Training talent for challenging times

HKBN core 5

//vol.13-1 Interview

  • The HKBN Group joined the government’s TOP training scheme for interns that is partnered by HKFYG.
  • The forward-looking telecommunications and technology company has a refreshing and proactive approach to internships, as Manager for Talent Acquisition & Branding Sandy Leung explains.
  • She is keen to unleash the potential of the younger generation and accelerate their professional and personal growth.

  • 香港寬頻參與由青協推出、由香港特區政府防疫抗疫基 金贊助下創造的就業計劃,計劃名為「資訊及通訊科 技人才培訓計劃」(Telecommunications Opportunities Programme,英文簡稱TOP)。
  • 香港寬頻持股管理人及經理(人才吸納及品牌建立) 梁 可欣女士指出,對具前瞻性的電訊及科技業公司來說, 他們樂意積極提供創新的實習計劃予青年。
  • 她期望透過實習計劃幫助青年發揮潛能,並加強他們在 專業及個人範疇的成長。


How does HKBN select and develop its interns?

Some might think telecommunications is all about technology, but at HKBN we put our people – or as we call them, “talents”, above all else. This talent-first approach to business is what has driven our capabilities to innovate, even in Hong Kong’s intensively competitive landscape. Just as we build up our talents over the long term through entrepreneurship, continuous learning and development, as well as life-work priorities, we select our interns not only for their immediate impact but also for their future potential. Our programmes reflect this philosophy, we don’t just hone their “hard” skills with office-based experiences, we add a wide range of real-world exposure, so our interns will be much better equipped than their peers and thrive when faced with future challenges.


What do interns most need when they first arrive at HKBN?

New graduates were facing unprecedented job-hunting challenges from COVID-19 and a prolonged economic downturn, so we wanted to do our part and offer muchneeded support. This is why we launched “#ToughTimesTogether – Career Kickstarter for Graduates”, Career Kickstarter for short. Last year, the programme set trainees off on an exciting three-month career journey with a plethora of opportunities.


What was the focus of the Career Kickstarter programme?

Even under normal circumstances, the gap between university and the practical working world is huge, and the pandemic has only widened the gap further. We provided participants with a place to learn and fail. They also built a two-way mentoring relationship with our top 1% executives whose professional achievements were an inspiration. Participants started off by choosing the area where they wanted broader exposure. Then, to help kickstart their careers, we matched each placement with three months of on-the-job training and mentorship. They benefited from an insider’s look of the operations of a leading integrated telecom and technology solutions provider, from our innovative Barter & Bundle scheme for enterprise customers, building a 5G fibre backhaul for a local mobile network operator, to rolling out of various COVID-relief initiatives for society’s disadvantaged.


How many applicants and participants were there in this programme?

We received overwhelming response of over 1,300 applications and finally took 96 young talents who, based on their specialization and aptitude, were placed in different departments and operation units ranging from business analysis, cloud services, corporate and marketing communications, corporate sales, digital transformation, finance, information technology, legal and regulatory, marketing, network technology, operations management, talent engagement and more.


Was the training and mentorship face-to-face or virtual?

We adopted a hybrid model – a mix of face-to-face and virtual training and activities. It included job-shadowing the top 1% of our executive team, taking lead roles in virtual webinars, and organizing networking events. These activities were transformative and gave the young talents valuable know-how to boldly Get Stuff Done (GSD), greatly enhancing their future prospects. What was the outcome?
While originally conceived as a stepping stone for aspiring young people to develop and grow even in tough times rather than a recruitment drive, we nevertheless offered full-time employment to 25 participants. For those who didn’t stay with HKBN, the three-month practical work experience in a specialized function area was useful and likely to increase their chances of landing a job in future. More importantly, the true meaning behind our #ToughTimesTogether campaign was our hope to inspire more companies to step forward and extend a helping hand by being flexible or by doing more. Collective action will make all the difference.


Do you have a regular, annual internship programme?

We organize a yearly “Summer Innovator” programme designed to mould young talents into future leaders. Participants gain a wide range of business exposure, explore initiatives and equip themselves to jump out of their comfort zone onto a purposeful career path. This programme is all about getting participants excited about what they are doing, see the value in the end goal and live out the saying “the world is constantly changing, but here and now there are still ways to become the best version of yourself.” Our 2020 programme attracted over 2,500 applicants competing for 13 slots. In 2021, we aim to hire 10-15 Summer Innovators, depending on talent calibre.


How do you select them?

We use a host of factors such as area of interest, mindset, learning agility and exposure. And of course, those who love our unique culture and demonstrate the ability to fit in have a big advantage. For last year’s “Summer Innovator” programme for example, the applications included quality video CVs, many of which stood out by showing the candidate’s determination and proactive mindset. With only 15-20 places every year, our tip for getting past the initial review is to take an audience-IN approach. That means don’t let your CV be just one more among 2,000. Instead, tell us what makes you the best fit for HKBN.


What other tips do you have for young job hunters?

Traditional education may box us into a speciality, but in real life you need to adapt and diversify. Everything you do must have a unique and clearly defined edge if it is to make an impact – at HKBN we call this Legal Unfair Competitive Advantage (LUCA). It’s the same when you’re applying for a job – having a LUCA and knowing how to tell people about it will make you stand out from other applicants. Here at HKBN, we love job hunters who stand out from the masses by emphasizing the talents, passion and skillset they can offer, not just how much they like our company. Academic grades are only one criterion we consider. We are looking for street smarts in addition to just book smarts.


What kinds of exposure do your summer interns get?

Young Talents in both our Career Kickstarter and Summer Innovator programmes get opportunities to learn from executives and industry leaders. We had webinars about the gripping journeys of the founders of NGOs such as Mother’s Choice and Room to Read. Face-to-face exchanges were held when they were possible, including with Simon Squibb, serial entrepreneur and angel investor who shared his professional experience and his take on the purpose of life. There were also opportunities aplenty to learn from our top 1% executives. Our summer interns joined numerous webinars and talks. Our Co-Owner and Executive Vicechairman, William Yeung, gave a virtual sharing about the 5Ps – Prior, Preparation, Prevents, Poor, Performance. Last year, our interns helped organize a Leaders Forum where our Co-Owner and Group Chief Executive Officer, NiQ Lai, as well as George Hongchoy, Executive Director & Chief Executive Officer of Link REIT, Gigi Tung, Founder of Food Angel, and Anthony So, Founder & CEO of OnGrad, shared tips with youths on finding their way.


How do the interns react to your approach?

Despite how some say we are far too demanding and chances of getting in are no better than winning the lottery (therefore not worth the effort), we’ve seen applicants returning for another try after failing to make our shortlist in a previous year. And for the young Talents who do get selected, we’ve witnessed how they’ve been jolted out of their comfort zones and become indispensable contributors to key projects. Their energy and passion have brought value to our operations and fostered an energetic and positive working environment for the whole company.

Programme participants say…

“Embarking on a journey at HKBN made me more change-ready for an ever-changing world while pursuing a purposeful career, not just a job.”
Aimee Xu, 2020, Translation and Bilingual Communication graduate, Hong Kong Baptist University

“After a great deal of exposure at HKBN, I started a new chapter in my life. From a fresh graduate feeling lost, I become an HKBNer who keeps learning and growing every day.”
Anna Ngan, Social Work and Social Administration graduate, The University of Hong Kong

“I’ve learnt two things. First, as a programmer, I must ‘change or die’, updating myself with the latest technologies or risking being left behind. Second, I must be proactive and take every opportunity I meet, even if things never go perfectly as planned.”
Suki Wong, 2020 Computer Science graduate from City University of Hong Kong


Participants will experience HKBN’s unique culture and see how we put values such as entrepreneurship, disruptive innovation, continuous learning and life-work priorities into practice for success.

Ms Sandy Leung joined HKBN in 2016 as an HR professional with extensive experience in talent acquisition, recruitment and marketing in various industries. As an HKBN Co-Owner and its Manager for Talent Acquisition & Branding, she recruits talented people from junior to executive levels and leads its internships and trainee programmes.