Question: What do you get when you combine a love of baseball and natural coaching ability with business savvy and technical competency?
Answer: Tecplot’s vice president of customer development, Tom Chan.
Wearing Many Different Hats
During his nearly 20 years at Tecplot, Tom has worn many different hats. He began in the mid-90s as a sales engineer at Amtec Engineering, the company that was renamed Tecplot, Inc. in 2002. After a brief stint at blue-chip consulting firm Accenture, Tom returned to Tecplot as a product manager, eventually rising to the role of director of product management. Then, three years ago, Tom was named to the position that he holds today.
Along the way, Tom married his wife, Linda, whom he met years earlier at a Halloween Party at the University of Washington, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. “Linda attended the party as a belly dancer, so she obviously caught my attraction,” said Tom, who attended as a not-nearly-as-attractive hillbilly.
The couple has three children – 16 year-old Tyler, 13 year-old Brenden, and 10 year-old Lauren. Since each of their kids is heavily involved in youth sports, most of Tom and Linda’s off-hours are spent at various fields and courts. Not content with merely watching from afar, Tom has also coached Tyler’s baseball teams, is a past-president of Issaquah Little League, and currently serves on the board of Issaquah Select Basketball.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time coaching youth baseball,” Tom says, “I love the strategy and tactics of the game, but more importantly, it was so rewarding to see the kids improve because some of what I taught them.”
Coaching a Key Ingredient to Success
Tom’s desire to coach is a key ingredient in the corporate success he enjoys today. “Customer Development is responsible for all aspects of customer acquisition and retention,” he explained. “As such, I often find myself working with our customers in a coaching capacity, trying to understand exactly what problems they need to solve and then helping them understand how our various software solutions can meet their needs.”
Tom’s coaching skills also benefit his Tecplot colleagues. “Because I’ve been with the company for many years and have worked in several different areas, I’m often involved in on-boarding new employees or helping our technical support staff understand how to deal with difficult customer issues,” he said. “The role of coach, or trainer, is one I happily accept because of the great opportunities this company has afforded me.”
Sharing Success is Most Important Value
So what is it about Tecplot that has compelled Tom to stay for essentially his entire professional life? After all, the combination of an undergraduate degree from the University of Washington, an MBA from Albers School of Business and Economics at Seattle University, and experience as a consultant at Accenture surely provided other opportunities along the way.
Quite simply, I like the people I work with, the values of our owners, and the cool applications that our software is used for. Perhaps most important are the values of our owners. I like that Tecplot practices ‘open-book management,’ which means all employees have access to our detailed financial results and, when the company performs well, everyone shares in the company’s success. I think it is important for all employees to understand the financial drivers and how they can contribute personally to moving those drivers.
– Tom Chan
It’s a good thing Tom is so satisfied with life at Tecplot. It would be nearly impossible to get his family to relocate outside of the Seattle area. “Issaquah, which is only about six miles from work, is our home,” Tom said. “We love all that this part of the country has to offer, especially the mild climate and all of the outdoor activities, most notably skiing, golfing and fishing. As an Asian-American, the cultural diversity of the area is also very important to me. The Seattle area is just a great place to raise a family and we know we’re fortunate to be here.”