People and Culture

The unexpected People Leader: How Kevin sharpened his soft skills

Kevin Lin
5 minutes to read
Author

  • Find out how Kevin, Lead Architect & People Leader, grew into his role after starting out as Expert Software Engineer.

  • Learn how Zühlke shifted his perspective on people management, and why people relationships are a key success factor in Zühlke Asia.

  • Discover the key ingredients for both Kevin’s and Zühlke’s growth in the Asian markets. 

Despite a healthy resume in the IT sector, Kevin Lin felt stuck. 

He’d always wanted to pursue a career as a developer. Now, after 10 years, he worried that the operational duties of line management were swallowing up any time to grow what he cared about most: his technical skills.

“I’d worked in different developer roles across different industries, from banking to insurance. But line management in other companies never felt right. I wasn’t helping people develop – it felt like I was just handling administration that ate into my day, and to be honest, I wasn’t interested in it.

“Even worse, I realized that I wasn’t really learning anything new from a developer perspective! One day, I spotted that Zühlke was hiring for a pretty unique set of circumstances: an Expert Software Engineer in their brand-new Singapore office.” 

Now, four years into his career with Zühlke, Kevin’s growth mirrors the company’s own journey in Asia: from two Singapore employees to 250 spread across Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam and colleagues joining us remotely from all over Asia. 

“I knew Zühlke had a decent reputation when I applied. But it turned out that the role amplified everything I wasn’t getting in my existing job. There were plenty of chances to get my hands dirty from a technical perspective, as well as a broad range of projects I knew I’d be working on.” 

Kevin Lin

A non-stop learning experience

Kevin started out as a technical consultant on smaller projects. Over time his list of clients and projects grew larger. He now consults on the biggest projects as Zühlke Asia’s lead software architect, tackling juicy client problems, presenting engineering solutions, and being a major catalyst for company growth.

“The last four years have been a non-stop learning experience. For example, I hadn’t done anything related to containerization, but that soon changed. I now see myself as a relatively experienced DevOps engineer, encompassing everything from coding to cloud.” 

“Zühlke opened the door to something I’d forgotten I loved so much. It pulled me back into the software side. I get to code again here and feel so much more engaged because I’m always learning something new.”

But his growth hasn’t been limited to technical expertise. Kevin soon found his responsibilities and perspectives shifted in an unexpected way. 

Soft skills, sharp focus

Where he once avoided the monotony of line management, he now holds the dual role of Lead Software Architect and People Leader —  winning, inspiring and mobilizing a team of nine. And he loves it.  Zuhlke only introduced this role in the last 12 months, but Kevin was already familiar with many of its responsibilities. 

“For two years leading up to being People Leader, I’d been invited to be part of Zuhlke Asia’s Team Lead pilot with four other senior engineers. That was similar to my role now, as it gave us partial line management responsibilities on top of our regular project commitments.”

What changed his outlook on people management? 

“Before joining Zühlke, being a manager meant dealing with every aspect of my team in a very rigid and operational way. There was less emphasis on helping people grow, and more on the formulaic things: hiring, pay rises and project assignment. We had no support system to help us, and took all the blame when things didn’t go smoothly.

“But since being at Zühlke, I now see people management through a completely different lens. 

“I didn’t used to value one-to-one meetings given that I spoke to the team every day anyway as part of our projects.. But now I’m able to ask my team members more meaningful questions, can act as coach or mentor depending on the circumstances, and value the experience much, much more. Sure, delivery and process matters a lot. But now I know that relationships are just as important.”

Gaining a love (and skill) for people management is just one outcome of Zühlke’s emphasis on soft skill development. 

“Public speaking in particular was a major cause of stress. But having participated both directly and indirectly, I’m pleased to say I find it much easier. That’s partly down to colleagues sharing their approaches to it. But I’ve also had opportunities to attend workshops (including at the yearly Zühlke Camp) which offered specific guidance on my own presentations.”

Singapore Team

How approachability helped grow Zühlke’s Asia market

Kevin’s story sticks out as an engineer, having helped build out Zühlke’s Asia presence from a small Singapore office as their 13th employee.

Applying both the technical and soft skills he learnt along the way made a major difference. But so too has the wider culture shared by more senior leadership. 

“When I started in that tiny Singapore office, things were nice and cozy. 

“As we grew to over 150 people, the structure involved naturally became more complex. But one thing I love is how the top-line management remains just as approachable as they were then. And even better, they know their areas of expertise and care about our teams’ opinions. As a People Leader, I’m always thinking about what I can do to pass their feedback on, and vice versa.”

Is this something more junior engineers looking to progress at Zühlke should bear in mind? 

“Absolutely. In my experience, junior employees can be naturally shy. But there’s a vast resource of talent and personalities here, including a big core of engineering folks, and I’d urge anyone who’s starting out (and even those who aren’t) to tap into it.”