“A wonderfully fun and unexpected career in IT”
Fan Cheung helped implement nearly every new business technology for a global Fortune 500 company that emerged in the 80s and 90s.
Fan Cheung considers herself a solution provider, and not the least, a technologist. Throughout her 20-year career with First Data Corporation (previously a subsidiary of American Express and a leader in electronic payments and processing), Fan was on the forefront of a number of new developments in the world of technology, each one an opportunity to discover better ways to work and lead.
Retired from a fulfilling career in IT since 2007, Fan’s connection to the Bryan School is the MBA program. She attended with her husband, Henry Tsuei, back in the 80’s, but left early to follow a promising professional opportunity. That opportunity led to what Fan calls, “a wonderfully fun ride” ending in a vice president and head of Corporate MIS (Management Information Systems) position—the rung on the MIS and corporate ladder she aspired to but had not expected to reach.
“It was a great career,” she says. “I had the good fortune of hitting every new major evolution of technology. How many people actually remember the first time they were introduced to the PC, email or the World Wide Web?”
Business Process Re-engineering. Local Area Network. The Intranet. Enterprise Systems. Employee Self Services. Fan was part of the implementation of just about every new technology that emerged in the business world in the 80s and 90s.
As an example, when Fan learned about video conferencing at a technology conference, she immediately brought the idea back to her team to implement, saving countless hours and dollars by carrying out training via webinar rather than traveling to sites around the world. She was an early adaptor in placing training manuals online for greater access at less cost and with much better content management capabilities. She also saw the incredible potential of having the intranet available to First Data employees, securing funding to host the server, leading corporate-wide efforts to establish and maintaining internal telecommunication network, and enlisting specialists to help bring the valuable communication tool to life.
Women in technology
In addition to staying abreast of new developments and implementing them corporate wide for greater efficiency and success, another hallmark of Fan’s career was her passion for enhancing the status of women in technology.
“As a technology manager, I know how difficult it is to recruit women. I am the perfect example of someone who had no idea how much fun I would have working with technology in a business setting. It’s important that young women realize that the same opportunity exists for them.”
Fan enjoyed being a mentor to women throughout her career. In retirement, she has volunteered as a math tutor at elementary schools and served as a guest speaker at Cornell University, where she talked about how to navigate through corporate America, especially as a woman.
“A lot of what I have learned over the years ties back to UNCG,” Fan says. “I still remember what my professors taught me, and I continue to use that knowledge to teach others. In my operations management class, my professor told me this: Fifty percent of your success is the ability to perform, and 50 percent is the ability to influence.”
Fan says that the Asian culture emphasizes hard skills (or the ability to perform), but often misses the opportunity to teach how to influence. “The culture calls for us to be humble. But it should not be at the cost of our professional success or ability to lead change.” So much of success, she says, is the ability to get people working together toward a common goal—a lesson that Fan learned, carried out and exemplified throughout her career.