Veleka Sweeting (Class of 2021)
Now or Never: Exploring new Paths
Have you ever had a moment in your life where you felt you were living on autopilot? Daily living taken over by our powerful intuitive brain system. We speak to Veleka Sweeting, a part-time MBA student who talks to us about powering off the autopilot, stepping out of her comfort zone, and exploring new paths through the MBA program.
HKU MBA: Let us start at the beginning of your journey. What brought you to Hong Kong from the Caribbean?
Veleka Sweeting: It is a long story but as you can imagine, growing up in The Bahamas, my entire world was heavily influenced by Caribbean culture, the United States and Canada. I had never travelled outside North America.
This changed when I moved to the US to attend university. In applying for scholarships, I was accepted into the University Honours Program with the condition that I select one of four critical languages to study – Russian, Japanese, Chinese or German. My love of Chinese food, specifically a childhood favourite of specialty combination fried rice with island spices, led me to select Mandarin Chinese. I did not know at the time, but this decision changed the trajectory of my life. I really enjoyed learning Mandarin and discovered that I was quite good at languages. I extended my Mandarin studies beyond the one year minimum and took more classes in Chinese subjects, soon fulfilling the requirements for a double major. Fulfilling these requirements then triggered another course requirement – study abroad. Traveling to Taiwan alone as a student was such an adventure. I was bit hard by the travel bug, and instantly fell in love with Asia. So-much-so that I knew I would be back again.
Fast forward many years after University, and working in the banking and financial services industry, when the Bank I worked for announced an expansion in Asia. After a competitive application process, and more than 10 years of multiple attempts, my dream of returning to Asia finally came true.
HKU MBA: After 15 years of service within the financial sector, I understand you are about to start a new journey. What motivated you?
Veleka Sweeting: 2020!! The unprecedented year of 2020 has completely disabled and frankly shattered all autopilot controls. Everything has changed so rapidly – from the way we socialise, communicate, study and entertain ourselves, that it pushes us back into driving mode to consciously navigate each twist and turn and change of the new world developing around us. I found myself asking the questions “Am I happy? Am I growing? Am I realizing my true potential?”
Working in the financial services sector, specifically for prestigious global corporations, has provided a tremendous amount of opportunities, growth and exposure. I am fortunate to have had a great career working for brilliant companies. It was an extremely difficult decision, but I chose to take a gap year.
I realized that I was consumed with my work and became disconnected with the outside world. So much had happened in 2020, there was no way I could have moved forward with my life in the same way. I wanted to take time to digest all that had happened, reset my GPS and genuinely figure out the next path, the right path to live a happy and fulfilling life. It is like an internal road map that guides your decision making.
Being a part of the HKU MBA program has been a tremendous growth experience and truly re-ignited my passion for learning and personal development. By taking all the different HKU courses, I realised I wanted to invest more time in my own development to explore even more topics. The faculty and support team are amazing and helpful. From career coaches such as Nerice Gietel who specialize in career transformations, to accomplished faculty with an abundance of knowledge, and wisdom that they freely shared throughout the program. Through the HKU MBA program I have been exposed to new concepts, theories, and technologies, particularly within the field of data analytics. The electives are very intriguing and are building upon my solid foundation from my bachelor’s degree in computer science. The MBA programme has also allowed me to re-discover programming in the modern context.
HKU MBA: People say that this is not the right time to start an MBA. How did you convince yourself to make such a big life decision?
Veleka Sweeting: I felt it was the right time to take a risk as I didn’t have any personal commitments, liabilities or duties. Sometimes we need to step back to prepare for the next step forward. I wanted the time and space to take my skill sets and my leadership to another level.
The pandemic was a strong reminder to not take anything for granted. I decided that it was now or never. I am treating this time as a “gap-year” to learn, grow, experiment and explore new paths with openness and curiosity.
HKU MBA: Can you share with us your real passions and what your next steps look like?
Veleka Sweeting: My passion is and will always be talent and leadership development and personal growth. I am a lifelong learner and have spent my career designing, developing, and implementing countless talent development strategies, programs, and initiatives to help others optimize their performance and realize their potential.
For next steps, I am exploring several new skills such as project management, python programming, data analytics and entrepreneurship. Additionally, I am leveraging my extensive experience as a talent development professional and instructional designer to explore creative and innovative ways to integrate e-learning and virtual technology to enhance the learning experience.
I am hoping to spend the second half of 2021 in either mainland China or Taiwan as part of an intensive Chinese language programme. After which, I would love to expand my facilitation to include development sessions in Mandarin, with the hope that this will make the educational programmes more impactful.
So as I bid farewell to autopilot, I take my place in the driver’s seat with passion and purpose, fully embracing the uncertainty and adventure ahead