Microsoft Malaysia MD: Not here to clean up, but to build on

  • Carlos Lacerda says he’s here to build on the great work of his predecessor
  • Keen to see Microsoft contribute to Malaysia’s transformation agenda

Microsoft Malaysia MD: Not here to clean up, but to build onIF you’re a former employee of Microsoft Malaysia, you probably would not be able to recognise the place anymore – and it’s not just because last year the company moved into its new office, from ‘Tower 2’ of the Kuala Lumpur City Centre or KLCC, to the spanking new ‘Tower 3.’
 
Except for some old stalwarts and survivors, you’d be hard-pressed to recognise the people as well. There has been a near complete turnover of senior positions over the last three to four years, especially from the time Yasmin Mahmood left the company in late 2009, to be succeeded by Ananth Lazarus – who also left in late 2012, albeit to a new regional role within Microsoft.
 
Part of the high attrition rate can be attributed to corporate restructuring exercises originating from Redmond, Washington itself, where the US technology giant is headquartered. Part of it comes from the fact that Microsoft encourages its staff to re-think their roles and to take on new challenges every three years or so.
 
But still, it does make you wonder. When Digital News Asia (DNA) finally got the chance to sit down with not-so-new-anymore managing director Carlos Lacerda (pic), who took on the role last November, we couldn’t help but ask: “Were you sent here to clean up Microsoft Malaysia?”
 
“No, I am not here to clean up anything,” he says emphatically. “I think my predecessor (Ananth) has chosen a good team and I am here to build on top of the great work that he has done.”
 
Full disclosure here: This writer was employed at Microsoft Malaysia from April 2010 to November 2011, under Ananth.
 
Lacerda, a Portuguese national, points out that much of the attrition had taken place before he came on board, although he admits he himself has made changes since.
 
“I can’t give you any insights on why there was such attrition, but I can give you my opinion of the situation: We need stability,” he says.
 
Lacerda sees it as his mission to make sure the Malaysian subsidiary, which employs more than 250 people, is ready for the challenges the company is facing, and the opportunities that beckon.
 
“For this to happen, people need to stay in their roles to excel. It’s impossible to excel in a role you’ve been in for only two years; you need tenure and you need experience,” he says. “That’s the type of people we’re looking for.
 
“As we prepare for the challenges ahead, with the technologies Microsoft is bringing in, and making sure we play a role in Malaysia’s transformation agenda, I want to bring people in who will stay for the long run; people who will grow within the company as I have done – 17 years and I never had a boring day,” he says.
 
The prodigal son returns
 
Lacerda’s 17-year career in Microsoft was not an unbroken stretch however. He joined the company from Andersen Consulting, serving in various leadership roles in Europe before leaving in 2009 to become chief executive officer at Farminveste, IPG, a holding company with interests in various industries including pharmaceuticals, information technology (IT), real estate, healthcare, market research, e-commerce, online information and advertising.
 
“I left because this was a very good opportunity for me to grow professionally, and personally as well,” he says.
 
“Leaving Microsoft after 17 years was one of the saddest days of my life, but the good thing was that my mentors at Microsoft kept on mentoring me even in my new role,” he chuckles. “All in all, I am very glad to have this opportunity to return.”
 
He believes his stint at Farminveste has done him a world of good, giving him perspectives outside of Microsoft as a customer and even a partner.
 
The role in Malaysia first wasn’t on the cards. He and his wife had been thinking about moving to Asia Pacific. When he expressed this desire in discussing his options at Microsoft, the company suggested Malaysia.
 
“I didn’t know much about Malaysia at the time, so when I was asked if I would like to have a role, I came over and spent about a week here, to get a sense of the lifestyle and the culture, and to understand a bit about the country,” he says.
 
“One of the things my family and I enjoy here in Malaysia is the people – the attitude, the humbleness and the harmony,” he adds. “That was one of the things that beckoned me here.”
 
Professionally however, what struck him the most was Malaysia’s own transformation agenda, and the local subsidiary’s programmes to contribute to that vision.
 
The ‘National Plan’ agenda
 
In late 2010 to early 2011, Microsoft invited all its subsidiaries to submit a ‘National Plan’ that would underline how they intended to contribute to the visions or national agendas of their respective host countries.
 
While it included aspects such as market opportunities and even public relations, the focus was on ‘giving back’ to the markets and communities the company was operating in, via its technologies, expertise and other resources.
 
While all subsidiaries were encouraged to implement their plans, the top 10 submissions would get additional resources from Redmond. The Malaysian subsidiary, under Ananth’s leadership, did extremely well.
 
“Even before we had discussed coming to Malaysia, I had come across the National Plan the Malaysian subsidiary had submitted, and I have to say, I was impressed,” says Lacerda. “The detail you have in there is unique; it is strong, complete and very well-structured.”
 
“So I felt very good about coming to a country where there is a strong vision for transformation, with IT being one of the pillars, and I felt that a company like Microsoft could contribute here,” he adds.
 
Microsoft Malaysia’s National Plan is built on three ‘pillars’: Transforming lives, businesses and education. Those in the media would probably be familiar with it – it is threaded into just about every press release the company issues or announcement it makes.
 
The timing was just right too, as this year the Malaysian subsidiary celebrates its 20th anniversary, enough time to have built one of the largest partner ecosystems in the industry here – more than 5,000 companies in all.
 
Lacerda seems to have a personal interest in the ‘transforming education’ pillar of the National Plan, with his voice growing in passion when he talks about it.
 
“What we want to do here is to have an end-to-end approach to education, a comprehensive view,” says the father of three girls.
 
“It’s not about supplying the devices or the software – that’s not what’s going to make it happen. It’s about training the teachers, supporting the students, and creating an environment where teachers and students can collaborate not just inside of Malaysia, but outside its borders too,” he says.
 
“That’s how you transform education – by enabling the globalisation that is already happening, and happening very, very fast,” he adds.
 
But Lacerda is not blind to the challenges facing the subsidiary, as well as Microsoft as a whole, or the issues Malaysia as a nation has to address to achieve its own national agenda.
 
Next up: Key challenges and what keeps Lacerda up at night … if anything
 
Related Stories:
 
Microsoft appoints new MD for Malaysia
 
Microsoft, MoE and MDeC in ‘pop-up’ classroom project

 
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