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Inheritance, Esprit de Corps, Collaboration

F.Y. Teng | Nov. 4, 2010
Ciscos MD for Singapore and Brunei Irving Tan on the value of job experience, team building and tapping mature markets.

Irving Tan, who became Managing Director of Singapore and Brunei for global networking vendor Cisco officially this year on February 25, here shares with us his thoughts on driving his companys business growth in this part of the world.

Computerworld Singapore: What advantages and challenges did you inherit when you took on the MD job here at Cisco?
Irving Tan:
Thats a simple question with a long answer...I think the advantage is I inherited a very interesting mix of individuals for my team. I had some fairly experienced managers who had been with the company for 8, 10, 12 years, and a set of managers who were fairly new into their roles. And that mix of experience and enthusiasm has really been helpful in driving our business this year.

It has really helped us exceed our expectations for the year. The more experienced ones have been good mentors to the new managers. And the new managers brought in a lot of enthusiasm and willingness to challenge the establishment, and try out new ideas. That mix has been very helpful.

What Ive done is really focus on enabling them to express themselves: encouraging the new managers to be bolder and more outspoken; and getting the more experienced managers to help me guide the new people as we develop the business. That was one of the great things I inherited.

With regards to the challenges, I would say that one of the biggest challenges weve inherited is the macro-economic management aspect of things. Half of our financial year was in 2009we were still in the troughs of the financial downturn then. But we actually did fairly well because Singapore went into the downturn. We were probably one of the earliest countries to go into the downturn, and along with that we were one of the earliest to see the recovery.

I think what we did well was when we were in the midst of the downturn, we actually did a lot of planning and put a lot of investment in to preparing for the upturn, not only as a country organisationas in the Singapore officebut the corporation as a whole. So during the downturn when you saw most corporations, or even some of our peers, announcing major layoffs, we actually didnt do any of that. Cisco actually had very, very limited restructuring. We created new opportunities that were going to position us for the future and we redeployed people into those new roles. That was actually fairly helpful. It was a challenge that became an opportunity and a benefit for us at the end of the day.

Another challenge was about the morale of the team, partly because of the business environment, and our people were a bit down. I spent a lot of time rebuilding the esprit de corps of the Singapore organisation. Cisco Singapore in particular has taken great prideand I really want to emphasise this pointin its performance in the past. We are the smallest country in the Asia Pacific and Japan theatre, yet we show one of the best performanceswhether in the operational metrics that the company measures us against, or in terms of productivity per employee. Weve always had great pride in that.


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