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People@Speed: Calum Chisholm, man of action

People@Speed: Calum Chisholm, man of action
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Calum Chisholm
Country Manager, Intel Philippines

“I tend to be the guy near the back but I just keep going. I make it.”

Making it is what’s important, and Calum Chisholm, country manager of Intel Philippines, is clear about that. Here talking about his recent Tri United race, it didn’t matter to him whether he finished just five minutes shy of the cutoff. What matters is he finishes. He is capable.

But his son sets the bar high, asking “Daddy, how come you were nearly last?”

Never mind that. To Calum, who swims every morning before going to work, his family is his motivation. They keep him going. They are his glass ball.

Don’t know what we’re talking about? Read on.

You went to Teesside University to take International Business Information Technology and then you joined Intel way back in 1996.

’96, yeah. [It’s been] almost 18 years.

Can you tell us how the IT scene was back then? It was 1996, so…

You’re making me sound old now, right? Haha!

Haha! No, but there weren’t a lot of computers yet. What made you join Intel back then?
[International Business Information Technology] was one of the first courses in the UK, which basically combined Computer Science with International Business and Languages, so we were doing French and German. It’s been the perfect platform for my career here at Intel.

In terms of the IT, we had the Macintoshes in the library, we had the 3.5-inch floppy disk, and we were still using Word Star. But I did a year placement in Berlin in 1990, just after the wall came down, with an artificial intelligence research company. So even the things that we are doing now I can relate to what we were doing then. It was all about mass learning using data, predicting things. It was about taking mass data and finding patterns from them. And that actually is quite an important field right now with social media.

“If you really want to work at it, and you really want to drive and progress your passion, it will happen.”

This is Intel, actually (referring to the tablet I was using for the interview). This is a CloudPad.

Yeah! Oh, this is yours?


We really try to work with international and local partners. We work with partners to make the devices and to make those devices available to everybody.

We also work with partners to share devices. Basically there’s like an i-café or an internet-share device where it’s P1 for every minute or two minutes. They put them in sari-sari stores to make computing accessible.

Like a payphone.

Payphone for the internet. Because even though devices become cheaper, it’s still a lot of money for some people. We try to push accessibility as far down as we can. Everyone can afford one peso.

Then perhaps all Filipinos will get on social media. Speaking of which, I saw on your Twitter account (@calumchisholm) that you’re a big sports fan.

Yeah. Before, when I was in school at the University, I played football. I represented the rugby team as well. Now I just watch it.

This year I did my first marathon. I finished the [TBR Dream Marathon] down at Nuvali. I loved it. I’ve actually been competing in triathlons this year. I completed the Ironman in Cebu in August. And then I did another Ironman, the Tri United 3. So that’s my thing now.

What I like is—again, I think this is because of the Philippine culture—everyone is very supportive, everyone eggs you on, everyone encourages you. I’ve met so many nice people right from the head coaches down to fellow competitors.

I also saw on your Twitter that you read Stephen King.

Yes, I’ve always liked Stephen King. Stephen King [is one] of my favorite authors when I was just a schoolboy. I had all the novels. He still produces really good novels that I enjoy. He’s amazing. I love novels that have twists in them, when they bring it all together at the end.

In my previous roles when I was in Thailand I did a lot of regional travel, [going through] airports, trains, planes, and stuff. So I also signed up to The problem with audio books [is] you tend to fall asleep and you forget where you stop.

Have you moved on to e-books?

I don’t have an e-book reader but I probably should, because that’s probably the compromise. I like the fact now that you can have a book instantly. My only frustration about living here in Asia sometimes is the licensing. There are some books that you can’t buy.

That’s true. Any other books you read?

I like some business books also. One of the best books I’ve read is Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm.

You know how when you have a good book, whether a story book or a business book, you just want to share it to people? I bought that book for many people because I actually find that very useful in strategy and planning, and being able to cross that chasm—technology, phones, tablets, new devices. I use [the book and the metaphorical bowling alley that Moore uses] to encourage my team and share them with my colleagues in other countries.

What gadgets and apps do you use every day?

My smartphone is always with me and I do a lot of Facebook. My Facebook tends to be just me. It’s not Calum the business person. It’s my family and friends. I enjoy my work, so I share those things. My mom lives in Scotland, so I also push a lot of family photos because I know she loves and enjoys it.

I also really appreciate now that when traveling I get to use Line a lot with my wife; sharing images and media is really easy.

I use TuneIn and things like that. I like listening to UK sports programs., I like a lot; They have live football commentary, so I can listen when I’m traveling around.

I use my Garmin Fenix 2 watch when I’m training—swimming, running, and cycling—and upload all that [data]. I have a notebook (MacBook Pro) at home that I use when I’m browsing. [It] has a CD; I watch movies on it.

My daughter has a 2-in-1. We got iPads but actually my daughter has progressed from that to 2-in-1s. Then we have a smart TV.

What’s your last tech purchase?

I think the last thing I bought was either my Garmin Fenix 2 watch for my training or the ASUS T100 for my daughter.

This is something I haven’t bought but it just launched: the [Lenovo] Yoga 3 Pro. Isn’t it stunning? I’ve fallen in love with it. It’s thin and I love the watch design. If I am going to buy a new notebook, I’m going to buy that notebook right now.

I’m actually buying a new bike for Christmas for the triathlon. I have gone through converting a road bike to a triathlon bike. Now I really want to get…a Cervélo P5 or something like that. I like doing all the research online. I’m the type of guy who researches everything online, reads the reviews, and finds where the best price is.

For 2015, is there a tech innovation that you’re looking forward to?

You can see now that the big thing is integration. Before, it was just the processor and the graphics coming together in one chip. That’s been done. Now it’s the comms [that needs to be integrated with the processor]. We’re excited about producing these products now. That means 3G-enabled and later on LTE-enabled.

I get excited also about wireless charging. Wouldn’t it be cool if you just got your phone on [the table] and [you can charge]? Can you imagine if it becomes so common that all the tables in restaurants are expected to have it? You just put [your phone] down and it charges. That, we can do.

On a personal level, [I see] there isn’t much difference between the tablet now and [the tablet] a year ago. You pretty much do the same thing with it. Can you imagine if this (tablet) becomes 3D? Can you imagine if you can start to manipulate [photos] or if this becomes a hologram? You know, Star Wars-like? We can do all that. We can.

Living in the Philippines, what I’m excited about and what I feel strongly about is the Digital Bayanihan initiative. Go on YouTube and search for “digibayanihan.” This is a movement where we encourage everyone who is tech-literate to seek out people who are not and to help to empower and train them.

Can you share lessons from your career, from joining Intel as a product engineer to your role now as country manager?

We’re always learning. And we’re always gaining from our previous experiences. [So] be open to challenges and opportunities. Sometimes they just present [themselves].

My mom once said “One door closes, three doors open.” Things are meant to be but you also make your own luck. Don’t wait for something to happen. Try and be proactive about it.

Decide also what area you want to go into and don’t just expect that it’s going to fall on your lap. But don’t also feel left behind that this person or that person may have more privileges than you or might be the chosen one or whatever. Everyone has a path. If you really want to work at it, and you really want to drive and progress your passion, it will happen. I believe in that.

If you have a passion and a desire, that will show through. Make your own opportunities. But do it the right way. Always maintain the highest integrity. Avoid politics. Don’t stand on someone to get somewhere. Just do it the right way. Play the long-term game on that.

There are so many opportunities out there, really. Companies are always looking for good people and passionate people. You know the glass balls, the juggling balls, analogy? You have the three glass balls, these being your family, your health, your religion. Just prioritize those things. It’s very important to maintain yourself. Don’t burn yourself out. Don’t sacrifice family. It can be done. Prioritize those things because you only get one chance at those. You’ve got to look after yourself.

Interview by the Speed team
Photos Melai Balitaan
First published in Speed January 2015 issue

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