The start of the New Year is always a good time to explore new opportunities, frontiers, and aspirations. Here at CSOFT International, we are not only excited about what’s in store for us in the Year of the Sheep, we are also delighted at the recent appointment of Will Knight as the newest member of CSOFT’s management team. Knight is a former Microsoft executive with extensive experience in Asia. As CSOFT’s Executive Vice President of Global Growth and Operations, Knight will lead the company’s business development, operations and client relations. Simply CSOFT was lucky enough to have the chance to sit with him, and hear him recount his first meeting with CSOFT’s CEO Shunee Yee, his passion and his appreciation for cultural diversity.
Can you tell us how you first heard about CSOFT?
Shunee and I first met through our kids. My daughter, Ava, and her son, David became good friends when they attended the same school in Beijing. I was immediately impressed with Shunee. She has great vision, she’s intelligent, and she’s also a great leader. We quickly became good friends and have our own annual tradition where we celebrate American Thanksgiving, but we do it in China, so we eat both American turkey and Peking duck. We call it “changsgiving.”
How do you come to join CSOFT?
The hardest thing sometimes is getting the right opportunity at the right time. We finally came to that alignment in my career when I was ready to do something different and Shunee was ready to embrace a new leader into her management team. So it all worked out.
For your new role, you’ll split your time between the company’s Beijing, San Francisco and Seattle offices. Which city do you like best and why?
Well, it depends on the time of the year. I love Seattle in the summer for its moderate temperatures and sunny days whereas Beijing can be very hot in July and August. But, Beijing is great in the Spring and Fall when there are many celebrations going on for Chinese New Year and the National Holiday. In fact, Beijing is quite beautiful now with many lights throughout the city in preparation for the New Year. San Francisco is also nice throughout many times of the year, especially when they light up the city for the July 4th celebration. Every city has its own big showtime; hopefully, I can spend as much time in every city when they‘re at their best.
Fortunately, technology allows us to stay connected regardless of where we are in the world. We have team members all over the place: in Shenzhen, Shanghai, across the U.S., and in Paris, to name a few locations. CSOFT is a global company and you can’t always be at one place the whole time.
You spent more than 6 years living and working in Beijing and Singapore. Can you share with us some of your cultural experiences?
I am a firm believer that people are 90 percent the same wherever you go. They all have hopes, aspirations, and dreams. People don’t wake up and say “I don’t want to accomplish anything” or “I don’t want to make a better life for myself or my family.” I think that’s incredibly consistent around the world. I saw that in the U.S., China, Indonesia, New Zealand, wherever I go. The traditions, cultures, and language are certainly very different but I think there are more commonalities than differences.
So I would challenge people to see the similarities and not the differences. The similarities can pull us all together.
What is the first thing you want to do at CSOFT?
My expectation is to learn a lot from other CSOFTers because it seems like everyone has been here longer than I have. Laughs. That’s my primary focus in the short term. I appreciate what Shunee and the team has built here. CSOFT is a very strong company with solid growth and really amazing leadership. That’s my primary focus in the short term.
In the medium term, my aspiration is to add value to the company in the form of deepening the CSOFT culture consistently across our worldwide offices. We need to think of how we can better serve our customers and delight them more than they expect. If we can do that—build that strong culture and serve our customers—we will continue to see strong growth in the future.
One last question: what is your career motto?
Be passionate. Work is about finding something you‘re passionate about. I was just chatting with Shunee the other day and I said, “It’s nice to work hard, not because you have a job, but because you have a strong passion for it.” This is a very different mindset from how most people approach their careers. Here at CSOFT, I feel I’ve got a really strong passion, and as a result, I want to work hard. But it all starts with a passion.
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