You would think that someone heading EY's Technology Consulting practice in Malaysia and ASEAN would come from a background in Computer Science. However, Tan Boon Yow, Partner and EY Asean Technology Consulting Leader is proof you can venture out of your field of study and still excel – provided you have the right attitude, interest and tenacity.
“I am an accounting graduate from Universiti Malaya. When I graduated, I decided to join a consulting firm where I worked on a variety of consulting projects, both technology and non-technology-based. The experience and exposure allowed me to progress in my career to where I am today in EY,” shares Tan.
Tan joined the EY Business Consulting practice in June 2014 and because of his experience, he was asked to lead the Technology Consulting team in Malaysia (back then known as IT Advisory). He successfully built and expanded the practice, and eventually was appointed the EY Asean Technology Consulting Leader, overseeing nearly 1,200 consultants across seven countries in ASEAN.
While he may have been an accounting graduate, Tan shares that he decided early on that it would be good for his future to pick up programming. “With a business background, your role is more of functional analysis in nature, where you work on project requirements. But I personally like technology, and learnt programming and development so that when a software developer tells me that something cannot be done, I have some basic knowledge to research and validate, and share the solution, if any,” he says.
It goes without saying that technology has become an important aspect of our lives today. Malaysia itself is one of the more advanced countries in ASEAN when it comes to adopting technology. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst that accelerated the further adoption of technology , with businesses realising that they needed to explore tech solutions for business sustainability. “During the pandemic, many people jumped on the e-wallet bandwagon. People were also effortlessly using the MySejahtera app.
Big corporations quickly introduced technology into their operations. But the micro-SMEs struggled as there was the cost to think about. The small business owners did not know how technologies may be implemented in a cost-effective way,” shares Tan.
Which is where Tan and his team at EY come in – to help companies solve issues and transform via technology. “In EY, our mantra is to help clients solve their business problems. Technology Consulting covers various competencies, where we look at a problem and the skill sets needed to solve it. There are five competencies in Technology Consulting: Technology Transformation, that enables strategy, operating model and architecture; Technology Solution Delivery, such as systems implementation and integration capabilities that support packaged software deployment (cloud and on-premise); Data and Analytics, which address our clients’ data, information management and analytics needs; Digital and Emerging Technology, covering architecture, engineering, integration and assemblage capabilities to support our clients’ digital agenda and emerging technology; and Cyber Security, that enables trust in systems, design and data, so that organizations can take more risks, make transformational change and enable innovation with confidence ,” he says.
Futureproof Your Career at EY
As for the career path that EY can offer graduates interested in this field, Tan says you can expect broader exposure and experiences in the consulting company. “If you really want to focus on technology only, you should join IT companies or engineering firms. At EY Technology Consulting, our scope is not limited to just technology engagements. We are involved across the length and breadth of projects, which are more holistic and transformative in nature and which cut across sectors. We have multi-disciplinary teams that work on one project – from financial experts to tech experts and business consultants,” says Tan.
As such, you will not be confined to just one role, work scope or sector. You may start off working on technology development but eventually find yourself in business consulting or management. “You have choices, and EY will give you the right exposure and flexibility to build the career you want,” shares Tan. What if you want a more specific role in software or data engineering, for example? “It’s also possible . The fact is there are many different career paths available to you at EY,” says Tan.
Regardless of the path you take, what’s most important is continuous learning. In EY, this is a priority and almost everyone in a client-service role– is required to fulfill a certain number of Continuous Professional Education (CPE) hours in order to advance in their career.
And there are many options on how to do this at EY, shares Tan. “We have internal and external training programmes designed for employees at different stages of their careers – from entry-level associates to experienced professionals. We have alliances with Microsoft and various robotic process automation partners to provide our employees with the relevant knowledge, exposure and experience. Particularly for technology consultants, regardless of background, we expect them to learn some basic code development so that they can understand and appreciate what they are doing,” he says.
As part of its investment in its people to futureproof them for their careers, EY has launched a programme called EY Badges that enables its employees to earn digital badges in future-focused skills such as data science and soft skills like leadership. Employees can earn a Bronze, Silver or Gold Badge by completing the designated learning courses and contributing to the community through knowledge-sharing. What’s great about EY Badges is that employees will be coached by their career counsellors to select and earn suitable badges that will help them continuously improve and stay relevant in their field.
Another interesting platform is the EY Tech MBA, offered in association with Hult International Business School. It is the first-ever fully accredited corporate MBA available for free to all EY employees around the world. On top of that, EY employees also have access to courses on external learning platforms such as SoftSkills, Udemy and goFluent.
An interesting fact to share: In 2020, EY spent USD450 million globally on formal learning for its people and the average learning hours per person was 54 hours. With all these learning tools and resources available, it’ll be a shame not to take advantage of them!
The Success Formula
While the team is quickly expanding, Tan says that he is currently focused on hiring for these areas: cloud architecture, data engineering and cyber security. He is also on the lookout for software developers.
While technology knowledge and skills are requirements for a position in his team, Tan says that soft skills are equally important. “Creativity and innovation. Human-to-human engagement skills. Things that robots cannot do. The human connection. A robot can only go back to historical data and analyse trends while a human can predict based on sentiments,” says Tan.
Tan’s advice is to not focus on just one technology area. “You need to widen your perspective because technology will change and evolve. You need to be open to new things you do and be versatile as everything is a learning opportunity. It is not just about how you are doing something but also why you are doing it. Robots will know how; but humans will know why,” concludes Tan.