She's not above getting guidance from the right mentor

PHOTO: She's not above getting guidance from the right mentor

Eyeglasses are invariably what catch your attention when you encounter tech manager Natasha Kwan.

Ms Kwan, 49, wears a different pair every day, selecting from her collection of 40.

They come in all shapes - cat's eye, rectangle or oblong - and colours, from green and purple to orange and blue. But do not think Ms Kwan is being frivolous.

The managing director of T-Systems for Asia South likes the colours because they are vibrant and reflect her bubbly personality.

Ms Kwan, who has spent 25 years in the tech game, inked a major deal just three months into her new job at T-Systems, the software subsidiary of German telco Deutsche Telekom.

The deal involves providing an integrated hospital information system for Raffles Medical Group (RMG), including its hospital and clinics.

Among other things, it covers patient management, pharmacy operations and procurement.

The system, which will be completed over the next few years, will enable RMG's management to get real-time information on their financial position as well as operations.

"This is a big win for us and it showcases our expertise in health care," said Ms Kwan, who was hired to expand T-Systems' business in the region.

Health-care business will be a key focus, as will aviation.

She has hired a veteran executive in health care who joins next month to spearhead initiatives for this region.

T-Systems will tap on the company's aviation experts in Beijing as it targets the booming air-travel market.

Ms Kwan left Microsoft last year after 19 years running local and regional businesses, including mobile and enterprise units. She was also managing director of Microsoft Singapore for two years, from 2001.

Her IT career began at IBM, where she stayed seven years.

T-Systems is a large German global IT services and consulting company that Deutsche Telekom built up by merging its IT arm with other companies it acquired in the last decade.

It provides a variety of IT solutions such as managing applications and mobile devices, storage and e-mail for public sector organisations and companies, including those in the automotive, homeland security, finance and retail industries.

Since Ms Kwan came on board, on Feb 1, she has been working on a strategy for regional expansion. That has involved starting an Indian operation and hiring a country head in Malaysia.

Mentor as sounding board

Ms Kwan's passion for the business is infectious.

Former colleague, Mr Yong Yun Seong, who is general manager for Microsoft's Asia Pacific operations centre, said: "Working with Nat, you can feel the urgency about winning, getting that deal and doing what's right for the customer. That's the energy and it can be pretty infectious.

"One trait I've learnt from Nat is remembering to celebrate big wins, small ones, baby steps - they are a booster to people who are involved in making the business happen."

Ms Kwan believes that success comes from having "the tenacity to pursue the job with the right attitude".

And she is not above having mentors to guide her.

Mentors are useful for they provide a sounding board. Good mentors, she said, should not tell you what to do but should act as a guide to help you make a decision.

"Some woman professionals look for female mentors they can trust. Lessons can be learnt from a woman leader sharing her experiences and predicaments," she adds.

But she has had also a male mentor, who helped her shape her communications skills.

"A company is made of people, culture and structure. Communication is important. I learnt that communication is not about what you say but how I am received, how the message is received. That helped me think about what I want to say and how to say it."

A mentor in the same company is good because he or she can help you navigate the organisation. An external mentor, she said, is also important because "they provide broader experiences and are more agile in the way they think and move".

Right now, she is looking for a mentor who can guide her to do business in the region.

"My business is not building sales channels, but going to get business with customers. So it is relationship building. I'm still looking for the right person."