Rachel Ler is the Vice President & General Manager for Asia Pacific & Japan at data protection and information management solutions provider, Commvault.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I started out as a programmer in 1998, and early in my career landed a client servicing role at global tech giant IBM. At IBM, I was introduced to an amazing culture, driven by a knowledge sharing and mentoring mindset, and that became a solid foundation block in shaping my career values.
Progressively, I held several sales leadership roles with leading technology brands, including Microsoft, Dell Technologies, HP Enterprise and Nimble Storage.
Today, I am leading the go-to-market sales motion for Commvault in the Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) region. I am responsible for driving sustainable sales growth across APJ, bringing our intelligent data management services to our customers and partners.
I especially enjoy connecting with people and love to have conversations with our customers on how we can help them do amazing things with their data, wherever that data lives.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Singapore, where I am based, is currently on restricted social gatherings (up to no more than five people can meet) and Commvault’s global guidance is for all of us to work from home. Zoom meetings make up the bulk of my days and working across APJ and US time zones means the blurring of day and night, and between work and personal.
A typical day would be early morning calls with team Asia and night calls with the US team to ensure that the business engine is still running smoothly. I love connecting face-to-face and also to break the Zoom fatigue, so I try to meet customers and my team over lunch or a cup of coffee.
Dinner is an immutable time with my family and before dinner, I will hit a short 3km run around my neighbourhood park – the run declutters my mind and energises me for calls at night.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
These days, remote working is the default. I was on-boarded remotely, managed a team across Asia virtually and had customer conversations on Zoom. A regional sales role with no travel and no face-to-face customer meetings was unimaginable 18 months ago.
Thankfully, technology is a lifestyle and work-life enabler, and Commvault is in the data protection and software cloud space with a strong ethos on working remotely even before the pandemic.
We were able to swizzle our workforce to work entirely from home and today, that remains the default. Recently, I even had a virtual team building of games with snacks delivered to 150 team members in over 15 cities in Asia. We are creating new norms.
Personally, I was a road warrior and was never homebound for this prolonged period, but I learnt to be resilient and adapt. From sales war-room, one-on-one catch-up sessions, attending birthday celebrations, team building on Zoom, and lending a shoulder to cry on – all done online. And with results too.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Work-life balance to me is enabling one to live our lives to the fullest – both professionally and personally. It starts with a high awareness of what you value most in life and to “discover your true north” as coined by Bill George. Following that internal compass to find your true self, your purpose and beliefs are steps in the right direction, to give you a sense of balance.
For me, doing good at work is about authentic leadership. I am aspiring and committed to becoming an authentic leader by nurturing my team, being accessible and leading with courage and empathy so that I can make a difference in their career journeys. To balance that, doing good for myself is to ensure quality family time and a healthy mind and body.
I run not only to keep fit, running gives me a sense of rhythm and inner space to think through the day’s work, to de-stress and train my mind to focus on things that matter. For family bonding, a long weekend walk followed by a sumptuous brunch in food paradise Singapore is immutable – it energises me for the work week ahead.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I used to journal frequently on three happy and/or aha moments that made my day; and for the year will reflect and pen down my experiences including any resolutions. The daily grind has put a stop to my journaling.
However, I recently came across The Kind Friend Journal. It comes with carefully prescriptive pages, wellness tips, setting goals and good reminders for daily journaling.
I have started journaling once again, and this thoughtful structured approach comes with ample room (plenty blank pages) for me to reflect and pen my thoughts. I find journaling once again to be a great daily booster on mental wellness and creative thinking.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Highly recommend True North by Bill George, this book is about authentic leadership based on self-awareness and passion to drive to a purpose bigger than self and career.
Another recent favourite is Culture Renovation by Kevin Oakes. It has great insights, peppered with humour, on leadership action as change agents to build a company. I just started my home renovation project and Kevin’s take on success that lies in renovation and not starting from scratch or complete rebuilding resonates with me.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
The ubiquitous mobile phone – it connects people, community and the world. The other must have for me is skin care, nourishing our skin is just as important as nourishing our mind and body.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I have been meaning to read Michelle Obama’s Becoming. First Lady and career mum living under the intense media glare, yet she found her voice and nurturing role as mother and wife, she is such an inspiration.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
In today’s climate where there is no more norm, I would say that constant learning will be key to success and to leverage tech to re-learn, re-adapt and re-apply. I was so heartened to see my 70-year-old mum learning and using the iPhone’s FaceTime to connect during lockdown, and my dad getting around with the GRAB app.
Mentoring is another career positive deposit that I have benefited tremendously. Early in my career, I was fortunate to have a mentor who is now a dear friend, who unravelled my blind-spots and provided invaluable career guidance. I would encourage finding a mentor who can share and shape your values and beliefs early in your career to broaden your skills for personal development and prepare for the future.
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