As we approach the intermission in our current sales season, we wanted to showcase one of our stars behind the scenes.
Meet Thwin Naung Soe, aka Bob. Proximity's manufacturing manager.
Bob left Myanmar 11 years ago at the tender age of 22. Having finished university, and eager to make his mark, Bob left home to join the management team at a leading manufacturing firm in Singapore. He sought a better quality of life at a time of scant opportunity in his native Yangon.
Climbing the corporate ladder by day, Bob walked the boards by night, performing for a Singaporean/Myanmar creative arts community.
Slapstick, drag shows, dance routines, stand up comedy, you name it -- if you can do it on a stage -- Bob can do it. He’s good too. The hysteria levels at Proximity staff dinners and retreats have hit an all-time high since his arrival last year. Give the man a microphone and he’ll keep an audience rolling in the aisles for as long as you’ll let him. Even a Monday morning meeting can descend into near anarchy if Bob’s in the mood.
He’s also a natural man-manager. He wound up running the community of artists back in Singapore. If managing a manufacturing plant wasn’t hard enough, this was like herding cats. No, it was worse than that, it was like herding artistic cats. A disparate group of about 90 people from a range of backgrounds and ethnicities, they participated in the group on a voluntary basis. This meant Bob had to manage people without the usual managerial tools. No pay rises or redundancy, no hiring and firing, Bob had to rely on his charisma and a natural flair for leadership. Luckily for this elusive mob, and our manufacturing team, he has both in great measures.
After ten years in Singapore, Bob was living a very comfortable life. He had achieved much of what he wished to achieve. In a decade he grew into a skilled manager, on and off the stage, an expert at running a lean shop and a happy team. However, as he reflected in his air-conditioned cocoon of an office, his mind turned to his home. With Myanmar in state of flux, it seemed that it might be time to return, to play a role in the rebuilding of a nation. He could take the skills he had acquired and use them to positive effect.
Bob does admit that he had some initial fears about returning to Myanmar after 10 years abroad. The sweat of Yangon’s industrial zone was a far cry from the impeccable Singapore factory he oversaw. He allayed his fears, however, with the knowledge that he could make a positive impact.
“I want to be a system maker and a team builder,” says Bob. “I’ve experienced a comfortable life and I have seen how much better working conditions can be. I want to help my country by training and teaching people. I can give people exposure to systems and practices in other countries. At Proximity I can do all of these things, and in the knowledge that the products we are producing are helping the people of my nation.”
Like the team of artists in Singapore, our manufacturing team is more than happy to perform under Bob. A recent satisfaction survey amongst staff scored his team at an average 4.4 our of 5 for pride in their work and 4.44 out of 5 for trust in their leader. He has also made great strides overhauling the health and safety standards in the workshop. All in all, it’s quite an act.
Take a bow, Bob. Your audience is on its feet.