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Path to top set EARLY

Jan 25. 2019
Patama Chantaruck, managing director of IBM Thailand
Patama Chantaruck, managing director of IBM Thailand
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PATAMA Chantaruck’s rise up the corporate ladder owes much to her hard work and enthusiasm. But the attributes that Patama harnessed to become the managing director of IBM Thailand go only so far in explaining her success. “I am where I am today because of the wholehearted support that I have received from my parents,” Patama says.

She speaks of the encouragement she received from the daily phone calls to her mother and father during her many years of university study and work in the United States.

“Even the time zone of around 14 hours was no obstacle for us to chat and exchange opinions every day. I am very close to my parents and the love between us all was not affected by how far away I was staying at that time.”

Patama recalls, in particular, this piece of advice from her mother: “When I came back to Thailand, my mother asked of me only that I do the best that I can.”

She adds, after building her career as an executive in the technology industry: “It was the best decision for me to come back to Thailand as managing director of IBM. I also want to develop Thailand as a hub for Indochina.”

Patama is also vice president for Indochina expansion at IBM.

She distinguished herself as the first managing director of IBM Thailand to be appointed from outside the company. The previous 20 incumbents were all internal hires. She took up the position on October 2, 2018. 

Before joining IBM Thailand, Patama gained much experience as an executive at Microsoft Corp, where she rose up the ranks to become general manager for worldwide software asset management and compliance at the technology giant.

Well before she ever dreamt of a corporate career, the young Patama wanted to study art and languages at in secondary school. But her parents advised her to study courses in mathematics and science programs. They pointed out to her that maths and science would open up work opportunities in the future. 

After Patama graduated from secondary school, her father encouraged her to study to become a computer engineer. And there was the carrot: if she could gain entry into a computer engineering faculty, he would buy her a computer. With this incentive, she did her best and gained entry to the engineering faculty at Prince of Songkla University, at the Hat Yai campus. 

Upon graduation, she worked as a system engineer at Seagate Technology (Thailand) for four years. She then applied for positions in business development, which offered roles as a middleman in communications. In this way, she also facilitated connections between the engineers and sales staff at SingTel for one and half year.

It was a period that describes as providing a turning point in her life. 

Patama looks back on this time in business development with pride as she was able to sell an email project to the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET). 

 “My time in business development at SingTel taught me that I should learn and study more about business and marketing, which provided that turning point in my life,” she says.

“So I applied to study in the US and arrived in Seattle at the University of Washington during the springtime. It was such a beautiful time of year, with the many scenic places, that decided I really wanted to study at that university. I think that sometimes when one makes a decision, it is not always necessary to have a firm reason.”

She graduated at another university, Washington State University, with a master’s degree - an MBA in international finance - in 1995. She applied to work at Microsoft in Seattle. It was when she was with Microsoft that she went to Thailand as a product manager for the launch of the Windows 95 operating system in the country in 1999. She worked at Microsoft for 16 years. 

Crediting her parents with her success, she said they had encouraged her study abroad in order to reach her full potential, adding that there was a whole world to discover outside Thailand and that she should not fret over leaving her family behind.

But there were those daily phone calls to her get through – to her mother in the mornings and her father in the evenings.

Upon her return to Thailand, her mother asked: “Did you do your best? She then told me to look deeply into myself and learn to understand people from different cultures and to create win-win situation for my work and my personal life,” she says.

Her parents have continued to play a supportive role to Patama as she keeps moving up in her career.

 “My parent had very important roles in supporting me to study in the mathematics and science programs as well as to become an engineer when I was young,” Patama said. “My father told me that in the future the world would usher in the technology era. Computer will create various opportunities to look at various works and open up people’s worlds.”

She says that she has felt fortunate to work as an executive overseas and she now counts almost 30 years of experience in the information technology and telecom industries, where she has helped customers worldwide optimise their IT investments and to become more successful in a new era of digital transformation.

Among the staff, she is known as a dynamic and motivational leader.

Throughout her career, she has promoted and mentored female leaders and is active member of the Women's Senior Leadership Programme at The Kellogg School of Management. She says that when she was young she did not think that she would become a working woman.

 “I am very happy to work in Thailand as that means I can stay close to my parents and take care of them,” Patama says. “And they are still healthy.”

In the office, she believes that teamwork is vital for success in business. Every day before she sets off, she says it is important to ensure she maintains a positive attitude.

 “I think that every day all business will encounter problems and obstacles,” she says. “How to solve those problems and encourage myself to keep enjoying the work are key. 

“When I step into the office I will do the best I can and set a tone of positive thinking. I have the challenge to develop Thailand as hub of Indochina. I think that I have still not achieved all that I want in my career.

“As managing director of IBM, I want the company to be a partner and collaborate with the government to drive the Thailand 4.0 scheme forward. “I will know when I have succeeded in these efforts when the country steps up and enjoys success with government-sponsored Thailand 4.0 scheme.”

As for hobbies, she enjoy reading, horseback riding, tennis, swimming, playing piano and hot yoga.


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