Career Path

Never lose touch

by Ada Ng

Norm Lo, vice president of Asia Pacific
Research In Motion
Photo: Nolly Leung

Mobile communications have changed the work culture for the better. In particular, these have made the once far-fetched idea of an virtual office a reality, helping business executives to stay connected with colleagues, friends and family, as well as to keep up to date with business information, breaking down all barriers in the business environment.

"I keep my BlackBerry with me every waking moment of the day," says Norm Lo, vice president of Asia Pacific, Research In Motion (RIM) — developer of the BlackBerry smartphones. "It closes the distance between me and my team, business partners and family when I'm away from home, helping me to stay in touch."

In his role leading the RIM Asia Pacific team, Mr Lo spends around three quarters of his time travelling around the region exploring business opportunities with carrier partners. "It is particularly rewarding when you get feedback from customers or business partners saying BlackBerry has changed their lives and made their business more productive," he says. "My job is very dynamic and things are different every day. There's really no routine except that I take to checking my emails on the go every day."

It is also the constant travelling that Mr Lo finds the most challenging aspect of his work life: "The rapid growth opportunities require me to be on the move."

Focused development

Before managing RIM's Asia Pacific business in 2005, Mr Lo worked at RIM's headquarters in Canada for nine years after completing a PhD in electrical engineering. Prior to joining RIM, he had served various roles within the wireless organisation of Nortel Networks.

Trained as an engineer in his undergraduate study and having spent much of his time in product development, Mr Lo says his transition into the Asia Pacific management role was a natural progression that he anticipated.

"Change is constant in the advanced technology manufacturing field. When you're in the business side, it helps to have a background in technology. Likewise, many engineering professionals acquire an MBA to complement their technical competence with business acumen," says Mr Ho, who holds an MBA from the University of Ottawa.

"It's important to treat your team with respect and integrity"

Executive attributes

Today, the bulk of Mr Lo's work involves fostering strong relationships with customers, business partners and his colleagues.

"We work closely with mobile carriers to leverage their sales organisations and channels to deliver BlackBerry solutions to the end-users," he says.

In order to differentiate from competing companies and deliver data solutions that best fit end-users, Mr Lo underscores that a thorough understanding of the consumer market is key. In his current capacity, he is expected to be in tune with, if not ahead of, the global marketplace.

"You need to be aware of how end-users conduct business in different cultures," he says. "We never assume we already know the characteristics of certain local markets." Being open minded and sensitive to cultural differences are vital for breaking into new markets, he adds.

Mr Lo reveals that the same skills needed for building relationships help make him a better leader: "It's important to treat your team with respect and integrity," he emphasises. "I enjoy watching people develop. It's really about people empowerment. We have people who are knowledgeable and hardworking, and so we must create an environment where members of our teams feel motivated to come to work. More importantly, we must continuously assure them that they're doing something worthwhile."

While wireless communications have a high penetration rate in many developed countries including Hong Kong, Mr Lo reckons there are ample growth opportunities in emerging economies such as mainland China and India. For this reason, RIM is looking to hire more people to capitalise on the accelerating market development.

"Alongside the basic technical know-how and academic qualifications, we're looking for people who have a passion in what we do, and the ability to demonstrate a high level of business competency to contribute to the development of the company," he elaborates. "People who want to move into this space need to be prepared to work in a fast-paced and rapidly changing environment."

Taken from Career Times 14 November 2008, p. B14
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