Opening new horizons

by Ada Ng

Catherine Fong
senior human resources manager
Yahoo! Hong Kong Limited
Photo: Edde Ngan
Internet giant values innovation and creativity

As online activities become increasingly integral to most people's daily lives, computer engineers must be imaginative and visionary to keep up with market trends and to cater for internet users' growing expectations.

Computer specialists these days fulfill multiple functions, says Catherine Fong, senior human resources manager, Yahoo! Hong Kong Limited (Yahoo! HK). The role of web designers, developers and programmers in particular has changed tremendously, from a behind-the-scene position to one where they work closely with project managers, marketing specialists and other stakeholders to deliver creative business solutions.

In view of this, mere technical skills no longer sustain the development for professionals in the rapidly changing industry. "Since they must respond to clients' needs when developing content and programmes, they must be able to interpret these requirements to create products that achieve the desired business objectives," she notes.

Inevitably, people versed in systems should also have a keen business sense and good communication skills, which enable them to anticipate, and ultimately accommodate, web users' surfing habits and advertisers' requirements.

"Web designers and developers act as a bridge between internet users and advertisers," she adds. "They therefore need to be fully informed of clients' business and advertising objectives."

Setting trends

As cyberspace is such a fast-moving, dynamic and ever-expanding environment, professionals in the field must be forward-looking, with superlative analytical skills, Ms Fong stresses. "These attributes provide the backbone for creativity and innovation," she says.

While Yahoo! HK's web products are in line with the corporation's global offerings, the Hong Kong team enjoys the flexibility to create market-specific, value-added content that is relevant to local users. A recent example was the live football matches commentary and chat-room that Yahoo! HK hosted during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

"As free-to-air World Cup games were not available in Hong Kong this year, our team thought it would be good to lay an interactive platform for football fans to share their comments and get real-time results," Ms Fong explains.

The initiative was a great success, drawing overwhelming response from local football fans. More importantly, says Ms Fong, it set an industry trend, creating a new "football viewership", as well as new web behaviours and surfing habits. In particular, it encouraged interaction between football fans both within and from outside the Yahoo!HK community.

In accordance with the company's goal of providing a wider segment of clients and internet users with novel solutions, Yahoo! runs regular workshops and seminars to help employees keep abreast of the latest industry and technological advances. "This is the first step towards innovation," notes Ms Fong.

As part of its objective to encourage ingenuity and resourcefulness at work, Yahoo! HK also holds an annual Hack Day where developers, designers and other staff gather to brainstorm ideas to build "cool stuff" for future business development.

"We don't expect engineers to focus only on coding-related tasks," Ms Fong stresses. "We encourage them to contribute innovative ideas that can be turned into product development and business opportunities."

The internet is such a complex and dynamic platform that new technologies emerge at any given moment. Continuous learning and hands-on experience are therefore crucial for web professionals, she adds.

Boundless opportunities

With a view to giving staff the wide exposure needed to new initiatives, the company is open to transferring staff across countries and functional teams. "One of the benefits of working for a multinational organisation such as Yahoo! is that you get to work with web designers, developers and industry gurus from around the world and can gain first-hand experience from them," Ms Fong remarks.

She anticipates plenty of new opportunities opening up in the internet sector and expects a growth in demand for specialists who are not only passionate about web development, but are also willing to contribute ideas that will influence millions of web users around the world.

"When we hire, we target at young talent with the enthusiasm and potential to grow in the business," she notes. Yahoo! HK will again be hosting campus career events later this year to attract potential candidates. Successful applicants will be offered opportunities in Yahoo!'s Hong Kong office, and China R&D centre as well as its Taiwan office.

"The basic requirement for an entry-level web-engineer position is a bachelor's degree in computer science, but a master's or business degree is preferable," Ms Fong says.

Since much of the engineering work involves commercialising technology products, it helps to have strong business skills. "Although coding is at the core of web development, our people have a positive, can-do attitude that enables them to turn new ideas into workable solutions. The ability to manage projects and interact efficiently with colleagues and clients from all walks of life are also key to success," Ms Fong remarks.

Growth potential

  • Business acumen and communication skills essential
  • Continuous learning a key to sustainable professional development
  • Enthusiasm required of young talent

Taken from Career Times 20 August 2010, B2

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