Presenting and documenting facts are among the building blocks of modern society. Putting them together in a format everyone can access is one of the most understatedly useful and intricate skills one can learn.
Ken Yip Pak-ming and Cheng Wai-fung would know: they went to Anaheim, California, in the United States, over the summer for the Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) World Champions competition. And they brought home the gold.
The competition was first held in 2002, and challenges students aged 13-22 to demonstrate their skills in three Microsoft Office applications: Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
More than 560,000 students from 122 countries entered and 157 made it through to the finals, competing for up to US$7,000 in prize money in each category.
Chinese Foundation Secondary School student Wai-fung, 17, spent three months reading manuals and textbooks, testing and practising his Word skills for up to 10 hours a day. Even so, in the final he still came across some questions that he didn’t anticipate. “Some tasks were new [to me], I had to experiment on site.”
This is not the first time he was taking part in the World Champions competition; he entered the PowerPoint category in the same event last year, coming fourth. “The experience helped,” he says. “The question format was very simple: we would get an image of what they wanted [and we had to create that]. There weren’t even any complete sentences in the questions. I learned to be careful; with computers, right and wrong are only a single button away.”
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His experience not only helped him handle the questions, but it also motivated him to get a better result this year. “I didn’t feel nervous during the competition, I was focused on the tasks. It was before the start and during the prize presentation that I was nervous.”
Attention to detail and being careful are some of the most important qualities you can have when creating Word documents, Wai-fung says. “I didn’t have time to check my answers last year, but this year I checked carefully. There are many functions in Word which look similar, so you need to know the specifics.”
Of course the competition wasn’t his only focus; making new friends was important, too. “[Other competitors] were very friendly and from many different cultures. [They were] very gracious in defeat,” he says. “We still stay in touch on Facebook and over Discord [a chat program similar to Skype].”
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Ken, 16, of Buddhist Sin Tak College also showed the same attention to detail in his PowerPoint category, although he didn’t have the time to check over his answers. “They gave us a finished product and we had to recreate the six slides. We were graded first on accuracy, then on speed. I would rather be slow than wrong.”
With competitions, the upcoming DSE and his involvement in the Red Cross, Ken is a very busy student. “I don’t think it’s stressful doing something you like. There are no real tips to handle it all. Time management, prioritisation, and sleeping well are key.”
While he went to California alone (Welkin Systems Limited sponsored all the Hong Kong competitors), his friends and family were there with him in spirit. “The event was streamed live and I’m very touched and thankful that they would stay up till 2am or 3am to watch it.”
For anyone tempted to take on a challenge they’ve never tried,the advice he offers is simple: “Seize the chance to try new things. Take the initiative. Follow your interests.”