Asia is a continent of contrasts, with huge variations in business environments, maturity of economies, values and cultures across nearly 50 countries. This diversity extends to how business is conducted, and for companies looking to expand and capitalize on the growth of Asian economies, a multifaceted strategy and understanding is necessary for businesses to flourish.
Technology leaders at Xandr share the experiences and lessons throughout their lives that have shaped their approach in thinking and decision-making – helping them to excel in their careers and keep their teams and clients ahead.
A global mindset keeps things in perspective
Laura Harricks, associate director at Xandr, says: “The importance of communication and working with people from different backgrounds and cultures has always been of interest to me. This interest led me to pursue a master of management at the University of Sydney. Through my coursework, I learned how listening and understanding are crucial to effective communication and to managing both individuals and teams.”
Drawing on his own experience as a second-generation Australian, Sam Tan, senior director of market development at Xandr APAC, recalls: “Growing up, I got to see the stark contrast in opportunities available to my close relatives, who I visited regularly in Malaysia, and my school friends in the suburbs of Brisbane, Australia. This contrast in environments compelled me to question and try to change the systemic barriers for opportunities I saw around me, and in parallel pushed me to ask myself more fundamental questions about self-determination. I will always believe that others can achieve similar or better results if they are given the opportunity and are willing to put in the effort.”
Kevin Chia, associate director of sales operations at Xandr, also sheds light on his experience growing up in a culturally diverse environment. “I was born and raised in Singapore. The exposure of growing up and living in a highly cosmopolitan and multiracial society meant that most Singaporeans are well-traveled or have had experience with different cultures.
“I believe those factors helped me to foster a global mindset from a young age and made me aspire toward living and working in a globalized economy. I was also fortunate enough to be born before the dot-com boom and experience the pace of accelerated technological growth, which made me attuned to the cultural and generational differences that are important attributes for people doing business in the region today.”
Trust and communication are the foundations for success
Chia continues: “Growing up with strict parents, I learned that with trust I got cut additional slack! The same applies now working with clients in customer success, and I think this is something universal that transcends borders and cultures, especially in such a diverse region.
“Having a customer’s trust – when they believe that our teams understand and are looking out for their interests – allows us to be able to influence their approach for the best outcome, and during difficult situations enables us to resolve issues quickly. While trust is hard to earn, it is easy to lose, and as a guiding principle we should never betray a customer’s trust.”
Harricks says a quote that stuck out for her while studying for her master of management is one by George Bernard Shaw: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Harricks says: “I’ve found this to be true in so many aspects of our lives – whether it is at work, with family or with friends. One party can believe that they have communicated their point clearly and effectively, yet the other party could have completely missed the point. This happens frequently and can occur in verbal or written communication. I’ve learned that some people may believe that they are being direct and succinct, whereas others can interpret it as vague or open to interpretation, or regard it as rude and abrupt. Differences in culture can play a role here.
“This quote reminds me that, for effective communication, it’s important to take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of the recipient and ask yourself, ‘Is what I am trying to communicate objectively clear, or I am asking them to make any assumptions or to read between the lines?’”
Learning by teaching
Thinking strategically to avoid unintended outcomes helps Shilpa Kolte, senior account director at Xandr, to plan ahead. “I studied chemical engineering and my early experience in process engineering in a pharmaceutical manufacturing business has made process design second nature. Having scaled chemical processes from a test set-up to a full-scale manufacturing set-up, I always look at how to do activities at scale, and how to design and iterate tasks with a small test group that can be replicated to a much larger client base quickly and efficiently.
“The same experience of working in pharmaceuticals also placed a huge premium on safety as I dealt with dangerous chemicals. It was my job to make sure my designs could not inadvertently cause any mishaps, and if there was even a minute possibility, I had remedial procedures ready. This also allows me to think about what can go wrong. I may sound pessimistic at times due to this habit, but I believe being prepared for the worst isn’t a bad thing at all.”
Chia adds: “At Xandr, our values and culture run deep and that is something that I’ve come to love. In this fast-paced and ever-changing world of adtech, I believe that one can learn something from everyone. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work among the brightest minds, which have inspired me to pay it forward and to empower new employees and even customers.”
Slow and steady wins the race
Tan has always followed the mantra: ‘The hard things done right are the right things.’ He says: “I think, fundamentally, we are often drawn to things we are great at, or come to us easily. This is often a great way to orientate yourself as a young person. Most young people are looking to demonstrate value as quickly as possible, but if we fall into the trap of using that to guide all of our decisions, we can find ourselves not adding much value or adding value that is highly commoditized.
“Finding the hard things that we can be great at often leads to the most differentiated value either as an individual contributor or in a corporate partnership. This is a great barometer for relationships that are sticky and create leverage for both parties. The double edge to this ideal is picking the wrong thing or doing the hard thing in an unsustainable way, but for me that is a preferable problem to solve than doing something that everyone else can do.”
Similarly, Kolte believes there is no easy way to achievement. “My father always taught me there are no shortcuts to success. There is a path to get somewhere – it may not be easy, but you have to pursue it relentlessly to get to the destination. You have to invest the appropriate effort early on and you will taste the rewards for a long time based on the efforts you took.”