“Covid-19 has really changed how we live and work, and has affected all industries,” said Cally Chan, General Manager of Microsoft Hong Kong and Macao.
Microsoft has long enabled its employees to work from home, Chan said, and is now helping businesses that have switched to remote working amid pandemic restrictions.
Speaking to Anna Yip, Executive Director and CEO of SmarTone, at a webinar on 7 August, Chan noted that remote working technology does not just mean video conferencing. Solutions are needed for all types of business operations, including editing reports, reviewing sales performance, cybersecurity, compliance and even signing contracts.
It is not just the location of work that has changed, Chan added: “Besides remote working, the second ‘new normal’ to emerge amid the pandemic is business philosophy.”
For example, timelines for projects have been dramatically shortened. Back in March, Microsoft worked with an e-commerce company that had secured a large amount of masks. “But the challenge was to get them to market,” Chan said. “We helped to scale the e-commerce site, but we only had a week to implement it.”
While Covid-19 has created uncertainty, it has also been an accelerator of digital transformation, and companies now understand how technology is essential to maintain business continuity, Chan said.
“In the future, digital skills will be as important as language skills. Not just in the IT department: everyone needs to have digital skills, and companies need to help their employees to learn.”
Chan said the pandemic had given Microsoft the opportunity to help the local community, for example by enabling restaurants to move to online ordering. It also launched an education package free to schools to facilitate remote learning. She expects this will become a key part of education in the future, just as remote working has become mainstream.
On diversity and inclusion, Chan reported that 40% of her employees are women and 20% are early-career professionals, and they represent a wide range of nationalities. She said that the visibility of women in the tech industry was changing.
“If you had asked me 10 years ago, it was true that it was not easy for a female to be a leader in a technology company,” she said. “In my first leadership role, I was challenged on how I would cope with the male-dominated environment, and I had to demonstrate that I could contribute something different.”
Nowadays, technology is an intrinsic part of all businesses and the environment has evolved. “So I would say that now is a golden moment for women to go into technology.”
Chan also shared some stories about her own career and business beliefs. To manage her workload while maintaining a good work-life balance, she said: “I’m quite a disciplined person, which means I manage my time in quite a well-organized manner.”
This means making time for enjoyable activities at the beginning and the end of each day: waking up early to do exercise, then then having dinner in the evening with her family.
Chan summed up her leadership philosophy as E3: “empathy, engage and empower.” She said that empowering employees is particularly important amid a fast-changing environment. “You need to provide a platform for people to deliver the best.”
Another part of her philosophy is summed up by ABC – ambition, balance and change. It is important for companies to nurture a culture of having a learning mentality, she added. “Technology changes so fast and it is impossible to know everything, so we all need to keep learning.”