Copy that: Fuji Xerox (HK)’s Debby Chan reflects on over two decades of working in Hong Kong’s tech industry
It comes as no surprise that Debby Chan Wai-tak enjoys practising tai chi as, seemingly without effort, she balances yin and yang in terms of the hard and soft skills she needs for professional and personal success.
In July this year, Chan was appointed the director of external affairs and operations support at Fuji Xerox (Hong Kong). Her responsibilities involve overseeing the company’s corporate communications, sustainability goals, customer relationship management, operations and processes. Prior to this, she was the company’s director of marketing for seven years.
She says that IT skills are important for understanding her market, but professional success requires a great deal more.
“It is a matter of character, how you innovate. Be creative and be consistent in following your dream, whatever it might be. Do what interests you and regard every failure as a step on the road to success. But don’t fail at the same thing twice.”
Over the years, Chan has reinforced her bachelor’s degree in business studies from Toronto’s York University with formal and informal IT training. Working for an Australian IT company for two years was a valuable part of this process.
She joined what was then named Rank Xerox Hong Kong in 1992 as a marketing manager, launching and handling “any hardware that connects to a computer”, as she puts it.
Despite her gentle speech and manner, Chan reveals passion in every sentence. She is really excited about the “green” addition to her portfolio that comes with the new position. “My background is green, as is my DNA, and the company’s DNA,” she says, noting an award that the company received for its zero landfill policy, made possible by its three reprocessing plants. “We are a carbon neutral company as we do purchase carbon offsets.”
When Chan joined Rank Xerox, there were around 300 staff members. Today the number is 900, but gender imbalance at senior management level is still the norm.
“It’s changed quite a bit, but still only about 30 per cent of senior executives are women. An IT company has different departments where everyone has particular strengths. Female sales staff are consistently high-flyers and customers appreciate their ability to get straight to the point,” Chan says.
“The world has changed. We can look at Yahoo, Facebook and others to find women CEOs. Our service management team totals 11, of whom more than one-third are women. We appreciate diversity. This is a big international company and we have to comply with best practice regarding opportunities for women.”
She admits that few women study IT, but adds that it’s a similar situation with men, according to universities. “It’s tough! IT associations are trying to reverse this trend, but it’s not easy.”
In any field, Chan believes people should seek to follow what she calls “the three I’s”. “The first is to find an inspirational job, something you really want to do,” she says. “The second is to maintain an innovative mindset and that is very important. I tell new staff: ‘You are from outside, tell me what we are not doing well.’ The third is interpersonal skills, the ability to work together with colleagues.”
During her almost quarter of a century with Fuji Xerox (as the company was renamed in 2000), Chan’s professional experience has grown in scope. She played a crucial role in opening up the China market for the company, travelling regularly in and out of Beijing and Shanghai – often within a single day – for meetings.
She has also been closely involved in the company’s transition from suppliers of hardware to information and communication technologies (ICT).
“I have stayed with Fuji Xerox because of the ‘good company concept’. It is strong financially, kind environmentally and interesting to employees. The bottom line is that staff need to be happy.
“We can’t sustain life on the planet without being kind environmentally. Being kind involves contributing to the community; I help a number of NGOs, especially those seeking green solutions to help the planet. And I run my home along the same lines – all appliances and even light bulbs are energy saving.”
As a leader, Chan emphasises the importance of action. “When I interview job applicants, many say they want to learn. I say, ‘I don’t pay you to learn. You must be part of a team of 900 people that make things happen.’”
Innovation is also essential. “We must continually equip and train staff. Fuji Xerox has its own ICT academy where we train staff to comply with certain requirements, for instance regarding confidentiality certification – something that is crucial to our clients,” she says.
“We encourage staff to enrol for courses that equip them to be IT security literate and eligible for ISO certification. Five hundred out of 900 staff have this qualification.”
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Copy that.