There are many key qualities needed to make it to the top, and Gabriel Young has given a great deal of thought to most of them. Disciplined and resilient, the Hong Kong country manager of Gartner, a leading information technology (IT) research and advisory firm, manages the office, works with her sales teams to ensure double-digit growth in a mature market, and deals with high-level executives who are seeking IT solutions.
"If you go to a company and talk about IT services to them, they perceive it as a cost. You have to relate it to business initiatives, seeing how IT can enable growth in business, improve service, optimise new products or help enter new markets," she says.
From multinational corporations and conglomerates to local companies, Gartner advises a wide range of businesses. The company also advises IT vendors about the things that businesses seek in an IT firm.
The company has a very good and positive culture, Young says, and it offered her much backing and training for her new position, which she took on in December 2010.
"Before taking up this job, I underwent leadership training. [It enables you to understand] what a management position is like [and] people may choose to take up the [management] role, or not - which is also fine with the company," Young adds. "When I became a country manager, I underwent more structured training. It was obligatory."
Gartner also has a mentorship system. Young's mentor is the vice-president of India operations, while Young herself is the mentor of a manager in China.
As her job also involves liaising with overseas counterparts, she often attends to early morning or late-night calls. She spends 25 per cent of her working time travelling to meetings and even on incentive holidays. Her trips take her around the globe, from Orlando - where she will attend a global managers' meeting in January - to Hawaii, to join the Winners' Circle, a reward for her achievements.
To complete her work, time management is vital. She says the secret to efficiency is discipline, planning, and having contingency plans. Internal meetings are regularly scheduled, and pick up from previous discussions.
"It's more efficient than people coming to me one by one with ad hoc questions. It improves productivity," Young says.
She wakes early and often attends to conference calls with parties in the United States or Australia, checking her e-mails before reaching the office at 9am. At the end of the working day, she reviews the schedule for the day and week ahead to ensure she is prepared, but makes sure she is asleep before midnight.
"To be resilient, you have to make sure you are healthy - mentally and physically. Work-life balance is very important, so that you have the right energy and mindset to achieve your business and personal goals, and sustain [performance] under pressure."
To strike such balance,Young spends a day a week resting with her family, and doing yoga and exercises. Though she is used to seeing men around the conference table, she says women are well-suited to IT. "Women have some advantages. We are good at relationship-building and listening," she says.
But, Young adds, you have to to be interested in the industry and be able to cope with change. She attributes the lack of women in IT to its fast pace, which doesn't allow much flexibility for family life.