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This M’sian Ice Sport Olympic Hopeful Traded In Her Skates To Build A Tech Company

This M’sian Ice Sport Olympic Hopeful Traded In Her Skates To Build A Tech Company

Kimberly Wan’s training in sports, which teaches discipline, focus and persistence, has proven to be a timeless asset no matter what industry.

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Malaysia may be familiar with Kimberly Wan for being in Malaysia’s Book of Records as the “Youngest Female to Achieve the Highest Skating Level in Malaysia” at the age of 12, a record she still holds today.

15 years later, the same Kimberly Wan is blazing her own trail in tech as Co-Founder and CEO of Otomate ME, a communications automation software-as-a-service (SaaS) company that’s making waves in Malaysia’s tech industry.

But how did an Olympic hopeful in figure skating go from flips, loops and axels to clicks, bounce rates and pushing messages?

Life, of course!

TRP spoke to Kimberly about life, and how at only 27 years, the determination she’s learned as a nationally acclaimed athlete ultimately paved her way as one of the few women in Malaysia making a name for themselves in the tech world.

Woman in a male-dominated industry

In Malaysia, women make up only 35% of the technology workforce. Leadership roles may account for even less than that.

Boston Consulting Group (BCG) research has found that companies with more women in their workforces and leadership teams show better performance. And a more vibrant technology sector can help national economies grow.

When we asked Kimberly why there are so few women in the industry, she explains there is no specific answer aside from it being a ‘complex and multi-faceted issue’.

She says, at times it’s sexism – referring to an incident in Japan where medical schools admit to discriminating against women.

Other times, it’s a culture whereby males are favoured to pursue higher education and women are only considered if there are leftover funds from the family.

If I had to scale down why there are so few women in the industry, I’d attribute it to the different value system, lack of higher education, and lack of opportunity.

Kimberly Wan to TRP

So, how does Kimberly feel working in a so-called male-dominated industry? 

“Neutral. Key thing is to ensure results are delivered, regardless of the industry I’m in,” she tells us in a very “matter-of-factly” manner.

Even in an industry that’s entirely different from the world of sports she grew up in, the spirit of sportsmanship for fairness and persistence still ring true.

 Azlan (Otomate Me’s other co-founder and CTO) and I have a very nice split where he manages the technical aspects, and I manage the commercial aspects.

Kimberly Wan to TRP

Structured and goal-driven beginnings

Kimberly figure skating in 2004 (L)
Kimberly playing for the Malaysian Women’s National Ice Hockey Team (R)

No doubt Kimberly’s childhood differed from most of us.

She started figure skating at the age of six and spent 21 of her 27 years being committed and excelling in ice sports (figure skating and hockey).

 Life would start early at 6 in the morning. Going to school. Tuition after school. Getting picked up and eating dinner in the car while on the way for training from 8 till midnight.

Kimberly Wan to TRP

In high school, Kimberly was home-schooled for 3 ½ days and spent the rest of the time training.

From an early age, Kimberly put in a lot of work and sacrifice socially with friends, and forget the luxury of sleeping in!

Life, or something like it

(Credit: kimmelz1 / Instagram)

Now that life is a little less about training, Kim still finds the time to break a sweat exercising in her free time.

I think sport has always been part of me and I will always be a part of sports. It has taught lessons when it comes to discipline and focus when it comes to setting goals and achieving them.

Kimberly Wan to TRP

She also likes to read, though a lot of the books nowadays are related to business, principles or self-help ones.

As if running her own company doesn’t already take a lot of her time, Kimberly is also a home baker she describes as a “side hustle”.

“I make really nice fudgy brownies.”

But life isn’t always as sweet.

Believing in yourself can be hard. It takes time to build confidence in your craft and in your skills.

Kimberly Wan to TRP

She wasn’t talking about her brownies though.

“This is something I’ve had to work on. When training, be it in figure skating or ice hockey, just out of the sheer number of years I’ve been in the sport, it’s easy to understand that progress takes time.

“Without a benchmark when it comes to business, having started early, it was a challenge to know industry benchmarks and how to navigate around that. Things have since improved as years have passed and I’ve developed better business acumen.”

Automate yourself

Recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from Monash University, Malaysia

Kimberly’s strong sports acumen may have translated well into business, but many of us weren’t nationally acclaimed athletes with that kind of grit engrained in us.

For someone that runs a company that helps businesses increase productivity and reduce the margin for human error, Kimberly’s advice for those starting their own company or in a new industry is the opposite with her saying it’s okay to make mistakes along the way.

She tells us that people will be quick to offer their advice but from experience, not all advice will be beneficial and we have to pick and choose. If the advice is not helpful, it’s better to thank the person for their sharing but not necessary to take it in and use it.

Don’t get too hung up on what everyone else’s opinions are and focus on what you’re trying to achieve. Make those mistakes along the way, because you will come out better and stronger.

Kimberly Wan to TRP

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