Kenny Leung Pays It Forward with Hands-on Experience
When Kenny Leung '92EE graduated from NYU-Poly, he immediately enrolled in a masters program in computer science at Columbia University. It wasn't long, however, before he left to earn an MBA in finance from Pace University, while simultaneously picking up real-world experience working at a financial services company.
That turned out to be a wise decision.
After working as a software developer and technical lead for such Wall Street stalwarts as Citi and BNY Mellon, Leung founded Premium Technology, a software development and IT consulting firm that provides customized software and consulting services to global banks with operations in North and South America, Europe, and Asia. As the CEO and president of a growing company that actively recruits NYU-Poly students, Leung helps ensure that today's Poly students enjoy the same opportunity he did to combine classroom study with practical experience. Leung has provided internships and full-time employment for 10 NYU-Poly students.
Premium Technology builds financial supply chain (FSC) solutions: software tools that track, in real time, all of the financial transactions that take place between buyers and sellers. FSC software plays a major role in helping banks decide whether to provide financing to small and medium-sized suppliers that might not otherwise qualify for funding. As a result, it appeals to several major business players: the suppliers who receive the money they need to pump out their products; the buyers who can rely on a steady supply of goods; and the banks who can do more business while better managing their risks.
"We bring all the parties to a single platform: the bank, the buyer, the supplier," Leung explains. "It's an interesting business model; we do well when the economy goes down." And thanks to the European financial crisis, business is currently booming. "We have more than we can handle," Leung says.
Luckily, Premium has a pool of talented NYU-Poly interns who are eager to help out.
"Kenny's been a big supporter and a strong advocate for recruiting here at Poly," says James Sillcox, director of the career management center. The relationship benefits both sides: students acquire valuable real-world experience, while Premium gets skilled workers that it can groom for full-time positions.
"I'm very satisfied with their performance," Leung says. And despite his disarmingly modest take on the value of a position at Premium – "we always tell them this is a stepping stone; we expect them to find much better jobs" – the satisfaction appears to be mutual.
"It was very challenging, and a good experience," says Jason Tang '11CSE, a former intern who will start work on a PhD in computer science at the University of Texas at Dallas in August. Tang interned at Premium from February to May of 2011, troubleshooting the migration of a back-end database from one software platform to another – a task that gave him the opportunity to expand his technical skills, deepen his understanding of financial software, and learn how to collaborate effectively with others in a corporate workplace.
Sabina Yang '11CSE has reaped similar rewards.
"I didn't know anything about finance before I came to the company," says Yang, who started off as an intern and now works as an assistant systems administrator and tester in Premium's New York offices. (The firm designs its software in the US and outsources some of its coding to a Chinese subsidiary.) Fortunately, that wasn't a job requirement. In fact, says Leung, the most important qualifications aren't technical at all.
"They don't have to major in computer science, and they don't have to know the technology," Leung says of his Poly recruits. "What they need to learn at school is the process – the methodology of how to solve a problem."
Premium supplies the rest, training interns on the firm's proprietary software, teaching them the basics of financial supply chain management, and assigning each of them a supervisor. The benefits of that arrangement have not been lost on Yang.
"I spent one to two months just studying and learning from my manager," she says, adding that she feels extremely lucky to have landed her job. "Financial software is very useful, and lots of banks need it," she says. "It has a lot of potential for the future."
Leung's demurrals to the contrary, it's hard to imagine something better than that.