Technology permeates almost every aspect of our lives. Before we see technology in action, simulation engineering must analyse how a new design will perform in real life. ANSYS is one of the world’s largest engineering software developers.
The company puts it best on its website: “If you’ve ever seen a rocket launch, flown on an aeroplane, driven a car, used a computer, touched a mobile device, crossed a bridge or put on wearable technology, chances are you’ve used a product where ANSYS software played a critical role in its creation.”
Francis Sun is the Vice President of ANSYS Greater China. With a history in software engineering, he has hands-on experience with the product and decades’ worth of industry knowledge. The CEO Magazine speaks to him about the company’s success, challenges and the qualities of a great leader.
Can you tell us about your career and what led you to your current position at ANSYS?
I majored in computer science, which is about software engineering, and my career is all around the software industry. What raised my interest and what drives my career passion is I sell and help customers with a lot of intangible stuff. The invisible things help people, inspire people and contribute value for the customer. This is an excellent initiative and inspiration for me. That’s the reason I focus my career on software, software sales, marketing, and channel and software support for my customers.
What is the culture of the company?
ANSYS’s culture is about customer focus. We care about the customers, they come first. Another essential culture perspective in ANSYS is result and accountability. Everyone commits their support and their work quality. Innovation is the most critical part of our cultural perspective. Innovation is not only innovating the technology we contribute to the customers but also innovating the way we serve our customers.
The way our company sustains future growth is through transparency and integrity, and inclusivity is a new part of our focus because we believe it is important to ensure we embrace diversity. We also promote collaboration and teamwork. This is how we can serve our customers, channel partners and society more efficiently.
What appealed to you about the role at ANSYS?
I checked with some friends before I took the job at ANSYS, and out of all software they bought from software vendors, ANSYS is the one they use in their daily lives. They implemented it; they found its value and committed to using the software. This inspired me and piqued an interest in the software because I want to sell and devote my energy to a valuable product.
How do you measure success?
We measure success from three perspectives. The first is customer satisfaction. We believe a satisfied customer will contribute to society and help our business grow. We survey the customer, listen to them and find out how we can progress for their satisfaction. The second perspective is employee satisfaction. We believe a satisfied employee can help our company contribute more, be more innovative and be more valuable to our customers.
So, we make sure our employees are happy. The third KPI is our business growth, but this is based on the success of the previous two KPIs. We also measure our success on the increase of our market share value or technological sophistication. We try to ensure we can be successful from that perspective.
“We survey the customer, listen to them and find out how we can progress for their satisfaction.”
Innovation is significant for your company. How do you ensure the company engineers the best software?
There are many ways to ensure we can be more innovative. First and most important is to listen to the customer and understand their issues. Sometimes we do a lot of internal homework to find out how we can share our innovative ideas with the customer to get their feedback. Innovation is really about making sure we listen to and understand the customers’ needs.
Second, ensuring successful innovation comes from building employee satisfaction. The company has put in a tremendous effort to make sure our employees are inspired, encouraged and highly motivated to implement change. We’ve created a culture where we are open to any ideas. It is a safe environment for the employee to raise any questions, to challenge the status quo and to ensure we can be successful with innovation.
Third, we also learn from the other players in the market. On the one hand, we might be competitors but, on the other hand, we are more inspired to collaborate with them so we can serve our customers better. This is another essential way to be innovative.
What have been some of the hurdles you’ve had to overcome in establishing success for the company in China?
I believe the most significant hurdle is educating the customer. We should make a tremendous effort to listen to the customer, but we should also innovate and contribute ideas to give them the best value. For example, our software is advanced and offers sophisticated tools to help customers. But we don’t treat our product as a product or as a tool, but rather as a solution to help the customer resolve their technology issue. If we look at it that way, we will contribute more value to them. We borrow many simulation ideas and simulation practices from other countries and from other customers. We then share those ideas and thoughts with our customers so they can elevate their simulation skills to improve themselves.
The hurdle is that we need to educate all our employees, technical people and customers. We should think about our business problems, where the technical issues are and how to resolve them and be more innovative instead of just implementing the product using the tools. This is the major hurdle we have to overcome, not only from ANSYS’s perspective, but also from a customer perspective.
“We’ve created a culture where we are open to any ideas.”
What will be some of your focus areas over the next 12 months or so?
ANSYS Greater China will focus on solution development for our customers. We want to establish the best practice for them and help them address their specific technical, innovation and R&D problems. We want to concentrate on those perspectives. ANSYS headquarters in the US will invest in technical resources to help develop solutions.
What do you love most about your job?
I would say the chance to talk with customers. It is always interesting and a lot of fun to understand the market and the customer, as well as our value to the customer. I feel thrilled finding out the ways to contribute value to our customers.
What makes a good leader and why?
I believe a great leader should have high integrity. Ethics is the first and most important criteria. Besides this, the leader should also spend a tremendous amount of time being strategic enough to have a long-term view of the business environment. The long-term strategy helps a leader to be a successful leader. I also believe that a great leader should be empathetic. This means listening to the customer and understanding their frustration. You should understand the issues of your employees and commit to investing effort into helping them. You should also understand the pain of your channel partners and be empathetic with them.
Besides this, they also should be innovative. You should not keep the status quo; change is critical for the current society. You should continue to transform and improve yourself, not only for yourself but also for your organisation and your team. Innovation is crucial in making sure you can accommodate the new requirements of your customers, the modern business environment, the new channel partners and the unique needs of your employees.
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