high level of professionalism, people in the field should seize every opportunity to accumulate knowledge and enhance their expertise. This attitude is essential to keeping up with new technologies and trends," she stresses.

For instance, when she first started working as a corporate sales of the company's satellite TV systems, she took the initiative to climb onto rooftops to check satellite dishes with engineers and clients. "The clients were impressed that I took the trouble, but to me it was a hands-on educational experience that boosted my understanding of client needs and the industry. The fact that I am a senior executive doesn't stop me from learning from my colleagues," Ms Leung notes.

She attributes her career development to CSL's nurturing corporate infrastructure and strong business foundation. "The best employer is always those that view their employees as key assets and put people development at the core of organisational growth and success," she concludes.

Taken from Career Times 1 October 2010, B8

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