In the past, engineering, IT and business administration were three isolated subjects at unversity. But today, when product design, support and customer service are conducted as an integral process through IT systems, many employers are looking for expertise combining these disciplines.
"Everyone should become a marketer in a company," Ray Leung, marketing communications director of Arrow Asia Pac Ltd explains. "For example, to process an online order for a semiconductor sample, an engineer should capture the sales leads from the online inquiry, visit them to understand their design difficulties and prepare a custom-made technical solution for the customers. Then, they work with product marketing and sales teams to close the deal with both suppliers and customers. For those individuals involved with customer interface, academic or on-the-job training in marketing is highly benificial."
A subsidiary of Fortune200 company Arrow Electronics Inc, with over 12,000 employees worldwide, Arrow Asia Pac Ltd is one of the region's leading electronic component distributors. Providing a full range of semiconductors, passive, electromechanical and connector products from over 60 leading international suppliers, the company serves more than 10,000 original equipment and contract manufacturers as well as commercial customers all over the world.
SMEs are burgeoning especially in knowledge creation companys because Hong Kong is the gateway to the Greater China market. Multinational companies are setting up sourcing centres in China where they need engineering support and so Hong Kong functions as the "front office" and is changing from an engineering support role into a knowledge creation and project managing role, Mr Leung notes.
Arrow's field application engineers visit customers' offices, work at their factories and meet with the suppliers. In order to enhance competitiveness and to provide total solutions for customers, engineers need to be knowledgeable, creative, innovative and responsive. "Our people are our most valuable assets. Our high level of customer service and engineering support differentiates us from competitors. We have more than 130 field application engineering staff in Asia Pacific specialised in customer design support, technical support and consultation," Mr Leung points out.
Engineering sales represents a large employment market in Hong Kong and the occupation can be variously found selling computers, electronic components and other technical products and providing IT and security solutions. With several years of work experience, talent with a relevant degree can earn up to HK$20,000 a month.
Arrow Asia Pac Ltd has general job vacancies in routine disciplines like accounting, operations, sales and marketing but the company is also looking for candidates in some specific areas of expertise such as continuous process improvement (CPI). This concept is designed to breakthrough departmental barriers and reform old procedures. The whole organisation works as a team to improve the exisitng business processes by developing new ones. People are trained to "green-belt" and "black-belt" levels depending on the proficiency they have achieved.
In addition, the company is converting its current IT system to a new ERP (enterprise resource planning) system. To implement the plan, the company needs experts with know-how and global exposure.
With its regional headquarters in Hong Kong, Arrow Asia Pac Ltd operates 49 sales offices, four primary distribution centres and 19 local warehousing facilities in 11 countries and territories across Asia Pacific. The sales revenue exceeded US$2.38 billion in the fiscal year 2006. "Career opportunites are available in Hong Kong and most Asian countries," Mr Leung remarks. "They are for university graduates in electronic engineering, electrical engineering, or IT. Potential candidates should possess some experience in the electronic sector, plus a strong passion to serve customers."
Every year, Arrow takes on short duration interns from around the world and employs them in various posts in the group. The internship programme brings in a global pool of talent and the company benefits from their diversity of knowledge and ideas that reflects current thinking at leading business schools and engineering academia.
Mr Leung foresees an increased requirement for individuals that have engineering and business sense combined with IT backgrounds. For engineers, versatility has become a crucial quality for career expansion.
"Engineering is just the starting point of a career. A lot of engineers reach top management and executive positions as they progress. Choice is never limited to a single career path," emphasises Mr Leung who started a career as a technical sales engineer 17 years ago, took chemical engineering in his undergraduate studies and is now studying for a doctorate in marketing communications. He advises, "It is important to find out what you want to focus on and achieve that goal via life-long learning. If you have an engineering qualification, for instance, you have to consider the value of obtaining a MBA through part time study."