Is someone’s success contingent upon their family background? VTC alumnus John Wong Tin-hau, currently Director of Lik On Security Limited and Lik On Technology Limited, never shies away from talking about his humble origins. Born to a disadvantaged family, he never got good grades as a teenager and was on the verge of dropping out of school. He didn’t get “enlightened” and study hard until he was 27 years of age. From a certificate course to a Master’s degree in business administration, John reinvented himself as a member of the upper management, supervising over 200 employees. He believes everyone can take charge of their trajectory of life and here’s his advice to young people – it’s never too late to start anew. If you work hard, you’d still reach your goals and make your career take off at any point in your life.
Confucius famously says, “At thirty, I stood firm. At forty, I had no doubts. At fifty, I knew the decrees of Heaven.” Having reached an age to be resigned to one’s fate, John still buries himself in books and is still hungry for knowledge. From time to time, he would enrol in online courses and shop for books online to learn more. He also mentioned that he had no choice but to push back his plan to pursue a doctorate degree in engineering because of his busy schedule and the pandemic.
“For an enterprise to grow and develop, it needs to innovate ceaselessly.
The leader of a company, in particular, should take the lead and keep abreast of the times. Otherwise, the company will be phased out by market mechanism.”
Back in the noughties, security guards still used a handheld logger known as a “patrol stick” as a clocking device. As smartphones were becoming more popular, John got the idea for security guards to use their phones to log their patrolling duties in place of the conventional “patrol stick” for higher efficiency and more detailed patrol records. Since he was a programmer before entering Lik On Limited, so he collaborated with several young colleagues to work out the project, and successfully applied for a patent for the patrolling technology they developed afterwards.
Enlightened late, catching up fast
John has been studying tirelessly for years, but when he was young, he hated school with a passion. In all honesty, he admitted that his academic results were downright poor as a secondary school student. On top of that, his parents wanted him to start working full time as soon as possible to help support the family. That’s why he joined the workforce right after HKCE examination. For his first job, he was hired by a voluntary agency serving Vietnamese refugees arriving Hong Kong in 1980s. After working there for around a couple of years, John was laid off due to a budget cut. He was shocked by the action, “Right then, it dawned on me that no job is guaranteed to last a lifetime,” he said. He didn’t have any solid idea about the future back then, but he just wanted a stable job that he couldn’t get fired from.
According to John, the most in-demand jobs then were accounting clerk and shipping clerk. He chose the former because of practical concerns. “Being in the accounting profession means I may take exams and get chartered in the future. I can create an upward mobility for myself by being a professional.” However, as soon as he started his new job, John was aware of his own inadequacy. To keep his job, he enrolled in a certificate programme in accountancy offered by Morrison Hill Technical Institute, the predecessor of IVE (Morrison Hill). From then on, he climbed the academic ladder step by step, embarking on a journey towards being a professional.
Ten years of further education to hone his skills
“Going back to school at the age of 27 was like turning a new page in life and it made me treasure my chances to learn. Although it was an evening class, there was a strong learning ethos in the class which made me work even harder.” After completing the programme, John acquired his certificate as he approached 30. He was deeply touched as this qualification didn’t come easy.
“At that time, Technical Institute acted like a bridge –
it promised me access to university education as long as I was willing to work hard and keep pursuing lifelong learning. It opened up boundless possibilities for my future.”
John went on to acquire a Higher Diploma in Accountancy from the then City Polytechnic of Hong Kong (the predecessor of the City University of Hong Kong) and even won an award because of his outstanding academic results. Right then, he applied for a U.S. bachelor’s degree programme of business administration offered in Hong Kong, but he faced a problem. The University asked all applicants to provide an outline of each education programme they had attended, but John had difficulties retrieving the information accordingly. After going back and forth a few times, he decided to ask the Morrison Hill Technical Institute for help. “I was quite anxious then, not knowing if they were able to help. It turned out that they agreed to provide the information right away, even though I had graduated years ago.” Whenever he recalls this episode, John still feels eternally grateful for the assistance VTC staff provided, without which he couldn’t have continued his pursuit of further education and attained a Bachelor’s degree from the U.S. university with straight-A results. Thereafter, he went on to work on his Master’s degree in business administration which was conferred to him in 1999.
From a certificate to a Master’s degree, John spent almost 10 years juggling with a full-time job and his academic study. When he was working as an accountant in an enterprise company, he found great interest in computer programming. His employer was kind enough to let him learn programming and set up different database programs for the company. By the time he resigned, he had already been promoted to manager. Turning his interest into skills, John then started his own business to develop accounting and different kinds of software for different companies. Yet, three years later in 1998, the Asian Financial Crisis broke out and took a heavy toll on his business. As he believed that a one-man company has little room for development, he decided to shutter his business for good.
Trailblazing in property management technology
With an academic background in business administration and accounting, and practical skills in computer programming, John joined Lik On Security Limited as a Director in 2004. It seems like he set foot in a radically different trade. But in fact, he used his business acumen, knowledge, and computer programming experience to set up a technical department, which led the transformation of the company from a traditional supplier of security and real estate management services to an innovative tech leader. “First off, I found that young people didn’t want to join the security industry, so that we were persistently short-handed. Secondly, we were serving large-scale housing estates, where it was impossible to patrol the grounds 24 hours a day manually. Thus, we started to develop tech-centric security solutions, using IP cameras for video analysis. It offers continuous protection for housing properties.”
“In recent years, with the advancement and rising popularity of technologies like artificial intelligence and image analysis, the application of technologies has become a major trend in the security industry.”
At present, Lik On’s business spans across smart home services and data centres, providing a wide array of technological applications and solutions, as well as offers property management and light current engineering services to its clients. When he joined the company, it had about 50 employees. It has now grown to more than 230 employees. The company also turned from making losses in the early years, to consistently generating healthy profits.
Thanks to his extensive knowledge and experience in the industry, John has unique insights on the development of the security sector and its manpower demand. Therefore, he was invited by his alma mater VTC to be a member of the Security Services Training Board. According to future trends of his sector, he provides professional advice to VTC and the industry. In addition, he also offers opinions on the development of VTC education programmes with respect to the formulation of strategies and the assurance of teaching quality. From the verge of almost dropping out of secondary school, to becoming a company director, John has achieved success despite taking a detour on his career path. He gave young people a piece of advice. “Find your own interest and develop a career based on it. It’s never too late to start something new and that shouldn’t be an excuse to give up. I am a vivid example – I wasn’t enlightened to study hard until I was 27. Although I started later than others, I still reached my goals as long as I worked hard and persevered till the end.”