Spark Spotlight: Michael Kueh
At Egnyte the Spark is at the center of everything we do, including our logo. When it comes to our team, we see the Spark as the intersection of talents and passions that drive each and every employee - which is what ultimately drives Egnyte. Through this series I hope to showcase the outstanding individuals whose combined talents make Egnyte what it is today.
* Bold Writing Represents the Voice of Egnyte CEO Vineet JainMichael! A pleasure to see you, especially on this side of the pond. For our readers, let’s start off with your title and where you are located.I'm currently located in London, England and my title is Director of Customer Success.And what is your current mobile device and computer?My current mobile device is an iPhone 6s Plus and my laptop is a Dell.I thought you were a Mac guy?I am definitely a Mac guy, but there’s a story behind this. When Rajesh (co-founder) was over for a visit in February he was nice enough to bring me my MacBook Pro from the U.S. After three weeks my keyboard went bad so I brought it into Apple for repair, but they noticed on the touch ID wasn’t working. Unfortunately since then, they’ve still been trying to “fix” it, although I’m convinced they may just not actually know what’s wrong or how to fix it. (chuckles)So the computer is with them. You obviously needed a machine.Yep, since they still don't have the part in stock I am on a PC. However, they got to the point where they are now sending me a brand new laptop because it has been so long and they can’t figure it out, so that’s nice.So if you take this machine away (points to his laptop), I would feel like one of my limbs has been amputated. Absolutely need this machine.And I'm on a British keyboard.Oh, I didn't think about that.My typing has slowed down significantly.Is it very different?Well like the @ sign is next to where the colon is. And the shift 2 is locations. The dollar sign which is normally shift 3 is shift 4. And the slashes are different. Honestly, it’s a mess.You know, one of the things I have learned in these interviews is that for some reason a lot of people have Macbooks but their phones were Android devices. I just found it a little incoherent to say how do you sync, how do you make everything stay the same. There are utilities for sure but it’s an extra step.For me it’s about the usability, to flow from one device to another. For example, the greatest thing is iMessage. I chat with my wife. I can do it from my laptop. I don’t need to pull out my phone every time I have a conversation with my wife. Or with anyone.Beyond iMessage, do you know about the other feature. The hand off feature? Do you use that?That’s where I can have a browser open on my mobile then see it on my laptop, correct?Right, so let's say you're typing something, and it’s mid way through, and you got interrupted. You can open your Macbook and finish it off there.I haven't done that.I use it quite a bit and it’s actually quite nice. It even moved the buffer to the other device. I like how you can start something here and finish there, especially since I am constantly moving around so much.What are some of your favorite apps besides Egnyte?Facebook.Really? Do you spend a lot of time on Facebook?I love my Facebook app. And I'll tell you why, because moving here to London from the US it is easy to lose touch with my friends and family. Facebook is the best way to learn about their daily life and continue having that connection, staying up to date.And you haven't switched to WhatsApp in the family or friends group?I have WhatsApp installed, but if I need to chat with them, it’s through Facebook Messenger. It's all centralized, all my contacts are already there. WIth WhatsApp, it’s one offs with people with Android devices or those who don’t have Facebook.You know, I rarely ever go into Facebook. In fact, I have to remind myself. And I’m thinking if I was in your shoes, where I’m a transplant here and everyone else is back home. I feel the same and want to keep in touch with them.It’s nice seeing my nieces and nephews. They have basketball games and my brother will share video. It makes me feel like I'm there with them.
Talk about your background and how did you ended up at Egnyte?Where do I start. I've always been into technology. We had a family business that basically started with computer retail. I started building my own computers when I was 8 or 9 years old. I used to build and sell those with my dad. I would be installing hard drives, floppy drives, doing batch scripting through MS-DOS. From there we expanded the business, operating a small piece as an ISP. We were a small ISP and did dial up to ISDN lines to Fractional T-1.Where is/was your business?It’s back in Illinois. From there I went to Michigan State University and graduated with a telecommunication degree, knowing that I was going to go back to help with the family business. And after that, being that my wife and I loved technology, we decided to visit San Francisco and naturally we fell in love with the city.Where were you living in Chicago?So we decided we wanted to take on the challenge of the move and really take our chance at competing in Silicon Valley, so we came out here. I found a job as an IT consultant, doing a lot of financial services companies and that's back around 2010, when the whole FINRA and all the compliances came out for the cloud. I was looking at a few cloud storage platforms for these VCs and came across Egnyte being a FINRA capable solution. Ironically one of the other ones we were looking at was Box. I went down the whole demo and deployment road with Egnyte, was convinced, and worked with the VCs to purchase Egnyte.Which one was this?This was Hummer Winblad.Oh you got us into Hummer Winblad. I didn't know that!Yep, I deployed Hummer Winblad for Egnyte. Lombard Investments, and a few more. So, yeah, that's where I learned about Egnyte. Around 2013-14, I was looking for a transition. Applied for the company because I saw a job posting for PS on LinkedIn and the rest is history.That background is very interesting, not sure if you’ve seen the growth but we have a lot of VC firms that run off of Egnyte.Yeah, Rajesh showed me that list when he was here a few weeks ago, it’s very impressive and looks like it’s continually growing.It’s funny actually, I even tried to get Egnyte into Emergence Capital, which obviously you know they're an investor in Box.(Laughing ensues)So when you were doing this, which company were you working with?It was originally called InfoPartners. We had signage off of 101 and Whipple, which I’m sure you saw a time or two. Then we were bought out by CompuShare, and eventually by Davis and Henderson. I remember talking to Kris and he actually tried to talk to our managing partners to help kickoff the sales channel for Egnyte.Very nice, great background. So what does a typical day look for you?I usually wake up in the morning and first thing I do is check out the overnight emails coming from North America, usually a flood of them. I see if there are any takeaways, any responses needed, or just any action items at all.What time do you typically sleep?Midnight. So a lot of times, after hours, is when I actually have time to get with the Product Managers and Engineering team on whatever I need and stage it up for responses to the client the next day. And hopefully it comes overnight and then in the morning, reaching out to clients and setting up any responses that I have. Throughout the day I have client calls, assist with any deployments or any technical needs throughout our territory. It’s pretty much just an everyday cycle.Is there a time in the afternoon when the flood starts again, given the US is awake?Yep, usually around 5 or 6. So my work hours are from the time I wake up, I work, then I have lunch midday, and then usually around 3 or 4 I head home because usually customer requests come to a halt around then which gives me good time to travel back home. Then I work for a couple more hours at home, have dinner, and finish up around 10:30/11o’clock, then wind down before I go to bed and start it all over again.That's a long day. I wake up pretty early, I wake up at about 5. And so many people say don't sleep with your phone but I sleep with my phone, checking my email randomly throughout the night.I think it’s an addiction. Having that mail symbol being at zero is the goal. I want to be at zero because hat's how I manage my responses, by email. So when it’s at zero, I know I can relax. (chuckles)Next follow up questions, what's your favorite thing about Egnyte?There's two sides to this. First, the product and technology itself. Since I was little, I was a technology person. That's why when I looking to switch my career/company, I looked at one company and that was Egnyte. I have always believed in the product and where it’s going.Also the usability of the product and the skill that we can implement this with. Coming from working with customers that have very diverse consumption of our technology because a lot of VCs and financial firms like to be on the cutting edge and want to be ahead of everything. Also working with the banks, which are conservative and are going to be behind the curve. I have always had that wide range of technical expertise. So having a product that is very scalable from very small to very big enterprise is very attractive to me. That's one of the great things at being here with Egnyte which energizes me. LIke with the desktop app, the convergence of that.Do you have the version on your PC?Since I have a PC that's the only app I have, the desktop app, and I love it. The concept of this desktop app is what I remember when I was in Mountain View in 2014 and mentioning this, and it's finally coming to fruition. It's so exciting!Back to your original question about my favorite thing about Egnyte. The second part would be the people I work with, especially in the US, they are very tight nit. They care about each other and want each other to be successful. They push each other to be better and that's one of the things that attracts me to Egnyte.What are some goals for yourself and your team?I think you know one of the goals for me when I came to London, about 2.5 years ago, was to build upon the technical arm for our EMEA team, on the customer facing side. I feel like I still haven't fully achieved that but in those 2.5 years we have made great progress. However, we have a few more milestones that we're trying to achieve as a part of that goal. I want to be able build up a team that is fully sustainable from an EMEA operation perspective. That is my goal, and while it can be a struggle, that is what drives me.I can hear the passion in your voice and that is one of the reasons you are here. We have a great deal of faith in you, your abilities, and the value you are bringing to this team.As a complement to those thoughts and helping you reach your goals, what could we change at Egnyte to make it better?The biggest challenge that I face in Europe is the big time difference. Our core product management team is in Mountain View. Our platform engineers are in the US. So it makes it a bit difficult at times to be as efficient and productive as possible when there are only a few overlapping hours.Switching gears a little bit. Who's your biggest role model, personally or professionally?I always looked at my brother as my role model. He's older than me by a year and a half but it seems that he is so far ahead of me in his career, in his thought process, and ingenuity on how he approaches things. He is VP at VMWare, running the Airwatch team from product engineering side. I was leveraging him to help Steve Chen with Airwatch actually. In the essence of always competing with your sibling, I've always looked at him as a great challenge for me.Beyond my brother though, there are so many people who influence me from all over the world. For example, I'm reading about Elon Musk and what he has done with Tesla. He's got so many titles and thoughts across verticals and industries. I can't even comprehend what he has to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Running Tesla, SpaceX, Solar City,But now he’s going into some “boring” stuff. (Vineet winks)Yeah tunnels. That hyperloop sure could be something though.I think his biggest asset is that he's able to attract some of the smartest people to work for him, so when he has an idea at the highest level, they can translate it into reality.Completely agree. In my mind, being a great leader is not having all the answers all the time, it’s having the people around you that can help you find the answers you’re looking for.Yes, I always think of it like this: If you know all the answers, then you actually have the wrong people.So what's something unique that other Egnyters don't know about you?To be honest, I'm very open about who I am and what I do. Vince, the PS manager, we go way back to my previous company and even to the guys I work with here and have beers with. Work is part of my personal life and my personal life is part of my work so it's really hard to comprehend what people don't know about me.I guess a fun fact would be that I didn't learn a word of English until I was 7 years old.Wow, that is interesting. I did not know that! Where were you growing up at that time?I was born in Malaysia and did my early schooling in Taiwan. I was in the second grade when I moved to the US.So at 7 years old you didn't know English. Was it difficult?It was quite difficult, my brother had taken some English at the YMCA in Taiwan so he knew a few basic words. But when I came here, I was immersed in English because I was in suburbia of Chicago. My brother and I were the only Asians at our elementary school and he was two grades ahead of me. A lot of it is nonverbal communications.There's definitely something unique about that, says a lot about your ability to adapt and succeed in any conditions.What's the best piece of advice you have ever received?It's okay to say no. Because personally, I am a people pleaser which is probably why I am in customer success. I have to remind myself sometimes that it's okay to say “no.” It helps me manage my own life better if I can know my limits and set healthy expectations for myself and others.Who gave you this advice?My wife. She always says “no” to me.(Laughter ensues)That's a good one.I've been burnt personally and professionally because I kept agreeing or allowing people to get away with stuff. It was to the point where it made it unhealthy for me to be that way. When I don’t set these limits it not only takes a personal toll on me, but on the people around me. Now I tend to let people have as much room as they need but there will be limits.Agreed, it’s important to know yourself and to have a healthy balance. I have to try very hard to do the same in my life as well, balancing work, my health, my family, etc.What are some of the places or things to do on your bucket list?Winnie (my wife) and I love to travel, so our bucket list is really all about places we want to visit. We want to see the Seven Wonders of the World. So far we’ve seen the Great Wall of China and the Grand Canyon. We want to go see Southeast Asia and see all the monks and temples. Beyond that, I just want to experience things that are seen as still images but actually live them and understand them in a more tactile way.Speaking of the Seven Wonders, you didn't mention the Taj Mahal.It is on the list, probably sometime next year. But we're looking into going up to the Nordics to see the Northern Lights as well.
And when do you plan to go back to the US?My plan is actually to go to Asia next.When?We have family in Hong Kong and I don't need a work visa, I already have it. Hong Kong is the easiest. Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, our next move away from Europe and is APAC. So when Egnyte is looking for an APAC office, I'm happy to do this all over again.That day not may not be far off (Vineet winks)What hobbies and passions do you have outside of work?Exploring, being out and walking around. Winnie and I both have pretty demanding jobs, so we try to get away as much as possible. Even going out to a park can be tough sometimes with our busy schedules, so even simple things like that bring me a lot of joy.
What about the weekends?We both love Disney. We have an annual membership to the Disneyland in Paris.How often do you go there?About three to four times a year.That's good ROI if you're going there that many timesYeh it’s like 250 euros for the pass, much cheaper than in the US. If we were to go one day, a one day pass is like 80 euros, so three, four times we make it back.You like it so much that you keep going again and again?Last year, we visited Disney World, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disney within two months of each other because we had to go Disney for my friend's wedding in Hong Kong and we had actually planned to go to Disney Paris and Disney World. And for Christmas, we were back in Hong Kong. So three different Disney parks within two months, that was one of the highlights that year.There's two things about it. It's a fantasy, it gets us out of our everyday life and immersed in their world. Number two, it's the only time I'm not on my phone all the time because I have other stimulations around me that I'm not thinking about work or anything else really at all.That’s fantastic. It never ceases to amaze me how much I learn in just an hour during these conversations. I’m really glad I could make it over for a visit and get to do this. We look forward to having you back to HQ for a visit soon!
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