Roll up your sleeves, don’t be afraid to get them dirty
IN this week’s Success: The Insight Story column, SunBiz talks to Red Hat Malaysia country manager Tammy Tan (pix).
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Coming from a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics background, I’ve always taken an interest in areas involving technology. I’ve always held the belief that technology can be the enabler in changing people’s lives, especially in a hyper growth region like Southeast Asia that is mobile-first.
Being one of the few female engineers working at a data centre at the start of my career, there were occasions when I was given the opportunity to prove to myself and my team that gender doesn’t matter. I am blessed to have had forward-thinking managers and mentors throughout my 20-plus years, who have always pushed me beyond what I believe I am capable of.
Having said that, I believe diversity of perspectives is an enabler for greater inclusivity and success. Our people are our greatest asset. We must learn to empower our teams, communicate our expectations, and help them with the right resources. We should be honest with our feedback, but also not be afraid to recalibrate and change when change is needed.
These are my key principles so we are able to grow together. We have to do what is right for our customers, our partners, and our people. When they are successful, we will be too.
What traits do you look for in your talent or how do you decide who is right for a job?
As a tech organisation, we are always on the lookout for candidates who have the right skills that can help us unlock further potential in the open source world. In the tech world, things change fast, and there is always room for those with different talents.
Red Hat is a technology company, but we also hire for a number of tech-adjacent roles. For example, in sales, marketing, operations, and other support functions. Sometimes it is about having the right mindset or attitude, along with the technical attributes. Perhaps a candidate may not necessarily be a technical expert yet, but these are qualities we can cultivate as well. Diverse experiences and perspectives from other backgrounds are very much something we welcome.
Red Hat values those who share the same goal and vision on what we are doing, which is to help enterprises evolve in a digital world. We build our culture based on meritocracy and transparency as we want everyone to feel comfortable to contribute to innovation.
How do you think the industry you are in will evolve?
Looking at the speed of how enterprise open source software is growing around the world, we have seen more organisations moving from proprietary software to open source as they navigate through disruptions that increasingly involve more data and complexity.
Right now, edge computing is the buzzword you’ll often hear in the tech community, which is especially relevant to our telcos following the 5G rollout. Scaling 5G with edge computing will bring upon many possibilities in terms of speed, efficiency, and reliability. While it is still an emerging concept in our country, I believe it will gradually become a mainstream system utilised by more and more businesses, not just with 5G, but also with businesses who are adopting hybrid cloud and automation.
Banks are becoming more nimble and transforming to be more like fintech, while non-traditional players are now getting into the financial services space. Every industry is criss-crossing and expanding beyond their core business. Hence the need for open API, open banking, and hybrid open cloud and to connect the dots and move the industry forward.
We all know about the industrial revolution, are we in for a technological revolution? Your thoughts?
We are already in the middle of a technological revolution! This can be clearly seen in Malaysia, specifically in the telco, banking and retail industries following the rollout of 5G, the MYDigital plan, and recent announcement of the digital banking license winners.
At Red Hat Malaysia, we partner with customers in the banking, energy, and public sectors such as Ambank, Alliance Bank, Bursa, and Tenaga Nasional. As these organisations embark on their digital transformation journey, Red Hat and our business partners collaborate with them closely at every step – from infrastructure, improving customer experience, innovating faster, or adapting to ongoing changes.
What do you want to accomplish in the next five years?
Joining Red Hat with fresh perspectives and new ideas, I aspire to continue affirming Red Hat’s presence as the open source leader in Malaysia, and to grow with our customers in a sustainable and responsible way. From my first few months of joining, it’s been both humbling and inspiring to hear how much customers value our support of digital transformation. And the way they endorse open source communities and the value it brings due to its reflexive and community-focused aspects.
I hope to collaborate more closely with our government and our education sectors to further support our customers through open source as they embark on business transformation. Perkeso is just one example of what’s possible and how open source can make government services more accessible.
I also aim to bring a perspective as someone who has experienced firsthand, as an engineer then a team leader, all the challenges and successes of working with enterprise technology. Together with my team, I want to focus on longevity and also giving them the platform to grow.
Best piece of advice you ever received on your career.
“Never be afraid to roll up your sleeves and get your sleeves dirty.” When we work in the tech industry, it’s inevitable that sometimes when you upgrade a product, or roll out a system, things may go wrong once in a while. I have definitely been on the receiving end of calls at nighttime or weekends when a go-live may not have run as planned, and we have to respond quickly and solve the problem.
In those times, it’s important to keep a cool head, and remember that even if you don’t know the answer, you know what you have built, and that there are team members you can work with to help figure out the solution.
How do you stay abreast of issues affecting your industry?
I tune in to business radio whenever I can, especially when I am driving on the road. It’s part research from keeping up with local news and newspapers. I also keep a close relationship with our customers and partners, who are our key eyes and ears on the ground. Sometimes nothing ever beats talking to your customers to understand the pain points, and how to solve them together.
If you could have an hour with any thought leader in the world, who would it be and why?
Jacinda Ardern. She has redefined what it means to be a female leader as well as a mother, while having the ability to lead with strong principles and conviction. She brings her authentic self to work in the best way possible and is able to canvass diverse opinions to drive meaningful change.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced, and what did you learn from it?
The biggest challenge recently was making the leap of faith to take a country director role for the first time in my career, while making sure that my family and children are not impacted as I always believe we cannot exchange time with money. I won’t lie, sometimes it is hectic and a lot to handle. But keeping open conversations with my family and my team helps keep things in balance. It is also important to keep perspective.
I remind myself every day that I am a mum and wife first. I need to take care of my well-being; only then am I able to do well in my career.
What man -made innovation confounds you? Why?
I wouldn’t say it confounds me, but the emergence of platforms like TikTok and the way that content travels nowadays is really interesting. It’s kind of a miniature for how quickly technology has evolved in general as we moved from analog (corded phones) to digital (mobile) to almost omnipresent (5G, wireless tech, HD streaming).
Putting the power of video into people’s pockets in this way no doubt changes their expectations for how content and products should be “always on”, meaning that they expect a seamless, personalised and immediate experience. Which is again where cloud technology has a big part to play.
How do you expect policies on climate change to impact businesses?
As global warming continues to accelerate, I foresee that more policies will be put in place to decarbonise operations and we’ll see a shift as businesses have to adopt new environmental practices. Organisations will have to be ready to relook at every aspect of their business from production to packaging, which can help combat climate change in the long term. Cloud technologies will make this collaboration and eventual shift more seamless and efficient.
During the pandemic, Red Hat launched a sustainability-at-home information resource, which was a platform for our employees to share ideas on how to stay healthy, reduce costs, and fight climate change. We also founded a new associate-led internal community to support development and implementation of sustainability targets and initiatives, both operationally and across core business activities.
As the saying goes, climate change is a collective problem that needs collective action. Hence, we will need collective effort from individuals and organisations across the globe to combat it together. That’s our responsibility as stewards of the earth today and for generations in the future.