MS JOANNE Tan has worked at IBM Singapore for a decade, yet the country manager, who is responsible for its software sales, has neither a desk nor office to call her own.
This is because she is part of the software company’s unique mobility programme, where employees are able to work anywhere and anytime, as long as business targets are met.
She says her workday could start at 8.30am in the IBM Singapore office. There, she settles in a workstation reserved for those working under the mobility programme.
She then has back-to-back meetings with her colleagues and clients, which can stretch into the early afternoon.
After a late lunch, she heads home to continue her work and to prepare for a conference call, which will start at 5pm — but not before a few pit stops.
Ms Tan, 44, who is married with three children aged between 13 and 16, picks her children up from school and goes home with them.
This schedule is not fixed and varies from day to day.
“My children appreciate that I can keep them company at home, but they also know not to interrupt me during a conference call,” she says.
“IBM has a safe and healthy working environment which encourages work-life integration,” she adds.
Still, even at home, Ms Tan makes it a point to work hard. She communicates constantly with her colleagues, both local and overseas, through e-mail, phone calls and Lotus Sametime, an instant messaging system.
“As a globally integrated enterprise, IBM employees are less bounded by physical geographical limits,” she says.
IBM currently employs about 400,000 people across over 170 countries.
Still, the best part of Ms Tan’s job does not lie in the flexible working conditions. Instead, what she enjoys most about the job is the camaraderie she has with the people she works with.
For example, if she requires additional team support for a meeting with a client, her supervisors would, without hesitation, take time out of their busy schedules to accompany her.
“It is the people working with me — my team, peers, managers and mentors — that keeps me going. They are the main source of support during challenging times,” she says.
And these tough moments do exist.
Once, she recalls, her team met with an unexpected challenge while preparing a sales proposal for a client.
They had worked on the proposal for about three months while tracking its progress.
Everything seemed to be proceeding smoothly until they heard from the client that the proposal was slightly off tangent.
“It happened so suddenly. Within a short time (a week), we had to rescue and recover from the situation,” she says.
Ms Tan and her team put together a new proposal, which was promptly re-submitted to the client.
“In such situations, you have to analyse what went wrong and strategise from there. It is important to stay positive.
“I face the same challenges that every professional faces, which is dealing with unexpected events when they occur and adapting strategies to overcome them,” she says.
Career opportunities also abound in IBM.
“In the past, we used to sell products, but now, we sell solutions,” she says.
She explains that helping clients has now been elevated to a higher notch.
Previously, her role revolved around helping customers automate their business processes, such as a bank’s loan processes.
However, she now helps them to optimise these processes so that clients can work smarter and faster in an inter-connected world.
This change has helped to create more career choices.
“To succeed, you must have passion for what you do and a commitment to give your best.
“This is a very rewarding career, but it involves hard work,” she says.