Climbing the cyber ladder

Alan Chan believes an ability to adapt, something he learnt at Monash, has helped him rise to the top of the IT industry.

BY LARISSA DUBECKI

For Alan Chan, an ability to adapt to a rapidly changing world has defined his high-flying career.

Graduating from Monash University in 1992 with a Bachelor of Computing, he found himself back in his native Hong Kong on the first rung of the career ladder: a job closely linked to his studies, in the IT department of an insurance company.

“It was a very relevant first job,” he says. It was the ability to roll with the times, however, that saw him seize opportunities in an evolving industry. For the past 25 years he has been applying his skills to pure IT as well as sales, management and developing new business models relevant to the tech-led global upheaval.

Now a resident of Beijing, Chan was appointed President of the Greater China Region of Symantec, a global leader in cyber security, 18 months ago. He reflects that the less obvious elements of a university course might hold a graduate in good stead later in their career.

“I’ve changed jobs and roles a lot over the years, and while the first job will always be related to university studies, fundamental knowledge involves adapting it for yourself,” he says. In that regard, Monash was just as important in what we learned in our ability to adapt to change.

“The world keeps changing, and operators need to change their ability to pick up new knowledge.”

As the leader for Symantec’s enterprise business across the Greater China Region, Chan oversees all aspects of business, including sales, operations and development. After more than 17 years with EMC Computer Systems, he had decided to look for a change and believed huge opportunities lay in the cyber security area.

60 per cent of work is people issues, 20 per cent is technical issues and 20 per cent is business issues.

“My intuition was that in the next five years this would be a big growth area. We’re heading into a cashless state, and security is critical.”

The world of IT might sound as though it is far removed from management skills, but in Chan’s brave new world they’re closely related.

“I’d say that 60 per cent of work is people issues, 20 per cent is technical issues and 20 per cent is business issues,” he says.

To that extent, his Monash degree helped on many levels. “I think you really can differentiate a graduate from Monash. I come across some colleagues who graduated from Monash and they are professional and genuine. I think above all they engage in the world with a degree of positivity, and when you reach the levels of senior management that is so important.”