Globetrotter finds fulfilment on the road
You hear it often enough - from mentors and career and personal development books - that career success involves well-articulated visions and strategic action plans. But Oscar Chang, who holds one of the top jobs at Trend Micro, a leading independent antivirus technology developer in Asia, is the first to admit that there are multiple routes to success.
'I never planned my career. I was always the happy-go-lucky type and content as long as there were new things to learn,' said the company's chief development officer (global research and development) and executive vice-president of Greater China sales.
That approach has guided his 16-year whirlwind career with Trend Micro, taking him from the United States to Europe, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and the Philippines. It has also allowed him to break out of his comfort zone, broadening his expertise from research and development engineering to sales.
Much of his time is spent on developing the business at a macro level. He commutes around the mainland - on average spending only three weeks each quarter with his Taipei-based family - visiting customers, garnering their product feedback and supervising the regional sales team.
Closer to his heart is the other hat he wears as chief development officer. Contrary to what the title may suggest, he is not involved with the development of antivirus products, but the mentoring and development of the firm's 1,200 engineers, most of whom are in Asia.
'My most important value is to create opportunity for our engineers. In places such as Silicon Valley, where people are living and breathing technology every day, innovation comes quite naturally, so we try to create a similar environment to ensure they have that same exposure and opportunity here,' he said.
'I always tell our engineers that their work can impact the lives of at least 20 million people worldwide. We are offering them a unique opportunity in Asia because most technology companies don't have much research and development presence here.'
After graduating from the University of California with a master's degree in computer science, Mr Chang banded together with three of his undergraduate classmates to form software developer Diamond Ware Corporation but, after just one year, the entrepreneurial outfit ran out of steam and became what he calls 'the living dead'.
He then joined Trend Micro, which was looking for engineers.
'I was offered good money and the chance to learn something new, so I thought why not. It was a very small firm and, with so many other IT [information technology] companies around, we weren't even sure if the venture would survive,' he said.
Trend Micro didn't just survive; it thrived and took Mr Chang along with it for the corporate adventure of a lifetime.
His r?sum? reads like a travelogue, with stints managing the company's research and development initiatives in Japan, setting up a 24-hour global response team to deal with customers' emergencies in the Philippines, and securing sales deals in South Korea.
'Good engineers always have people begging for their help, but it is the other way round in sales and I found that switch very difficult,' he said.
Despite the adversity, however, Mr Chang remains grateful for the experience. 'In taking up some sales responsibility, I really had the opportunity to challenge myself. That was very important and has been a critical part of my development. Without it, I would probably have remained an engineer,' he said.
That may have been the turning point in his career, but the highlight came a little later in Manila.
'My work took on another meaning there. Our team was young and earned an average salary of US$500 a month, so I knew the creation of one job wasn't only for the benefit of the individual. It would also take care of his or her entire family. The job satisfaction was much greater. I could see how our jobs were impacting the lives of people. It became real and personal,' he said.
Though the 44-year-old engineer is a long way from retirement, Mr Chang has reached the pinnacle of contentment.
'I am 100 per cent not interested in the CEO job. That would involve even more travel than I am doing now. I am just not interested in that lifestyle. The next stage will be retirement,' he said.
With a four-year-old daughter and a second child due later this year, Mr Chang's life is a picture of fulfilment. With a smattering of luck, it appears that, without quite knowing it, he has secured everything he ever wanted.
Trend Micro has offered ample opportunities worldwide
Role involves supervising sales team and mentoring engineers
Transition from research and development engineering to sales biggest challenge
Stint in the Philippines most rewarding
Chief development officer (global research and development) and executive vice-president of Greater China sales
HK$125,000 to HK$166,000
14 years or above
Executive vice-president of global response team
HK$83,000 to HK$116,000
Nine to 13 years
Research and development manager
HK$50,000 to HK$75,000
Five to eight years
HK$35,000 to HK$50,000
Three to five years
Research and development engineer
HK$15,000 to HK$30,000
One to two years
Source: Robert Walters Hong Kong