My Fascination with Tech has been a Veritable Driving Force

Excutive portraitsChannel Post speaks to Genius Wong, President, Global Network Services, Cloud and Data Centre Services at Tata Communications on her journey in IT thus far.

Channel Post (CP): Tell us about your leadership style and philosophy.

Genius Wong (GW): I strongly believe that building an ultimate workplace is about recognizing, maximizing and celebrating a great many different voices and the values and ideas they bring. It is critical to recognize that new value arises from putting ideas together in novel ways and collaborating in ways that open up untapped potential. Determination and a commitment to the long haul combined with an undying passion for knowledge and learning go a long way in accomplishing big things in a world of unknowns. While there are different approaches to the hows and whys of effective leadership, the key to success is almost always a strong sense of belief in what you are doing and the infinite possibilities it presents.

CP: What made you choose IT as a career opportunity?

GW: My fascination with technology has been a veritable driving force for my successful career. Most children are inclined towards a hobby or a particular interest that usually defines their choices at a later date – mine was technology. After my bachelor’s degree in Computer Science I went on to do a Master’s program in Electrical Engineering from the University of Washington in the United States. The idea of being able to create, change, affect vast portions of our present through technology has always fascinated me. In fact, technology is the most important element in kindling innovation. It gives a chance to build curiosity, challenge the norm and finally innovate.

CP: How has your unique background prepared you for success in the industry?

GW: I consider myself blessed to have taken the step to pursue a career in technology. We didn’t have a lot of options back then as compared to today where one can learn to code and build a perfectly usable website and web interface with all kinds of functionalities.

I started my professional journey with IBM. Throughout my career, I held various positions in sales, product, business development, engineering, and operations. I also worked with Wharf T&T and was the key member contributing to the start-up of the company. During my entire professional career, I have learnt one extremely important thing – technology always evolves.

Technology can overturn a whole industry and make traditional businesses obsolete – we’ve seen this with audio / video cassettes and CDs, standalone GPS, fax machines, phone books, etc. Globally, there’s a growing interest in technology as a career, as it’s not only a business enabler, it has a huge impact on professional and personal lives as well. I am glad that I am a part of this constantly innovating industry.

CP: What was your most interesting job?

GW: With over two decades of experience, I have spent almost half of my professional life with Tata Communications, front-ending the most exciting and challenging profile in the organisation.

We are the largest carrier of international wholesale voice – carrying 47.6 billion minutes of wholesale voice traffic annually and over 25% of the world’s internet routes travel over our network, which includes the world’s largest wholly-owned subsea cable network. The company sees immense revenue and new business opportunities. This has given me and my team a huge scope to innovate – we have introduced new services and created solutions amidst this highly competitive environment. The launch and subsequent expansion of our cloud enablement portfolio is part of our mission of creating an open infrastructure ecosystem that not only aims to make the Internet Fit for Business, but to facilitate enterprises in their digital transformation journey. There is never a dull moment for me at Tata Communications.

CP: What advice would you give to women looking to break into the field of computer technology?

GW: Women are making a mark in every industry today irrespective of the field they choose to enter. The important thing to note is that the lines are blurring and it’s an exciting time to be a woman, especially in technology.

I urge women and young girls to look at technology as a viable career option where they can learn, grow, innovate and build things themselves. Organisations such as ‘Girls who code’ are working towards inspiring girls to pursue computer science by exposing them to real life and on screen role models. The gender gap in tech environments is reducing. For example, At Tata Communications, I am one of the three women on the leadership team, our CFO and CMO are both women who come from the technology industry.

As women continue to break barriers, we do need to ensure that we sustain this momentum and give it the right impetus across levels. It is critical to encourage women tech experts and nurture them to become future leaders.

CP: Describe your typical working day.

GW: My team and my colleagues are quite geographically dispersed. My typical work day starts in the morning liaising with my teams across US West coast and Asia (Singapore and Hong Kong), then India, then Middle East, followed by Europe and then the US East coast. I am used to having long working hours from Monday to Thursday but I try to leave Friday night and weekends for my family, if I am not travelling.

CP: What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?

GW: At Tata Communications, we’re constantly challenging ourselves and this results in the development of best-in-class offerings for our customers, globally. One such initiative that I’m proud of is IZO – a cloud enablement platform that takes the complexity out of cloud computing with products designed to give the enterprise greater predictability, productivity and agility. The team understands that companies today face three major challenges: cost, complexity and security. We have been expanding our IZO platform as a part of our mission to provide CIOs with the ability to manage every aspect of their cloud infrastructure as one.

CP: What are your thoughts on the next transformation in the tech industry?

GW: We have seen huge advances this past year in technologies such as software defined networking and network functions virtualisation, making connectivity more intelligent than ever. But no matter how much automation can be programmed into networks, it’s fair to say that they can’t actively think for themselves. To offer people and businesses the ‘always-best-connected’ experience, regardless of device, location, network type or operator, the telecoms industry will start to harness the power of AI. This will be the biggest shift the industry has seen in years: we will start moving away from a fragmented, distributed network matrix to a global, ubiquitous network topology, powered by AI.

Imagine universal connectivity without boundaries that will seamlessly route us to the best possible network, with everyone and everything, always connected, everywhere. We will no longer have to think about whether we are using Wifi, a mobile network, Bluetooth, or one of the many Internet of Things network technologies. It will just work. Ultimately, we won’t need a mobile phone, a wearable or any other device to access this connectivity universe – our innumerable applications will become a virtual platform as we interact with them or even put them on our bodies. Creating a world where all networks and applications work harmoniously together to give people this ubiquitous ultra-connected experience is a task that the telecoms industry should start to tackle together in 2017.

CP: Are you involved in any sort of volunteer work? Can you give us some details?

GW: I have always found it greatly fulfilling to spend quality time with senior citizens in nursing homes and hospitals. Most of them have very few visitors in the day and they look forward to having a chance to share and talk to someone. They don’t expect much more than just a patient ear.

CP: What’s next for you in terms of your career in the tech industry?

GW: I am looking forward to continuing to lead Tata Communications’ global network, cloud and data centre portfolio. Tata Communications is today recognised as a global challenger in communications. Designing the network for business traffic to be carried in a secure and predictable way has been the key aim of our strategy. We are going beyond being a pipe provider and actually diversifying into other industries and enabling the transformation of the business model. I am excited about working with a dynamic team dispersed across Europe, US and Asia to continue to introduce new services and create solutions amidst this highly competitive environment.