Having owned an IBM computer when it was the leading desktop brand, Ms Karen Chong says becoming an employee of the company is a dream come true.
Three years ago, the information technology degree holder was offered what she calls “a golden opportunity” to join the multinational technology and consulting firm. The invitation came from someone at IBM whom she had worked closely with in her previous job.
Ms Chong, 29, is a now a senior sales specialist with IBM’s Systems and Technology Group.
IBM creates business value for its clients and solves business problems through integrated solutions that leverage on information technology and a deep knowledge of business processes. The solutions typically reduce a client’s operational costs or enable new revenue-generating capabilities.
Dealing with power systems and storage solutions, Ms Chong works closely with her pre-sales support team to understand the clients’ IT strategies and business needs. They then identify and recommend a solution for the clients, an outcome that motivates her at work.
She says: “I love the feeling of satisfaction when I deliver value to a client.”
Her work requires her to understand her competitors’ offerings so that she can show her clients how IBM can create differentiated value for them. In addition, she helps to formulate team sales strategies with her manager.
Continuous training has enabled her to grasp the key points of sales and technical skills. Like all new sales staff, she attended the company’s foundational sales learning programme to pick up the core skills of being a productive IBM seller.
Following that, she completed another course, which built up her knowledge in value-driven solution selling skills.
Last year, she attended a training programme in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The stint not only enhanced her skills, but also gave her an insight into the selling experiences of her colleagues in the Asean region.
She says: “This is something that we cannot experience or learn from books. I feel that IBM is one of the few companies willing to invest so much time and money in their people.”
She also values her company’s culture of steadfast support and flexible work arrangement.
Like almost any other employee, she faces daily challenges in managing time, people and herself.
She says: “In the sales line, meeting one’s sales targets is vital. I’m a driven person, so, inevitably I push myself to reach the goal. A delay that may cause me to miss my target is a challenge.”
But she soldiers on, thanks to her close-knit team. She says: “I feel that my colleagues are a strong support group. We have close ties, almost like those of a family.”
What is also admirable is that they maintain the bond even though they do not meet daily.
The company has a mobility programme that allows and equips staff to work at any location, such as the client’s office or at home.
“Often, I’m at a client’s premises, gauging their requirements and strengthening our relationship with them.”
As for working from home, Ms Chong, who is expecting her second child, says: “This is great for working mothers like me, who can spend more time with our children.”
She was promoted to her current position after one and a half years, a progression she credits to two key factors.
“I feel that positivity, perseverance, a never-say-die attitude and good listening skills are the key qualities for excellence. I live by the phrase, ‘run it like you own it.’”
She adds: “I’m very grateful to my manager, who is a driving force in my career and personal growth. He has inspired the team and me through his consistent support and vast experience in IBM and the industry.”
She urges those contemplating a career with IBM to seize the chance should it arise.
Incidentally, IBM declared its vision three years ago to develop more efficient systems in the health-care and transport sectors, among others. This also entails a host of opportunities for career growth and achievement with the company.
Ms Chong says: “If you have the chance, do not miss it! IBM is a very big organisation that allows people to learn a lot. It could be a life-changing career for you.”