Some 12 years ago, economics graduate Derek Choi was one of the select few to successfully embark on a promising career at one of the elite accounting multinationals. It took him less than eight short months however, to realise that the sense of prestige he felt was clouding his real aspirations. He therefore tendered his resignation to follow his heart.
Guided by a burning ambition to succeed in the marketing profession, Mr Choi subsequently embraced relevant professional opportunities and worked solidly for two top-notch advertising firms and two credit card issuers until he finally discovered his niche in 2003 with NOW TV, which was poised to take Hong Kong by storm.
"I had no idea what NOW TV entailed. I found it interesting and I seized the opportunity to further my career in marketing," says Mr Choi, who is currently assistant vice president, marketing, NOW TV, PCCW Limited. "It was one of PCCW's hero projects so expectations were high along with the associated challenges."
Mr Choi discloses that his current position is demanding at times. His weekly schedule comprises management meetings on Wednesdays, directional meetings with operations staff on Thursdays and sales meetings to evaluate weekly sales momentum on Fridays. Potential problems are identified during these sessions, and Mondays and Tuesdays are designated days when any design and implementation changes are incorporated.
At NOW TV, a specific content acquisition team sources channel partners. When the contract for a channel is sealed, Mr Choi then promotes it using the most effective marketing vehicles, or forges partnerships with other corporations for joint promotional programmes. "We look towards forming win-win partnerships and naturally this process can be complex involving a great deal of negotiation," he explains.
Anticipating competitor activities and formulating response strategies constitute two other aspects of Mr Choi's job. Working closely with sales and operations teams, Mr Choi is also involved in monitoring revenue and customer feedback on individual channels or service packages. "For example, we must consider the impact on revenue and analyse customer indices if we are to launch or drop a channel or to run a promotional scheme," he says. "Prior to any decisions we liaise with our corporate communications and customer service teams to consider anticipated customer response and prepare for any potential enquiries resulting from certain decisions." In this regard, a customer-centric attitude and a great team spirit are essential for success in the contemporary marketing field. This is particularly important for a task-oriented professional like Mr Choi who manages his own team and must therefore ensure everyone is au fait with the latest company decisions.
"Prime people management remains vital"
"PCCW is a sizeable enterprise but the decision making process is incredibly swift due to our corporate culture of trust," he adds. "To achieve this superlative level of efficiency, prime people management remains vital. It is fundamentally important to understand people mobilisation to achieve common goals."
Possibilities for vertical and lateral professional movement plus potential regional exposure make PCCW an ideal career platform for both experienced professionals and young aspirants, according to Mr Choi. As such, candidates need to demonstrate an innovative mind, leadership skills and the ability to multitask.
"I had no formal academic training nor experience in marketing, but during my tenure with the two advertising firms I picked up a wealth of skills and knowledge. All this, plus effective commercial nous and market sensitivity stood me in good stead when I sought entry into the marketing field," says Mr Choi recalling his days being an account manager of an advertising agency.
His search for a career break stopped short when an advertiser-turned-acquaintance from Manhattan Card Company Limited offered him the position of product manager. "It was a big leap, considering I was then only one of the account managers in an agency," he says. "Perhaps it was an acknowledgement of my business acumen and willingness to learn. To foster a strong business sense you must read to enhance existing knowledge and stay resourceful."
One year later, after introducing Hong Kong to a groundbreaking credit card instalment programme, which is now industry standard, his hard work paid off as he was approached by Hutchison DBS Card Limited with the prospect of becoming marketing manager. Within two years in that role, the company saw an impressive customer growth. "Since then, I have covered all the four Ps (product, price, place, promotion) in marketing," he remarks.
Mr Choi emphasises that young people choosing a career must thoroughly examine the talent management practices of potential employers. "The thing I appreciate most about PCCW is the multitude of training opportunities," he notes. Over the past few years, Mr Choi has undertaken an array of training programmes including five days at Hsin Hwa University in Beijing, an 18-month "Challenge 21" management programme and a week-long training initiative to improve people management skills in Macau.
Skills and experiential training also feature on the company's staff improvement and development agenda. "The company allocates substantial resources to staff training, which clearly demonstrates its commitment to building staff competence," Mr Choi concludes.