Government / Statutory Bodies

Statisticians play diverse roles

by Charles Mak

Annie Chan, senior statistician, general statistics branch (2)
Leo Yu, statistician, technical secretariat
Census and Statistics Department
Photo: Edde Ngan

Multiple skills required of niche professionals

Businesses and organisations worldwide rely on tailored and subject-specific statistical research for the design, implementation and evaluation of their activities ranging from branding and marketing to recruitment. Conducting meaningful research however, is often a drain on resources but the true value of well-researched information far outweighs the monetary. For example, the Employment and Vacancies Statistics for September 2007 published recently serve as a benchmark for Hong Kong employers. They reveal accurate figures detailing the supply of available talent in the marketplace helping to predict future demand for human capital, supporting Hong Kong employers as they formulate the most appropriate hiring strategies.

Statisticians are trained to understand the significance of their work and many find it incredibly rewarding. Leo Yu personifies excellence in his specialist field. Mr Yu, a statistician at the technical secretariat of the Census and Statistics Department, joined the department in 1993 after graduation from the Chinese University of Hong Kong with a bachelor's degree in statistics. Before that, he had worked as a research analyst in an investment fund house for a short while. "Many university alumni explained career options and the nature of the industry when I was still at university," he recalls. "I envisioned promising prospects in the field and so decided to join the industry as soon as I spotted the opportunity."

His colleague Annie Chan, senior statistician, general statistics branch (2) followed a similar route. "There is always something new to learn in our profession because both the world and local society change every day," she says.

Reflecting reality

Mr Yu's career in the department has spanned 14 fruitful years and he is now given a greater degree of responsibility providing technical support for senior executives and cross-departmental collaboration. "It is not unusual for us to be misperceived as number geeks because we often deal with figures," he jokes. "This could not be further from the truth. Nowadays, experienced professionals in our industry must adopt a more significant role - leading projects and acting as general managers responsible for a team of up to 180 staff. These strategic functions are far from tedious."

Ms Chan agrees, adding that the profession is far more dynamic than it may appear. "When I first joined the department I was assigned a station at the Hospital Authority and following that with one of the disciplinary forces. Back in the mother department later on, I had the chance to work on a wide variety of tasks including the 2006 population by-census and the challenging 2001 population census," she says. "It takes a good four to five years to prepare for the population census. The lengthy process involves every member of society, from shop owners to homemakers. There are many different situations and we must think quickly to solve any problems. From collection to processing and data release, there are many procedures to follow. Once the report is released, we must also advise data users on how to access the information published ensuring user privacy is respected and Hong Kong law is upheld. We stay in touch with citizens from all walks of life and there are many professional opportunities to work with both internal and external bodies."

Since last August, Ms Chan also took on greater responsibility and has since overseen the department's training and development needs. "To succeed in any profession, you must combine academic knowledge with up-to-date professional skills, people skills, business acumen and hands-on experience as you progress," she notes.

Over recent years, she has participated in a number of training and overseas conferences and workshops, acquiring advanced knowledge in people management, resources management, change management and leadership development. "Our responsibilities also demand up-to-date IT skills because the numerous methods of conducting surveys or compiling survey reports are now technology-dependent," Ms Chan explains. "However, language proficiency, or on a macro scale, interpersonal communication, remains vital."

"Our profession is an exact one, hence a high level of professional competence is expected of us. To this aim, we must keep an open mind and broaden our horizons at every opportunity," Mr Yu advises. "Our work always entails multifaceted challenges which ultimately propel me to strive for ever greater professional excellence."


Taken from Career Times 11 January 2008
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