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THE INTERVIEW | WILLIAM ROSS: Listen with humility, be agile to grow, take the hidden value in failure

F.Y. Teng | July 3, 2013
A senior information executive shares essential lessons he's learnt in his 23-year career.

William Henry Ross, Motorola Mobility

Kicking off this new series, we run the expurgated version of our interview with the Asia-Pacific Director of IT at Motorola Mobility, William Ross. Even before Ross graduated from Howard University (Washington DC, the US) 23 years ago with a degree in International Finance, he was already working with Federal Express, where he simultaneously ran functions in field operations and other parts of the business. Not long after that he signed up with another household name, Motorola, where his financial training was put to good use. He held multiple roles during his time in the Finance division at Motorola, and was called upon to run a great number of programmes involving the electronics giant's many businesses across the world.

Then, in 1996, he experienced his moment of "conversion" to a new way of looking at IT, the IT division and the role of the senior information executive at the enterprise. Read on.

Talk about your career path, the roles you've taken on to date, and what you have learned? William Ross
It's been wonderful winding mixture of experiences and rewards functionally, geographical, and culturally. At my first job with Federal Express, for over 7 years I was more in field operations and other business areas in the US. It has been 23 years now since I started my career with Motorola in Finance. I did everything from being an international analyst to different treasury functions, to controller. This exposure allowed for me to look at multiple functional disciplines, process, and controls across the company enterprise.  

Then I moved into a role that was very exciting to me at the time, because it dealt more with leading cost management improvement efforts. That gave me direct experience for our core products but exposure to our international operations. As an outcome I obtained longer overseas work assignments and took some expat extended postings in Costa Rica, Ireland, and Taiwan.

I was then sent to China, where I spent four years - this was back in 1996. China was a conversion process for me in many ways- from a work perspective I was in finance, but also did some large scale program management, and it was not long after I was asked to lead an IT Centre of Excellence organisation. From a personal perspective I also experienced the uniqueness of China as I saw a country emerging from rudimentary SOE's (State Owned Enterprises) and migrant farmers to become one of the largest economies in the world. This was great to witness and also be a part of first-hand. This has formed an indelible imprint on me not only in conducting business but people and the environment in which they live.


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