The year 2020 started rough. All of us around the world experienced major disruptions to our lives as we scrambled to cope with the enormity of the coronavirus pandemic.
But it's still not too late to follow through on those new year resolutions – may it be learning a new programming language, taking the first step in starting your own business or preparing yourself for a career change, the year is still young and it's up to you to rise above the current circumstances and get back on track.
"In every crisis, there are new opportunities created. You just have to be brave and take the first step." Mayda Lim, Head of Technology at ANZ Chengdu and Advisor to Ladies Who Tech told us in an online interview as we commemorated Women's History Month in March.
Mayda has more than 20 years of experience leading IT service management and digital transformation projects across multiple industries in Asia. Read on to take inspiration from this accomplished female leader – who is also a strong advocate of diversity and inclusion of women in technology – on career growth, disruptive technologies and finding one's passion in STEM.
热衷于科技的初心 DEVELOPING A PASSION IN TECH
Mayda wasn't born a techie – in fact, her favourite subject in school was history and her first job was in logistics. When it was time to pick a major in university, she opted for technology out of practical reasons. Looking back, she called her decision "a beautiful mistake."
"At the time, I knew that technology is an essential building block of any industry. So, I developed a passion for technology knowledge throughout my degree," Mayda told Ladies Who Tech.
"Frankly, when I started to learn C programming language , I wanted to give up," she said, on explaining why she thought her choice was a mistake in the beginning. "In addition to the tough courses in my major, the changes in my learning environment created language problems. I'm Chinese Malaysian and spoke Chinese at home. Then I had to learn Bahasa Malaysia in school. Later, I had to pick up English during my colleague years – it was quite challenging.”
"But as an old Chinese saying goes, 'Those who are barefoot won't be afraid to put shoes on'. A person who doesn't have anything to lose won't be afraid to make a choice. I was already far away from my comfort zone at the time, so I had no choice but to follow through on what I've started. Gradually, I developed a deep interest in software technology following years of working in the field,” Mayda said.
"A lot of times you just have to tell yourself to be brave and try. You'll only know if it's the best choice after you try," she said.
职业发展之路 MAKING A CAREER CHANGE
Following graduation, Mayda landed her first job in operations in a logistics company amid the tech bubble in 2000 and stayed there for six years.
"The job had very little to do with tech – but it gave me a solid foundation for my career. At the time, software and computers weren't widely used in enterprises. However, I did come across several IT service solutions projects and realized that the STEM mindset has profound impact on the development of individuals and companies," she said.
Inspired by her newfound interest, she trained herself in becoming a subject matter expert on IT service management and participated in large-scale projects, thus embarking on her career path of enterprise technical services.
"Anyone can make their career transformation a success. You just have to be flexible and make the best out of your past experiences," Mayda said.
"For example, one of our UX engineers on our team was an English major in university and a teacher. She decided to make a career change and became a self-taught developer. At the same time, the skills and knowledge she learned as an English major and during her work were highly transferable and greatly helped her in her new role. So, when you decide on changing careers or furthering your education, it's most important to know where your interest lies," she said.
She also recommended those considering a career transformation to sign up for a mentorship program or talk to people in senior positions in the industry you're interested in. In fact, it's even better to have more than one mentor, according to Mayda.
"Having more than one mentor can guide you in tackling different questions you may have, and provide advice on the pros and cons of each option you're facing. Learn as much as you can from them – but in the end, you're going to have to make your own decision," she said.
希望更多女性进入STEM领域 ON ENCOURAGING WOMEN TO ENTER STEM CAREERS
"When we think about our interest in STEM subjects, a lot of times it's not that straight-forward," Mayda said.
In the case of her own daughter, Mayda signed her up for a robotics course – which the six-year-old was totally uninterested in and didn't understand why she had to learn coding.
"However, on the last day of the course, my daughter’s attitude changed. She was so excited. She said to me proudly: 'Mom, I can now program the robot to move the banana!'" Mayda recalled.
"It was a moment of enlightenment for my daughter – she realized she was able to create impact through coding and realized she now has the power to create change," she said.
"Therefore it's not just a simple question of asking yourself if you 'like’ science, technology, engineering or math, or forcing yourself to take a course,“ she said. “Instead, it‘s feeling the sense of empowerment and understanding what kind of impact these technology applications have on our day-to-day lives. That’s the best way to spark interest and develop your passion in STEM.”
"I also want to say to every girl and woman that you’re not alone on this STEM journey. There have been many of us who have excelled on this path and you can too! The sky is wide enough for all the birds to fly," she said.
At the same time, Mayda also stressed that the three key factors – people, execution and technology – are equally important when it comes to the success of innovation.
About four years ago, Mayda and her team hosted an innovation challenge at a university in Singapore, where students and senior managers at ANZ worked together on creating new tech solutions.
"The products that the teams came up with were very different from those created under traditional business models. There were no status reports, no pushback from steering committee meetings, no concerns on security, audit and compliance – just pure talent, streamlined execution and the technology itself. It was an eye-opening experience," she said.
科技变革的本质与1+1>2 UNDERSTANDING TECH DISRUPTIONS AND 1+1>2
Technology continues to disrupt each sector with constant advancements that will transform our lives and the global economy, eliminating the systems or habits it replaces. To Mayda, this process is inevitable.
"It's like regular metabolism. Just like a person, any company needs to maintain metabolism to grow, develop and avoid stagnation," she said.
Much like how Uber disrupted the personal transportation services industry or how Netflix disrupted the video rental industry, these innovations upended old business models and eliminated constraints to create new value.
"Regardless of what industry you're in, if your company can't overcome or adapt to these changes – your system or your structure will be eliminated from the game," Mayda said.
One thing to think about when you're picking up a new skill, she advised, is the value that you want to create.
"Always remember, 1 plus 1 is greater than 2. No matter how novel the technology is, it must be combined with other technologies to maximize its value," she said. "For example, everyone can learn Python. But the key consideration is to understand what other technologies can be combined with this knowledge to create value.”
"Medicine + AI > 2" is another example that emerged from the COVID-19 outbreak, Mayda explained. Alibaba developed an AI system that can distinguish between coronavirus and viral pneumonia from patients' CT scans with 96 per cent accuracy – and the diagnosis only takes 20 seconds. Humans generally take about 15 minutes.
"Don't just focus on the development of one particular technology or innovation – carry out research on several of such technologies and consider the opportunities and the bigger value from these technologies. Find solutions for pain points and don't be afraid to think outside of the box. Stay curious and be brave," she said.