Learning from the best

Learning from the best

IBM Thailand's head credits an ability to listen and show empathy for her success

Ms Patama said she wants to be remembered for what she has accomplished.
Ms Patama said she wants to be remembered for what she has accomplished.

Patama Chantaruck was named vice president for Indochina expansion and managing director of IBM Thailand in 2018, becoming the first female outsider to take the leadership role in the Thai operation of this US technology powerhouse.

She has decades of experience in the IT field, including head of Microsoft Thailand and general manager at Microsoft Corporation.

She also serves as an advisory board member of Thailand's Office of Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion.

Ms Patama's was chosen as a 2020 finalist in the Lifetime Achievement Global Award of Women in Tech, and winner of the Top Businesswomen award in 2019. She is also a Female Executive of the Year 2018 Stevie Award Winner and one of 60 "Thought Leaders You Should Follow" as named in 2018 at a Global Microsoft Inspire event.

Various IBM projects have been rolled out under her leadership, including the Bank of Thailand's world's first blockchain-based platform for government savings bonds and the Thailand Blockchain Community Initiative's electronic letter of guarantee platform, in which 22 banks and 15 companies participated.

IBM also jointly developed a blockchain platform for the Customs Department to modernise the shipping process. The department was the second government agency in Asean and third in Asia Pacific to leverage this product.

In the healthcare field, Internet Thailand Plc (INET) and IBM rolled out Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology help radiologists detect tuberculosis (TB) cases from chest X-ray images.

The AI-powered CXR screening application is now in use at 75 community and medical correctional hospitals.

The application is being extended to detect another 14 chest X-ray symptoms such as pneumonia, pulmonary edema, and is expected to help thousands of patients in 300 hospitals this year.

IBM also works with PTT trading, a trading business unit of energy giant PTT, to implement automation and AI technologies to boost work efficiency.

Through the IBM-supported Robotic Process Automation, PTT Trading is expected to save 16.6 million baht within three years.

"People in leadership positions should not just hear, but listen without bias, even to ideas that are different from their opinions, in order to drive forward," Ms Patama said.

She said she does not want others to see her in the position as an Asian female leader, but as a leader who can make a difference for IBM locally, partners and customers while contributing to the country through two decades of work experience in the US.

She offers business tips for businesses to survive in the face of technology disruption and the pandemic.

First, they must find partners in their ecosystem and differentiate themselves from their rivals and second, their business models must be able to adopt technology through cloud computing and AI.

Third, organisations need to think like entrepreneurs, adjust quickly to changing conditions to achieve their goals, and lastly they must pay attention to cost control efficiency and security.

For Ms Patama, in the an IT world dominated by men, it may be hard to find a role model for women in the tech industry.

"I think you cannot really change who you are. I have picked up role models along the way," she said.

"You have to pick the right people who inspire you. You can become the best version of yourself. You become who you want to be."

Speaking as a woman in the IT industry, "I have to make sure they don't look at me as a female leader, but look at me as one of their own, which is a leader in IT.

"I have to be the best version of myself. All of the role models I picked up along the way have helped me become who I am today."

Ms Patama credits her parents who taught her to think who she wants to be in the future.

"When I get to do what I love, I am happy to wake up every morning. I know each every single day I make a difference," she said.

The business leader wants to be remembered for what she has accomplished.

"I may not be the smartest person but I know the experience I had to get behind to become who I am today. At least I can make a difference."

Talking about future CEOs, Ms Patama said the leaders need empathy, which is critical to how to run a business, an ability to embrace change and figure out ways to engage with people they work with. "You have to empower your people," she said.

According to her, the direction may not necessarily come from the top any more and great ideas can often be found among staff at large.

Her mother gave her advice of being the best she can be.

"Every day may not be perfect, but I will do my best. I give my best in everything I do."

She said it is not necessary to pick the best role model. People can learn from others, not only their success, but also their failures. "I am living proof. If I can do it, so can you."

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