Those of you who keep a close watch on Equinix news will have seen that last year we announced our expansion into a whole new market – South Korea, one of the world’s most vibrant digital economies – with the opening of our SL1 International Business ExchangeTM (IBX®) data center in Seoul.
With the launch of its ‘4th Industrial Revolution Response Plan’, South Korea is in the process of rolling out a series of critical next-generation infrastructure, including the establishment of a national 5G network and creation of new industries in the areas of blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). These technological advancements are expected to not only support economic progress and societal development, but also to foster the growth of a data-driven economy – making South Korea a very exciting technology market.
To get a better picture on these developments and other emerging trends in the market, I caught up with our country manager for South Korea, Chris Jang, to learn more the technology landscape in South Korea and his journey to working at Equinix.
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Jeremy Deutsch (JD); Chris Jang (CJ)
JD: Chris, let’s start off with your background. You joined Equinix with a wealth of industry experience, how did your time working at Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services pave the way for your role as Country Manager for South Korea?
CJ: How I ended up at Equinix is actually an interesting story. When I joined AWS back in 2011, as the first employee for Korea, I spent my first two weeks in Singapore for a company induction. On my first day, the office manager gave me a laptop and asked me to visit an Equinix data center to get it set up on the corporate system, as this is where AWS for Singapore was deployed and connected to the headquarters in Seattle. That was my first exposure to Equinix, and I can still vividly remember the warehouse like building, the security counter and the company logo.
Fast forward to when I started exploring the Country Manager role and, despite being aware of Equinix for years, I learned quickly that my actual knowledge of the company was quite limited and, as I continued to research further, I started to realize the implications of interconnection and the ecosystems built by Equinix. Early cloud adoption has been an awesome experience for me, both personally and professionally, but it has also made me a true believer in the Equinix proposition and the key role it has to play in digital transformation.
I have been fortunate to have had opportunities to help several MNCs enter the Korean market including my time at AWS and Google Cloud. This has given me a real love of the entrepreneurial aspects of my role and helping build the foundations for businesses in Korea. So here I am, at Equinix, back in ‘start-up mode’ again and building the foundation of our growing Korean business.
JD: What made you want to work at Equinix?
CJ: I decided to join Equinix for four key reasons:
- Enormous opportunity to become a critical part of enterprise digital transformation
- The global platform and footprint combined with an industry leadership position
- Ability to build a foundation in Korea and contribute to regional and global business growth
- Culture and values: being open and transparent, respecting each other, being committed, and team focused
After a year working here, I am certain I made the right choice!
JD: South Korea has often been regarded as one of the most innovative countries in the world, and as a nation it has been investing a lot into 5G, blockchain, IoT and AI. How do you see that translating into opportunities for Equinix?
CJ: These new technologies – combined with an increased push toward cloud adoption – mean businesses need to have the ability to optimize their corporate IT and networking environments and interconnect with clouds, their partners and customers digitally.
For example, there are powerful and innovative AI tools and services offered by Cloud Service Providers (CSPs). Many enterprises want to use them but figuring out how to from a regulatory, data management, latency and performance perspective is incredibly complex. With the rollout of 5G, operators are aggressively partnering with CSPs and other technology providers to enable edge computing capabilities for developers and enterprise customers.
This presents a huge opportunity for Equinix in Korea. I believe that partnering with the right CPSs, networks, providers and solutions architects will be key to accelerating the business locally.
I am very excited about the recently launched availability of Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric and the expansion of our network ecosystem in SL1, which means customers can now leverage the power of Platform Equinix to connect their networks to the world’s largest cloud and network service providers.Chris Jang
JD: Can you tell us a bit about our IBX roadmap for South Korea?
CJ: As you know, we opened up SL1, our first IBX, in August 2019. It has been in operation for more than nine months now and is home to several global customers. Our local and regional teams have also been busy securing networks, which has resulted in us securing major Network Service Providers (NSPs) as well as several international ones.
I am also very excited about the recently launched availability of Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric and the expansion of our network ecosystem in SL1, which means customers can now leverage the power of Platform Equinix to connect their networks to the world’s largest cloud and network service providers. Especially in these challenging times, ECX Fabric will help these businesses reach anyone in the world, on demand, through connection options that range from single private or public to hybrid multicloud.
Looking ahead, we are focused on two areas – securing additional capacity in SL1 so we can grow our business and continuing to expand our footprint to ensure we have the long-term roadmap and capacity needed to support our business.
JD: You lived in the U.S. for 10 years – did you experience any culture shocks? Did this time help you understand any cultural issues that have arisen in the workplace?
CJ: When I first arrived in the US, I was 19 years old and, although the Korean education system did a decent job of teaching us English reading and writing, I could not speak it very well. I first lived in a small town called Ames, in the state of Iowa with about 50,000 population, which was a very different environment for me.
Living in a dorm was difficult due to the language barrier but I will always remember my roommate who took the time to help me. He was from the local town and had never visited anywhere outside the US, but he always tried to speak slowly and took the time to teach me colloquial expressions. He also expressed a keen interest in my background and where I came from.
I was very grateful for what he did for me and his kindness has carried over into my approach in the workplace. The people we work with can struggle in many different ways. My roommate taught me to have empathy and help others – he could have ignored me but he didn’t – and I take the same approach in my leadership.
JD: Can you share any books or TV shows you have been hooked on recently?
CJ: I recently watched two seasons of “Kingdom”, Netflix’s first original Korean series. It is a horror zombie thriller combined with lots of politics and set in Korea’s Joseon dynasty during the 1500’s. It’s very well written, with great acting and awesome sets. I highly recommend it and am looking forward to Season 3!
I also just finished reading “The Ride of a Lifetime” by Robert Iger, Disney CEO, who recently retired from the company. I really enjoyed how candid he was in the book, without any sugar-coating. It was fascinating to hear the behind-the-scene stories of the Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm acquisitions and learn more about his personal relationship with Steve Jobs.
I am also reading a Korean book called “Born in the 1990’s coming” (90년생이 온다), about how the workforce has changed as new generations enter the workplace. It talks a lot about how young professionals think, behave, talk, act and shop. It’s a good read for all managers and those working in HR.
JD: Are there any childhood memories that you feel have shaped who you are today?
CJ: I mentioned my experience living in the US earlier, this didn’t happen because I dreamt about going, but because my parents (especially my mom) thought it was a good idea. I am an introvert and my mom felt that sending me overseas would help me come out of my shell. I was already 19 years, so it might have been a bit late to change my personality – I’m still an introvert at heart – but it definitely made me more comfortable dealing with ambiguity and the unknown.
JD: You studied aerospace engineering and have a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics. Why did you end up in an industry that shares nothing in common with ‘space’? Or have you actually found some similarities between them?
CJ: My father was a mechanical engineer and I was naturally drawn to engineering when I was growing up. I was hooked on airplanes and rockets so I chose to study aerospace engineering. In graduate school, I started specializing in computer fluid dynamics and had to do lots of coding. I liked that better than learning about airplanes and also got exposed to the Internet and web browsers – like Mosaic and Netscape (for those who remember what they are), emails and search engines. I decided to get into software after getting my master’s degree since I could see the vast opportunities in this area. I haven’t looked back since!
My schooling has helped me develop problem solving skills and enabled me to learn new technical subjects quickly. It continues to help me professionally, so even though our industry doesn’t seem share anything in common with ‘space’, I think my evolving interest and career path in engineering, software, Internet and then cloud has brought me to Equinix, where the fundamental technical infrastructure platform for a lot of this is being built.
JD: How would you describe your leadership style?
CJ: Over the years, I learned to prioritize the needs of others and encourage team participation as much as possible. I also try to learn more about individuals and their working styles, so I can cater to their needs and provide customized support. I think I take feedback – both positive and negative – well and I encourage others to be candid about me and how I am doing.
I am an engineer by training so I like talking about technology and problem solving. I like to understand the details because I want to help solve problems together, rather than micro-manage, and encourage others to use me as a resource.
JD: Tell us something that we don’t already know about you.
CJ: My close friends call me ‘IMDb junky’ because I enjoy reading about movies – like the cast and crew and production details. I also read a lot about sports history, like players’ backgrounds and statistics. During high-school my son gained an interest in this as well, so I now have a buddy I can chat with about this at the weekend.
Laying the foundations in South Korea
I hope this has provided some valuable insights into Chris and his plans for the Korean market. I have no doubt that he and the team will continue to grow the business and support enterprises in gaining access to the this vibrant and rapidly transforming market. Stay tuned for the next interview in the ‘Getting to Know…’ series.
Do you want to know more about the interconnection landscape in Asia-Pacific and seize emerging opportunities? Download our latest Global Interconnection Index (GXI) Volume 3 here to learn more about the latest trends and how Equinix can help you capitalize on them.