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Q&A: CY Chan, head of talent engagement & corporate social investment, HKBN

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Vital stats: Living up to HKBN’s beliefs to empower talent and bring disruption to the business, CY Chan has taken on seven different roles, including sales and corporate social investment during his seven years in the organisation.

Q Why did you choose to work in human resources?

I have to admit pursuing a career in human resources was not a childhood dream of mine. I studied human resources management at university partly because this was a programme that would admit me somewhere based on my open examination results.

I love to communicate with people and work with people, so in that respect, I think I am a good fit for the human resources sector.
If there was a turning point which inspired me to believe HR was the right career for me, it was during my summer job when I was at university.

I worked at the organisation’s training department and during those three months, I became fascinated with training after witnessing how my supervisor was able to impact people’s lives by giving them the right training.

I am now in my 17th year serving in human resources and have served in various roles in human resources. Looking back, a strong interest in training is what got me hooked to the sector in the first place.

At HKBN we look for two things in leaders – empowerment and leading disruption.

Q You have worked for in-house HR departments and service providers. How has your experience as a sales consultant helped enhance your HR career?

I started my career as an HR in-house practitioner. After a few years, I had an opportunity to pursue an HR consultant role for a training solutions provider. A sales role is certainly more rewarding financially, but the pressure of hitting quotas was something I was worried about, but anyway I decided to give it a try.

It turns out the experience as a sales person was more rewarding than I thought. I was able to get in-depth knowledge on the challenges faced by clients. I was inspired to think of ways to overcome HR challenges from the clients’ perspective, something

I never got a chance to do when I was working as an in-house HR practitioner.  This experience has helped build the foundation for my current role in HKBN, where I have to engage external and internal stakeholders to drive changes within the organisation.

Q How does HKBN identify leaders?

At HKBN we look for two things in leaders – empowerment and leading disruption.

Empowerment – leaders are able to develop colleagues to make them feel empowered. Leading disruption – leaders don’t only ensure a smooth operation of tasks, they also need to demonstrate innovation. Innovation can be in any aspect as long as it brings disruption to the business or even the market. It is crucial for talent, especially young talent, to have the space to express new ideas.

Take myself as an example. I started my career in HKBN focusing on learning and development and have been involved in different functions, including sales team management, business development strategies, investor relations, on top of my culture building, transformation, HR and talent development functions.

I believe the number of roles I have taken on is uncommon in the HR field. This experience demonstrated HKBN’s “leading disruption” culture – by enabling an HR person to lead many functions that impact the company, and an “empowerment” culture – by delegating and developing a talent like me.

One of my most unforgettable experiences was being handed the task to lead the enterprise solution sales team. Although I have had sales experience before, I had no experience running a sales team.

At the beginning, the members on the sales team were worried because they had no idea how things were going to be, such as reporting to an HR person.

I tried my very best to learn from them about product knowledge and how to run a business. My approach towards the team was, I am here to help them achieve big things. After two months the team and I were able to build trust and we ended up having a pretty successful year financially.

A pleasant surprise of the effect of me making this sudden move to a sales role was that it was able to inspire my HR team to grow. During the 10 months when I was away, my team was left to hold down the fort, and that was a valuable experience for the team and helped fast-track its growth.

 There is no shortcut to success in cycling as there is no shortcut to career success.

Q Please share more on the impact empowerment and disruption has had on the organisation.

Like most organisations, we appraise leaders based on their ability to hit KPIs, but we also focus on the process. A manager who is great at leading the team to hit sales targets might not necessarily be a good people leader.  This year we have made it a priority for directors to have a conversation to focus on what managers have done on empowerment and leading disruption during appraisals.

We also make it a point to match directors and managers who do not come from the same department to have a conversation on empowerment and disruption.

The purpose is to gain insights from different aspects. The results have been encouraging so far – the synergy between talent from different departments is able to help directors and middle managers become better leaders in HKBN’s definition.

Q What is the best career advice you have had?

I am very lucky in that all the organisations I have worked for there has been a significant figure who I could look up to. Throughout the years, I have had lots of valuable advice from different people.

If I have to choose the best, it has to be the advice given by my boss when I was a sales person. At that time, I was lost on where I should go in my career. He told me not to have such high expectations on myself and that if I try to please everyone, I will end up pleasing no one. This piece of advice helped me to focus all my effort in excelling in long run.

Q You fell in love with cycling since your team building cycling trip to Taiwan. What career aspirations were you able to get from the sport?

I started as a beginner two years ago and last year I conquered Wu Peak in Taiwan, which is 3275 metres above sea level.
It is truly amazing how quickly I have improved in cycling. There is no shortcut to success in cycling as there is no shortcut to career success. One has to put in a lot of hard work and challenge oneself to be overloaded a little by little in every practice.
Similar to career development, one needs to have the mentality to keep working hard and keep improving.

Art Direction / Evisu Yip
Photos / Jonathan LAU SC @ Emil Photography

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