THIS IS LIFE
Trairat Chatkaew once dreamed of becoming the education minister. But destiny had other plans, and it steered him towards a career in computers.
Software Industry Promotion Agency (Sipa) director Trairat Chatkaew.
His path has been shaped by the IT world as he found himself working in local and international computer firms. Trairat is determined to drive Thai-made software to the forefront of the global market as director of the Software Industry Promotion Agency (Sipa). It's a job he applied for and missed out on twice. He was never discouraged, and it proved to be ''third time lucky'' when he got the job two months ago.
Now that Thailand is preparing for the Asean Economic Community (AEC), the Thai software industry is aiming for regional expansion, and the performance of the new Sipa director will be in the spotlight.
Why did you become an IT professional?
At the time, computers were not popular. I dreamed of working in political science, but fate had it that I went to study a Bachelor of Business Administration at Assumption College. I was the first generation in the business computer major class, which had only 10 students at that time.
After graduation, I started working at IBM Thailand as a billing specialist, helping the implementation of a new computerised billing system. I received the Administration Achievement Award after having worked there for just two years. I transferred to become an information analyst, and [worked] in the sales division taking care of the government sector, where I was responsible for education and utility accounts.
How did the education sector influence your career?
It was the period that IBM focused on the eduction sector, and I was the first one to pioneer that business. I've always been very familiar with educational services _ my mother worked at the Education Ministry. It's in my blood. [It doesn't] matter if it's a library system or an e-learning [system], I have an understanding of education in the dimension of technology. I worked for 10 years at IBM.
Why did you quit such an established international firm?
IBM is a very good company. I learned a lot there, but I thought it was time to run my own business. I set up my own company, but it wasn't successful. The sales were good, but I could not make a profit because of my deficiency in other fields _ I have no skills in inventory or financial management. I went back to work as an executive at local IT companies and then at Sun Microsystems, which had just opened an office in Thailand.
Was it in the era when global IT companies came to set up businesses in Thailand and many professionals were moving around?
Yes, it was. But that was a difficult time for me to make a decision because I was also approached by a commercial bank. I consulted Krairit Bunyakiat, a respected teacher, who told me the vision of Scott McNealy, ''The network is the computer''. So I decided to choose Sun Microsystems. I was with Sun for seven years. I pushed Java technology and promoted Java development and programming. Then I sought out another challenge as Sun became too hardware-oriented.
You have been in the IT industry for your entire working life, what do you think about the importance of software?
Software is involved in every dimension of our lives. Software is in your pocket. In the future, everybody will use smartphones and tablets _ this is the front end _ and inside the smart devices is the software, which is the back end. In the future, doctors may inject software into our bodies with which they can control our blood system and cure diseases. It's all possible. So far in Thailand, we only have programmers who become entrepreneurs, but in the end it won't be easy for them to succeed. I went through that experience myself. To manage a software business you have to know about sales, marketing and HR management [as well].
Is that why you applied for the Sipa job?
Yes, I applied three times. It's what I've been interested in for a long time. Thailand needs a software promotion agency and it is in this position that I can contribute to the country. I view everything in the context of the next five to 10 years. I adopt the global approach, as IBM taught me to think big.
With globalisation, [comes the] importance of localisation. With my networking and understanding in software and international business, I believe I can contribute to the development of the industry.
As director, what are your priorities?
The first three months are about internal organisation and laying out the strategy for 2013. All the plans must be completed within this month. The second goal is to link the human network. I'll look at promising students and those who have won awards to include them in our portfolio and figure out how to promote them.
Also within six months, I'll put the focus on six sectors _ healthcare, tourism, logistics, education, food and agriculture, and jewellery. In 12 months, we'll work on a strategy to enter the AEC by seeking financial support from abroad for entrepreneurs to expand globally.
What is your management style?
I compromise, but at the same time, I'm decisive. As an executive, I have two core concepts _ be a good professional and be a good listener.
By having a proper combination of these two, you can manage people fairly.
What about goals for your life?
When I was at IBM, I set a goal to become the education minister by the time I reached 55. But things went off track, and I thought that I could do something for the country no matter whether I was in the public or the private sector.
I love learning, and have knowledge in IT, HR and management, and with international networking, these can serve the country.
I can also share my knowledge through writing and teaching jobs. I'm 53 now _ I still have another 30 years to do what I would like to do.