He has cycled more than 400km in blistering heat in Africa and taught English to students in Laos in his free time.
But in his day job, Mr Terry Smagh is vice-president of sales for South-east Asia and North Asia at Qlik, a business intelligence company.
He credits his parents – and national service – for setting him on the path to success.
At 16, he was keen to go on to junior college with the rest of his cohort at St Andrew’s Secondary. But his parents insisted that he served his national service first.
“I hated my parents then, to be honest with you. I had studied very hard to get into a good junior college. But my parents said: ‘No, we’re shipping you off to the army’.”
At first, he felt out of place, but he grew up quickly in the army.
Said Mr Smagh: “I matured very fast in there. I got great exposure and still have friends from there today.”
Enlisting early meant that after he finished his basic military training, he could enter Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, directly and skip ahead of his peers so that he graduated a year or two ahead of them.
After graduating, he worked in a series of business intelligence companies, including Hyperion, Informatica and Actuate, before joining Qlik in 2009.
“Now, I thank my parents. I love them to death now,” he said with a laugh.
Talking to him, it is clear this is someone who enjoys his job as he speaks of his work with a lot of enthusiasm.
“It’s the people that makes the difference. We bring lots of smiles to our customers. They tell me: ‘Look Terry, without Qlik, I wouldn’t have become so efficient’. That really keeps me going,” he said.
“I still jump out of my bed every morning, asking myself how I’m going to help change someone else’s life.”
In 2007, as part of an Asean initiative, he went to Laos as a volunteer to teach English.
“I spent three days there and helped set up Internet connectivity for them. I negotiated with Motorola to give free Internet to the schools over there.”
His job requires him to travel often. Last year, he logged a million flight miles. To keep pace with this rigorous schedule, he sleeps at 9.30pm and wakes up at 5am every day, even on weekends.
He exercises regularly in the gym, plays futsal and cycles, using a Fitbit fitness tracker to monitor his progress.
He quipped: “My wife calls me a machine. She says that I am very precision-oriented.”
He is also active in charity events. Last year, with Cliq CEO, Mr Lars Bjork, and nine colleagues, he raised about US$30,000 (S$37,524) for HopeHIV by cycling 400km across Malawi, Africa. This charity supports children and young people in sub-Saharan Africa who have been orphaned or otherwise affected by HIV/AIDS.
“It was a fantastic, phenomenal experience. The heat was unbearable and water was a luxury. It was very draining emotionally but it also gave me a different perspective on life.”
In his free time, he admits to being an audiophile. He has wired up every room in his home including the bathrooms, so people can listen to different music in each room.
A fan of classic cars, he has restored and driven cars such as a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle, a 1972 Alfa Romeo and a 1989 Porsche 911.
He sees parallels between this hobby and his work.
“I like working on old cars because it’s all about analysing. Old cars require rare parts, forcing you to source out and modify parts. My old Alfa Romeo’s fuel pump wasn’t working any more, so I put in a Mazda fuel pump,” he said.
“It’s the same thing as business analytics. You get all these data and you figure out how to modernise and utilise them.”
He kept his cars in such pristine condition, he said, that people would seek him out after seeing the cars featured in magazines.
However, he has just two cars now.
On what brought about this change, he shared: “It was after my trip to Malawi. You take a lot of things for granted in life. You have to be contented with what you have. As humans, we always strive for more. I think I’m blessed in terms of what I have today.”
By Colin Tan