Chris Tang (Law, 1996)
Volunteer in the Spotlight: Chris Tang (Law, 1996)
'Volunteer in the Spotlight' is a regular feature which shares the stories of some of our alumni volunteers. This month is the turn of Chris Tang (Law, 1996), currently Director at Star Anise Limited in Hong Kong.
Chris is Chair of the Exeter Hong Kong Alumni Group (EHKAG), which is a volunteer alumni network group who give their time and expertise to support alumni through their whole Exeter journey – from prospective student through to welcoming all returning graduates in Hong Kong to get involved to support their university. EHKAG organise annual events, which include a social and employability theme. To connect with alumni in Hong Kong, for news and local event, please join the Facebook group for Alumni in Hong Kong.
We asked Chris a few questions about his experience of Exeter and as a volunteer.
Tell us about your career journey since graduation from the University of Exeter.
In football parlance, my career to date has been “a game of two halves”. The first half of my career followed the traditional qualified solicitor route. I trained with a Top 20 UK law firm, Irwin Mitchell, and qualified as a Corporate M&A lawyer, working on a mix of mergers and acquisitions, private equity investments and general corporate advisory work for the mid-market sector. The legal sector isn’t the easiest profession to enter or to succeed in, but I loved working in law firms, the cut and thrust of ‘doing deals’ and working with major companies and very smart, entrepreneurial business people.
Moves to 2 other major commercial law firms ensued (Geldards and Cobbetts, a firm which later merged with DWF), with a brief stint in between those firms working on an online retail startup. The experience of working on the startup gave me a real taste for entrepreneurship and not only improved me as a lawyer for my remaining legal career, but gave me the confidence for what eventually followed.
In 2009, during a holiday to Hong Kong, I experienced a seminal moment. Following a discussion with my sister (who was living and working in Hong Kong), I made the decision to move to Hong Kong to set up a legal recruitment business with her.
In early 2010, I moved to Hong Kong and did just that, Star Anise legal recruitment was born (www.staranise.com.hk). Whilst Hong Kong is the roots of my heritage, I was born and raised in the UK and had spent my entire career to that point in the UK. All my contacts and business relationships had been built in the UK and Europe. Arriving in Hong Kong, I had no contacts, no experience of working in the recruitment industry, and my Cantonese was so rusty after so many years working and not having to use it that I barely even had the confidence to order food in a restaurant! But I quickly immersed myself in the recruitment industry, researching and developing a client and candidate base, and built up my Cantonese language abilities. I’m now approaching my 8-year anniversary in this business which I co-founded, and I’m proud to say we have built it into one of the leading legal recruitment firms in Hong Kong with 10 employees, and continuing to grow.
What are your best memories from living and studying at Exeter?
There are many! On the academic side, the law lecture theatre in the Amory Building, the law library with fantastic library staff, and the wonderful lecturers and tutors that made reading law a joy. Of note were Bob Drury (company law), Bob Merkin (contract, insurance), Chantal Stebbings (who received rapturous applause at the end of her last lecture to our year), playing squash with, and being thoroughly beaten by, Mike Addo (public international law), and being mentored by Professor John Bridge, when I wrote a thesis on EU law.
One other inspiration to note was my personal tutor, Say Goo, who subsequently moved to Hong Kong University and is a senior professor of law there. I was so pleased to have a fellow Asian to mentor me, and for me to look up to. Thankfully, I was able to reconnect with Say when I moved to Hong Kong and I now count him as a very good personal friend.
And who can forget the Lemmy, The Sheep and The Ram bars, the pizza round the back of Cornwall House, the huge baps served at lunchtime in halls, the Cornish pasties, playing Sunday league football at Duckes Meadow, a very active student union, Jamiroquai and Blur playing at the Summer Balls, and the long, hazy days of the summer, driving down to the beaches in Devon? Just some memories, to name a few! None of these would have been so memorable had it not been for the lifelong friends I made, and with whom I’m still in touch to this day.
What inspired you to volunteer your time to help the University of Exeter?
Ironically, when I had been living and working in England, my only contact with the University was through an annual newsletter. I cannot recall how, but I discovered an active alumni network in Hong Kong and attended the events once I informed the university that I was now based here. During those events, I frequently ran into committee members and University staff, and whenever staff from the international offices visited Hong Kong, I met them and heard more about developments of the University and their aims to develop the alumni brand in Hong Kong. So whenever the opportunity arose, I would connect the international office with the business community in Hong Kong. Eventually I was asked to be officially involved in committee activities. At the end of 2017, I was very flattered to be invited to be Chair of the Hong Kong alumni committee, as the outgoing Chair, Alex Trott (Geography, 1997) was moving to Australia.
What do you enjoy most about your volunteering role?
Meeting fellow alumni of all ages who are working and living in Hong Kong. Just by knowing that we have studied at the same university creates an instant bond, and an overwhelming urge to swap stories of our respective times in Exeter! I’ve been highly impressed with the pedigree of students that the University continues to produce. There are so many young professionals working for great organisations, and many of the more experienced alumni are in senior roles with multi-national companies. This is truly testament to the University’s ability to develop and nurture leaders.
What advice would you give to other alumni interested in volunteering?
We are in a very fortunate position where the University has an active involvement in Hong Kong, in both the educational and business sectors. In addition, the University is fully supportive of the development of the alumni in Hong Kong. Our alumni members are key influencers in their industries and have so much enthusiasm to give back to the University.
By volunteering you will be part of this unique circle of talented professionals who offer time to mentor other alumni, provide donations to the University, or assist with introducing the University to potential partners in Asia, amongst other things.
Date: 18 January 2018