Achiever's now a motivator
Overcoming many obstacles to get an education which led to a seven-year stint in Silicon Valley, this self-made whizz-kid is now back home and hoping to ease the way for compatriots seeking a similar career trajectory
Ruangroj "Krating" Poonpol says he has always tried to live up to a motto taught to him by his mother when he was very young: Dream high, fight hard, never give up.
Ambition, application and drive got him to where he is today _ currently senior vice-president of dtac's products division _ but it all started with interest in science triggered by a resourceful primary school teacher.
When it came time for university, Krating, in an effort to please his father, applied to enter a degree course in medicine, but ended up following his passion for science and majoring in engineering. After completing an MBA at Stanford University in the US, where he was able to study thanks to winning a scholarship, he was taken on by Google as a marketing manager, later going on to launch a company of his own.
Now this talented young man is in the midst of achieving yet another feat, acting as a bridge for Thai app developers who are interested in furthering their careers in Silicon Valley.
Tell us a little about your time at Google.
I started as a quantitative marketing manager, which meant working as a part of a research team. Google is a very scientific company, so everything is based on experiments. Even for something as simple as choosing a colour, experiments are done to verify why a particular colour should be used.
My next position was global lead marketing manager of Google Earth. The area I managed covered the Asia-Pacific: China, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, Australia and India.
What did you learn from working with such a leading technology entity?
The whole experience was a wonderful learning process. While everyone worked really hard, it was never monotonous _ each quarter we'd have new things to work on.
Google is wonderful _ it's one of the world's most value-for-money brands. Also, it has never built its reputation via television or other traditional ways of doing things, but instead used word-of-mouth and online [platforms] telling stories that are powerful and sell the vision of Google.
"Have fun and change the world" is what Google bases its philosophy on. So every morning when we wake up and go to work, we realise that we can change the world, do our part to impact the world in a positive manner.
"Users first and all else will follow" just means that we don't think about the money first, but the users.
Was owning company after being a manager part of your plan or an outcome of the experiences you had at Google?
I had been working at Google for more than two years but I had always dreamed of owning a high-tech company. At that time we didn't have the word "start-up". Because I had no money and no experience, I had picked a leading technology company, Google, in order to learn more about the craft.
There were many kinds of technology: hardware, software... but I thought that the internet should be the right one, so I went to work for Google. If I hadn't worked for Google, I wouldn't have been able to set up my own company. The experience [I had] at Google changed my mindset.
Why did you choose technology?
Diligence helped me get good grades. I wasn't born in the lap of luxury _ I come from the countryside and so I jumped at the chance to study in Bangkok. Sheer hard work helped me to finish third in the national maths competition and I also got a gold medal at the Physics Olympics.
The scholarship at Stanford covered half of my tuition fees. There I had a chance to meet people such as Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, and Andrew Grove, the ex-CEO of Intel who was a full-time instructor. Studying at Stanford ... opened many doors of opportunity for me to learn and then I chose to close, one by one, the doors that I felt didn't work for me.
You are the person credited with initiating dtac Accelerate, a project to build shortcuts for Thai app developers...
Yes, it was one of my dreams. I chose this company because it offers opportunities and has vision. I spent seven years in Silicon Valley seeking people who would put up an investment of US$1.2 million, but now a dtac Accelerate winner could achieve the same thing within a year. The project links Thailand with Silicon Valley _ it's a bridge to deliver the best resources to teach Thais.
Besides meeting significant people who pick the apps for the App Store and Google Play, the app developers will also have a chance to meet Fadi Bishara, the founder of Blackbox, who has in-depth knowledge and experience related to building successful start-ups in Silicon Valley and elsewhere in the world.
This will surely accelerate the whole process for Thai developers...
If I hadn't joined dtac, this kind of project wouldn't have happened. Khun Jon, the CEO, brought the vision to reality. We believe that the country in the future must be driven by creative start-ups. This project opens up opportunities for smart people to go to Silicon Valley where they might become the next Mark Zuckerberg. The internet is not just a social network; it is a really democratic medium that also offers opportunities.
How did you nurture the fighting spirit in yourself?
Much of the credit must go to my mother, who has been a pillar of strength for me.
My birth was very hard. I was a premature baby. My mother had asthma and suffered from it for 30 years. Six times the attacks were so severe that she had to be taken to the ICU. She told me that she had beaten death six times, so I shouldn't be afraid of anything in life. She taught me to be a fighter.
Tell us about a significant turning point in your life.
I had two primary school teachers who changed my life. I was very tiny when I was a kid. At school I was often bullied and I felt insecure. Khru [teacher] Janthorn always cheered me up and boosted my self-confidence. Khru Chenchanok, on the other hand, was the person who instilled in me a love for science. He explained the concept of surface tension to the class by showing us a spider walking on water. Everyone was mesmerised. Our school didn't have any costly equipment, but the way he taught us was very smart. All the scientific experiments were done through simple observation of nature. The inspiration I got from him made me aim to get a gold in either physics or maths at the Olympic level.
If I hadn't met those two teachers, I would never have reached the point I am at today.
You also dreamed of becoming a teacher yourself at one time, didn't you?
Yes, but now dtac Accelerate is the education, the mentor [model] to teach developers.
I also run "Disrupt University", an intensive project that teaches the start-ups by filtering my seven years of experience in Silicon Valley to the Thai developers.
There are some 150 people who have passed through this project and gone on to win several competitions. Some have been successful to the point of starting their own company, which is now worth in the region of 60 million baht. I'm so happy being a teacher.
What advice would you give to parents with children growing up in this digital age?
Parents should be navigators for their children. They should open all the doors for their kids and give them the freedom to think outside the box. Parents should look at what talents their children have.
My dad wanted me to be a medical doctor so I could take care of my ailing mother. But I discovered I was scared of blood and ghosts and not very good at biology. I might have become the worst doctor in the country, or in the world for that matter. I was able to pass the entrance exam for the Faculty of Medical Sciences at Siriraj Hospital, but then I decided not to study in this field.
It broke my dad's heart because it was his dream, but eventually he accepted it. It is important for parents to trust their children's decisions.
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About the author
- Writer: Sasiwimon Boonruang
Position: Life Writer