Rouse in Profile: Nigel Wong
Making things happen...
Nigel is a Consultant, focusing on technology venturing and IP strategy and commercialisation, in our Shanghai office.
While still a student at Sydney’s Macquarie University, studying for a degree in Applied Finance, Nigel got a job with the Commonwealth Bank. It had taken him only six months at university to decide that full-time study was not for him – he wanted something more hands-on, more practical. So, he got a job as as a bank teller and studied part-time during the evening. Not surprisingly, however, life as a teller didn’t satisfy him for long and he soon organised a transfer to Colonial First State, the Bank’s pension and investment fund. He loved the investment work he was doing there, but was soon frustrated with the inefficiencies of the systems they were using. So… he taught himself computer programming and devised a new one, which was subsequently rolled out across the whole business. Nigel was obviously one of those people who make things happen. He still is.
Largely because of the system he had devised, he found himself, at the age of 21, among eight out of 40,000 of the Bank’s employees selected for the CEO Best of the Best Award. Following this, he was offered a job as a senior analyst in an internal consulting team that was focusing on improving business processes. It proved to be an invaluable experience – but it was also great fun.
Nigel was born and raised in Sydney, Australia experiencing both country and city life throughout his childhood. He describes his parents as being very supportive, but also quite ‘hands-off’, which was very liberating. Nevertheless, he was well aware that they were working long hours and making sacrifices to give him a good education and he didn’t want to let them down. There was never much risk that he would - he was always “an easy going kid”, doing well both in school and on the sports field.
Although he was enjoying working with the internal consulting team at Colonial First State, he was soon beginning to look for something more and decided to take a year off to travel. That year turned into three years in Sweden, studying for a Masters degree in Intellectual Capital Management at Chalmers University. He realised that he wanted to undertake further study and his greatest interest was in innovation and finance. This Masters course was the most relevant, interesting and practical course he could find. It involved having smaller real-life and simulated project based workshops and classes held by people coming in from industry, e.g big companies such as Volvo and Ericsson, and IP firms, to teach whole modules, not just give the odd lecture.
The course turned out to be everything he had hoped for and more, with two very interesting internships, one in Tokyo with Mitsubishi Real Estate helping identify unutilized intellectual assets that could be leveraged and packaged to potential tenants; and the other at Gothenburg’s Innovation Office, helping scientists capture and generate revenue from their inventions.
At the time, both Rouse and Chalmers University were involved in the establishment of an IP centre within an innovation platform for entrepreneurs at Tsinghua University in Beijing called the X-Lab. One of the Professors told Nigel about an interesting opportunity that had arisen: Rouse was looking for an intern to help establish and build content for the IP centre. Nigel hadn’t been thinking of moving to China, but this seemed like an exciting opportunity, full of possibilities and when he was subsequently offered the position, he accepted with enthusiasm. Three and a half years later he is still there and still as enthusiastic as he was at the beginning.
But moving to China had its challenges. He realised even before he went that he would need to find a way of staying active and making friends. He’d done some cycling in Sweden and some of the first people he met in China were involved in triathlons. It was something Nigel had never thought of doing: he’d been sports captain at school, and good at most sports – but not at swimming.
Nevertheless, he started to think seriously about doing a triathlon and began training. Even though the first 100 metre swim during training left him gasping for air, he went to the pool every day to overcome his weakness and six weeks later completed his first Olympic distance triathlon. Since then, he has undertaken other triathlons and in October last year completed his first full Ironman, in Taiwan, coming seventh out of 120 in his age group.
He has also continued cycling, and more seriously than he ever did in Sweden - undertaking trips all over China. He has four bikes – and he has built all of them. One of his most adventurous trips to date has been through Tibet to Everest Base Camp – which he describes as “an amazing experience”. It involved eight days cycling over 700km, with 7,000m climbing (four of the passes are more than 4,700m altitude). None of it was easy, but Nigel remembers the last day as probably one of his toughest ever. “We got up at 4am and climbed 1000m in total darkness and icy rain, with cars passing and disappearing into the clouds. The first climb continued for 21km topping out at 5,100m altitude. Then we descended with frozen hands to just over 4000m altitude, before commencing the 42km steady climb to Everest base camp at just under 5000m altitude”. When the group got there (in a time that was unofficially the fastest by bike) Everest was completely shrouded by clouds – but that couldn’t dim the excitement or diminish the sense of achievement, not even the slightest bit.
It’s no wonder that Nigel has decided to constantly explore and push the boundaries with technology venturing and IP strategy in his professional life. If there’s a way to make it happen, he’s sure to find it.