Students with their sights set on a career in business know that “international outlook” is a prerequisite frequently cited by potential employers.
Rudi Leung worked for 12 years in creative roles in the advertising sector before starting his MBA and was definitely hoping that the programme would lead to pastures new.
“In advertising, we stay within the industry whereas other businesses interface with each other,” says Leung, who is now general manager at DDB Tribal Group and chose to do his MBA at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) rather than at his alma mater, the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “The culture is very different. HKUST is more business savvy and modern in its thinking. I also found the networking really good.”
Another attraction was the focus on entrepreneurship which, he felt, would help someone looking to break new ground in a creative business. It proved especially useful when Leung moved into digital marketing. On completing the course, he first did a brief stint with the MTR Corporation, but felt that the corporate culture didn’t suit him, so moved on to Yahoo!, thanks to an introduction from an MBA classmate.
“I was used to a creative environment and, in 2005, Yahoo! was the best place to be if you were interested in digital marketing. I wanted to know how it all worked and saw a trend I couldn’t miss out on in my career.”
With the birth of the digital era, he could see how search functions had become a vital tool in business marketing and later sensed that social media would have as big an impact on marketing method and corporate strategies.
“We talked about word of mouth marketing for so long, but with social media, it is more organised. It amplifies the power of word of mouth.”
Social media has other plus points which let Leung use different skills and ideas. It allows for more creativity and, with newer refinements, it enables more targeted marketing and better results. “It is still trial and error but, before, marketing was much harder,” says Leung, who finds the evolving technology has another obvious advantage. “If you are a fast learner or hungry for information, social media will expose you to all kinds of things.”
When he first started to explore digital marketing, Yahoo! was already building its own network in Hong Kong, so the idea of a social network was already there. That was before Facebook took off or Friendster was popular. Yahoo! was developing a blog platform to market to businesses and Leung’s role was to work with the sales teams to develop campaign solutions for advertising clients. “One of our biggest projects was for a camera company which wanted an exclusive platform for users to upload their images,” he says. “Their customers would have privileged uses. Even eight years ago, blogs weren’t really popular in Hong Kong, so it was a niche.”
Those early days of social media were an intense period. The speed of change in technology meant industry developments were constant. For everyone, it was “learn as you go” and taking opportunities, without knowing where they might end up.
Luckily, Leung was able to think on his feet and stay ahead and he thanks the MBA for that. “I’m a fast learner. In the last few years, my focus was social media, but who knows what it will be in the next few years,” he says. “The MBA gave me the ability to adapt, absorb new ideas, and put them to use. You have to swallow a lot of lessons and information every week. It is really challenging.”
A part-time course provides the chance to network in different ways. “I met people working in many other business sectors with different kinds of experience. It took me away from advertising, which is only the tip of the iceberg for most business problems.”
Now, Leung always looks for the bigger picture. He credits the MBA for opening his eyes, giving new perspectives, and showing him how to manage change. It also showed him the value of networking and staying in touch.
“Keep networking and offer to volunteer because that is all part of the experience,” he says. “Don’t think networking has a short-term purpose – it is an investment. You won’t get immediate results and you can’t calculate what they will be, but you will get something back in the end,” he says.