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The CyberTouch of The Fairer Sex

ICT Unlimited Magazine, July, 2003

Women (and men) have been using technology to create lifestyles, gadgets, art and literature before the advent of the Internet. What impact do you think the World Wide Web is having on the number of women who now use technology in their work and the manner in which they use it?
In terms of using technology at work, both men and women would have similar convenience, and Internet usages. With the Internet, many women are able to start a business while being a home-maker. This allows more women to venture into business while still spending time with their family.

What is your opinion of the new technology-style of business, where people are casual, wear jeans, do not have job titles, and bring their pets to work as opposed to the old-fashioned business environment? Do you think this is either better or worse for women?
For me personally, I feel that it rather fun. However, when we do meet clients, or have appointments for presentations, then the formal office wear is more appropriate. For women, I think that the environment becomes more friendly, and less hostile as you™re able to bring a part of your own lifestyle and fashion preference to work.

All the talk of high-flying techie jobs can be pretty intimidating to a teenager in high school. Where do we begin to let young girls know that they can make a go of it too? Where do they start? Where did you start? What was your first job in the tech industry?
Some teenagers look forward to securing high-flying tech jobs! I think it important that the family itself is supportive towards unconventional jobs and promote entrepreneurship within the children. A great way to let young people know about how they can also do something on the Internet, are through:-
* role models - case studies of young entrepreneurs who™ve ventured online
* school curricular - expanding the IT club to feature more topics and projects related to the Internet
* job placement / career advancement guidance - organising roadshows to schools, and colleges to promote the Internet - related jobs
I™m personally non-technical, and had my degree in Management & Marketing majors. My first two jobs were in the Marketing and Customer Service in the insurance industry. From there, I™ve gained tremendous experience on how to interact with people from various background. After graduating from US, even before I started work, I wanted to start something on the Net, but wasn™t very sure of how I should start. It was through a personal development workshop that I realised that I should take action and work on achieving what I truly wanted in life. I quit my job (most of my colleagues thought I was crazy to give up my job for something new like the Internet) and decided to go with my passion, therefore co-founded with some other partners.

How many women do you reckon are now in computing industries and technology in Malaysia? First-the basics-schools-what types of software do you see as engaging both girls and boys?
In terms of the computing industries and technology, the overall number of women has grown tremendously over the years in Malaysia. However, if we were to look at the industry leaders, or the number of women in higher management, the number is considered the minority when compared to the entire industry. As more women climb up the corporate ladder, the number should go up then. From the toys the children play with, a lot of new games have utilised technology, such as computer-based fashion software for girls, versus the conventional make-up toy figurine. Through analysing the different needs of boys and girls, then we would be able to introduce relevant softwares into their school subjects. For instance, for girls taking home-skills like cooking and sewing, the subject can incorporate computer based programs for recipe research, and accessing fashion-related websites.

What is your greatest career accomplishment? AND how has being a women impacted your career?
My greatest career accomplishment was to be selected to represent Malaysia to the Confederation of Asia-Pacific Chambers of Commerce & Industry (CACCI) - IT Committee. In 2003, my website is ranked No.1 Top Internet Marketing Coach in Google and Yahoo. As a woman, I have become more outstandingly recognised. This has also given me many publicity opportunities. I feel very satisfied when I™m able to inspire others to achieve more in life through the Internet, and prompting them to get started to work on realising their dreams.

In your opinion, where are the best areas for Malaysian women to pursue IT careers at this time? Do you still consider Cyberjaya or the MSC as the number one ICT hotbed in this country?
For Malaysian women, we can either pursue IT careers, or start your own e-commerce website. Either way, women would need to constantly upgrade themselves with new skills (not just theorethical books or courses), especially how the Internet business works from the marketing aspect, not necessary to study the programming or technical aspect unless they are involved in the programming area. If you™re looking at pursuing IT careers, then of course, since MSC companies have mostly relocated to Cyberjaya, then this is the location you need to be. If you™re looking at the Internet from a business owner aspect, then you might just be working on your e-commerce site from the comfort of your home.

Do you believe that boys are more interested in how technology works and girls are more interested in how technology can be used. If that is true in any sense, is it possible to capitalise on those differences by creating separate educational programs for boys and girls?
As different people have different interests, then it important that we choose to work in an area which we enjoy. I believe that it is best if we have both men and women in all sectors of technology as then, we will truly be able to come up with softwares, solutions, and applications that appeal to both genders. Rather than to determine the educational courses to be taken based on gender, the educational programs should encourage both genders to try different programs to enable them to find out their true interests.

Do you think girls and boys are equally well suited for the same technology jobs or do you think their different approaches to technology make them better suited for different types of jobs? For example, might men make better programmers and women better instructional designers?
Most web programmers and network engineers are males, while women are more likely to be in customer service, pr, and design. I think that both genders are equally suited for the same technology jobs, so it more a matter of the category of interest by the candidate. As a matter of fact, many men have ventured into selling women related items like apparel, cosmetics, and fragrances online although they themselves are not the end users of these products. Most people would feel that men are more rational while women are more emotional. When men are looking only on the solution, the women might consider the other aspects that might be affected by the solution. As mentioned earlier, on the Internet, the criteria for the job is based on your performance, not on your gender. Since there have been more men in the technical courses, that is why we see more male programmers than women programmers. Give it a few more years, and we should see a more equal number of gender.

What to you is the single most important asset a woman needs to make it in the techie world today? Is it enough to be a brain or is brawn necessary, too?
To me, the most important asset is the ability to take action. It rather useless to be highly intelligent yet not take any actual steps towards crystallising your passion. The key is what they call as œcalculated risks? Give the idea a thought, and see how it will bring you 2 years, or 5 years down the road. If you think that the idea is good, then start working on it, don™t wait for the right time!

Which is more important, education or experience, or do you consider a mix of the two most important? Can you learn on the job, or is it important to get a full education?
For those seeking technical jobs, then of course, both the education and experience would be crucial, otherwise you will not possess the skills required to complete the tasks. For non-technical tasks, then even general business-majors is adequate. However, firms would normally hire people with experience, and possess good working attitude. For those wishing to start their business on the Internet, formal full education in IT is not necessary, but guidance from the proper consultants / web firms are crucial so that your website can really sell on the Net!

Who were your role models/inspiration when you were growing up?
I look at different role models for different qualities, for instance:-
* Jeff Bezos for taking the risk to quit his job, and start
* Anthony Robbins for being a great motivator, overcoming fears and many obstacles to achieve his goals
* Coco Lee, being the first female Asian artist to hit international music scene
To me, I feel that I aim to live my life with passion! It important to enrich my life with good books, and goals-driven people so that I can also learn from their persistence, and success.

There are women in technology who make arguments that, for instance, the Internet is uniquely suited to women because it favours interactivity. In addition, and in the same breath, they also say that technology is gender neutral. Can we have it both ways?
Technology can become many things, depending on what we want to make out of it. Some people would see the Internet being a wonderful tool for effective communication, while some might perceive it as being œmachine-oriented?with the loss of the œhuman side?interaction. I believe that good things come in moderation, and we can have the Internet benefit both men and women, alike.

Many technological companies favour an adversarial working approach as to survive in a globalised economy which is based on the values of competitiveness. Is this one of the barriers women face in today's working environment?
Where there business, there bound to be competition. With the rise of the Internet, many companies are involved in highly aggressive business environment with global competitors. Therefore, in order to grow, and even to just survive, companies would be looking at employees who are able to perform and complete the tasks. Companies are also more prone to hire employees that share the same vision, and embrace the company goals. It become rather common to have performance-based remuneration in technology companies, as time and financial resources are vital. If the employee, irregardless of male or female, is unable to perform, the company would just have to take other measures to find other replacements that could do the job better.

What are your hopes for the future of Malaysian women currently dabbling in ICT?
Currently, there are only a handful Malaysian women leaders in IT companies, so I hope that in these few years, the number of women IT role-models would be increased. For women interested in technology, take charge and take action today to secure your dream job or start your business of passion.

There is a saying that goes- œWomen only want to solve problems and make everyone happy, and they don't always stop to consider the political ramifications? Is this true?
I don™t think that the perception is true. When a problem occurs, various solutions can be taken. In order to choose the appropriate solutions, some would consider the effect of the solution to the various parties involved, and prefer to select the solution that they themselves feel more secure with, such as less hurtful to other people, especially their acquaintances. As more women enter different fields, their actions are bound to change the lifestyle, and the way their superiors make decisions. Leaders therefore, would also have to revolutionise their leadership skills and management abilities to provide a condusive and productive environment for both genders.

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