From business continuity to business recovery

In the latest edition of Malaysian-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MGCC)'s magazine - MGCC Perspective, Adam Yee, President & CEO of Siemens Malaysia has been featured in the MGCC dialogue interview.

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MGCC: As the first Malaysian CEO of Siemens in Malaysia, what changes will you bring to the organisation? And what differences would you like to see during your tenure?


Adam Yee: I have taken on the Siemens Malaysia CEO role at a time when the world is rethinking the concept of globalisation, and localisation is being emphasised in many ways. We need a good balance between the two. I’d like to be able to help Siemens Malaysia to navigate this balance so that we can be a global company that has a good understanding of local needs and is close to the local customers. To be able to do that effectively, I believe we’ll need to groom our local talent – for them to have global competence, local knowledge, and ability to develop and work on relevant local initiatives.


Secondly, I would like Siemens Malaysia to be known as a company that is always striving to increase and diversify knowledge and competence, always upskilling ourselves, our partners and customers; and also as a company that is resilient in the face of hardship, especially in this volatile and uncertain economic environment. The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented, therefore it is of utmost importance that we drive the sustainability of business growth and accelerate digital transformation so as to be more efficient, innovative and agile in responding to competition and market disruptions. This is also essential for business recovery, to bring our business back on track.


Thirdly, I want to lead the company to become the preferred technology partner in Malaysia for Industry 4.0, Urban Infrastructure and Smart Cities.


Looking back at your years of experience in the company, who or what has been most influential in shaping your ideas about expanding the market for Siemens in this region? 


I am proud and humbled that I have been able to achieve many milestones in my career in Siemens since joining as a Sales Engineer. With each assignment I receive, I will set a goal and strive to achieve it. But these achievements will not be possible without a great team. I have an incredible team that serves as my backbone and we work together to motivate each other to push towards better performance.


I am also blessed to have worked with many great leaders in my career journey, who have shared lots of wisdom with me, and given me lots of guidance and advice, as well as
help me shape my ideas of business growth and market expansion. I am grateful to all of them.
In addition, I also make it a point to read biographies and history, to learn from famous business and political leaders their philosophies, and reasons for success and fail.


I believe that by studying other great leaders — those who lead by example, who inspire trust and loyalty through their integrity, who remain humble and open-minded, and who are able to make difficult decisions for the greater good — we can learn to strengthen our own leadership skills and become more effective in our roles.


What are your expectations for the year ahead?


I think 2020 will be a year that the world hopes to get past with as little casualty as possible. 2021 and 2022 will be more exciting years, and I believe they will be good years for
Malaysia, once a vaccine is found for COVID-19, and once a stable government is in place.

There are so many growth opportunities in Malaysia, especially in the manufacturing and infrastructure sectors. Many of our manufacturers are gearing up for regional and global
markets, and we already have a good number of national and cross-border infrastructure projects in the pipeline. If we can capitalise on all these opportunities, Malaysia’s economy
will flourish. For Siemens, these are opportunities that we can leverage on, and we are definitely looking forward to supporting all these opportunities.


What are some long-term objectives that you’re currently developing?


We want to play a more prominent role as a global company that is a local citizen in Malaysia. We want to be a key player in supporting nation- building projects, especially in the infrastructure area. We also want to help prepare future generations – to upskill and reskill them so that the Malaysian industry can be more competitive.


We are doing so by setting up a number of facilities, such as the Siemens Innovation and Resource Training Center in Kuala Lumpur that focuses on Industry 4.0 topics, the Siemens Customer Experience Center in Penang that supports industry and SMEs to embrace Industry 4.0 technologies, and a technical competence center to support automation and digitalisation.


How do you stay abreast of issues affecting Malaysia’s industrial sector?


We work very closely with various business chambers and associations, Ministries and government agencies such as the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, and the Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), etc.


What surprises you the most about working with Germans/in a German-founded business?


After being in a German company for so long, I’m still constantly surprised and amazed by the German’s dedication to innovation and excellence, and their ability to predict future developments and react accordingly. I believe that’s how companies like Siemens can maintain such a long and distinguished heritage.


Share with us your thoughts on leadership during the pandemic.


The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis that no leader has been prepared for. But the leadership skills required to handle the situation are not new. Top on the list is communication –
constant, clear, concise and timely communication is very important, so that employees can understand what we’re doing, and what is required of them. They also need to know that there are platforms to engage with them, for them to raise concerns and provide feeback.


Secondly, a leader must always show care and concern for employees. In times like these, employees need to know that their company and leaders care for their health, safety and overall well-being. That will give them a sense of security, and therefore keep them motivated.

The other very essential leadership skill is of course the ability to ensure business continuity despite restrictions, such as finding creative ways to transfer knowledge to customers so that they can keep their operations going. After business continuity is business recovery – to restore business to what it was before and instill confidence in employees, customers and partners.


Best piece of advice you ever got?


Best advice I’ve gotten is to be focused in what I want to achieve, set a clear goal, and give my very best as I work towards the goal.


What is the hardest decision you’ve made in your career? And why?


Actually, there were two and both had to do with regional roles offered to me that I decided not to take up. The first I declined because I saw growth potential in the business that I was with. The second I declined for the sake of my family, as I felt the country where the new role will be is not suitable for my young family. Both times, I wondered if I had put an end to my career in Siemens!


Link to MGCC Perspective: