The Digital Frontier: Shylendra’s Journey Navigating Digital Waters in Malaysia

In Malaysia's rapidly evolving digital sector, the demand for skilled professionals is skyrocketing as companies strive to innovate and stay competitive. In this article, we spoke to Shylendra A. S. Nathan, CEO of SOCAR Mobility Malaysia, to understand the challenges and opportunities in navigating the digital talent market within multinational corporations (MNCs).

With over two decades of experience spanning startups and MNCs, Shylendra shares valuable advice and firsthand insights into succeeding in Malaysia's dynamic digital landscape. From his journey into the world of MNCs to his current leadership role, Shylendra shares practical strategies for professionals seeking to thrive in the digital sector through his reflections on his career trajectory.

Could you share a brief overview of your current role at SOCAR Mobility Malaysia?

"I am currently working as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at SOCAR Mobility Malaysia, a company known for its innovative mobility services in the tech industry.

I've been a proud member of this esteemed organisation for the past two years, during
which I've had the privilege of contributing to various strategic initiatives and overseeing
the company's transformation and impact firsthand.

As CEO, my role entails the day-to-day management of the company, administrative and
business activities, talent development, organisational structure, and performance of the
group. I'm deeply passionate about leveraging cutting-edge strategies to propel the
company's mission forward and deliver exceptional value to our customers."

Can you elaborate on the factors that led you to pursue a career within multinational companies, that led to your current role at SOCAR Mobility Malaysia?

"My journey into the world of MNCs was inspired by a desire to immerse myself in diverse and dynamic professional environments, where innovation, collaboration, and global impact are paramount. From an early stage in my career, I've been drawn to the challenge of navigating complex regional markets and addressing the unique needs of diverse customer bases.

Prior to joining SOCAR Mobility Malaysia, I embarked on a career path that provided me with invaluable experiences across various startups in the region. These diverse market experiences equipped me with a versatile skill set and a broad understanding of business operations, which ultimately paved the way for my transition into an MNC setting.

The decision to join SOCAR Mobility Malaysia was influenced by several factors, including the company's reputation for innovation, its commitment to fostering talent and creativity,
and its unwavering dedication to making a meaningful impact on the mobility sector in
Southeast Asia.

Overall, my journey to SOCAR Mobility Malaysia was shaped by a combination of strategic decisions, fortuitous opportunities, and a steadfast commitment to personal and professional growth."

Working in an MNC often comes with its unique challenges and opportunities. Within the MNC environment, what specific challenges have you faced, and how have you leveraged your experiences to overcome them and achieve professional growth?

"Throughout my tenure at SOCAR Mobility Malaysia, I've had the privilege of being involved in numerous experiences, projects, and milestones that have influenced my professional growth and development.

One notable project that stands out is company-wide operational efficiency improvement. I was tasked with leading the team responsible for improving cost efficiency and restructuring. This project provided me with invaluable insights into navigating our current processes, technology infrastructure, and business strategy in the markets where we operate. Successfully delivering EBITDA improvements was immensely gratifying and reinforced my passion for driving business impact.

Another significant milestone in my journey at SOCAR Mobility Malaysia was being entrusted with the responsibility of improving our governance in response to group expectations. Collaborating with talented colleagues from different departments, we set up a dedicated governance unit that not only improved internal processes but also resulted in addressing business and legal risks.

While working in an MNC environment offers numerous opportunities for growth and
innovation, it also presents its fair share of challenges. One key challenge I encountered was navigating cultural differences and effectively managing stakeholder expectations. To overcome this challenge, I prioritised open communication, fostered cross-functional collaboration, and established clear channels for feedback and alignment. By leveraging technology and fostering a culture of transparency, we were able to streamline processes and enhance coordination across teams."

What advice or insights would you offer fellow aspiring Malaysians to build a successful career in an MNC? Are there specific skills, mindsets, or strategies that you believe are crucial for success in this context?

  • Embrace Diversity and Cultural Awareness: MNCs operate in diverse environments with teams from various cultural backgrounds.
  • Continuous Learning and Adaptability: The corporate landscape is constantly evolving, so it's essential to cultivate a mindset of continuous learning and adaptability.
  • Strong Communication Skills: Effective communication is critical in MNCs, where teams are often dispersed across different locations.
  • Cross-Cultural Communication Skills: In addition to strong communication skills, it's essential to develop cross-cultural communication skills.
  • Adapt to a Fast-Paced Environment: MNCs operate in dynamic and fast-paced environments. Be prepared to adapt quickly to changing priorities, tight deadlines, and unexpected challenges.
  • Build a Global Network: Networking is crucial for success in any career, but it's especially important in MNCs where opportunities for collaboration and advancement often stem from connections across the globe.
  • Demonstrate Leadership Potential: Showcasing leadership potential is key to advancing your career in an MNC.
  • Be Results-Oriented: MNCs prioritise results and performance. Focus on delivering tangible outcomes and adding value to the organization through your contributions. By adopting these skills, mindsets, and strategies, aspiring Malaysians can position themselves for success in multinational corporations, seize opportunities for career advancement, and make meaningful contributions on a global scale.

Could you describe your role and responsibilities within the digital sector at your current company? What do you find most rewarding about working in the digital sector in Malaysia, and what challenges have you encountered?

"As the CEO of a digital sector company in Malaysia, my role encompasses a wide range of responsibilities aimed at driving the company's vision, strategy, and overall performance in the digital landscape. Here's an overview of my role and responsibilities:
  • Leadership and Team Management: Providing strong leadership and direction to the company's executive team and employees, fostering a culture of innovation, collaboration, and excellence.
  • Financial Management: Ensuring the company's financial health and sustainability through effective financial planning, budgeting, and performance management.
  • Innovation and Technology Adoption: Staying abreast of emerging trends, technologies, and best practices in the digital sector, and spearheading initiatives to innovate and differentiate our offerings.
  • Customer Experience and Satisfaction: Championing a customer-centric approach to product development and service delivery, ensuring that our solutions meet and exceed customer expectations.
  • Regulatory Compliance and Risk Management: Ensuring compliance with relevant regulations and industry standards governing the digital sector, while also mitigating risks and safeguarding the company's reputation and assets.
Working in Malaysia's digital sector offers rewarding opportunities for driving transformative change and innovation, especially in areas like the mobility sector. With a vibrant digital ecosystem and a growing tech-savvy population, companies can leverage digital technologies to solve real-world problems and enhance lives.

However, working in the digital sector in Malaysia also comes with its fair share of
challenges. One of the key challenges is navigating regulatory complexities and policy changes, particularly in areas such as data privacy, cybersecurity, and e-commerce regulations. Adapting to evolving regulatory requirements while also driving innovation and growth requires careful navigation and proactive engagement with regulatory authorities."

From your experience, what are the key skills and qualities that employers in the Malaysian digital sector value the most in potential hires?

"Employers in the Malaysian digital sector often prioritise candidates who possess a combination of technical expertise, soft skills, and adaptability to thrive in the fast-paced and dynamic nature of the industry. Based on my experience, here are some key skills and qualities that employers value the most in potential hires:

  • Technical Proficiency: Strong technical skills are essential for roles in the digital sector.
  • Digital Marketing Skills: In roles related to digital marketing, employers value candidates who have a deep understanding of digital marketing channels, strategies, and best practices. This includes expertise in areas such as search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), social media marketing, content marketing, email marketing, and analytics.
  • Data Analytics and Interpretation: The ability to analyse and derive actionable insights from data is highly valued in the digital sector.
  • Creativity and Innovation: Creativity is crucial for generating compelling digital content, designing engaging user experiences, and developing innovative solutions to address market challenges.
  • Adaptability and Agility: Employers value candidates who are adaptable and agile, capable of quickly learning new skills, embracing change, and thriving in dynamic environments.
  • Communication and Collaboration: Effective communication and collaboration skills are essential for roles that involve working in cross-functional teams, interacting with clients, and engaging with stakeholders.
  • Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking: The ability to identify problems, analyse complex issues, and develop innovative solutions are highly valued in the digital sector.
  • Continuous Learning and Development: Given the ever-evolving nature of the digital sector, employers value candidates who are committed to continuous learning and professional development."

In your opinion, what are the main factors driving the demand for digital talent in Malaysia, and how do you see this evolving in the future? How do you think the digital talent market in Malaysia compares to other countries or regions, and what opportunities or challenges does this present for professionals like yourself?

"The demand for digital talent in Malaysia is fuelled by various factors. Accelerated by the pandemic, Malaysian consumer behaviour has shifted towards digital platforms. Companies are expanding their digital footprint to meet customer demands, necessitating skilled professionals capable of engaging with digital-savvy consumers.

To bolster the digital economy, the Malaysian government has initiated programs like the
National Digital Economy Blueprint and the Digital Free Trade Zone. Moreover, rapid technological advancements, including AI, Big Data Analytics, IoT, and Cloud computing, drive the need for professionals to facilitate digital transformations for companies and meet evolving customer expectations by staying competitive and enhancing operational efficiency.

In comparison to other countries or regions, Malaysia's digital talent market presents numerous advantages.

Firstly, its cost-effectiveness, attributed to a lower cost of living and labour, makes it appealing for companies looking to establish digital operations or outsource services. Secondly, Malaysia's strategic location in Southeast Asia provides access to a diverse and expanding market, along with proximity to other key markets in the Asia-Pacific region. Lastly, the Malaysian government's backing of the digital economy through policies, incentives, and infrastructure development fosters an enabling environment for digital talent to flourish.

However, the digital talent market in Malaysia also faces some challenges, including:

  • Skills Gap: There is a shortage of skilled digital professionals in Malaysia, particularly in specialized areas such as data analytics, cybersecurity, and software development.
  • Competition for Talent: Competition for digital talent is intensifying globally, with countries and companies vying to attract and retain top talent. To remain competitive, Malaysia must continue investing in talent development, fostering a conducive business environment, and promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in the digital sector."

Have you observed any emerging trends or developments in the Malaysian digital talent market that you find particularly noteworthy or impactful?

"Yes, there are several noteworthy and impactful emerging trends in the Malaysian digital talent market.

Firstly, there's a growing emphasis on data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) skills as businesses are increasingly relying on data to make informed business decisions. This has led to an increased demand for professionals proficient in data analysis, machine learning, and AI development.

Secondly, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the adoption of remote work and the gig economy has surged, creating new opportunities for digital professionals to work flexibly with autonomy on a freelance or contract basis.

Thirdly, as businesses move to the digital space, cybersecurity has become paramount,
driving up demand for experts capable of safeguarding digital assets and mitigating cyber security risks.

Moreover, the rapid growth of the e-commerce sector necessitates digital marketing professionals to enhance their online presence and drive business growth.

Finally, Malaysian companies across various industries are prioritizing digital transformation initiatives to remain competitive in the digital age. There is a growing demand for professionals who can lead and support digital transformation efforts, drive innovation, and harness emerging technologies to create value for businesses and customers."

Looking ahead, what improvements or changes would you like to see in the Malaysian digital sector talent market to support its continued growth and competitiveness on a global scale?

"Looking ahead, there are several improvements and changes that I would like to see in the Malaysian digital sector talent market to support its continued growth and competitiveness on a global scale:

  • Investment in Digital Education and Training: To address the skills gap and ensure a steady supply of skilled digital talent, there needs to be greater investment in digital education and training programs at all levels, from primary schools to tertiary institutions and professional development courses aiming to equip students and professionals with relevant digital skills and knowledge.
  • Promotion of STEM Education: Encouraging more students to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education is essential to cultivating a pipeline of talent in the digital sector. Initiatives to promote STEM education can help inspire young people to pursue careers in digital fields and develop the necessary skills for success.
  • Support for Digital Entrepreneurship and Innovation: Encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation in the digital sector is critical for driving economic growth and competitiveness. Access to funding, mentorship, incubation programs, and regulatory support can foster the development of new digital solutions, products, and services that address market needs and create value.
  • Enhanced Collaboration Between Industry and Academia: Closer collaboration between industry and academia is essential to ensure that digital education and training programs remain relevant and aligned with industry needs. Establishing partnerships between universities, research institutions, and industry players can facilitate knowledge exchange, skills development, and applied research initiatives that address real-world challenges in the digital sector.
  • Emphasis on Diversity and Inclusion: Promoting diversity and inclusion in the digital sector is essential for fostering creativity, innovation, and resilience. Increasing gender, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity can help tap into a broader talent pool and bring fresh perspectives to the table. Inclusive work environments where everyone feels valued and empowered to contribute can drive greater innovation and competitiveness in the digital sector."

What advice or insights would you offer fellow aspiring Malaysians to build a successful career in an MNC? Are there specific skills, mindsets, or strategies that you believe are crucial for success in this context?

  • Develop a Strong Foundation of Skills: Cultivate a diverse skill set that aligns with the demands of the MNC environment. This may include technical skills relevant to your field or language proficiency, as well as soft skills like communication, problem-solving, and teamwork.
  • Embrace a Growth Mindset: Approach your career with a growth mindset, viewing challenges as opportunities for learning and growth. Be proactive in seeking out new experiences, taking on challenging projects, and expanding your knowledge and expertise.
  • Cultural Intelligence and Adaptability: MNCs operate in diverse cultural contexts, requiring employees to navigate cultural nuances and adapt to different working styles. Develop cultural intelligence by being open-minded, empathetic, and respectful of diverse perspectives. Embrace flexibility and adaptability to thrive in multicultural teams and environments.
  • Effective Communication Skills: Strong communication skills are essential for success in an MNC, where teams are often geographically dispersed Hone your communication skills, both verbal and written, and learn to communicate effectively with colleagues, clients, and stakeholders from diverse backgrounds.
  • Networking and Relationship Building: Invest in building and nurturing professional relationships within and outside the organization. Networking can open doors to new opportunities, mentorship, and career advancement. Actively participate in industry events, conferences, and professional associations to expand your network and stay connected with peers and industry leaders.
  • Demonstrate Leadership Potential: Show initiative, accountability, and leadership potential in your role by leading projects, mentoring junior colleagues, and contributing ideas for improvement. Displaying leadership qualities can position you for advancement within the organization and showcase your value as a future leader.
  • Cultivate Resilience and Adaptability: The corporate landscape is constantly evolving, presenting both opportunities and challenges. Cultivate resilience and adaptability to navigate change, overcome setbacks, and thrive in uncertain environments. Stay flexible, agile, and resilient in the face of adversity, and embrace change as a catalyst for growth.
  • Maintain a Strong Work Ethic: Finally, maintain a strong work ethic and commitment to excellence in everything you do. Strive for quality, exceed expectations, and demonstrate reliability and professionalism in your work. Building a reputation for excellence and integrity will earn you the respect and trust of colleagues and superiors alike.

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