Alumni Linkage — OU People

Alumni Communication & Support Alumni Linkage Past Issues September 2020 Issue Alumni Linkage — OU People

Leo spent 11 years to complete his part-time honours degree programme. Recalling his long learning journey, he said with a gentle smile, 'It was really difficult in the early days. Under heavy work burden, I did fail in several courses.' Leo's study path was not an easy one, but in retrospect he is grateful for this memorable part of his life.

Never be afraid to start from scratch

Leo is now Head of Finance of a motor group, but his career started with something totally different. After completing Secondary 3 at a pre-vocational school, Leo got a referral from his neighbour and became a painter of a commercial oil paintings studio where he spent six years. 'I knew nothing about oil painting at that time, but I believe life should be like this. When an opportunity arises, don't be afraid to start from scratch.' Leo has since then fallen in love with oil painting. He recalled, 'Years ago when I passed by Leighton Centre in Causeway Bay, I saw an oil painting in a shop window that seemed familiar. After studying it for a while, I realized it was my own work! That was a truly exciting and special moment.'

Due to re-location of the studio to mainland China, Leo made a job move to accounting and started all over again from the ground up. With perseverance and diligence, he gradually moved up the ladder and was promoted to accounting officer, but limited academic qualifications hindered his further career advancement. With the support of his supervisor, Leo resolutely enrolled at the then Open Learning Institute of Hong Kong when it was established in 1989, and was among the first batch of its students.

From frustration to fruition

Leo struggled to adjust to distance learning at the start of his study, while his hectic schedule at work impeded his learning progress. As a result, he did poorly in a few courses and one of which even had to be re-taken three times. 'I felt very frustrated, but quitting was never an option because my goal has not been achieved yet.' Leo remembered he once called a tutor for advice who was just heading home on a bus. In order to focus on answering his questions, the tutor deliberately got off the bus and stood by the roadside to talk with him attentively. 'I will never forget that. The tutor, Prof. Charles Kwong, is now the Dean of the School of Arts and Social Sciences.'

The University did not have a permanent campus in its early days and students had to attend tutorials at different locations. Yet Leo enjoyed the classes quite a lot. 'Students came from different walks of life. We shared our real-life situations and the challenges we faced at work, while tutors responded with personal work experience. That was indeed an eye-opener, and it's really worthwhile.' Studying at the OUHK and taking professional accounting exams complemented each other. Leo eventually completed both simultaneously in 2000. The University's programme also improved his management skills which helped bring his career to the next level.

Giving off positive energy

Leo is very grateful for what the OUHK gave him. He began to contribute to the University after graduation and later established the Tree of Eight Foundation Scholarship in 2012. 'I choose to donate to education as it brings positive changes to society. The Scholarship is named after my parents in Chinese, while “Tree of Eight” represents there are eight of us in my family. This is to pay tribute to my parents' years of hard work.' Leo not only repays his parents, but also his alma mater and the society.

He also shares his experience and insights with young people selflessly. He is an authorised supervisor of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants, providing support to new accountants joining the industry. 'Academic credentials work only as an entry pass. After you get in, it's your work performance that counts. Never belittle yourself. Stay motivated, optimistic and calm to overcome challenges, and at the right time give yourself and your team a pat on the back. Last but not least, remember to keep learning and stay updated with ever-changing technologies.'

Having devoted 38 years in finance work, Leo is planning to paint again after retirement. He is passionate about long-distance running in the past ten years, and he especially enjoys the cheers and the positive atmosphere on the field. His benevolence also brings positive energy to all those around him.