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Disrupt@Digi: Inspiring talent to innovate

Caption: From pitching an idea close to her heart, Ng Xing Huiy has found herself shifting roles from associate, to team leader of a potentially brand new product.

Caption: From pitching an idea close to her heart, Ng Xing Huiy has found herself shifting roles from associate, to team leader of a potentially brand new product.

The year 2016 has seen various startups popping up, trying to fill the needs of Malaysians. Startups across the different fields have shown both bold innovation and localisation of international products. They boast of a different culture – one that’s not restricted by procedures – compared to corporate giants; it’s no wonder why many millennials flock to them.

Digi has always set itself apart from the usual corporate structure. They practice a non-hierarchical culture and hot desking, opting to give employees the freedom to engage and collaborate without barriers.

The company has long been driven by innovation. Where in the past, Digi was recognised as a telecommunications company, their constant striving technological evolution has them recognised now as digital service provider, adapting to their customers evolving needs.

Holding on to the culture of innovation at their core, Digi has wisely tapped into their greatest resource to fuel this culture: their existing talent, or Digizens.

In August, Digi launched Disrupt@Digi, their very first hackathon that gave Digizens the opportunity to put their everyday innovation muscles to the test, and be part of an intensive but fulfilling startup experience. 

The hackathon encouraged Digizens to pitch ideas for products and services that could solve a gap in the current market, and elevate Digi as the go-to platform among customers and society.

While the hackathon is a way of generating fresh ideas for its product line, Digi takes it a step further by encouraging Digizens to bring to life their product in a startup-like venture, but still retaining their stability as an employee with Digi.

Ng and her team are now seconded full-time into their startup initiative for six months to develop their products and bring it to market.

Ng Xing Huiy is one of those Digizens whose pitch caught the attention of her organisation’s management team. From serving as an associate, Ng now finds herself leading a team of five competent colleagues in an attempt to develop and launch her product idea. 

Starting with an idea

Ng, who’s been with Digi for four years, had initially participated in the program as a learning experience for skills to apply to her day job and to explore the workings of a startup.

Prior to the hackathon, she had played around with the idea of starting up her very own kindergarten, but after careful consideration, she realised that it wasn’t feasible.

“I didn’t dare to leave my day job and my salary to start up a new business,” said Ng. “But this was a good opportunity for me.”

Inspired by her kindergarten idea, Ng paired up with a colleague to submit a proposal for an app that would improve communication between kindergartens and parents. She was one of the 70 Digizens pitching their original ideas.

The idea was shortlisted to be presented to management, and Ng saw herself building her team which expanded to five very passionate people of varying technical skills. 

In fact, her team gelled so well together that they caught the attention of the judges, and went on to become one of the two winning teams.

In seven weeks, Ng and her team found themselves in new waters, going out to conduct market research and to search for mentors from external startups that could give them a better idea of the demands within the education industry.

Facing the true realities of building a product for the first time, the mentors really pushed Ng and her team to question their idea and if they were fulfilling a gap in the marketplace. 

“It made us to start thinking whether we were on the right track, whether there really was something similar out on the market. 

“But we did a couple of surveys, and that’s when we really went and did our competitor analysis to find out what other apps offered and how we could differentiate ourselves from them,” said Ng.

Ng and her team worked hard on developing the app, picking up on each other’s work when needed. Digi had given them the freedom to pursue their passions, and if it was successful, their project could be Digi’s next product.

The team recently secured approval to take on the project and will operate as a startup for the next six months. 

Freedom to choose

At the end of the next six months, Ng could find herself in three different situations. If the app is a success, Ng could move to a new role in the startup that she nurtured. 

If her product turns out to be a failure, however, Ng could opt to stay with Digi-X but use her new skills to work on other projects. 

The way Digi sees it, failure is a value-added experience to the company’s learning curve which allows them to pinpoint potential areas of challenges in the future. And just like other startup cultures, failure is inevitable – what matters is how we bounce back from the defeat.

At the end of the day, Ng, like other Digizens, has the freedom to choose the areas that she would like to pursue.

If she didn’t enjoy the startup experience, she could also choose to return to her old job – but she’ll be equipped with her newfound experience and skills. 

Disrupt@Digi was truly a way for Digizens to explore running a start-up, but with the stability of an established company to back them up. The program saw and encouraged the potential in Digizens to innovate and allowed them to run as a start-up.

While Disrupt@Digi was a way for Digi to inspire Digizens to think out of the box and challenge the status quo, the journey doesn’t end there. Digi hopes to continue inspiring their customers by empowering their Digizens with the freedom to voice out their ideas.

Meanwhile, Ng has found a new take to her aspiration of owning a kindergarten.

“I don’t own a kindergarten, but now I’m working on an app that helps kindergartens to operate more efficiently and more effectively.

She adds: “Digi really gives you that opportunity where you don’t only work on the core business, but have the freedom to pursue your own passion.”

This article is brought to you by Digi.