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Eno Tsin - fighting insanity, and winning

Most of the technology tools we have are there to serve other tools - anti-virus products would be redundant without the presence of computer viruses, while the latter is useless without Microsoft Outlook, declares Eno Tsin, 36-year-old chief technology officer of INNAWORKS.

Eno TsinMost of the technology tools we have are there to serve other tools - anti-virus products would be redundant without the presence of computer viruses, while the latter is useless without Microsoft Outlook, declares Eno Tsin, 36-year-old chief technology officer of INNAWORKS

Can you share with us the contributions you've made to the IT industry?
The IT industry has always been the realms of the like-minded community indulging in building, improving and creating their own virtual habitat. While it might take one single spark to ignite and spawn an entirely new world, it is always never the effort of any single individual.

What's your proudest achievement to date?
My proudest achievement to date got to be the fact that I am now able to play Bach's [music on the piano].

What helps you to sustain your passion for your job?
I do get tired of what I do every now and then but what gets me going is the thrill every once in a while when you hit some really useful and creative ideas and that you have the resources to turn it into a reality. I am passionate in everything I do if it is worth doing.

What wouldn't you compromise on when it comes to doing business?
A few things. Integrity must be one. A wide-eye attitude to things is another. You've got [to have] enough people [around you who are] pragmatic, realistic and practical. What's important I believe is to preserve an innocent mind, at least innocent enough to [do] a few seemingly stupid things once in a while.

Which aspect(s) of the Asian culture do you think makes for a good or bad business edge in the global IT market?
I am not sure about what is the stereotypical "Asian culture", if there's such thing at all. Chinese and Indians are different enough, and if you take Japanese [into account] that only adds to the confusion. Interesting enough, when it comes to doing business, Chinese and Jews share a similar pragmatism.

The value of an average local HK Chinese custom such as modesty [and] respect for the elderly, can hardly relate to the IT industry apart from perhaps a HK teenager giving his seat in a cyber cafe for an old lady to check e-mail. One hindrance I do see is that in Asia, everybody wants to be a 'manager' of some sort. Nobody wants to be programming or tinkering with his screwdriver forever. I can remember a US software engineer who walked away from a promotion as he would rather write programs than manage people.

The only Chinese (as I dare not speak on behalf of other Asians) philo-cultural heritage that I can relate to IT, business and almost anything in the planet earth is the I-ching. The "Book of Flux" if you may translate the name that way. I-Ching promotes the idea of "Yin-and Yang" (the opposite yet balanced forces behind nature). From I-Ching, one can logically deduce that things always work in "cycles"… Take this to heart and you'll know how to get a balanced approach to communication software architecture. By the same token, you'll know it is pure fancy to believe in "a sustainable economic growth with minimal inflation".

How do you define success? Do you consider yourself to be successful?
That's another notion that confuses me. If success means the existence of one or more incidents which you set some objectives and achieve them, then I guess more than 99% of human population is successful. On the other hand if you replace the existential quantifier in the original proposition by a universal quantifier, then since not every objectives I set have been achieved, I may not consider myself successful, and by the same token nor can 99% of the human population.

Given that's obviously not a very useful or romantic interpretation of success, the alternative interpretation I can come up with is "how much of my ego has been nourished by the thing I have been doing". To that end, since I am a person who gives little attention to my ego, I guess I may consider myself successful.

Is there anything you would have done differently if given the choice?
Given that huge amount of mistakes I have made, I would be surprised if I would have done everything the same way if I had the choice

Do you think technology isolates people or brings people closer together?
Some say the Internet isolates people because they spend more time chatting with someone on the computer. I think that reasoning is flawed … People have never been isolated by technology, only by values, culture, politics and wars … Urbanization isolates people from their homes, people's habitats move from residential neighborhood to industrial capitals. The Internet and mobile communication technology can potentially bring a "knowledge market" to the world. With such a market and the advanced communication fabrics, the reverse of urbanization may become a reality, and I don't think you'll call that "isolating people".

We have more tools, better technology, but less time. What happened? Do you think a technology backlash is inevitable?
I think it is a question of choice more than anything else. Tools are provided for our convenience. Whether we use it or not is our choice.

Your mobile phone is there in case you need it, like in an emergency. The fact that you choose to keep it on all the time and get disturbed by calls is a choice you make.

The fact that we choose to be connected 24 hours a day, receive e-mails anywhere, anytime, be alerted to changes in the stock market, use the Global Positioning System to guide rockets and bombs have nothing to do with technology itself.

Ironically most of the tools are there to serve other tools. Mail filter is useless without e-mail, Web search engine is useless without the Web, the Intelligent Network is useless without the telephone network (it's useless anyway), DNS is useless without IP, GPRS is useless without IP, MP3 is useless without digital computing, RealPlayer plug-in is useless without RealPlayer, anti-virus is useless without computer virus and computer virus is useless without Microsoft Outlook.

I think we are over flooded with tools and technology, so much to a level that they start to dilute our important intellectual activities.

What is your most prized possession?
Sanity.

Which Web sites do you visit most often?
www.google.com, www.yahoo.com, www.ppshk.com, www.hengsang.com, www.iwc.ch, www.amazon.com, www.tucows.com, www.m-w.com, www.etsi.org

What do you do to de-stress?
A have good Belgium Ale, playing the piano, tennis and a good ride in my car, or better still, take a good novel, bring my camera and get a last minute air ticket and fly off to somewhere for an extended weekend.

More about People: Managing Asia.