Live Your Personal Legend

Dreamers converge on Startups Career Day

‘Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible... To realize one’s Personal Legend is a person’s only real obligation. All things are one.’ Santiago the youthful shepherd’s quest for treasure in The Alchemist springs from a recurrent dream, and it is consummated at the very spot he starts out—under the sycamore tree in the ruins of the church. The mysterious circle his pilgrimage comes to is strewn with disasters, threats, losses, fears, diversions and temptations of an easy and vulgar life. Among the figures he encounters on the way, there is the alchemist who reveals to him the treasures he possesses within and, through sweat, toil and a hunch that amounts no less to an inner voice, the young shepherd is finally transmuting all he has been through into the unalloyed gold that many heard, few saw, and still fewer owned in life.

Having and pursuing dreams is not a prerogative of youth. Whatever their age and the life stage they’re in, everyone can be a dreamer so long as they will. Into its third year, the Hong Kong Startups Career Day was held on 13 April at the nascent InnoPort based at the quaint and indie Inter-University Hall a stone’s throw from the University Station. The two-hour casual get-together featured talks by three veteran local entrepreneurs, including Ms. Erica Yuen, founder and chief executive officer of Mi Ming Mart, Mr. David Siu, executive coach and founder of Enliven Works Leaders Coaching, and Uncle Siu, owner of the Uncle Siu’s British English Club page that has a following of 500,000 on Facebook and Instagram. In brief talks, they shared their life and career trajectories, and offered tips for those starting out on running their own businesses.

‘We love the talk of leadership and leading others, but what comes first and foremost should be leading our selves and managing our own affairs well. We must first be a good manager of our own lives.’ Pioneering clean beauty in the city, Erica Yuen elaborated the eight essential qualities of an entrepreneur: astute market sense, refined taste, perseverance and self-reliance, innovative spirit and daring to try, good English, positive thinking, an inquiring mind and prudent handling of partnerships. Stressing innovation and independent thinking, she reckoned people—product owners, partners, employees and patrons—to be holding the key to a thriving business.

Starting as an IT consultant in the US, David Siu recalled days in the mid-nineties when he was sacked for the burst of the dotcom bubble. Interest and eagerness, however, promised him brighter and more adventurous careers in giants like Nike and Apple, where he assumed senior managing roles for two decades. ‘If you really love the job and have a sense of mission, you won’t be stingy with your efforts and everything will become a lot easier.’ A major takeaway for him from those years with the flagships, which now helps his own business and his clients’, is the importance of cultivating a company culture: with a clear set of rules on ethics and work procedures, it is a stop tap to the arbitrary rule of man, and great storytelling is a way to impart this and pass on the values of the company.

Uncle Siu’s story illustrates, quite simply, that a career that lasts is often a labour of love. What appears geeky to others may drop a hint on an enriching career beyond all expectations. ‘If you are really passionate about something, channel your attention to something really, really minute—you might be able to find your niche.’ With his characteristic sonorous voice, he explained how regional accent, class and mood of speaker may affect the pronunciation of the word ‘Innoport’.

Sandwiched between the sharings were pitches by representatives from five start-ups supported by CUHK, in which their businesses and career opportunities were presented. Twelve start-ups were posting their openings on the event website as well, in a bid to attract talent with the like-mindedness and daring to embark on the memorable quest.

By amyli@cuhkcontents