Over recent decades, women have not only played pivotal roles in the business world, but some of the more outstanding female executives have risen right to the top to rank alongside the most capable men. In everything from traditional businesses like trading to the ever-changing arena of modern technology, they are clearly more than a match for their male counterparts in the fast-paced commercial world.
Isabella Lee, vice president (international business) of Thiz Technology Group Limited, is a perfect example. While information technology (IT) is believed to be a field primarily dominated by men, Ms Lee stands out as a female executive appointed to a senior position in a successful listed company.
Ms Lee modestly brushes aside talk of being a "brilliant career woman" but hints that her phenomenal rise has not been easy.
Her success, she says, comes from hard work, proper business education in Canada and over 10 years' experience. She worked for a semi-governmental IT body and was an e-commerce and web portal consultant before joining the group in 2002. She is devoted to her work and describes herself as a perfectionist with a passion and vision for the computer software industry.
"I always give 101 percent to my work and have a strong belief in what I'm doing," she notes. "Having the right work attitude and a strong will to achieve are important. No matter how smart you are, if you're not hardworking you can't improve as fast as you wish."
Based in Hong Kong, Thiz Technology Group Limited is the leading developer of Linux solutions for computer users. It was the first Linux software provider listed on the Growth Enterprise Market of the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong in July 2001. As a provider of computing solutions, the group targets individuals, small to medium-sized enterprises, governments and educational institutions. Products and services provided by the group include operating systems, office applications, firewall and antivirus programmes and services such as software installation, training and education.
"I joined the group because I think everybody has a choice. Linux is reliable and cost effective," she explains. "We have clients who have successfully switched to Linux systems."
"Fresh graduates wishing to enter the industry must be enthusiastic and possess a go-getting attitude. They must also be flexible and creative, especially in IT technology, if not, they will lag behind"
Ms Lee's role is to monitor business operations in Hong Kong and South China and internationally, set up strategic alliances with relevant authorities to promote Linux for tertiary education and to nurture experts in system administration and software development. Her daily routine includes key decision-making and ensuring her team completes quality work on schedule. She is also in close communication with the CEO on business developments and strategy formulation.
Looking ahead, Ms Lee hopes to find new business partners, stay alert to market trends and ensure her team is working to maximise productivity.
Recently, the group has entered into an agreement with the China Electronic Information Application Education Centre, an organisation under the China Ministry of Information Industry, to provide Linux training to 175,000 people in three years. The group has also struck a deal with over 30 tertiary institutions on the mainland to organise similar courses.
Locally, the group has joined hands with City University offering similar programmes to their students. Through the group's business network, students, after receiving training in Hong Kong, will be offered job opportunities in China.
For fresh graduates wishing to enter the industry, Ms Lee says, "they must be enthusiastic and possess a go-getting attitude. They must also be flexible and creative, especially in IT technology, if not, they will lag behind."
According to Ms Lee, Linux has the world's fastest growing IT platform. She says: "The system started out with only server applications but has already extended to desktop and office automation."
Hong Kong IT professionals wishing to work on the mainland will find that it is more competitive to get a job in places like Shanghai, Beijing or Guangzhou as these cities possess an abundance of talent, according to a veteran insider.
Alternatives to consider are opportunities in high-growth regions like Dalian and Western China where the demand for IT professionals is on the rise but salaries for IT employees there vary greatly.
In the middle of this year, the Dalian Municipal Government launched a programme encouraging all its offices to use IT. Thiz Technology Group Limited donated software worth RMB12 million to support the campaign.