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How IT pros can gear up for corporate leadership

Sheila Lam | Sept. 11, 2012
IT leaders in Hong Kong are in better position than their Asian peers to drive growth and further advancement in their own careers, according to experts. But the path requires new skills and new learning strategies.

Organized by the UK-based CIO networking community CIO Connect, the Next Generation Program provides development for a group of IT middle management to enhance their leadership competency in order to bring transformation in their respective organizations.

The program was first brought to Hong Kong in 2010 as an internal training program for the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Since then the program has been extended to include CLP and the Hospital Authority. The program enters its third year in Q3 2012 and continues to focus on training leaders to deal with IT-specific challenges in Hong Kong.

Bring assertiveness into ambiguity

According to Alistair Russell, advisory practice director at CIO Connect, the program covers common challenges among IT leaders: 1) Setting IT directions and strategies; 2) Influencing stakeholders; 3) Managing delivery and demonstrating value; 4) Developing personal strength for career advancement.

These elements are being covered through a professional learning tool called reflective practice. The aim is to build a student's ability to handle ambiguity with assertiveness. "Students are not just learning the tools, but also understanding the fundamentals of why and how it works, in order to apply the theory in different scenarios," said Russell, who brought the program from the UK to Hong Kong.

Four-full day workshops are arranged throughout the 12-month program, providing ample time in between the workshops for students to apply and translate the abstract ideas into the real working environment.

He said that unlike an EMBA program, the program is not for CV-building. And unlike coaching, which is one-on-one training, the program also allows students to enjoy a collective learning experience.

"Part of good leadership is mastering the interplay between confidence and judgment," said Russell. "A collective learning experience allows students to not only learn about the theory, but also understands how it is applied among other students in different environments, enhancing knowledge and confidence to make decisions and judgments."

Mentors--external voices

Another major and distinctive element within the Next Generation Program is mentorship, which provides one-on-one mentoring with retired IT leaders in Hong Kong.

"The mentors provide an experienced and independent external voice for the students," said Les Hales, managing director of CIO Connect, who is also one of the mentors in the program. He noted without a formal business relationship with the mentor, students can also share their issues more comfortably.

Among the mentors is YB Yeung, professor at City University and former HSBC executive. Spending two hours with individual mentees every few months throughout the program, Yeung found the experience mutually rewarding.

"Mentorship provides a two-way exchange between the mentor and the protégé," said Yeung. "It allows me to understand the challenges and corporate cultures among different organizations, which I find it very interesting."


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