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Balancing the Grind with Wendy Koh, Vice President of APAC Channel & Alliances at NetApp

Wendy Koh is the Vice President of APAC Channel & Alliances at NetApp, a hybrid cloud data services and data management company headquartered in Sunnyvale, California.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

Having been in the IT industry for over 27 years, I have held General Management (GM) leadership roles at Juniper and sales management positions at Cisco. While I did study Electrical Engineering at university, it later became clear to me that a technical role was not for me.

Rather, I enjoyed working alongside customers to build and grow their business. At the start of my career, I managed to get my foot in the door within the marketing and sales division. Since then, I have never looked back, starting locally in Singapore before moving to more regional roles across ASEAN and Asia-Pacific. 

I am now the Vice President of APAC Channel and Alliances at NetApp where I work alongside the leadership teams across the region, including in Australia, to help partners realise opportunities in the hybrid cloud. This means developing and executing our offerings for NetApp’s channel business, distributors, and service providers.  

2) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

No day is the same. The typical day depends on the meetings that have been scheduled for the day. My regional role has given me a lot of opportunities to interact with my colleagues in the US and around the world and my day often starts with an early 7am morning Zoom call to discuss critical channel matters.

During office hours, my time is spent in multiple meetings with the APAC team and partners, where we review and discuss business growth strategies together. I often do a pulse-check on my team’s wellbeing during this time as well.  

My late evenings almost always consist of family dinner time with the husband and kids. Depending on the day, I may also have a late-night call with global, scheduled around 10-11pm. This usually happens two to three times a week. 

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Prior to COVID, I was required to travel 70% of the time due to the nature of my role. But since early last year, I have been working from home. The longest time I have spent being at home in 15 years!

Since I’ve been exclusively working from home, my day is quickly filled up with Zoom calls and meetings. While I am thankful that there is a greater degree of flexibility in when and where I work, I am aware of the importance of scheduling my time in a way that is best for me.

This comes with a high level of transparency between myself and the management team, and as a manager myself, this is also something that I consequently encourage my team to practice as well. 

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

Back in early 2020, I had a health scare that, while turned out okay, was a wake-up call that I needed to take care of myself. My top priority is thus to put mental wellness and physical health first.

One way I do this is ensuring I have at least six to seven hours of sleep each night, or if I have a late-night call, I’ll be sure to not start my morning so early the next day.

I am also very intentional in ensuring that I have a 30-minute break in between meetings, as this gives me the opportunity to walk around, catch up on urgent emails or simply prepare for the next call. 

5) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

2020 has made me realise that not all meetings need to be face-to-face. If we do find ourselves getting back to the “norm” anytime soon, travel time would be reduced – both in the hours spent and the frequency – which gives back more time in my diary to be spent elsewhere. 

Ultimately, my ideal goal is striking the best balance between work achievements, loving what I do, and spending quality time with family and friends. 

6) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

I often like to take a step back and envision how my future may look like. This may require asking myself questions such as “what will my career look like down the road” and “how will this impact my family”. 

From a career perspective, thinking ahead on what I would like to experience or how I can grow my knowledge is important as I get caught up in my busy day-to-day.

For example, I had spent three months at Harvard Business School to build on my general business management skills, as I was interested to know more about mergers and acquisitions and how to effectively integrate companies.

It was also an opportunity to engage with new colleagues in different verticals and expertise, where the ability to call a friend to tap on their expert knowledge has later proven to be beneficial. 

7) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

I’ve got two books: The first, Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader by Linda Hill has a great chapter that focuses on managing your networks, which led me to be more purposeful in my interactions with others over the years. A key learning from the book was how to spend time building the right network, interacting with those whose areas of expertise are different to mine. 

Next is Flying Without a Net: Turn Fear of Change into Fuel for Success by Thomas DeLong also inspired me as a leader, where the book cites a few different examples of leaders looking to thrive in the face of change and anxiety. 

8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

I am very deliberate in how I set up my day, especially as I usually have multiple meetings throughout the day. This may mean enforcing hard stops and taking short breaks in between. Whether it is going outside for some air or going on a walk, I find this not only helps alleviate my back pain but encourages me to form more creative ideas, to then make better decisions.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Make time for yourself! On the weekend, I like to participate in a Zumba class or do some yoga. I also make sure to book a massage every week. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure you are happy and enjoy and love what you do, but also finding time to relax and have a laugh with the people you care most about. 

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About Author

Balance The Grind gives me a platform to talk to these people about how they're achieving their ideal lifestyle. I'm inspired by the passion, the work ethic, the hustle; and these conversations motivate me to live life the way I want to live it.