Although he is a leader of business-to-business marketing of high-tech products, Kenneth Leung, MBA ’89, likes to remain grounded in the human side of life. That includes exploring different types of food.
“I think what we eat is probably the easiest way to learn about cultures,” said Leung, Oracle’s director of Marketing, Database and Infrastructure. “I just find it a fascinating reflection of who we are and what we do. There's always a favorite food you want to eat, but it's also important to explore new things.”
That spirit of exploration can be applied to many aspects of life, including business – a perspective that Leung will share with UCR students as a 2022-23 Executive Fellow for the School of Business.
Leung recognizes the disruption of the pandemic era has changed a lot of the expectations for business students today. But some things remain constant, he said.
“We were extremely isolated physically for the past two years, and yet we were still very much connected through technology,” he said. “But don't let technology replace your interpersonal skills. I know there are people who say, ‘I'll never leave my house again, everything will be delivered, I'll work remotely and that's it.’ You’re missing out on a lot of experiences when you decide that. The people you work with, socializing with them, dealing with conflicts, that is part of life.”
A path to business
Leung’s willingness to explore is one of the reasons he ended up working in technology marketing.
Growing up in Hong Kong, he applied for colleges in the United States and found the right fit at UC Riverside. While pursuing his undergraduate degree, he applied his interest in computer science to work part-time as technical support for the School of Business, including supporting staff and professors in the A. Gary Anderson Graduate School of Management.
“When it was time for me to graduate, they asked, ‘By the way, are you thinking about going to grad school?’” Leung recalled. “And then they said, ‘Well, you already know what our MBA program is like – you spend your time interacting with the faculty already.”
And so, Leung continued working at the computer lab as he pursued an MBA in marketing. His career has taken him to marketing leadership roles at IBM, Cisco Systems and Avaya, to his present role at Oracle.
Along the way, he has observed many changes in the technology field. But like the need for human interaction, many aspects remain constant, he said.
“Technology became much more portable and ubiquitous,” Leung said. “It used to be that most students didn't have computers. You had to go to the computer lab to work on your thesis. Now everybody can write their papers on their phone and dictate it if they want to – spelling errors aside.”
At the same time, he said, there remains an important role for creativity and connectivity.
“Your iPhone is smart, but try working your iPhone without an internet connection,” he said. “You’ll discover it's not really that smart, everything really connects to the cloud. Well, 40 years ago, it was called a mainframe. You know, it's the same thing. Everybody has to connect to something or someone to get things done”
Human connectivity also is important
Part of the reason Leung will be serving as an Executive Fellow is the importance he places on the exchange of ideas.
“People have helped me throughout my career in terms of sharing knowledge. And so, I think it’s important to give back,” he said. “It's also important to be open to new ideas because nobody knows everything. Even today, when you can Google everything to an extent, we all operate day-to-day from our core knowledge in our head, not necessarily what Google tells us. At least I certainly hope so.”
Give-and-take, accepting feedback, sharing ideas – these all are essential in business as well as in life, he said.
“I think that's important, otherwise life gets very closeted, very fast,” he said. “I think if you are just doing the same thing, eating the same food, reading the same thing, life becomes too much of an echo chamber.”