G3 GLOBAL Bhd managing director Dirk Quinten (pix) tells SunBiz that one should be prepared for lifelong learning, and be patient, whether it involves business or career

Grab the opportunities when they come along

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

Most people can be divided into two groups, those who want to lead and those who want to be led. I realised early on that I wasn’t the type to be led, as I am a free spirit and don’t like being told what to do. I prefer to be active, not reactive.

From a young age I associated myself with people who were leaders. They were all about empowering others more than themselves, and these people formed a valuable support group that has shaped my values and character until today.

What traits do you look for in your talent or how do you decide who is right for a job?

I look for individuals who are determined, diligent, and don’t deliver half-baked results. They need to be able to finish their stuff independently and, to do this, some drive and a particular skill are needed. However, skill is not my number one requirement. Loyalty and a positive mindset are equally important.

Employees should not come into the office at 9am to sit and wait for instructions. They have to be a mini-leader of their own duties, and fit in with the rest of the team members. Work culture is important at G3 Global, so I screen potential candidates to see if they would fit in with the rest. Ample freedom is provided here; there is a flat hierarchy and everyone’s doors are always open. Liberties are granted, but we expect a give and take in return.

How do you think the industry you are in will evolve?

The outlook for artificial intelligence (AI) is positive. I believe technology will not be taking away people’s jobs, but instead assist them and make it more efficient. You see, the amount of data that is readily available in today’s age cannot be processed by humans anymore, even if it were the size of an army.

AI algorithms on the other hand are capable of studying data across multiple decades, seeing trends and coming up with actionable patterns.

For example, our AI principal, SenseTime Group Ltd, has developed an AI scanner to diagnose lung infections. What happens statistically is that, for a doctor to find, let’s say, 20 health anomalies, he usually needs to look at a hundred X-ray results. This traditional process obviously takes time. With the help of an AI scanner, however, we can significantly cut the time by digitally screening a hundred X-rays and identifying those 20 health anomalies the doctor needs to focus on and find solutions for the patient.

This is just one use case for AI. Humans can benefit from supercomputer assistance in many other ways.

What advice can you offer those looking to start their career/own business?

Start with something in line with your talents and passion. The reason for this is, if you do something you like, you will enjoy it and be successful. I’m not a fan of picking a career for money.

Also be prepared for lifelong learning, don’t think it ever stops. Don’t pass on opportunities, grab them when they come. Everyone has opportunities, but not everyone takes them.

There’s some patience required, whether it is your business or career. The younger generation, with their short attention span, needs to bear this in mind.

People also talk a lot about work-life balance and think of it in two parts – a 9-to-5 job, and the leisure time afterwards. But I think they have it all wrong and, to me, you won’t get anywhere with this mindset. Work-life balance is a process throughout the day. You work on your tasks and if you need to take a break, you can find time in between instead of splitting your day into two.

We all know about the industrial revolution, are we in for a technological revolution? Your thoughts.

No, there are no more revolutions. We have come so far. Revolutions used to be something that you wait for decades to happen. Nowadays, it is continuous. Technological advancements are happening every single day at an ever faster pace.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional life?

I have been blessed to have a few mentors in my life. When I was a young technical engineer overseas, one mentor saw something in me and helped push me a few steps up the career ladder. When I came to Malaysia 21 years ago, there were a few mentors as well who didn’t care about my status as a foreigner, only what I was capable of. This reminds me of what I said about grabbing opportunities. When my mentor said I was ready for the next level, I trusted he probably knows better. So I did it.

What do you want to accomplish in the next five years?

I want to grow G3 Global and build the AI portion in Malaysia. This will not only be great for the company, but the country as well. My vision in AI is that you need supercomputers to help run things, and we don’t have much of it here yet in this country. Malaysia has been good to me and my family for over two decades, so if I could, I’d like to give back.

How do you expect policies on climate change to impact businesses in the future?

They will continue to shape businesses, as is happening already now. As you know, electric vehicles are in real high demand recently. Why? Is it because we all want to save on fossil fuels? No. It is because of policies to reduce carbon emissions. The policies are responsible for causing industries to react and switch to clean energy.

Most-admired business leader? Why?

Elon Musk. He is creative, different, and a rebel. We are similar in age, so I relate to him and admire his accomplishments. Steve Jobs, in a way, was equally impactful. By looking at both of them, we understand now that one’s idea is so important.

If you could have an hour with any thought leader in the world, whom would it be and why?

Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of Soviet Union. I think what he has done with ending the Cold War, introducing new political freedoms in the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany, were the greatest political achievements in the last century. Just the thought of it is such a massive undertaking.

If I could, I’d love to understand how does someone not shy away from such a mammoth task. How can he be so daring in carrying it through, and how did he make it happen?

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced? What did you learn from it?

Right now as we speak, I am deeply troubled by the pandemic. I love freedom, and I love Malaysia for having provided that freedom. I like to perform and accomplish things, and I raised my kids like that too. As they are ready to go out and start their own career journeys, the world has unfortunately closed in on them, and it is out of my control.

In the past there were many choices and options to explore and achieve things but the current period is limiting for my kids and the young generation in general.

The learning is ongoing, I am in the midst of it to see how best to navigate the situation and assist my kids to pursue their dreams.

What was the most outlandish business proposal you have ever heard of?

A project, Elon Musk’s Space X. Outlandish at first, and yet now it’s working. He’s doing things in private capacity that even the richest countries cannot do. How long ago was the last time we went to the moon? Now he is talking about Mars and even has a plan for it. I admire that crazy passion.

What man-made innovation confounds you? Why?

The Ocean Cleanup project. Its CEO, Boyan Slat, founded it in the Netherlands in 2013 at only 18 years old. I started following this four or five years ago, and they succeeded in their proof of technology late last year. The company is developing clean-up systems that aim to remove more than 90% of the floating plastic pollution caught swirling in the oceans, starting with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. From what I understand, they are using low-cost and totally clean technology. It is amazing that they are doing what people with more money and better technology couldn’t do.

Malaysia’s greatest brand?

Petronas. Largest contributor to the country, and really put Malaysia on the world map, just think Twin Towers. It is also known for sponsoring Formula 1, Moto GP, and others. There is no competitor.

A must-read for every business owner/manager is ...

Seth Godin’s Linchpin. This is a book for every working person. A great book, full of tips about life and how to be the best version of yourself. No matter who you are and what you do, whether you are reading it now or five years later. It can offer various perspectives throughout the many stages of one’s life.

What are the top three factors you would attribute your success to?

Honesty, fairness and determination.