MAKING your first million is still pretty exciting, albeit for the company you are employed with.
Even today, more than 10 years on, Computer Recover Centre Sdn Bhd (CRC) general manager Andy Yau's face lights up when he recounts making that first million. He was then a business manager with SCS Computer Systems Sdn Bhd, of which CRC is a subsidiary.
“At that time, I think SCS' revenue was about RM5 million and we were making a couple of millions,” he recalls.
“My business area made one million. That was exciting. That was a breakthrough, for me anyway. 'Wah', made one million for the company. Net profit, not just revenue. That was quite exciting.”
Also, at that same time – in the late 1980s – SCS was undergoing tremendous growth. “This was after I joined for a couple of years,” says Yau, who has been with the SCS group for 16 years.
“When I first joined, the company had less than 20 staff, and since then we have grown to 50, then to 100, to 200 and now 300.
“That period was great exposure for me, being in the midst of a high growth company. That kind of experience and exposure, actually kept me going, and that was one of the reasons why I have been working for SCS for so many years.
“It really gave me the exposure, made me face the challenges of managing a growing company. There were lots of lessons learnt in the process as well, things like when you grow, and you have to make sure the whole ship grows with you.
“Subsequently, when we realised we were going too fast, I was moved from business manager to operations director. My responsibility was to review the entire company's operation and try to streamline it. That was for about a year, and everything went back to normal after that. We were on track again in terms of efficiency and profitability.”
Then Yau was moved to CRC –in 1994, as general manager. It was to be a new experience for him, and another period of learning as well.
“I was not just responsible for profit and loss of the company, but I now report to the board of directors. In CRC, I feel that I am on my own. Previously, I had my boss, my mentor, all the time. I could go and see him on any problem,” he says.
“But when you are GM (general manager) of a company you are very much on your own. You make your own decisions. You feel lonely. You take the risks yourself ? business decisions in terms of where you want to go.
“And when you face up with competition ? do you want to respond with this campaign, but at a loss? In those days the boss will say, ”do it” or ”don’t do it”. Now you decide.”
Although very much immersed in the digital world now, Yau initially had very different ambitions. His English teacher in secondary school was encouraging everyone to take up accountancy.
“Her husband was an accountant and did very well. And, at that time, in the 1970s, nobody talked about computers,” recalls Yau.
“So, I want to university and I took an economics course. I took a double degree, law and economics, and it was meant to be a four-year degree course. But after doing the first year, which is common subject for both degrees, I realised technology was going to shake the way we work, and to change the way business is done. That’s how I got interested in computing.
“So I dropped law and decided to do IT (information technology). I focused on my economics degree and finished it in three years. Then I took up post-graduate studies in computer science. I did that in one year.”
After graduating from Monash University in Australia, Yau worked for an Australian company for about four months, to gain experience. He was hired for the IT department of a manufacturing company dealing in scientific instruments – test tubes, cylinders, syringes.
That job whetted his IT appetite further.
Yau says: “It was a very interesting time because they just converting to a new system. My job was to help them in the conversion exercise.”
Returning to Malaysia he took up a position with a hardware distributor cum systems integrator (although in those days there was no such term). His job was not just to sell the hardware, but also to sell the service along with that, as well as application development, which made him realise that his liking was in software.
“I feel that’s where I can add value, in terms of automation, making processes more efficient, maybe better,” says Yau.
“So I moved to a software company. At that time I dealt in financial systems –I found it very relevant because academically I was from that area – and human resource systems. Those were very high-end solutions running on mainframes.
“I was quite excited working there. My job was in software. I worked with the company for about three years, before I joined SCS.”
His job experiences in hardware and software were a good combination that was to stand Yau in good stead. He joined SCS knowing he could actually use his experience in both hardware and software in his new job.
At SCS he started off as a salesman, selling total solutions, hardware and software combined, very much in the midi computer area. From a sales person, he moved on to sales manager and to be business manager, which was to subsequently be his launch pad to the top echelons of SCS management.
But it wasn't all work and no play at SCS. Yau used to play football for SCS against customers’ teams. “The customers were fitter than us because they sent in all the young ones,” he recalls.
“And we tried to find young ones, but essentially we were playing for fun. I retired from football 10 years ago. I realised I cannot run more than 10 minutes now. I am 44 now.”
Yau's football skills were honed on, of all places, tin mines at the 7th mile Jalan Kepong, opposite Kepong Baru where he grew up.
He reminisces: “We were kicking the football on sandy ground! You can imagine, how many scratches you can get!”
He recalls cycling all the way to Penchala – “It was a long distance on a bicycle, but now in a short time we are there – to have challenges in football games with the boys from the kampung there.
Now, instead of football, Yau plays golf, still to a 24 handicap although he has been playing for three years now. “Its because I don’t play often enough. I treat it as a social game, so I remain 24,” he pleads. “Actually, I play worse than 24. I am 36.”
And Yau showed just how bad his golf was during a company trip to the Cameron Highlands. It was about a month after he took up the game, and it was the first time he was playing on a golf course.
“When I teed off, the ball flew towards my boss. He was actually on the other fairway. We were on different flights,” he recalls in horror of what might have been had the ball struck his boss.
Recently, in the last two or three months, Yau has been trying to play once a week at his home course, Rahman Putra, because he wants to obtain his official handicap.
His other interest today is travelling, visiting places at his own pace and whims, not packaged tours.
“I have covered all the local sights, so now I go overseas, once a year. I change the destination all the time,” says Yau.
His most memorable trip so far was to Egypt – “the history behind it, how civilisation was conquered by nature, meaning how the desert won over civilisation”.
A father of four boys aged 15, 12, 8 and 6, Yau says he sees his eldest son most likely to follow in his footsteps.
“He loves computers. He does not want to go anywhere because he can do anything with the computer. He says he can go anywhere using the computer. And, because of his influence, all my children would prefer to stay at home; they don’t like to go out.
“Of course, they always qualify any response to an invitation to go out by asking ‘where are you going?’ before they decide whether they want to come with (my wife and I). They will come with us to certain places –places they love to go to – otherwise they prefer to stay at home.
“Yes, I think my eldest son likely to follow me into the computer line. In fact I think he wants to become a designer for computer graphics and games. I can see that he loves watching Tech TV. He gets very excited.
“I tell him, ‘yeah, someday you should invent something for us to use’.”
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