How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I come from a middle class and your average Malaysian family. Being the youngest member with an older brother and sister, I looked up to my parents and learnt from them that the most important trait in life is responsibility. It was a virtue my parents instilled in us all, and often emphasised to us that, to become successful, one needs to be a leader (and not a follower). That’s why throughout my schooling years, I made it a point to be involved in school clubs and extra-curriculum activities to hone my leadership skills so that they would become natural and instinctive when I joined the working world.
At 20 years old, I joined the working world with my first role being an account manager for a solutions provider in Petaling Jaya. Even at that age, I knew that my career would centre around the technology industry due to my passion for what technology could do to create a better world for us. However, it was not an easy ride in the early years. The early-2000 dotcom bubble had burst at that time, and people were beginning to wonder whether technology was just “hype”. It was indeed a “baptism of fire” as the working world can be intimidating compared to school.
In the early years, I also got badly burnt by trusting a wrong party that almost ruined my career. That said, my biggest learning then was: “For every mistake made, learn from the important lesson and do not make the same mistake again”.
Having gone through these challenges in my early years, I learnt the importance of being “street-wise” within the technology industry and the value of innovation to make organisations more productive and operationally efficient.
Years later, I made the transition to IBM where I was country lead for Cambodia and Brunei. To be truly successful in technology, one needs to broaden the scope beyond Malaysia and my exposure to both these countries taught me valuable lessons about “glocalisation” (global-localisation). Essentially, it is about the value technology brings to various countries, coupled with an appreciation for cultures and different work styles. This also entails different leadership styles – but with the same principles – when addressing internal teams and customers from various countries.
At F-Secure, I oversee quite a number of countries throughout Asia-Pacific, while also reporting back to our corporate headquarters in Helsinki, Finland. That’s a lot of cultures and work styles to oversee. However, the message is the same: Cyberthreats are and will continue to be on the rise in the digital economy, which is why organisations should always stay ahead of hackers and protect its data and interest with the best cybersecurity solutions. The best cybersecurity solutions are, of course, from F-Secure.
What traits do you look for in your talent or how do you decide who is right for a job?
Mainly communications skillset, attitude and whether they would be the right fit for the role. Talent that stand out are people with vision – and who are aggressive. When I say aggressive, I mean in a positive way and to take charge of situations. It’s better to “jump first, and ask for forgiveness later” (if things go wrong) than to await feedback and consensus which could result in lost opportunities. In other words, seize the day and do not be afraid to take risks.
I also value people who are not afraid to lose their jobs, although they are a rare breed. This shows that they are confident in themselves and their abilities, as opposed to insecure people who depend on playing office politics to survive in the workplace.
How do you think the industry you are in will evolve in the future?
With more and more companies coming online, so too would the risks of cyberthreats as these companies make the transition from “brick and mortar” to “click and mortar”. The threat landscape of today has evolved significantly from what it was in the early days. No longer are there only little geeks running around developing script that force your computers to merely display bouncing balls. The geeks have evolved into real criminals, and naturally, to avoid becoming at their mercy, organisations must always stay a few steps ahead of them.
On that note, I would say that ransomware is on the rise such as the WannaCry ramsomware attack that took place in 2017. Even Malaysian firms were not spared. How ransomware works is basically through blackmail. Cyber criminals design and flood the world with programmes meant to lock users out of one of their key resources – data – then proceed to extort them for money in exchange for freeing those resources.
Education is key to counter cyberthreats. An ideal approach can be boiled down to four words: Predict, prevent, detect and respond. This four-phase approach also means that, even if a threat does manage to bypass protective measures, all is not lost. The affected device can still be identified and isolated, so that the damage can be contained.
What advice can you offer those looking to start their career/own business?
Always believe in yourself, your abilities and do not ever let others shake your confidence. Also work smart, and evolve with the industry you are in. Also, build your professional network and be prepared to help others, so that others will be prepared to help you in your time of need.
We all know about the industrial revolution, are we in for a technological revolution? Your though.
Most definitely. The term “disruptive technologies” is something that has been gaining headway in recent years. Yet in essence it is not something new at all. The term is simply coined to encompass new technology, or ways of using technologies that are replacing old ways.
For many businesses, there is the fear that traditional business models would be rendered obsolete. For others, disruptive technology is seen as a possibility for a competitive advantage to those who embrace it. And one of the most common denominators in either of these lines of thinking today is the same – cybersecurity.
When organisations originally thought “digital”, the meaning was to use technology to automate and create greater efficiencies so as to maintain a competitive advantage. Today, digital means reaching out to customers digitally in so many ways. In this light, companies and other organisations should constantly seek for managed security services and cloud-based delivery to help them maintain control of their security.
What do you want to accomplish in the next five years?
Firstly would be to continue building awareness of the importance of cybersecurity knowledge throughout Malaysia and the Asia-Pacific region. Secondly would be to continue sharing my knowledge with students at various universities so that Malaysia would one day emerge as a regional cybersecurity hub. Finally, it would be to bring F-Secure to the next level of growth and relevance throughout the region.
Best piece of advice you ever got on your career.
What my parents taught me: Don’t be a follower if you want to be successful. Be a leader yourself and inspire others with your creativity and strengths.
How do you stay abreast of issues affecting your industry?
Constant communication with industry people, and being in touch with cybersecurity researchers from time to time.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced? What did you learn from it?
When I joined F-Secure in 2015. I had to adapt to the Finnish culture, but in the months that followed, I began to appreciate it greatly as they have a unique way of getting things done. That first year also took its toll on my body as I was constantly travelling across different time zones: From Finland to the various Asia-Pacific countries. I struggled with work-life balance as I was on flights every week or fortnight, and deeply missed my family and loved ones.
What was the most outlandish business proposal you have ever heard of?
There was a cheeky customer who wanted to switch his entire platform to our solutions. However, he said payment would only be made after five years – and after the contract had ended.
What man-made innovation confounds you? Why?
The smartphone. During my school days back in 1997, I had a chat with few of my friends that, with such a device, we would be able to surf the internet, check emails, listen to radio/songs (MP3 had just started that time), and that it would be replace the PC. The adults laughed at us and said we were dreaming. Today the smartphone is used to make payments and do online banking, watch movies and play games.
Malaysia’s greatest brand.
Petronas, which is ranked among the largest corporations on Fortune Global 500.
What are the top three factors you would attribute your success to?
Patience, good communications and building trust. Of the three, building trust is the most important in the business world.