Mark Rabjohns - converting tech to profits

Mark Rabjohns, president of IFS (Industrial and Financial Systems) Asia Pacific, has spent 15 years in the IT industry providing business solutions - demonstrating how IT can solve real customer problems and providing education regarding the newer technologies that have emerged over the years.

Mark Rabjohns

Mark Rabjohns, president of IFS (Industrial and Financial Systems) Asia Pacific, has spent 15 years in the IT industry providing business solutions - demonstrating how IT can solve real customer problems and providing education regarding the newer technologies that have emerged over the years.

In this interview with ZDNet Asia, the 38-year old former Oracle marketing director talks about applying technologies in pragmatic ways that create both enterprise profitability and consumer comfort.

We have more tools, better technology, but less time. What happened?
Being globally connected has its price, and it means you are expected to be available across multiple time zones, especially if you work for a global company. It's not unusual for professionals to come into work early to talk to the US, spend a few hours on local work, then talk to Europe from around three pm and finally hook up for a multinational conference call sometime in the evening.

What kind of mindset do you think is needed to survive in this digital age?
It is important to keep an open mind, be willing to try new things and think creatively about how to use the newer technologies in a productive way. There is a distinctive hype cycle associated with all new technologies which goes from the height of inflated expectations, through the trough of disillusionment, up the slope of enlightenment and finally to the plateau of productivity. This means we should not be dismissive of new ideas, because they will definitely evolve into something productive, even if that is something very different from the original intention.

Which aspect(s) of the Asian culture do you think makes for a good or bad business edge in the global IT market?
Sometimes Asian culture can make change a very hard message to bring to a business, and I find that IT is mostly used as a big catalyst for change. This sometimes means that Asian companies can be less accepting of a new way of doing things, unless there is a very strong commitment from the senior executives. However, on the more positive side, Asian executives are much more inclined to work with you based on a relationship that has been built during their evaluation process. This people-oriented approach means that problems may be resolved a lot more simply based on mutual trust rather than through endless meetings and discussions.

What wouldn’t you compromise on when it comes to doing business?
I strongly believe that in any business contract, there has to be a win-win situation. If there were no mutual benefit from entering into a business relationship, I would be inclined to walk away from the deal. I am not averse to taking risks, but I do believe risks should be shared.

What helps you to sustain your passion for your job?
I think the sheer pace of technology advances, and the impact of this on business, make the working environment very challenging and interesting, and that in itself keeps the passion at a pretty high level. But the real passion for me is working with people – recruiting them, seeing them grow and progress in their careers, and also learning from them.

Is there a role model whom you look up to?
Quite a few actually – Larry Ellison for his sheer aggression, Nelson Mandela for his humbleness, and Steve Jobs for his marketing skills.

Has the birth of the Internet helped or hampered your way of life?
Definitely helped. These days I do most of my banking and gift buying on the Internet, and it saves me a lot of time. I have a Web site which I use to publish family news, and e-mail keeps me in touch both professionally and socially. I travel everywhere with a notebook computer, Palm Pilot and mobile phone which are essential tools for a frequent traveler like myself to stay connected.

Which gadget is on your most wanted list?
I want a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone.

Do you think technology isolates people or brings people closer together?
A little of both I think. There are people who hide themselves away for hours playing games or using the Internet rather than socializing, but at the same time e-mail and Web sites allow us to reach a larger audience. It’s almost as if there is a real world and a virtual world, and you can be an overachiever in one of them, but not often both.

Do you have a favorite Net acronym?
KISS – keep it simple Stupid, and RTFM – Read the F***ing Manual.

What is your most prized possession?
My guitar. It helps me relax and go to a different place for a while.

More about People: Managing Asia.

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