In his first year at Ernst & Young, one of the Big Four accounting firms, Maximilian Wong Mau-chung was told that he could be a partner after 10 years and enjoy the prestige that goes with being an accountant. But this was not what he wanted. After serious consideration, he left his auditing job to become a development officer at the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups (HKFYG). At age 28, he was promoted to supervisor of Leadership 21, the federation’s decade-old leadership training and development programme. Only Dr Rosanne Wong, the executive director of HKFYG, has moved up to the same position at a younger age than him. Wong believes that leadership training can make a difference to young people’s lives.
How did you get involved with youth service?
Back in 2000, when I was a Form Seven student, I joined a leadership programme offered at HKFYG. I was in the first batch of school leaders trained by the federation. Then, in my first year of accounting at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, I took a social policy course at HKFYG. This was my first real encounter with social policy and I began to have interest in it.
What made you leave your promising accounting job?
After gradating with a BBA in accounting in 2003, I was offered an auditor’s post at Ernst & Young. I was told by my superior that if all went well, I would be promoted to manager in five years and partner in 10 years. This sounded really tempting to a fresh graduate like me. In February 2004, I decided to quit my steady and promising job because I wasn’t happy. As an auditor, my job was to check my clients’ books. People were wary of my presence and obviously I was not making people smile.
But at the time, I was not really sure about taking a pay cut and abandoning my bright prospects in accounting to join a non-government organisation. When my mentor, Dr Philemon Choi, told me, “Sometimes the way out is the way in,” I decided to let my conscience guide the way. I though I could give something new a try. If it didn’t work out, at least I would be able to acquire transferrable skills, such as event management.
How did you get into to your current position?
After I quit my job, Dr Rosanne Wong, executive director of HKFYG, asked if I would like to help. I agreed and started as a development officer. My passion for my work has driven my success. I spent a record 84 consecutive hours at the office. My record for consecutive numbers of working hours with Ernest and Young is 36. The important thing is, I love my job and I am willing and happy to work on Saturdays and Sundays as I enjoy seeing the impact of the work on the students.
What is your mission and vision?
I think society’s attitude to leadership training needs to be revised. Parents think of it as an extra-curricular activity for students in their spare time. But it is much more than that. Leadership can enable tremendous personal growth. One day, I hope it can be a course on university curriculums. In the long term, I want to develop Leadership 21 into the city’s first youth leadership college.
How do you think leadership training can impact society?
The top 10 per cent of society are high flyers who know how to look for opportunities. The bottom 10 per cent receives a lot of attention and assistance. The 80 per cent in the middle receives the least attention. Leadership training can help these individuals develop, to achieve great things and grow as a person.
What is your motto?
Positive thinking, willingness to learn and humility. Dr Rosanne Wong shares these values with every HKFYG employee. I have also been inspired by the slogan, “Add more life into your adventure. Add more adventure into your life.” This reminds me that I must be lively when providing training and not only focus on basic teaching skills. A leader is someone who serves wholeheartedly and who is not preoccupied with job titles or his or her standing within an organisation.
What advice do you have for young people who are interested in social issues?
Young people can feel neglected and that they are not heard or taken seriously. It’s definitely positive to have young people who want to voice their opinions. They have the right to speak out and feasible solutions should be provided to the issues that they raise.
What’s your advice on career choices for the young?
Realise your childhood dream. These early ideas of things we want to do tend to be things that hold a lot of meaning for us. They are things that touch you deeply. Seeing people smile, seeing them grow and achieve, makes me really satisfied. I am passionate about what I do. This is why I choose this job and has so much passion for it.