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Setting new dimensions at Dell

special report In a series of CNETAsia profiles, top tech executives talk about how they manage in a down market. Dell's secret: Have faith in people.

4 min read
Setting new dimensions at Dell

Setting new dimensions at Dell

By Fran Foo
Special to CNET News.com
August 31, 2002, 6:00 a.m. PT

"Bet on people rather than strategy." This is one belief close to Bill Amelio's heart.

As Dell Computer's Senior Vice President and President for Asia-Pacific and Japan, Amelio learned early in his career that there's no substitute for passion.

"I believe in gaining and maintaining the confidence and trust in the people I work with," he said in an interview with CNETAsia.

Currently based in Singapore, Amelio holds joint responsibility with Chip Saunders for Dell's operations across the region, including its manufacturing facilities and customer service centers in Penang, Malaysia and Xiamen, China.

Amelio became part of the Dell family in March 2001 after serving as executive vice president and chief operating officer at NCR's retail and financial group.

Prior to NCR, he led the turbocharging systems business at AlliedSignal before becoming president and CEO of Honeywell International's transportation and power systems divisions. He also spent 18 years in IBM in various senior management positions, including the general manager of operations for IBM's PC business.

Despite successfully climbing the corporate ladder, this IT veteran hasn't forgotten his roots. He talked to CNETAsia about the lessons learned from his shoe repairman father, and the influence his mother had on his life.

Q: Why did you choose a career in information technology?
A: I like the pace, the speed of evolution, the tremendous influence and contributions which technology brings to our corporate and personal lives. The dynamic nature of the IT industry also keeps me on the edge. Plus my technical background (chemical engineering) predisposed me to a technology-centered career. I've not looked back since!

What do you like and hate most about your job?
That I'm able to set the vision and effect change with a great team in realizing our customer and business-focused objectives. Dell has still got great places to go in Asia-Pacific and I'm excited about leading the team there.

The complexity and diversity of the region certainly adds to the challenge but it has also helped adapt my working style. If there's anything I hated about the job, I wouldn't be here.

What was the most challenging moment or event in your entire career?
I was asked to become a manager, which meant someone who had recruited me would be under my supervision. It was awkward initially, but I learned from him and my manager that it would continue to be a two-way learning relationship. Being a manager just meant that I had to set the directions and make decisions for the team, for which I had demonstrated an affinity (for) from my earlier performance.

Describe your first manager and the lessons learned, if any.
I had the opportunity to work with a great mentor and business leader, Larry Bossidy at AlliedSignal. He was tough (as we expect any boss to be) but I learned several important lessons in business and management from him which made me sharpen my own skills.

Two key things stood out: making sure the team's focus remains on the bottom line while working diligently to grow the topline. This is the way to effectively impact P&L (profit and loss); and the other important lesson was about people--bet on people rather than strategy.

Describe your management style.
I believe in gaining and maintaining confidence, and trust in the people you work with. That's how you build credibility. And people should be fired up and excited about their work. So, it's important to spend time to listen to what makes them tick.

Feedback is a great gift and works both ways. I believe in being direct with my team on areas they've done well and where they need to work on. Similarly, I respect their feedback, especially those who've been honest with me.

What do you think your employees would say if they were asked to describe you?
Tough but reasonable. Process-oriented and results-driven. A people person.

What technologies disappoint you? Why?
With the ubiquitous nature of e-mail, it would be great if applications exist to filter and delete spam mail.

What is your vision of technology in 10 years?
Greater integration of telecommunication and information technology such that wireless technology will become commonplace in public spots and at home. The rollout of 802.11 networks in airports, hotels, universities and other public places is still in its early stages, but provides a glimpse into the potential of this technology. It will also probably not be too unusual to hear of consumers with servers at home, supporting their more advanced applications.

Name one person who has inspired you the most as a person. Why?
I'd have to pick two--my parents. Over the past 10 years, I constantly sought my mother's advice. She had a way of putting things in perspective. I lost her earlier this year so it was a difficult time for the family, and even more so for me.

My father, and I'm glad to still have him around, has always been a hero, pointing me in the right direction. As a shoe repairman, he taught me early in life about how important it was to deliver value to customers, to make sure we give the best quality products and to respect them. These are values I continue to hold today. 

CNETAsia's Irene Tham contributed to this report.

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