Nurturing knowledgeable decision-makers

by Nicolette Wong

CUHK - Department of Systems Engineering and Engineering Management
Jeffrey Yu, professor, Department of Systems Engineering and Engineering Management (SEEM)
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Photo: Wallace Chan

Comprehensive degree programme provides double the skills for engineering managers

From railways to banking systems, public and private enterprises are supported by complex structures. As a result, there is a steady demand for engineering professionals with IT skills and able managers with technical competence.

"The combination of IT knowledge and management skills is extremely important across various industries, where different businesses are inter-connected because of increasing globalisation," says Jeffrey Yu, professor, Department of Systems Engineering and Engineering Management (SEEM), The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). "In any engineering-related field, a manager needs to take a practical approach grounded in technical principles in order to tackle large-scale projects and to make the correct decisions."

A comprehensive postgraduate degree can provide students with solid training in advanced computerised systems and management to help them run their businesses and further their careers.

CUHK's engineering and management programme is divided into SEEM and E-Commerce streams and is renowned for its emphasis on real-life business situations, including the evaluation of risk and other uncertain investment factors. "It's particularly relevant to Hong Kong, where managers have to quickly make shrewd and informed decisions," says Professor Yu.

The programme's broad focus maintains a balance between academic theory and professional skills for students that are trained engineers or come from a business background. In addition to classroom studies in information technology for project management, students also visit different enterprises and collaborate on business projects. Technical aspects, such as the mathematics of engineering, as well as actual business needs, are stressed, so that they can come up with concrete solutions to problems.

Well prepared

While the programme does not focus on the manufacturing of products, technology plays an important part, since this helps to make decision-making related to engineering issues clearer for participants. "We train our students in the essentials of IT and data analysis, so that they know how to maximise the quality and value of data in their workplaces," notes Professor Yu.

Engineering or management backgrounds are an advantage, but applicants from other fields, such as social sciences, are also considered if they have a genuine interest in advancing their careers through the knowledge they gain from the degree and its related components, and from the working experience, he says.

"Many of our students are professionals who have worked for a few years and want to improve their techniques in handling larger projects with more responsibilities. We look at candidates' capabilities, more than their past records."

While the qualification itself is held in high esteem, the programme's comprehensive scope also helps to groom engineering talent for a variety of roles, providing vital knowledge on subjects ranging from financial engineering and supply chain management to IT-related disciplines. Students emerge with increased confidence, ready to take up challenging projects, and with the necessary skills, theoretical knowledge and perspective to execute them.

"The curriculum helps students to come up with alternative ideas and proposals to suggested solutions to problems. This allows them to test and apply their work to their businesses," Professor Yu explains. "Since our alumni generally demonstrate outstanding expertise at work, they tend to have a competitive edge, earning them opportunities for promotion. The combination of qualification and valuable skills is a definite winner when it comes to more senior executive positions."

Market focus

While CUHK is internationally regarded as a top university, the programme also stands out for its flexible structure. Students may enrol for elective subjects across the engineering faculty's five departments and also some departments in the business administration faculty to broaden their academic scope, while the business courses on offer are also highly sought after.

The quality of both full- and part-time students is of a high standard, Professor Yu stresses. "The selection process gets more competitive by the year as our pool of applicants grows. We aim to select ambitious young minds that can contribute great ideas and stimulate learning for their peers."

To help the students position themselves in a changing economic environment, the curriculum is constantly revised to reflect sentiments and issues across a range of industries. The degree's focus on financial engineering, supply-chain management, e-commerce and other core subjects is fine-tuned in response to market trends, and new case studies are added to courses yearly in line with the prevailing business scenario.

"We have industry professionals teaching some of our courses to provide our students with realistic market insights, as well as with a good starting point to build industry connections," Professor Yu concludes.

Solid springboard

  • Combination of IT knowledge and management skills is important across various industries
  • Systems Engineering and E-Commerce divided into two streams
  • Broad focus maintains a balance between academic theory and professional skills
  • Programme stands out for its flexible structure

Taken from Career Times 24 February 2012, A10

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