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Learning from experience

Learning from experience

Source : Bangkok Post Newspaper , section: Life


Keeping a positive perspective and an open attitude is the key to success for Tiwa York, Sanook! eCommerce managing director
With compensation money from his company, Tiwa York had initially planned to backpack to 16 countries over a 10-month period. He first travelled to Thailand, then proceeded to China, but soon returned to Thailand and travelled no further as the Thai-American from Arizona had, by then, fallen in love with a Thai girl who he married and was blessed with a baby girl, and decided to make the land his mother was born his home.He arrived Thailand on February 14, 2001, and in the 10 years he has been here he has only travelled to two countries.

Back in the US, Tiwa started off as an engineer fixing mainframe computer in a high-tech company in Oregon, even though he didn't finish university and was without a degree. Today he has over 15 years of marketing, sales, technology and consulting experience in the digital industry.

Tiwa, now 38, did not hesitate for one moment after Sanook Online invited him to oversee its e-commerce unit, as he was eager to put his background and knowledge of e-commerce to good use. And for Tiwa, every job has had its own set of unique challenges that have taught him something new.

Why did you decide to discontinue studying and start working?
It was the mid-1990s and the tech sector was hot. The company I worked with, Medicalogic, gave me an offer I couldn't refuse. So, I went for it.

You are the kind of person who is successful in career without even completing your studies. What is your view on education and work?
I've been very fortunate to have worked with some great people that believed in me and supported me. Yet, there is a big part of me that still wants to complete my degree. I believe education is the foundation to improving our society. But, I also believe that education doesn't start nor stop with school. Education is a lifelong pursuit.

What have you learned from your working experience?
The key point that I've learned from my experience is that keeping a positive perspective and an open attitude is the key to success. It's very easy to say why something won't work. [It's easy to say no.] It's much harder to find ways to getting things to work in a fast, efficient, and effective way that benefits all parties. [Can-do attitude that creates win-win opportunities.]

You started working with a salary while still very young. Please tell us what did you do?
My first job was as a busboy cleaning tables and doing dishes in my family restaurant when I was 13. The great thing is that my parents paid me a wage and I also earned tips. They wanted me to learn the value of hard work. When I was 15 I went to work as a lab assistant at a drug testing [testing for illegal drugs] facility for dog and horse racing animals. I spent all day inventorying and shipping dog and horse urine. I even had a brief job in retail at the mall doing inventory at a sports clothing shop, as well as a dance tutor teaching social dancing at a private boarding school. In college I worked as a tutor for middle and high school students specialising in working with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder [ADHD] students. Also during college I went to work for a mainframe refurbishing company that bought old Unisys computers, fixed and resold them. This was my first time working with computers. After working with computers for a couple years, I made my first attempt at entrepreneurship with a close friend of mine and opened a PC repair service. However, that was never successful, but it did teach me the beginnings of business and it eventually helped get me into my first job as a network administrator.

Why do you decide to work in the marketing field instead of information system, the subject that you studied?
After having worked for quite some time on the technical side, I felt that I had reached a point where I needed a new challenge. To be quite honest, I was never very good at the technical stuff. When I had a chance to try my hand at product marketing, I jumped at the opportunity for something new where I could learn new skills.

As an executive at Sanook Online, what do you think about the development of the internet and e-commerce in Thailand?
We believe there is a lot of opportunity and growth in the internet space in Thailand. With just 24 million online users, there are still another 43 million that are not taking advantage of the wonderful resource that is the internet. E-commerce is in a nascent stage in Thailand. We believe there are massive opportunities for bringing online e-commerce services to the market that meet the needs of Thai people. It's exciting for me to be part of Sanook where they have always been a leading force in growing the internet community in Thailand since the beginning.

What is your biggest challenge as managing director of Sanook! ?
Online shopping is not a common activity yet in Thailand. The biggest challenge we face is in activating the market and making online shopping an everyday part of life.

Having grown up in a Thai-American family, what do you think are the pros and cons of working with Thai people here?
I think having grown up in a Thai-American household greatly helped me in my work in Thailand. But ever since moving to Thailand 10 years ago, I find that I'm always continuing to learn and understand more about my mother's home country. It's a great privilege for me to be here and understand more about Thai culture. It's why I love being here!

As a Thai-American who was born and grew up in the US, how do you perceive Thai and American cultures, and what's the difference between them?

There are many differences between the two cultures and it takes time and effort for someone from the West to understand them. Having grown up in a Thai-American household helped me in understanding some of those differences. One small example: My friends, colleagues, and even acquaintances in Thailand will always ask if I have eaten yet as an expression of their concern for me. This is not something you would normally do in the US.

What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of Thai people and what should they do to improve on those counts?
There is an amazing amount of creativity and talent in Thailand. The only problem is that people are shy and do not express it publicly. I think business in Thailand would greatly benefit from more public expression of everyone's ideas.

Where did you study Thai language?
I never studied Thai at any institute, but it's self learning. When I first came here I bought Thai books from Chula Book Centre, I tried to understand the upper letter, mid-letter and lower letter. I can spell and read Thai, but my handwriting is like a kindergartner. Now my Thai language is equal to Pathom 2. In the office, my staff write to me in Thai and I do in English. My family in the US, we speak English, but my dad, he can fluently read Thai. He likes to read Thai literature like King Rama II's version of the epic Ramakien. My five-and-half-year-old daughter speaks both Thai and English.

What is your style of parenting?
Parenting in my opinion is an art. My wife and I are learning every day about how to be better parents. But, generally speaking, we definitely have a mix of Thai and US parenting styles. The key thing that we encourage is for our daughter to give her best effort at everything she does and never be scared to try new things.