Mark Wang - more tools, better technology, more time (for work)

The ex- founder of Oracle Corporation in South Asia, Mark Wang, senior vice president and general manager, Asia Pacific Sybase Inc, brings with him to Sybase a wealth of managerial experience. From, Candle Corporation to Seer Technologies, Informix to Oracle.
Written by Lim Boon Keong, Contributor on
Mark Wang The ex- founder of Oracle Corporation in South Asia, Mark Wang, senior vice president and general manager, Asia Pacific Sybase Inc, brings with him to Sybase a wealth of managerial experience. From, Candle Corporation to Seer Technologies, Informix to Oracle.

In this interview with ZDNet Asia, Mark Wang shares with us, his passion for his job, the tips for surviving in this digital age, and his most valuable possessions.

Can you share with us the contributions you've made to the IT industry?
I get to help promote software, technology in Asia Pacific countries. Starting with CAD/CAM applications, and later, relational databases, [followed by] various kinds of client servers, development technology and so on. And now, with enterprise portal, [which is] basically an infrastructure enabling software technology, in Asia Pacific, across all countries.

What's your proudest achievement to date?
That's a tough one. I guess I did my job [which] is to build up infrastructure, to recruit people as well as to basically do technology transfers. To the extent that technology transfers benefited the development of countries in Asia Pacific. And because they are able to gain knowledge embedded in software, and also, the knowledge embedded in consultants that we train. I would consider that as a contribution.

What helps you to sustain your passion for your job?
My passion comes from meeting [with different] people, going to different places, and having the privilege of sharing with them a part of their life. That's why I keep up with news [that is] happening in many countries, so that when I visit them, we can share what they are thinking. For example, what is the political situation [in the country], and who are their sports heroes.

To be able to do that over a long period of time, over many countries, is a major benefit of this job and I enjoy that very much.

What wouldn't you compromise on when it comes to doing business?
Trust and professionalism. I have been in the industry for a long time, and I [have] witnessed many situations where our personal career and professionalism go beyond a product sale, or even a certain company. So it's very important to uphold you own professionalism, in good times and bad times.

In the end, its knowing that you have done your best, that you have not betrayed anybody's trust.

Which aspect(s) of the Asian culture do you think makes for a good or bad business edge in the international IT market?
The biggest feature of Asia culture is [its diversity]. The difference between [each] culture [is] as different as, say, [the east] and [the] west. So, in that sense, diversity is the order of business. You cannot rely on one [culture alone].

In general, behind [each] relationship is probably trust. Trust is needed in a lot of business. The other thing would be tradition. Tradition means [that] you believe in certain values. Why? We don't know but there is something in that. I think in Asia you got to respect that, you got to work with that.

A lot of political systems, economic systems [in Asia] are not perfect in a western sense. But on the other hand, you've got to work with it and not compromise [the] law, ethics and other values.

How do you define success? Do you consider yourself to be successful?
I guess success is being able to utilize what you have learnt, utilize what you have built up [through your] experience and see some of your plans and strategies come into [realization].

In terms of us, [it is] seeing database applications, software applications, actually [being] utilized in Telco's, in banks. So, seeing the fruits of our underlining technology working is a major satisfaction.

Is there a role model whom you look up to?
I am sort of a pioneer in this field, [so] we actually broke a lot of new grounds. For example, promoting database software technology and so on.

But on the other hand, everywhere I go, I see people who have done a lot of work, maybe [in a] similar role, so I [would] say my role model is a combination of many professionals who have done their job before me.

Is there anything you would have done differently if given the choice?
The answer is no. There were a lot of setbacks, that's for sure. But then those setbacks are necessary, I believe that most of the time, I did what I thought was best. Some worked, some didn't. So, I won't say there is nothing that I won't regret, but on the other hand, doing it differently would be hindsight. So, I would say, part of the failure is part of the learning experience.

Do you think technology isolates people or brings people closer together?
My answer is two fold. On one hand, you focus too much on the device and you ignore simple things like "Hello". But on the other hand, the distance [or] the level of details that you [can] find [with technology nowadays], it just opens up in new ways.

Has the birth of the Internet helped or hampered your way of life?
My personnel way of life? I guess it had helped. I like to keep up to date with what is happening in various countries. I regularly read about six to seven newspapers of different countries on the Internet. In fact, when I see an issue, let's say, on an international incident, I actually like to drill down to the editorials of different countries, and see what are the different views.

That is not possible without the Internet. So I embrace Internet very much. I only wish I had more time for browsing and appear like I am working.

What kind of mindset do you think is needed to survive in this digital age?
To be able to accept, understand and embrace new technology is important, especially in our line of work. But I think it's also important to realize the basic driver, the basic business model.

The entire dot.com wave thing crash because people moved away from the basic model of business, where cash is important, revenue is [a] good thing as well. [At] the end [of the day], the very basic principles [are] still at work. It's very important not to get carried away by all the new gizmos in technology. Not only that, you must utilize and embrace technology.

We have more tools, better technology, but less time. What happened?
Well, we actually have more time as well. Except that time is absorbed by more work. In the old days, you could say, "I'm on vacation, so I will talk to you in two weeks." Now you can't because when you are on vacation, you are supposed to sign on to your email and have your mobile phone on.

We used to say; "I will see you tomorrow because I'm flying." Now you can't because the flights are shorter [and] there is not place that you can't be overnight, which is terrible. Because you can't even say you got to fly, you got to leave, cause you can always take a later flight.

On the other hand, the amount of work that we do, the amount of throughput, the amount of contact we can make with our colleagues, our customers, through these new devices are tremendous.

My answer is, it seems that we have no time, but if you consider the amount of work, amount of contacts that you [have] made [with all these technology improved devices], we actually have more time.

What is your most prized possession?
If you are taking about intangible things, then of course, its family. If you are talking about tangible things, I would say I have some memorabilia from many years ago, collage days, something from my high school, so on. Because I am a traveler, I don't accumulate things.

And because I moved many times, I tend not to have a lot of [things]. So, my prized possessions are the few that I do have which have been with me for a long time. But of course, the rest of it is so intangible. Renewing friendship from my high school, collage. Remember they were in shanghai, so is not that easy to find them. I found one and he is living happily in US, we communicate. That is a priceless possession.

Which Web sites do you visit most often?
Unfortunately, it is a golf web[site]. But if I want to go to one place, I would go to CEO express. Because [it] really points me to almost everywhere I want to go to. I'm not trying to advertise for them but the CEO website is a very good website.

What do you do to de-stress?
I think golfing is a great way. But, for a short period of time, if I'm dazed from looking at the screen, I actually play freecell!

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