Christopher Kong: How mid-career upskilling provided an avenue to success

How did a young student go from telling then-Prime Minister John Howard that he wanted his job to establishing himself as a leader in data transformation and advising hundreds of other professionals on how to craft their networks and professional acumen?

BCom and LLB (Hons) alum, Christopher Kong, is a Faculty of Business and Economics Enterprise Specialist. He is also the founder of Data Hero Network and has vast experience working in both Australia and China leading data transformation for some of the world’s best-known companies.

He is the winner of the 2019 Australia China Alumni Award for Corporate Achievement, presented by the Australian Ambassador to China, Graham Fletcher, and more recently, was named a 40 under 40 Most Influential Asian-Australian.

Christopher Kong
Mr Christopher Kong

But before all this, Christopher was a young university student, and recalls many foundational moments, including that awkward time with the Honourable John Howard. Mr Howard had just presented him with an Australian flag to represent Australia in the SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise, now Enactus) World Cup, after winning the SIFE Australia National Competition.

“When we met, he asked me what job I wanted in the future,” Christopher recalls. “After my mind went blank, I blurted out, ‘I want your job.”

While that declaration was mentioned in jest, that drive to achieve still exists. Christopher has a real passion for lifelong learning. He says he is a living, breathing example of why it is important.

“Even though my background was not in data analytics, I have been able to upskill along the way, and grow as this industry evolves,” he explains. “I am a true advocate of lifelong learning.”

He doesn’t say this lightly. For almost two decades, Christopher’s achievements in companies such as Cadbury, Nielsen and Danone have validated his choices to upskill in data. He has been able to harness the skills acquired to drive large-scale business transformations and success for each of these three global organisations.

We chat with Christopher to find out more about what motivates him and what his views on lifelong learning are.

You’ve worked in some of the world’s most recognisable brands, leading data transformation. Why do you enjoy working with data?

It’s simple. Data provides tangible impact. When working with data, we have the potential to make a real difference because data-driven insights inform business strategies, drive improvements in operations and can help solve societal challenges. For example, we previously launched data-empowered digital tools that have helped over 300,000 mothers to understand their babies’ health. In my experience, it has made what previously felt to be impossible… possible. Data also provides constant evolution & continuous learning. The field of data analysis is dynamic and ever-changing. New technologies, methodologies and challenges emerge regularly, ensuring that the work remains engaging and never stagnant.

You truly do enjoy learning and challenging yourself, then!

Yes. And in engaging with continued learning, you’re also future-proofing your career. By continually acquiring new skills, we ensure that we remain relevant and valuable in the face of automation, digitalization & other disruptive forces. I’ve done it by going back to school mid-career, such as when I was awarded the Hamer Scholarship in 2012 to study Mandarin full-time. I’ve also had the opportunity to sit on the other side of the table, co-delivering the Behavioural Economics Immersion Program in 2016, with professors from Yale School of Management.

And you now have yet another role to play in continuing education as an Enterprise Specialist at the Faculty of Business and Economics.

Yes, I am excited to be shaping the future of continuing and professional education at the Faculty of Business and Economics. It is invigorating to be collaborating with both the University of Melbourne and with industry leaders to contribute to thought leadership in this area. In sharing our collective expertise and influencing discussions, we are able to benefit public discourse on topics such as how data analytics can bring about business impact. I am thrilled to have a part to play in influencing some of our Melbourne MicroCerts.

Can you also tell us what can we expect when Universities work closely with industry leaders such as yourself?

I think you get the best of both worlds. Working with industry leaders allows the University to integrate practical & applied learning experiences into their programs, while not losing sight of the university’s rich history in pedagogy – that distinguished University of Melbourne brand of research and teaching. Students are then able to truly benefit from this combination of skills-based learning and a more hands-on experience, bridging the gap between theory & practice. This better prepares them for real-world challenges and enhances their employability.

And what makes a Melbourne MicroCert desirable?

Credentials and recognition are the immediate benefits that come to mind for me. You can’t replicate recognition from a reputable institution like the University of Melbourne, and that adds tremendous credibility to one’s skills and accomplishments. Then there is the networking and community building that comes from taking a Melbourne MicroCert. When you sign up for a Melbourne MicroCert, you’re not just gaining new skills. You’re also building relationships within your cohort and with instructors, which can lead to valuable professional networks. 100% of my roles over the past 20 years have originated, in one way or another, from networking. I am happy to connect with anyone out there on this point, as I believe there is an untapped opportunity to benefit from building meaningful connections that lead to win-win outcomes.

Looking to upskill? Develop Insights from the Online Customer Journey: Gain advanced knowledge of customer analytics with this 100% online Melbourne MicroCert. Upskill in 6 weeks. University of Melbourne alumni receive a 30% discount. Learn more.