Johary Mustapha founded Forest Interactive, a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) provider for mobile network operators, in 2006. The company now operates in 39 countries. Johary is also involved with the the National Tech Association of Malaysia (PIKOM), Consumer Forum Malaysia (CFM), and Communications & Multimedia Content Forum (CMCF). Additionally, he is an honorary advisor of the Malaysia Mobile Technology Association (MMTA), and sits on the board of the University of Computer Science and Engineering’s Industry Advisory Board and board of MDEC’s Digital Expert Panel. In 2018, Johary was named EY Technology Entrepreneur of the Year.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
KrASIA (Kr): What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned as a founder?
Johary Mustapha (JM): It’s an ongoing educational process. A lot of the talent that has joined the organization since its inception have shaped my thoughts and beliefs. As a leader, it’s essential to communicate the rationale behind decisions to the people you work with.
Kr: How did you formulate Forest Interactive’s philosophy for workplace diversity?
JM: We started with local talent in Malaysia. There were little conversations taking place about what was happening outside of Malaysia. When Forest started to grow regionally, we started to diversify. People from Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam joined us and they each brought a different perspective on how technology and culture shaped their careers. That’s why we opened up job opportunities to anyone who fits our scope, as opposed to simply looking at local talent.
Kr: With a presence in 39 countries, how do you maintain a shared company culture?
JM: It was a challenge initially. We’re not looking to change individual cultures. Rather, we’re about opening up our mindset to accept other cultures. One initiative we took was to educate our teams about why we’re growing in this way, which eventually led to organic, diverse growth for our corporate PR team. About 5% of our workforce is part of the corporate PR team, which is much larger than most companies this size.
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