“The opportunities in Hong Kong are vast,” says Darren Plested, BCIT engineering technology alumnus. “The economic river flows fast and heavy, so it’s not that hard to dip your cup in the water.”
Darren should know. As the head of Business Development and Innovation at automaker Infiniti (a division of Nissan), he manages the Global Accelerator Program. Essentially, he looks for promising opportunities every day. Together with the 40-member joint investment team of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, he identifies opportunities to partner with and invest in the start-up community. Focused on accelerating the growth of these companies and their innovations, the alliance provides everything from subject-matter expertise to seed funding.
Recently, the alliance invested in a Montreal-based company called Transit, an aggregator of multiple mobility services. “If you want to take a trip from A to B, the Transit app allows you to plan, book, and pay for your trip all in one place. For example, if you want to start your trip on a bike, then move to Uber, and then take a scooter, you can plan it all with this app. It’s now in 45 cities globally and gaining traction.”
Accelerating innovations in fast-paced Hong Kong energizes Darren, who has been building a successful and fulfilling career there over the past 18 years. It’s hard to believe he had initially fought moving to Hong Kong at all.
Unsure about Hong Kong
“I came to Hong Kong kicking and screaming,” laughs Darren, who says his Hong Kong-born girlfriend (now his wife) initiated the move to the region. At that time, he had recently earned his BCIT credential and was working as a commodity trader for Taiga Forest, who had recruited him before graduation. “Things in Canada were going well for me. But I said, ‘Okay, I’ll give Hong Kong two years, max’.”
When he arrived in Hong Kong, the tragic events of 9/11 had occurred a few months earlier and job prospects weren’t plentiful. Even still, with the very marketable and versatile skills he gained through BCIT, Darren landed a job with Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminal where he worked on a business plan to help develop an aerospace logistics centre of excellence. He then moved to logistics giant DHL, starting as a regional customer manager for its aerospace division and working his way up to vice president of business development in Asia. After that, he took on the role of senior client partner leading the supply chain sector in Asia for executive search consultant Korn Ferry before joining Infiniti.
Whether he’s working in business development, recruitment, or corporate venture capital, one thing is clear: Darren is great at finding opportunities. And in the highly competitive Hong Kong region—where people are known to ‘walk fast, eat fast, speak fast, and live fast’—being able to act quickly on those opportunities is key.
“Everything in Hong Kong is hyper speed,” he says. “It’s an electric environment. If you’re the kind of person who likes electricity, you’re going to like Hong Kong.”
The high-speed pace of life in Hong Kong may seem daunting at first, but Darren says BCIT gave him the ability to move his way up very quickly: “Without question, the strenuousness of my BCIT education sets me up for what real-world, rapid-fire speed looks like.” The fact that he speaks what he jokingly calls ‘taxi Chinese’ (just enough to hire a cab) hasn’t affected his upward mobility either.
He feels BCIT grads are uniquely positioned to succeed in Hong Kong, where explosive growth markets offer vast opportunities. That’s why he has taken on the role of ambassador for BCIT Alumni Association’s first international chapter in Hong Kong. Launched in early 2019 as part of the association’s 40th anniversary year, the Hong Kong chapter will connect alumni and support BCIT’s extensive international activities in the region, including China and Vietnam.
“I want to do something good for a school that’s done a lot of good for me,” says Darren, who is keen to connect BCIT alumni working in Hong Kong and help the BCIT Alumni Association support their career growth.
He’s also looking forward to helping BCIT expand its curriculum to the Asian market to engage new learners.
“There’s a great opportunity to spread the word about BCIT in Asia,” he explains. “When you think about what BCIT is trying to do—it has a fantastic platform and curriculum. If BCIT wants to expand that, it has the right curriculum for the Asian market in areas like health care, technology, and aerospace services. There is a massive market that is hungry for learning in Asia and BCIT has the right tools for that platform.”
With two daughters of his own, Darren has been eyeing post-secondary options for his children. True to his exuberance for BCIT, he says, “I have already discussed it with my kids, and there is a 99 per cent probability that they will return to Canada for post-secondary. And if they choose BCIT, I would be over the moon!”
Find out more about BCIT Alumni Association’s Hong Kong chapter.
Save the Date
Join Darren and Hong Kong-based alumni from BCIT, SFU, UBC and UVic at this upcoming reception:
Event: BCIT, SFU, UBC & UVic Alumni Wine & Cheese
Date: Tuesday, May 28 (time TBA)
Place: c/o INFINITI MOTOR COMPANY LTD., 20/F, California Tower, 30 D’Aguilar St, Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong
Visit the BCIT calendar for more information about this event.