The Hong Kong office of Meltwater News bears all the hallmarks of a start-up run by youngsters: the gong they beat when they strike a really big deal, the ping-pong table, the big-screen TV, and the huge terrace to sit out on.
Meltwater News is part of the Meltwater Group, a "software-as-a-service" company set up a decade ago in Norway. Its operations include selling software for online media monitoring and intelligence. It employs about 1,000 people in 57 offices worldwide.
"We are a very ambitious company. We get up in the morning to move mountains," says David Hickey, managing director of the Hong Kong office. "The standard age [of our staff] is 25 to 26 years. We are trying to recruit young people who have a huge amount of potential - rather than experience - to become leaders."
The objective of Meltwater's international management trainee programme is to develop the next wave of leaders to fuel its expansion. It seeks to train young people to be successful in sales, as this offers a lot of the skills necessary to be a successful manager, such as developing trust and loyalty, and dealing with setbacks, Hickey says. People who succeed in management have an array of international opportunities or the chance to set up their own business units, he adds.
In Asia, the Hong Kong office has already branched out to Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore and Tokyo. "There is huge potential to expand," Hickey says.
The story of Carmen Chan is a good example of the fast-track career that Meltwater offers its top performers. She joined the management trainee programme in client relations in April 2009. After a year and a half, she was promoted to manager, and had two people working under her. "After about six to nine months, I was promoted to managing director, overseeing client relations in Asia. Now, I oversee four teams - in Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Japan," she says.
Hickey says the company culture is based on three things: fun, winners and respect. He adds that they need people who like to have fun - but who also think that business is fun - and who are good team players. Applicants should have stamina and be able to deal with setbacks. They should also have respect for each other, the job and the client.
As team members, they have to show responsibility, learn quickly and take their development seriously.
"This job is all about how much you want to achieve. You have to work really hard because we only accept 100 per cent. You have to be humble, and listen and improve," Chan says.
In the first phase, trainees work as sales consultants and undergo classroom and on-the-job training, with bi-weekly, bi-monthly and quarterly feedback from their superiors. They also have a mentor from another office in the region and three performance reviews and feedback sessions. As managers, they have two to three people working under them and work with the managing director and area director on training and development.
Workshops, summits, and a two-year, six-module programme for the top 10 high-potential managing directors are available. There is also a year-end conference attended by the whole work force. Last year, the conference took place in Las Vegas.