Advent Phang is currently the Managing Director of InfinitiLab and the Chief Technology Officer of HealthMetrics. He completed his bachelor’s degree in Multimedia University and went on to receive his first job offer to work as an Analyst Programmer at eGenting after winning 3rd Place at the eGenting Programming Competition 2005.
After years of working with eGenting, he went on to become a Senior Programmer and Software Engineer at LEAP Energy. He wanted to step out of his comfort zone and explore new opportunities. Thus, he co-founded InfinitiLab: a software development company.
However, this veteran-programmer-turned-founder did not allow his entrepreneurship to stop there. Advent later stumbled upon HealthMetrics, which set him on a journey that started off as a client-vendor relationship, and later into a joint-venture arrangement. A decision he saw as a step in the right direction in the future of healthcare. Having been fascinated by Advent's journey, we have interviewed him for insights into life at HealthMetrics and any other advice he has for young talents.
What is your role here at HealthMetrics?
I am the Chief Technology Officer here. When we first started off, I always joked about how the CTO role was just that of a glorified programmer. Now looking back, the role I play today is a far cry from what I used to do. Today, I strategise on the tech side of the company and work closely with the product, engineering, data and strategy, and IT infrastructure team. My drive is to position the company to always be innovative and consider the use of technology when it comes to solving challenges.
What challenge(s) do you face and how do you overcome them?
My challenges have evolved through my time in the company, especially have the company has grown so much since its founding a few years ago.
When the company was smaller, my challenges were to quickly build up a small but highly efficient team to deliver our tech. As a start-up, we do not have many resources. As a programmer with a product vision, I must balance between building a ‘dream’ product with a sustainable code base, while keeping in mind that our business model may pivot at any time.
As the company grew bigger, my focus turned to grow leaders that can help with operational and tactical responsibilities, while my co-founder and I devote more time to strategic matters. A lot of these leaders are very young founding members. Many of us do not possess the kind of professional experience that you would expect to have as a prerequisite for a leadership position in a company like us.
I, myself, do not possess this level of experience.
And it is most befitting that technology itself has helped me tremendously. As we lived in the age of information, with the vast amount of curated resources and information available freely online, I benefitted greatly from reading a lot of these. I also had the privilege to speak to a lot of experienced and smart people – people who have been there and done that. I realised that most people are very willing to share, and all you have to do is to step out there and ask.
What is your favourite memory at HealthMetrics?
Having been with HealthMetrics since its founding days, there are quite a few that come to mind. I recall quite vividly how back when we were much smaller, we have our meetings at McDonald's’. We literally have trays of fries laid out in front of us. Not the healthiest, but it was a good time. Another one that I can share is the big milestone of moving into our first office at Sunway Geo. We had an open office, with all the people sitting together, working, and chatting away. It is chaotically pleasant.
What were your aspirations when you were young?
Although I was instilled with the mindset of working hard in all you do, I was raised as a kampung boy. Therefore, I had never truly thought about doing anything too ambitious like changing the world. I was content in being someone who could contribute to society. As I grow older, I open myself up to more ambitious aspirations and am now a firm believer in changing the world for the better.
What excites you the most about the company’s future?
HealthMetrics is still growing and has not reached its prime yet. There is still so much more to do and accomplish. When we started off, we kept a wish list of all the things we want to do. Most of the items are what we considered moon-shot projects back then. But today, each seems realistic and within our grasp. The company look forward to offering a complete, seamless service to our customer, and going regional.
If you could look back at yourself 5 years and give a word of encouragement, what would you say?
Stay true to whatever you are doing. Keep it up and do not worry too much about the outcome. Remember, you want to be able to look back and tell yourself “yes, I have tried my best.”
How would you describe your team in HealthMetrics?
The technology team which I lead consists of 4 departments. There is the product team that is responsible for carrying out the product vision of the company. As we are a product-first company, this department plays vital importance in the foundation and growth of HealthMetrics.
Then there is the engineering department that serves as the main engine of growth in the company. These guys are the epitome of technology, the type of people who will talk in code instead of English.
We also have a Data and Strategy department to make sense of the data we receive, unlock new possibilities, and provide a platform for our internal and external users to make more data-driven decisions. Finally, we have our IT department who is responsible for setting up the entire IT infrastructure in the company and enable everyone to perform their work efficiently.
What qualities and skills does it take to be successful at your team at HealthMetrics?
You should be very curious about both technology and the business aspect of things. By this I mean you must not only think about how you are going to solve a dilemma but also why you want to solve it. Finally, it is important not to be shy. A lot of people have this perception that engineers tend to be introverted. Whether that is true or otherwise, it is important for one to step out there and network, both within and outside one’s workgroup.
How do you measure success for your team members?
The ability to make decisions in my absence. It can be tricky, but if you are able to make decisions in an informed manner where your decisions are justifiable, that to me is a measure of success.
What do you think are the best ways to keep your team motivated?
I open time slots for my team where they can book private or shared sessions with me. In these sessions, we can talk about anything, be it work-related or otherwise. They can share their problems, aspirations, and passions. It helps with bonding and motivations for everyone to feel that we have no power distance.
What is the roadmap for your team next year?
We currently implementing this plan called project rewrite where we will rewrite our existing monolithic software to become more distributed. Along with this goal, we plan to develop service-oriented architecture where we transition from a single delivery pipeline to a setup where we can have functional teams working in highly independent but aligned to the same goal.
Can you share one piece of advice to the people who are looking to join a fast-growing tech company such as HealthMetrics?
Just do it, join us. As mentioned previously, we are a product-first company and are in a better position than most of our competitors. By joining us you will get a first-hand experience of our industry and you will be making significant changes to our world and the future of healthcare.