Propellerhead NZ
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Propellerhead NZ

Cardboard Box Engineering & Teslas: An Interview With Tammy Chee

I’m interviewing people who help make Propellerhead tick. In this edition, I interview our Revenue Lead & Client Strategist, Tammy Chee.

So Tammy, where did you grow up?

I grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I am from a middle-class South East Asian family, so growing up, if I was not in school or participating in mandatory after school activities like Girl Guides, then I was attending extra after school classes (tuition) to make sure that I get ahead / do not fall behind since most of my friends went for extra classes. I think it was quite a different upbringing to what kids in New Zealand get to have.

image: high school life in Malaysia.

What’s your background?

I studied Mechanical Engineering at university because I wanted to prove that a girl could do it.

My parents were dubious about it (my father was a very proud Mechanical Engineer who didn’t believe this was a girls domain). After I graduated, they pressured my sister to study Mechanical Engineering too 😅 but my parents are very proud of both of us.

My favourite subjects were physics and calculus which made me lean towards that qualification.

My first choice in secondary school, however, was actually computer science but my desire to prove my parents wrong led me in a different direction. Some might say that my father may have used reverse psychology on me.

My very first proper job was as a packaging engineer for a cardboard box packaging manufacturer. I designed cardboard boxes to ship various goods (kiwifruit, meat..etc) and optimize the design for mass manufacturing and shipping in containers.

It was quite fun and I got to create some fun things every Christmas — think Lego but made of cardboard. The last thing I got to work on with my teammates was to build a life-size motorcycle out of cardboard for a company-wide competition.

The second job got me into IT as a Quality and Support Analyst at a software company that developed software for the packaging industry. I was in that role for about a year and was quite miserable in my first 6 months as I missed the feeling of creating and designing. I was also very awkward at that time with talking to customers and sort of had a panic attack when I was expected to train up customers on a system I was barely familiar with.

Fortunately, I got to move into a different role as a Senior Automation Test Analyst. I wrote and looked after suites of automation tests but I got to play the role of product owner for the inhouse automation testing tool. I actually learned to train my fellow colleagues in that role.

Internal customers can be quite challenging to deal with as they expect better.

I was in that role for about 3 years before I was moved into the Senior Quality Analyst role and stayed in that role for 4 years, learning all the different software modules in the MES suite. I got to go on-site a few times to different parts of the world doing site installations, and by then I was better at talking to customers.

In my last few years at the company, I was made Project Manager for the next generation MES system. I was with that company for close to 10 years before I moved onto Propellerhead.

What do you do at Propellerhead every day?

I am a Senior Client Strategist and Revenue Lead.

My day typically involves meetings with clients to:

  • Discuss and plan various initiatives
  • Understand budget constraints for the coming months / financial year
  • Deal with any escalated issues regarding delivery or support
  • We have a group that functions like an internal advisory board and I am a member of this

I am also responsible for revenue forecasting in my Revenue role which requires me to gather information about various client revenue streams from other Client Strategists.

What else do you work on?

I am an independent director on the ThankYou Payroll board. It is a product software company that provides payroll software to small businesses and charities.

image: ThankYou Payroll.

ThankYou Payroll donates a portion of its profits to the ThankYou Charitable Trust, which provides grants to community initiatives.

This role is really interesting to me — we’re an all-female board which I think in itself is quite remarkable. They’re also striving to be an exemplar of running a sustainable business that cares about the environment and social impact. This thinking aligns with what we’re trying to do at Propellerhead as well.

I better ask the hobby question — what are they?

I am told that my hobby is work….and that is what I am passionate about…I do also really like good food and drink but that surely is not a hobby… 😅

Another passion is technology and ways of working which help to enable a better future for us and the planet. I bought a Tesla last year because I like the idea of enabling society to continue to be more efficient. Also, future autonomous vehicles give me hope that I may be independent again one day since I am legally not allowed to drive now after my brain surgery (peripheral vision issue). Last year I had surgery to remove a benign tumor from inside my skull. 2019 was full of surprises!

Image: Our Tesla Model 3 just after we got it in 2019, featuring Martina, Evie and Alex from Propellerhead.

I am also a gamer with obsessive-compulsive habits. I am very much into playing Animal Crossing and Pokemon at the moment but not in any high achieving-wow kind of way.

My wife and I are also involved in a racehorse syndicate — it’s more her hobby than mine. I just hate missing out so go along with it.

image: one of our racehorses Strada Cavallo.

Do you listen to or read any media? If so, what?

I subscribe to The Economist and have been a reader of it since my days at university. I also like listening to podcasts by Malcolm Gladwell (Revisionist History) and Dave Chang.

What’s the most enjoyable part of your day?

When I am running on the treadmill or exercising at the gym. It is the time when my mind gets to focus on something else other than the usual worries.

What’s the least enjoyable?

Sitting in traffic commuting between work and home.

Okay, if you had to be shipwrecked on a deserted island, but all your human needs — such as food and water — were taken care of, what two items would you want to have with you?

Any item that helps me communicate and get someone to come rescue me.

What was the last gift you gave someone?

A food hamper from Cazador.

If you could invite anyone to dinner, who would it be?

Malcolm Gladwell — he has awesome insights into different situations and human behaviour.



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