How often do you hear a story of how a professional in one field has made a complete change to now excel in another field? That is the story of former national ice hockey player Kimberly Wan and her journey into the tech industry.
Kimberly’s journey began ever since she was six, as she started her athletic career as a competitive figure skater. When she was just 12-years-old, Kimberly had made it into the Malaysian Book of Records for being the youngest female to achieve the highest skating level in Malaysia. She eventually traded figure skating for ice hockey during her teens.
Nowadays, the inspiring 27-year-old is the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of software-as-a-service (SaaS) business Otomate Me, which she founded back in 2016 when she was just 22-years-old and still an active national ice hockey player.
The inspiration behind her shift to the tech industry
Speaking to WORLD OF BUZZ, Kimberly explained that ever since she was young, she has always had a keen interest in starting her own business. “After completing my tertiary education, I joined a health and wellness startup that eventually raised venture capital funding. It was in this role as their first employee that I learned more about the startup world,” she said.
“When I left the company, I sought to chart my own path by venturing into a technology business that I personally believed would add a lot of value by fixing inefficiencies in the market.”
All of this stemmed from her desire to make processes more efficient which stemmed from leading a hectic life growing up and trying to regain time back whenever possible.
“Saturdays were the most tiring day for me. With heavy strength and conditioning training in the morning and another on-ice training session in the evening, the rest of the day was spent resting and recharging. What kept me going was the desire to improve and to work towards something bigger than myself.”
On her transition from ice hockey to tech, Kimberly said that she didn’t really make a permanent switch. “It wasn’t like one day I was playing ice hockey and the next day I stopped. It was more of a deliberate shift in focus as a result of finding myself running out of time and not being able to allocate the necessary resources to do both at the level I would have desired.”
“It was around 2019 where I decided to deprioritise competing nationally and re-prioritise some of that time into officiating as a game official for ice hockey games.”
She pointed out that the transition process had started long ago back in 2013, where she became Malaysia’s first accredited woman linesman to officiate at an international ice hockey tournament in Hong Kong under the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).
Meanwhile, just last year, she was accredited as a referee with the IIHF which she believes has enabled her to focus more on Otomate Me, whilst giving her the flexibility to continue her passion for ice hockey in a different way.
Entry into the tech industry and the start of Otomate Me
The tech industry is notoriously known to be filled with men and despite the potential for women to thrive in the sector as a result of their skills, in Malaysia, women only make up only 35 per cent of the technology workforce.
But Kimberly does not see this as something to fear as, “The make-up of the types of people in the ‘tech world’ is shifting and becoming more diverse.”
“I can’t say that I have faced many gender specific obstacles but if one were to be placed in front of me, I have no doubt that I would find a way around it if it were something I wanted badly enough.”
On what Otomate Me serves to do, Kimberly explained that “The idea of Otomate Me is fluid and always evolving. That said, our philosophy at its core has always stayed the same and that is – to use technology to help people do more and be happier.”
This is achieved by creating high impact and accessible automation technology that is easy to adopt and scalable across the internet. Otomate Me functions by identifying common manual processes which are time-consuming across multiple industries and developing solutions to automate those processes across those industries.
Kimberly noted that some of the problems that businesses face include:
- manually communicating with customers,
- manually generating and sending attachments to stakeholders,
- manually taking in orders via WhatsApp, and more
So, Otomate Me has come up with three different solutions to address the problems above which include: Otomailer (a tool that helps to automate the process of generating unique attachments and the sending of personalized mission-critical emails to recipients), OtoWA (a tool that helps to schedule and send personalized WhatsApp text and media messages to people one at a time, automatically) and OtoOrder (a tool that helps businesses set up an online store by simply filling in a Google Sheet).
The three solutions work hand in hand to ensure that SMEs and organisations are equipped with the digital tools required to automate critical customer communications and other recurring manual tasks for optimal efficiency.
Covid-19 pandemic and the future
We all know the devastating toll that the Covid-19 virus has caused on lives as well as livelihoods, however, some sectors such as the tech sector have thrived. Kimberly said that the pandemic has definitely presented more opportunities for Otomate Me.
“Business owners began to fully recognize the importance of technology, have started viewing it as an essential pillar in their business and seen the effects of how it could help their business be more resilient in this day and age.”
This, Kimberly says, has reaffirmed their resolve and helped them explore opportunities to go beyond what they were doing and to help these businesses as much as they could.
“The pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital automation tools and as a result, we’ve been able to serve more and a wider range of businesses as they embark on their digital transformation journey,” she added.
In terms of her vision for the future, Kimberly said, “If you had asked me five years ago, where Otomate Me was going to be today, my answer would be nothing like the current reality.”
She envisions that Otomate Me’s automation tools will be in the hands of thousands of business owners and serving customers globally in the future.
In terms of her personal hopes and dreams, she envisions herself officiating at a high-level international ice hockey tournament where she can engage with the ice hockey community and represent Malaysia at a different level.
“While I can’t see the future, I am actively shaping it with my daily choices.”
Kimberly also urged those who are pursuing their dreams to work hard to not fall into the trap of becoming narrow-minded and thinking that just because a problem is solved one way today, that it is the best way to solve it tomorrow.
“If you’re starting a business at a young age, stay humble, work bloody hard, build trusted relationships, and take the time to learn more ways to express yourself, your thoughts, and your ideas. Entrepreneurship is hard but if you can understand the perspective and motivations of others, it becomes easier to achieve your goals.”
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