Seeing double: The English Premier League and Huawei Malaysia (Opinion)

Written by Adrian Leong, Government’s Administrative and Diplomatic Officer (PTD)

Euphoria of a summer transfer

When offered the opportunity to join Huawei Malaysia, my emotions were like that of a player who had realised a dream move to his favourite English Premier League club. When I joined in September 2021, the move had the feel of a summer transfer, but muted of a stadium unveiling to rapturous fans. This opportunity came about when the Public Affairs and Communications Department (PACD) joined the Public Service Department’s Cross Fertilisation Programme (PCF) as a receiving agency.  PCF is an initiative by the Malaysian Government for officers to be placed temporarily in the private sector. This programme aims to value add and hone leadership skills of government officers through observing and applying best practices in the private sector that could be applied to government agencies. Having served in the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department for five years, this was a fresh start of sorts for pastures new.

Passion of Dennis Bergkamp

“When you start supporting a football club, you don’t support it because of the trophies, or a player, or history, you support it because you found yourself somewhere there; found a place where you belong.”

This quote by Dennis Bergkamp, one of Arsenal Football Club’s favourite sons, has lingered at the back of my mind ever since it was mentioned in the 1990s. Being a fan of football since my teenage years, sports personalities, especially football coaches and players, have loomed large in shaping my thoughts and perception. Football teams with their different styles of play, managements as well as business models had provided me with a platform to understand happenings around me.

This quote very much reflects my own working philosophy and experience; where to achieve some sense of belonging, one needs to adapt well and be agile in methods of doing things. In football, talent without hard work will achieve nothing, and this is relevant in the public and the private sectors too. Being flexible and having the ability to easily absorb new knowledge from your new working surroundings are vital to fitting right in and hitting the ground running.

Huawei Malaysia a mirror of the Premier League

There are some peculiar similarities between the birth of Huawei and the English Premier League. For the latter, it was first created in 1992 to replace the old English First Division. Riding on a new business model, the League would have commercial independence from the Football League and The FA, leaving it free to organise its own broadcast and sponsorship agreements. From then on, and into the new century, we see the Premier League churning out endless exciting products. The morphing into the Premier League is hardly puritan. Rather, business had opened the Pandora box of footballing opportunities to continuously churning possibilities.

For Huawei, we have witnessed the fruit of an evolution that began at the turn of the century. A young company from abroad was seeking to establish itself here. A company, which at infancy in its parent country in 1987, was literally given the name promising i.e., Huawei. It had opened for business there reselling PBX switches. Then it quickly repositioned itself as a leading technology provider around the world. Its business model is one that places importance on its employees through an Employee Shareholding Scheme. In this country, Huawei Malaysia continuously excites. Under the 3G banner in 2008 and later 4G in 2012, the Maxis FDD Massive MIMO is a fine example while the world’s first Smart-8T8R solution with Celcom is another. Currently, flagship projects include the Kuching Smart City, Huawei Spark, My5G and TM ONE’s Alpha Edge. Through these projects, Huawei has opened the country to a whole new world of digitalisation.

Recognising strengths by Jurgen Klopp

A quote from Jurgen Klopp, the current Liverpool manager is reflective of Huawei’s strengths. He mentioned “The Premier League is the most difficult in the world. There’s five, six or seven clubs that can be the champions.” 

Just as the Premier League showcases multiple internationally leading clubs, Huawei too has been trailblazing with a plethora of internationally recognised leading products, be it a RuralStar to ensure connectivity in the rural outskirts to theMy5G at Cyberjaya, to sorting chilli or keeping sturgeons alive for Malaysian-made caviar as well as connecting seaports or airports, just to mention a few.  

This leads to my second observation of the Premier League which is also evident in Huawei and that is on how innovation and technology are being applied. A new development in football around the world is the deployment of Video Assisted Referees (VAR) sitting in a control room to help the referee on the field make better decisions. Similarly, Huawei’s technology for a command centre aims to make daily lives better. 

The experience I obtained from Huawei in the areas of new technologies and advance innovation are tremendous. There is no other place I would rather be to witness the evolution of digitalisation from a front row seat. Huawei Malaysia’s Customer Solution Innovation Center (CSIC) is a sight to behold with over 120 applications and services aggregated in one place.

On top of that, both the Premier League and Huawei have an international presence. The Premier League is the most-watched sports league in the world, broadcast in 212 territories to 643 million homes and a potential TV audience of 4.7 billion people. Huawei, of which I am constantly being reminded of by my colleagues, is a Fortune 500 company, ranked 44 in the world, and supports the stable operation of 1,500+ carrier networks across 170+ countries and regions, achieving over 1 billion connected Huawei devices worldwide, with 730+ million Huawei smartphone users, among others.

Lessons Learnt by Roy Keane

Maybe I was getting a little stuck in the rut with more than 15 years in government service, but Huawei has offered me an invigoration of sorts since joining in September 2021.

“I don’t believe skill was, or ever will be, the result of coaches. It is a result of a love affair between the child and the ball,” said Roy Keane, one of the most successful captains of Manchester United.

What this entails is the opportunity Huawei has offered for me to learn and also relearn skills picked up from the government service. 

Relearn as in participating and enjoying the accomplishment of the Public Affairs and Communications Department (PACD) officers when the Prime Minister, YAB Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri, visited Huawei’s CSIC in November 2021. It was one of the main highlights of the year, and surely one of the most significant ones. The visit was the culmination of months of planning and toiling, not to mention tears and fears. It was nice being part of the PACD team in achieving one of its key targets.

There were also many opportunities to learn such as in organising the online Empowering Women Leader’s Conference involving 26 speakers that magnified the importance of women empowerment in Huawei’s agenda. Kudos to the PACD team again for being able to bring together successful and important women to speak at this conference. These included successful leaders of the country such as the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Mastura Mohd Yazid and retired Federal Court Judge Tan Sri Zainun Ali while Huawei’s very own Madam Chen Lifang, Corporate Senior Vice-President and Director of the Board, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.,  as well as Ms. Afke Helprigdina Maria Schaart, Senior Vice-President, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd also lent their voices. These women spoke with vigour on ways to advance women in finance, technology, business, judiciary and government. 

Being involved in the nitty gritty of organising this conference right down to the last detail taught me the importance of patience and how to deal with last minute unforeseen circumstances when things sometimes do not go as planned. One example was a speaker backing out at the last minute due to a family emergency and having to rearrange things due to that. This showed me how important it is to think on one’s feet and the value of teamwork.

Finally, this programme provided me with the biggest opportunity to learn two totally new fields, namely, 5th generation mobile network and cyber security. Huawei offered me insights into the technological advancements it has made in these fields. I was given the opportunity to be part of the launching of My5G, the first 5G Cyber Security Test lab in Southeast Asia at CyberSecurity Malaysia in December last year. I am able to witness the ensuing work Huawei is putting in with various partners to ensure the success of the test lab and I feel this will be the most valuable experience that I will gain from my stint at Huawei. 

Moving forward 

In Huawei, I have experienced the working culture and environment of a leading multinational company, the development of effective presentation materials and the importance of time management. However, my journey is yet to be over and I am looking forward to many more opportunities to learn in the months to come. I look forward to improving in developing my interpersonal and communications skills and I believe the skills acquired will be useful in my future placements in the civil service.

“Listening to their advice, watching others, and reading about people are three of the best things I ever did.” These words of wisdom from Sir Alex Ferguson, the man who had won almost every major trophy at the club level with Manchester United, are perhaps the three guiding principles that can hold me in good stead as I continue my attachment at Huawei. With bated breath, I am excited to see what comes next.

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