Starting with knowing what you want!
If you want to be a CEO, then start acquiring the skills necessary for the top post. Hong Leong Bank’s CEO Domenic Fuda’s tip? “You must know what you want”, both in your career and life. This tip has allow Fuda to take the steps he needed early on, including obtaining two postgraduate degrees before the age of 30. He acquired the skills and traits needed to one day become Hong Leong’s Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer.
In Fuda’s own words, fresh graduates need to “set and balance both long and short horizons.” It’s a useful way to plan a career and life, but also a critical ability if you’re planning to be a CEO in the future.
“It’s about having both a long, grand vision but also the short-term steps that you need to take to get to the goal of the vision,” says Fuda. This perspective prevents a fresh grad from losing himself aimlessly in the ebb and flow of work or from jumping from one job to another every year with no end goal. For a CEO, a long-term vision helps flesh out a goal for the company, carve out the steps to reach that goal and build the momentum to reach it, says Fuda.
“I started working at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia but I realised I needed to differentiate myself from the thousands of university graduates. So I decided then and there that to differentiate myself, I was going to go and get a postgraduate degree. My first week of working that’s what I decided,” says Fuda.
The first postgraduate degree was in banking and finance from the University of Technology Sydney, which Fuda took two years to complete while working full time at the Commonwealth Bank. He was 25 when he graduated from the university. He continued to work, got married and at 27, Fuda applied for an MBA, as he needed a broader set of skills if he was to become a senior manager.
“After 5½ years of working, it became apparent that I needed to know how to manage people, how to build strategies, how to do marketing. So I needed to get deeper but broader as well if I wanted to get into senior management. So that’s why I did the MBA.”
This is where having a vision of one’s career is important, Fuda explains, because it determines every step that you take in life so that you don’t waste precious time and money on things that aren’t important to that goal.
“If you want to become a senior manager, to manage people, to set up strategies for the business, marketing and so on, then that master’s degree in Finance was not enough. Managing people is a whole different kettle of fish. I needed different skills rather than just deep financial markets knowledge,” says Fuad.
An inquisitive mind is a humble mind that can extract knowledge from unlikely sources and is flexible at dealing with ambiguity and cultural differences.
“Treat people like you want to be treated yourself, respect people. Don’t assume you know it all. Listen to feedback and consider it. If you can’t follow the suggestion, then tell people why it cannot be done,” he says.
Being flexible and inquisitive is especially critical now as traditional industries, such as banking, are being disrupted. For example, the internet and mobile devices have changed the way customers interact with banks, he says. So for young people just starting out now, they must realise that change is the only constant and mental flexibility is key to meeting that challenge.
“We live in a fragmented, complex, hyper competitive and constantly evolving corporate world. Therefore, leadership in the future will be influenced by constant change, disruptive technologies and political and economic uncertainties. These will have important implications for future leaders and they need to know how to navigate through these forces.”
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