By Ben Ibrahim

The first Malaysian to be appointed Country Head of Google Malaysia, Marc Woo takes on the huge responsibility of championing the company’s values while steering it to success. He shares how he plans to do so.

When Marc Woo, Country Head of Google Malaysia (the first Malaysian to helm this role), embarked on that exciting journey of finding his first-ever job after graduating, he says it was all about “discovery and discovery.” Woo was a London School of Economics graduatewhere he read actuarial science. Whilst studying, he was a part-time web developer.

Due to his passion for technology and business, he decided that a career about building and creating new possibilities would be ideal for him. “No disrespect to people who are working in the field that I studied but I wanted a job that help build things as I love challenges,” says Woo.

He landed his first job at Ernst & Young, London, as a Technology and Risk consultant. After five years of consulting, he was ready for another challenge. Woo then moved to Singapore in 2009 and operated his own digital transformation business, helping clients set up their company’s Facebook accounts.

In 2011, he was offered the opportunity to join Google Singapore. Not long after, he came back to Malaysia to be Google Malaysia’s first employee taking on the sales and revenue generation role. With his excellent performance in the company, it was fitting then that he was recently entrusted with the position as Country Head.

You have to empower people and trust them. Once you do that then you can shape and foster a company culture of coaching and desire to be better.

Says Woo, “Doing this job is about learning how to fly without a parachute. I needed to learn how to fly. But I was lucky to have a good mentor – my former boss Sajith Sivanandan – who always allowed me to operate as senior leader of the company even though I did not have the official title. That gave me the confidence to always be creative and achieve results.”

Woo also shares that when he tells people at social gatherings that he works for Google, the responses he receives are that he works with robots and he can eat good food all-day long. There are also moments where people actually asked him to fix their Gmail problems.

Funny anecdotes aside, Woo is enthusiastic about his role because it is not just about making profits and harnessing revenue streams but it is also about creating long term sustainability to uplift the ecosystem. What does this mean? Woo explains that Google Malaysia’s vision is to have a society that possesses a good digital skillset, which will keep the realm of the Internet safe. Google’s staff needs to constantly create and seek opportunities to work with Malaysians – children, students, parents, and working professionals – to educate them how Google can enrich their lives personally and professionally. If this can be accomplished, then the company will achieve its financial goals while also trying to make Malaysian society a better place.

Woo learned very quickly in his career that people don’t want to be controlled and frequently micromanaged. He says, “You have to empower people and trust them. Once you do that then you can shape and foster a company culture of coaching and desire to be better.”

His leadership heroes all have two things in common – humility and discipline. Three people who have always inspired him are Robert Kuok, Lee Kuan Yew, and his former boss and mentor Sajith.

When asked what advice Woo would give to his younger self if he had that chance to go back in time, his answer was straight to the point: “I would tell myself nothing different from what I told myself back then, and that is to do whatever you want, don’t get into trouble, and be the best.”

Many Google employees worldwide are very well qualified and graduates of prominent international universities. Woo says that qualifications are important, but the two most important traits that a Google person must have is ownership of his or her work, and ‘Googleyness’.

It may sound like a magic superpower but Googleyness refers to being principled and having the right moral compass of always wanting to do something in the most integral way. If a deal or a contract will not be done in a professional and transparent manner, then business can’t be conducted. Woo says, “That is what I love about this company so much. Yes, profit and revenue are important but ethics is always key.”

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