Building Resilience in the Age of Tech Disruption and Economic Uncertainty
In the heart of Singapore, surrounded by avid listeners at the Singapore Mentorship Committee's hiking library, Kevin Wo, Chief Partner Officer at Microsoft ASEAN, took the stage. His resume boasts titles like CEO of Microsoft Singapore and board memberships at esteemed institutions such as IMDA, AMCHAM Singapore, SGTech and SICC. On 12th August 2023, he delivered a powerful message about resilience and adapting to the fast-paced world riddled with tech disruptions and economic upheavals.
Kevin began by sharing some of the disruptions and pressing global issues. The COVID-19 pandemic has fractured our economy, created mental health issues and also disrupted the way how we live and work. He aptly connected the uncertainty it introduced to the necessity of resilience. The rising challenges of globalisation has shifted many organisations to relook at regionalising their supply chain strategy. And due to disruption in food supply due to geo-political tensions, unexpected policy changes and act of war eg. Ukraine, countries are also thinking about how they could strength their food resilience.
Kevin also highlighted the digital disruption has accelerated and intensified over the covid pandemic period and after. He called out that the world has been two years’ worth of digital transformation happened in the first few months after WHO declared covid-19 a global health pandemic. The acceleration led to an overdrive in IT industry with a huge demand for digital technology skilled resources.
However, he shared that the technology industry took a turn last year when we encountered the tech layout paradox - The recent wave of tech layoffs has left many in the industry concerned about job security and market stability but at the same time, the technology industry is far from being stagnant and the massive opportunity ahead of us with the emergence of Generative AI technology.
In corporate board rooms across the globe, the conversations are rapidly shifting. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity, once niche subjects, now dominate discussions.
Kevin further highlighted that not only governments and organisations are trying to navigate through the uncertainties and disruptions, the impact is felt on each individual on how he/she build resilience in the era of continuous disruptions.
Kevin went on to share a few areas to consider as we think about building our individual resilience. He talked about the need for one to first learn how to lead through ambiguity – developing a skill to learn how to cope with change, uncertainty and risk. It is also about being your authentic self and recognising that you may not have all the answers and have clarity to all changes.
As we are navigating through the changes, he called out that the need for one to also learn how to lead with empathy. Not everyone is able to adjust and adapt to the changes and disruptions. He highlighted the need to also show empathy and to bring others along through the emotional transition.
In managing complex changes within the organisation or dealing with external disruptions, Kevin highlighted the importance to know how to focus on things that an individual can control and influence rather than on things that the individual has no control over or influence on. This would greatly reduce the anxiety and stress and and focus on things that you can actually change.
He also called out the importance of focusing on an individual’s best self when dealing with complex changes or uncertainty caused by disruptions. He said that an individual can only do his/her best work if he/she can be his/her own best self. He continued to share that in order to be one’s best self, he/she needs to focus on their own being, learning and career development.
He highlighted that one should look at well-being from 4 dimensions – develop one’s physical energy, be emotional connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned. He praised the younger generation's preference for holistic approach to well-being and acknowledged their desire for a clear demarcation between personal and professional spheres, highlighting the significance of maintaining balance.
Kevin went on to share about the importance of being a life-long learner. He shared an interesting insight on how Microsoft has transformed from a “Know it all” culture to one that strongly believe in “Learn it all”.
He also touched on the intentional effort needed by an individual to focus on and own one’s career development.
Drawing from his vast experience across cultures, Kevin made a keen observation about Singaporeans. Their inherent humility often holds them back from self-advocacy. In contrast, professionals from some cultures are more vocal about their achievements, not waiting for recognition but actively seeking it and for opportunities to grow. This disparity, Kevin notes, isn't a flaw but a cultural difference that can be navigated.
In Singapore's corporate culture, he assured, welcomes intentionality and mentorship. Recognising one's worth and being proactive is the crux of emotional intelligence, a trait that Kevin deems crucial in these unpredictable times.
As the Singapore Mentorship Committee's event concluded, Kevin Wo's words resonated deeply. Amidst the challenges of tech disruptions and economic uncertainties, his message was clear: resilience, authenticity, and emotional intelligence are the tools for the future leaders to carve their paths successfully.