A former state swimmer and hockey player, Michael Warren, deputy CEO of DataOne Asia, believes that all people are inherently good, loathes whiners, and cites Richard Bach's 'Jonathan Livingstone Seagull' as one of his favorite books
Describe your achievement and impact on the industry.
I had the opportunity to be involved in many early mega network designs in Malaysia. Some examples include the first country fiber local area network in 1985, and the Time nationwide fiber backbone in 1987, which was at the time the longest fiber run in Asia.
In later years, I was involved in establishing several data networking companies both locally and regionally. Those were fun years, when networking was at its infancy, and the role was much more educational rather than fulfillment ... I had a lot of fun while sitting on the boards of the International Restaurant and Hospitality Industry, and the United Nations advisory group to countries such as Nepal, Bhutan, and Mongolia, just to name a few.
I also enjoy public speaking. As a result, I became the spokesperson for the companies I worked for. But I also learnt the value of constantly achieving revenues and bottom line numbers, especially when I was working for Wang Global. I was involved in the consolidation process after the acquisition by Olivetti Computers, and also in their subsequent buyout by Getronics.
In my younger years, I excelled in sports and my studies. I had the honor to represent my state as a swimmer and later as a hockey player. Being named overall valedictorian after my 'O' levels was thrilling. It was also an achievement to be the first Asian student to score straight As in the history of University of Waikato (in Hamilton), a New Zealand university.
I was truly honored to work for Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in New Zealand on a scholarship. It was a dream come true for me and I did not even apply for the scholarship. It gave me room to grow, and helped to mold me into what I am today. I still regard DEC as one of the best companies that I have worked for.
What do you like about your work?
Work has to be fun, and I have to learn in the process. My whole life is about learning. Once I understand something, I need to challenge myself to move into an area that I have never gone before. I hate comfort zones. A good friend once said, if you are not living your life on the edge, you are taking up too much room.
I hate doing repetitive work. I love challenging the status quo, and breaking even things that work well. I have always strove to be the best at what I do; being second best is not an option to be considered.
I believe in management by objectives. I don’t care how my staff gets their work done, as long as the results are achieved in a non-disruptive manner. I like people and getting to know people I work with well. But I also keep my cocoon, into which I retreat to refresh myself from time to time to reface the world.
Do you have a personal business philosophy that you adhere to?
Never ever burn your bridges. The industry and the world as a whole, is too small. Always give others the benefit of the doubt, as while it is nice to be important, it is more important to be nice.
I sincerely believe that all people are inherently good; it’s a matter sometimes of how far you need to look for that goodness, but it’s always there.
I hate people who complain. Especially if it’s about other people. Life is too short to be negative.
I give constantly to charities. Anonymously. Money to me, if shared, brings a better life for all those around.
How do you define success? Do you consider yourself to be successful?
Success to me is a state of mind that revolves around happiness and contentment. It involves work, the family, and spirituality. The ability to strike a happy balance between all three is success.
I am where I am in life, because that is exactly where I want to be, today. I do not believe that one can reach ultimate success. I believe it's something one is always working towards. It would be a sad day when I tell myself that I have reached the point of being successful, as it means that I have not set my goals high enough.
Any role model whom you look up to?
When I was young and wanted to be a hockey player, I used to look up to friends who were national hockey players. When I was at university, there was a particular person several years my senior who commanded huge attention as a computer genius that I looked up to. When I was actively involved in church work and was thinking of joining the seminary when [I was] younger, there was a mentor from a bible college I used to look up to. Now, in the business world, I cannot name any individual, as there are many people I draw inspiration from. But I must say that the Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir, has always been a real source of admiration for me. A very capable leader, who is smart and shrewd and never afraid to speak his mind.
What is your proudest achievement so far?
My beautiful children. They are my source of love and joy. Would do anything for them.
How about your biggest regret?
When I was growing up, I regret not spending more time talking to my father. He passed away when I was 17. It would have been great to know him more personally.
Given a choice to go back in time, I probably would like to take time off after graduating and travel around the world ... to see other people and cultures and understand the world better.
What is your favorite form of relaxation?
A quiet evening, a good book in hand, a glass of wine and some cheese. I also do enjoy a good game of golf out with friends.
What in your opinion is the best place in Asia to hold a meeting for four?
Depends on what the meeting is for. If it's work, Kyoto in Japan is one of my favorite places. If it’s for fun, Bali in Indonesia ranks high in the list.
Which Web sites do you visit most often? What kind of books do you read?
[I visit] personalized news pages, search engines, currency converters, my personal e-mail accounts.
Business and management books, management magazines, Internet-related magazines, thrillers, horror [and] spiritual (not religious) books. 'Jonathan Livingstone Seagull', and 'The Celestine Prophesy' are among my all time favorites.
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