Q&A with Tan Peng Wei, Chief, IT Strategy & Management

With a diverse portfolio from IT roles in multi-national corporations around the world to entrepreneurship in Chinese children books, for our new IT Strategy & Management Chief, Tan Peng Wei, going into teaching was the next logical step.

“In a conversation with my career coach then, she asked me how I intended to move from ‘Success to Significance’, it was then I realised that I could make a bigger impact than continuing what I have been doing,” said Peng Wei.

Peng Wei shares with INNOVATE@ISS his journey from ‘Success to Significance’ and reveals a facet of his private self.

1. Please tell us about your professional background
I spent my last 28 years working with global US multi-national corporations, including Hewlett Packard (HP), Electronic Data System (EDS) and Advanced Data Processing (ADP). Through these years, I have acquired business acumen, insights and practice in the use of technology to accelerate business growth and profitability. I am also fortunate to have gained cross-cultural experience (and good friends), having lived and worked in China, Singapore, Taiwan and the United States of America (USA), and having successfully managed multi-national teams across USA, Europe and Asia Pacific. In the areas of team building and management, I’ve had operational experience with the Singapore Armed Forces Reserve for more than 20 years (retiring as a Major) as well.

In a different direction, my first foray into entrepreneurship was together with my wife and a few friends, pioneering Chinese children books retail and services to Singapore Primary Schools in 2005. Painfully, we had to discontinue the business in 2010 with my expatriation to China (with my family). In 2013, I ventured into entrepreneurship once again by partnering a friend in USA to develop an integrated digital and traditional media platform. Unfortunately, we were not successful in second round funding, despite having raised almost US$3 million dollars in the first round. Through this, I have learnt about the possibilities, challenges and the need to accept failure in the entrepreneurial world. Lessons well learnt.

2. Could you share more about the work which you do at NUS-ISS?
My team and I seek to enable organisations with tools and processes to adapt to today’s fast changing, technology-enabled business world. We provide consulting  and research in the areas of Digital Leadership, Strategy Planning, Enterprise Architecture and Business Analysis (including Business Process Reengineering and Agile Development)  – areas that are fundamental to good technological innovation, governance and use. In addition, we are continuing to cover new grounds, particularly in Smart Cities’ initiatives such as Smart Health and Cybersecurity, to enable our stakeholders to keep pace with continued technology changes.  

3. Why did you choose to teach at NUS-ISS?
Having held various leadership positions, from an Asia Pacific President to an Entrepreneur, albeit less successfully, I was looking for my next S-curve in life. A conversation with my career coach struck me deeply as she asked how I intended to move from “Success to Significance”. After much deliberation, I chose to go into teaching at NUS-ISS as it enables me to share my knowledge, expertise and experience to a wider audience and it is certainly a step in the right direction. However, I am aware of the huge responsibilities of being a lecturer as I am in the position to shape and influence the minds of others - a responsibility that I will not take lightly.

4. What do you look forward to most about your work?
I have always enjoyed sharing my experience and mentoring in my previous careers. It is always encouraging to see those whom I have mentored blossom and become successful in work and life. I started adjunct-lecturing for the Singapore eGovernment Leadership Centre programme, delivering courses in Cambodia, China, Singapore and Sri-Lanka in 2014 and the experience was certainly very fulfilling. Having the opportunities and the platform to share my knowledge and experience with IT professionals is certainly what drives me daily.

5. How do you keep up with the industry?
The IT industry is continuously changing. Reading, watching the news, listening to BBC and talking with friends are just some of the many ways that I try to keep up. Certainly more rooms for improvement in this area as there is a huge need to separate noise from information to keep abreast of future trends.

6. What are your favorite activities when you are not working?
I am a Syfy fan and enjoys and watching science fiction shows, including Japanese Anime. They provide me with a sense of wonder and imagination of future possibilities in the world to come. I also enjoy watching Formula 1 races as the integration of man and machine in the race is one of what amazes me most.

7. Tell us something about yourself that very few people know.
This is a challenging question and I don’t believe I have an answer to this. I consider myself to be a simple guy trying to do my best and contribute to the world in my small little ways.

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