Discovering his love for the game
The FA Cup Final in 1985 made a die-hard Manchester United (Man Utd) fan out of Mackay Goh.
The game was into extra time and the team was one man down when Norman Whiteside raced down the right and curled the ball into the net, edging Man Utd past defending champion Everton.
It was a thrilling, inspirational match. “That started it,” said Mackay, who began delving into the team’s history – the air crash of 1958 that decimated Man Utd, how manager Matt Busby rebuilt it, and how it went on to win the FA Cup within five years and the European Cup 10 years later. He has also watched the team play in Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, London and of course the holy grail at Old Trafford in Manchester.
The collective team work displayed in the match is what Mackay aims to have with his team and counterpart across the NCS family as the NCS Engineering Managed Services Lead (EMS Lead) for the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Public Sector. This is a new role that he is undertaking after he relinquished his role as Command, Control and Communications and Computer Intelligence (C4i) Practice Lead, a Practice that he has setup and grown over the years.
Coaching his team on adopting an international mindset
A graduate in Computer Engineering, Mackay began his career in DSTA serving MINDEF and MHA in Singapore before uprooting himself and work in China for the next 15 years, in the InfoComms space to build C4i platform for regional public safety agencies. In China Shenzhen, Mackay built up an software engineering centre from scratch to well over hundreds of engineers. Recalling the experience, he said, “The Chinese engineers were very hungry to acquire new skills. I enjoyed tremendously to coach them, and share good values that I felt were important.”
Besides coaching them in their day job, he would also run monthly workshops on wide range of topics from tennis to wine appreciation. And his reason was this: “The team need to learn and appreciate the culture and the people you are dealing with.”
“We were dealing with American and Asia-Pac clients and to make sure that the process is seamless, the engineers needed to understand the people on the other side of the table – what shapes their minds and their thoughts and how they work,” he said. “Once you know the people, you can resolve a lot of differences.”
Enabling teamwork through transformation
Mackay brought back the valuable learnings he gleaned from his experiences abroad and this has underpinned his leadership style which has been particularly relevant in the context of NCS’ organisational transformation.
“As we moved towards a more client focused, and we need to have constant interaction between our teams as we engage with clients at different levels,” he said.
With these developments, he sees the organisational structure becoming more of a matrix where people come and contribute as teams instead of operating in silos. To enable this, the people will need to have the ability to transform. “We have to deepen their competencies and allow them to move around.”
One way of doing this is to give the workforce bite-sized training to equip them to handle new technology challenges. For example, employees could spend half an hour every day, or every week, watching clips on topics like agile and containerisation.
Continuous learning is important as his team helps clients to navigate the changes in the business technology landscape in order to achieve their business objectives.
In fact, this is something that fuels his passion for his job – the fact that things are constantly evolving.
Strengthening public safety and improving lives through C4i systems
For example, technology has been changing the way policing is done. C4i systems have helped to improve police response and provide a full picture of emergency situations with common situation awareness, AI-led response and sense-making.
Today, video and analytics have the potential to take things even further. “We have a lot of data from different sources - surveillance cameras on the road, social media, and coming soon drones. We are looking at how we can visualise all these data to make real-time decisions, so we can analyse threats and detect when people need help even before they call us.”
This dovetails with his aspirations for NCS to become a global IT and solution service provider that makes a difference by improving lives. C4i systems already do this by helping to save lives in emergency situations where every second counts, he pointed out. In recent years, he has seen more and more adoption for these systems beyond defense and public safety sector. For example, airports, ride hailing and man-guarding companies are using C4i systems to manage their business operations to ensure optimal business efficiency.
“Whatever technology we put in, every technology we put in, we do it to improve people’s lives,” he said.
Mixing passion with bonding
After returning to Singapore a few years ago, his passion for the beautiful game – and an under-utilised brand new school field – spurred Mackay to start a football club in his alma mater, Poi Ching School with a couple of likeminded parents.
He coaches the kids on weekends, helping them to improve their motor skills and play outdoor, getting them to interact with their school mates, and teaching them how to win and lose as a team. His two sons, aged 9 and 12, join in the sessions too, “It’s a good father-and-child bonding activity,” he said.