Find a way, make a way. When facing challenges, Brad Kirk says he always comes back to this saying in tough times.
As a leader in the hotel industry, Brad has successfully navigated crises including the overthrow of the Indonesian Suharto government in 1998, the 2002 Bali bombings, and the 2019 protests in Hong Kong. Today, during the COVID-19 crisis, he continues to ‘find a way, make a way’ by leading his teams with focus and a steady hand and keeping his guests and employees safe.
“Teams look to their leaders to give them hope and the spirit to fight another day in what they perceive as insurmountable odds,” says the Hong Kong-based Chief Operating Officer of the Harilela Hotels Group. “We must tackle our challenges together. Very few things get accomplished out of fear except the ability to run away, and that’s not how you tackle a problem. You have to run towards it.”
It is this exemplary leadership that has catapulted Brad—a BCIT Hotel and Tourism Management alumnus and 2017 BCIT Distinguished Alumni Award recipient—to success in the ultra-competitive hotel business in Asia. It is also why the BCIT Alumni Association is proud to announce Brad as the new alumni ambassador for its Hong Kong chapter.
“We are pleased to welcome Brad as our new alumni ambassador in Hong Kong,” says BCIT Alumni Association President Emil Bosnjak. “Building on the good work the alumni association has already begun in the region, Brad will help BCIT and the BCIT Alumni Association identify opportunities and gain traction for alumni engagement and wider institutional activities.”
From serving points to high-end hospitality
When Brad was 12 years old, he was besotted with tennis. He dreamed of being the next Bjorn Borg or Stan Smith. His parents, though supportive, suggested he might want to have a fallback plan.
“They said, because you love pleasing people so much, maybe the hospitality business is good for you,” he recalls. “There’s a school called BCIT where you can learn all of this.”
When Brad was 13, he attended an open house at BCIT, and he found a new career. After high school, he graduated from the Hotel and Tourism Management program, trading in serving points on the court to serving up hospitality in hotels.
“Right after graduation, I started out working in Vancouver, first at the Georgian Towers, which is now closed, and then at Denman Place,” Brad says about his early career. He says the intensity of the BCIT program gave him a work ethic that was the foundation for his success in the business, first in Vancouver and then overseas in Asia for some of the world’s best hotels.
Before moving to Hong Kong in 1988, Brad had heard from friends that the hotel business in the region was exciting. He planned to stay for just a couple of years. Still energized by the vast opportunities of the region, he has yet to leave.
“Hong Kong is an amazing place to work,” Brad says. “If you work hard and smart, you can truly make great things happen.”
BCIT grads are poised to make a big impact in Asia
Rubbing elbows with colleagues who have degrees from Ivy League schools, Brad says his BCIT education didn’t just help him hold his own, it gave him an advantage, arming him with tangible skills that enabled him to hit the ground running upon graduation and then to climb the ranks in the hotel industry in Asia.
“I’m excited to be the Hong Kong ambassador for the BCIT Alumni Association,” says Brad, who is taking over the role from BCIT alumnus Darren Plested, whose career has moved him back to Canada. “BCIT offers amazing programs. I’m looking forward to helping to increase the awareness of BCIT as a great school that produces industry-ready graduates who have tangible skillsets and can keep up with the breakneck speed of business in Asia.”
Launched in January 2019, the BCIT Alumni – Hong Kong Chapter is the BCIT Alumni Association’s first international chapter, connecting alumni and supporting BCIT’s extensive activities in the region. Learn more about the Hong Kong chapter.