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Career Path

Seizing opportunities in changing climate

by Isabella Lee

Ivan Yam, senior sales manager
Hilti (Hong Kong) Limited
Photo: Nolly Leung

An international company that boosts an employee portfolio of 20,000 staff in more than 120 countries could be a perfect platform for fast-track career development. This is particularly so when such a company harnesses the dynamism which results from mixing different nationalities and diverse cultures.

Ivan Yam, senior sales manager, Hilti (Hong Kong) Limited, was initially drawn by such an international appeal that Hilti projects. Headquartered in Liechtenstein, the multinational provides products, systems and services to the global construction industry.

Having discovered civil engineering did not match his career expectations during his first year at university, Mr Yam changed his major to marketing. Upon completing his studies in Australia, he returned to Hong Kong prior to the reunification as he felt the subsequent diaspora would lead to a plethora of employment opportunities particularly for graduates.

"Hilti distinguishes itself from other companies primarily because of its unique culture which we coin 'our culture journey'. In essence, the concept is a long-lasting learning model that the whole company is encouraged to embrace," Mr Yam notes.

When corporate culture is considered a learning journey, a company's people begin to share a common purpose and take responsibility for the overall development of both business and the team. This is achieved through mutual encouragement, coaching and support and at Hilti, outstanding results have been accomplished. In short, Mr Yam's career at Hilti has developed comprehensively because of his immersion in such a supportive professional setting.

Developing competence

Another reason for Mr Yam's career success is the communicative environment in which he thrives. "Intelligent interaction across all departments and at all levels facilitates deeper understanding horizontally and vertically. All colleagues are more than happy to seek or offer help whenever there's a problem. This team philosophy has always been one of our core values alongside integrity, commitment and courage," Mr Yam remarks.

He emphasises that a passion to find solutions can be seen at every corner within Hilti and this appetite for answers does not stop at the office door.

"The physical and institutional set up at Hilti is designed to promote regular interaction between team members. All our executives, including the CEO and general managers, earmark specific days every month to escort frontline staff in the field with the goal of better understanding the market," Mr Yam points out.


"To succeed in sales you need to be a good communicator"

A typical work schedule for Mr Yam involves a whopping 60 per cent of his overall time devoted to accompanying salespeople. This leads to valuable observation opportunities and constant learning possibilities. In addition to market analysis, the practice also promotes talent development within the team. By spotting areas for improvement Mr Yam is able to ensure training is specific to every individual. Similarly, when team members display desirable skill sets, he ensures these are shared with others.

Bigger picture

As a team leader, the ultimate goal for Mr Yam is to raise the whole team's competence level and maintain morale. Intelligent deployment of resources, sharing best practices and cooperation with other teams are all fundamental components of his role.

Developing strong relations with major customers is also indispensable at Hilti. In this regard, Mr Yam visits industry associations and big construction companies regularly to stay in touch and keep abreast of what's happening on the ground.

His advice to potential recruits is clear. "To succeed in sales you need to be a good communicator. Empathy is vital in understanding customer requirements. Too much empathy is counterproductive though, as the company no longer benefits if you cannot draw the line," he says.

With these attributes, Mr Yam has continued to climb the career ladder since joining Hilti in 1996. Under a previous corporate structure, Hilti divided its product sales into construction, building services and maintenance. "The maintenance stream which was chosen for me was the most challenging, compared to the other two. However, I picked up useful skills like presentation and effective communication right at the start of my career," Mr Yam recalls.

Over the past 11 years, there have been obvious challenges and rewards, including seven promotions for Mr Yam. Regarding advancement, he appreciates Hilti's unique strategic manpower development (SMD) initiative which contributes to the healthy development of both staff and the business as a whole.

"Unlike traditional promotional processes, we do not fix a certain number of positions to fill. Instead, we fit posts to people. If a competent candidate comes along and there is no immediate position, we create one," Mr Yam concludes.


 

Taken from Career Times 25 July 2008, p. B20

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