This is an interview with commercial AV industry professional YT Liang. YT is a Product Manager with a strong R&D background. She holds a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science from National Tsing Hua University in
Hsinchu City, Taiwan, and a Masters Degree in Computer Science and Information Engineering at National Taiwan University in Taipei, Taiwan.
YT, you became a computer science major in college, how did you decide to choose this as a major?
When I was a kid, my father got my older sister and I a PC, and while I didn’t really know how it worked, I went through the user manual. I played around with the DOS commands and possibly crashed something. When I was in high school, I got a TI-82 calculator and was AMAZED by what it could do (you can do your own programming). I started with some mathematics equations and then found out about its If-Else and Loop abilities and programmed a small game. When in college, I was about to decide on my major, debating between Computer Science and Business. I went for Computer Science because I was fascinated by how computers and programming work and wanted to know exactly what computers do, from the inside-out.
After your Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, you went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Computer Science and Information Engineering. Can you talk about your motivation to get the Master’s Degree?
During my three and half years in college, I really enjoyed the knowledge and thinking processes I learned in Computer Science. During my sophomore year, I had a part time job in the Natural Language Process Lab at my college and was drawn to how Computer Science can be applied to the human language to solve our problems. For example, my thesis was called, “CaseRite” and the idea was in broadcasting transcription. For example, ALL THE WORDS IN BROADCAST TRANCRIPTION ARE UPPER CASE, MAKING IT HARD FOR PEOPLE TO READ. In order to come up with a transcript that was easier to read, we wanted to make the case right (rite). That’s when we applied Computer Science knowledge to written text. When we were searching information online, I realized that people typically used keywords instead of natural questions. I wanted to study the Question Answering System further and decided to do more research in that domain using Computer Science and pursue my master’s degree. As I was earning my Master’s, I designed and implemented a Question Answering system to help answer questions related to opinions (e.g. What does the public think of ABC? Does ABC agree on the topic of XYZ?).
You chose ATEN International as your first job after getting your Masters – what helped you to make this choice to join the company?
Two reasons. The first being the job itself. I initially joined the Innovation Center where I could embrace different technologies and apply those to develop the latest product features. The second reason is the people. The R&D manager, Charlie Hsueh, interviewed me and later became my manager. I liked his thinking process, technical knowledge and easy-going personality. I knew I would enjoy working with him, and it proved to be the right decision. ATEN is like a big family with great people and great company events where we work smart and play hard.
Kevin Chen, Chairman and Nicholas Lin, VP of PM and R&D, taking the team to a local restaurant for a good time
You worked in the ATEN International R&D Software Division and developed the company’s 1st control system solution. Talk about that, as well as other accomplishments.
It was amazing. We spent 6 months doing market research and competitor analysis before writing any code. We played with numerous competitor control systems and had meetings and conversations with many system integrators and end users. This helped us find ‘the gap’. We wanted to help solve the issues system integrators (who didn’t have dedicated programmers or engineers for complex and hard-to-design control systems) were facing but wanted to offer a solution by providing them with easy-to-use configuration software. Without needing to know coding or logic gates, they can still accomplish the control system project and business. And that’s why we designed our 4-step configuration software VK6000. Even for system integrators who have dedicated programmers, if they have small to medium-sized control system projects, they can save the time and resources of their senior programmers by utilizing our control system.
My team then started with ground zero (0 line of source code) and worked with firmware engineers, hardware engineers, product and project managers, quality assurance engineers and the user experience team to make it happen. One of the things we loved while developing was creating the R&D demo. This live demo hosted by the R&D department every quarter allowed us to ‘show off’ our latest technologies and innovations. With our control system, we’d ‘play around with’ the attendees by experimenting with the equipment in the meeting room. Attendees would have the chance to ask questions. We’d ask for volunteers to come on stage and be the ‘test group’ and run hallway tests, just to make our product better and more design friendly. We accomplished our mission and now as a product manager/sales engineer, I’m helping with customer needs with our control system. The team did a great job!
You held multiple positions at ATEN International, can you tell us about them?
I started as an engineer in the innovation center and enjoyed the researching and developing aspects of the position very much and often took a leadership role in order to get things done and help my co-workers. I was quickly promoted to supervisor and then associate manager. I remember there was one project that was delayed and had been switched between different R&D managers and at the end we (a group of 10 engineers) finished the product and had it delivered. A huge accomplishment and it wasn’t just about delivering the product, but the overall accomplishment and commitment of these 10 engineers – having them released from that project but contribute to other products and maximize resources. Another thing I loved was code review. Not only spotting the bugs and solving them, but also how our team grew and learned together. Regarding innovations, I worked on design and implementation, but also applied for the patents for our research.
At ATEN, it’s more than just work. I love sports and group activities. Cara Chou, a good friend and co-worker, and I founded the ATEN Jogging Club, which gets people to exercise and participate in running events and contests. Another great friend and co-worker, Cherry Liu, invited me to join the ATEN Volunteer Club. We recently did a collaboration with both clubs for a fundraising event for children in need. It’s the activities and sharing that bring people together too.
ATEN Jogging Club; event – group activity, contest
ATEN Jogging Club; ATEN Volunteer Club – fundraising for children in need
In October 2015 you became Product Manager at ATEN Technology, can you tell us about this transition and what it has meant to your career?
During my eight years in the R&D division, I built up solid technical and product knowledge, but there were still two things I always wanted to do. One was to be closer to our customers and knowing exactly what their pain points are. Such as, what’s causing the problems or slowing down their productivity? What solutions are they looking for when there’s no solution for them – do they have to compromise on what they have right now? Among all the features our products have, what are the ones that really ‘save their lives’? What are the features that are just nice to have, and what will save the company’s resources and bandwidth allowing them to help their customers? The other thing I wanted to be able to do is share with the customers how our solutions can help them fulfill their needs and solve their current problems with less headaches.
We shouldn’t be the hidden secret, not just with our customers, but also our internal team members. Because of the ‘network effect’, we can all help provide our customers with the right solution. And that’s why I moved to the frontline and took on the product manager/sales engineer role. It’s because of this attitude and desire, whether we are visiting a customer, doing a training, or attending an event, we are always well prepared with a LIVE demo!
YT in preparation for live demo sessions
YT in preparation for live demo sessions
YT in final preparation for a live demo session – “seeing is believing”
YT performing the live demo for customers
YT and the equipment – all part of the prep
We found out that once the customer sees what our products can do with their own eyes, and have a hands-on experience with the products, that’s when they “get it” – you can see the amazement and smiles on their faces. My favorite word that I heard from a customer after they saw a live demo was “creepy”, because you can feel their amazement. I also want to say “thank you” to our customers because I have learned so much from them and really appreciate their valuable time and feedback. And it’s not just about work, it’s also fun hanging out with them for games and happy hour!
YT – activities with customers
YT hanging out, having some fun with customers
You are well-known for your HDBaseT certification training, talk about it and just what it means to you as well.
It all started at InfoComm 2016. We had a speaking session in the HDBaseT booth and once again, being well prepared and team work did the trick. Our session was very successful with a sizable audience of targeted customers. On the same day, the HDBaseT Alliance invited us to go to its “Train the Trainer” program, where we were able to become HDBaseT trainers and host training with InfoComm/AVIXA CTS RUs. I became an authorized HDBaseT trainer in September 2016 and ATEN did its very first certified HDBaseT training in November. I was nervous, but also excited because I got to share with the customers, not only the technology itself, but do’s and don’ts that will allow them to save time and resources to work on more projects and business. My favorite part of the training is always the Q&A session. I love when customers throw out questions and the discussions that come out of it. To date, ATEN has conducted over 20 training sessions, which has resulted in over 200 individuals becoming HDBaseT certified.
YT speaking session – InfoComm 2016
YT training session – HDBaseT Train the Trainer
YT’s very 1st certified HDBaseT training in Dallas, TX in Nov. 2016
As more women come to the forefront in the AV industry, being well known on the tech side must certainly mean a lot to you. Can you talk about how women can enter, or continue to gain skills in tech positions in the industry?
I recommend staying in touch with the latest technology and trends. Also, staying close with the customers. By combining these two, you’ll get to know what customers are looking for, what they need and what kind of technology and solutions can be used to help them. For example, over IP extenders in the AV industry have been around a while, but you can see it’s booming lately. By knowing and understanding the IP network characteristics and technology, we can compare with circuit-based video matrix or HDBaseT extenders so that when our customers ask for help with their projects, we know the questions to ask and further propose the solutions most suitable for them.
Another skill I recommend is to pick a sport and/or exercise. By doing so will allow you to have a clear mind and healthy body so you can ultimately perform better in both your career and personal life. I’ve been playing basketball since elementary school and I’m very grateful that I found a group of great and lovely female basketball players here in Southern California to play with on a weekly basis.
YT on the high school basketball team
YT playing basketball in Southern California (present)
Appreciation (YT added)
I would like to thank all the people who have been helpful and encouraging for me along the way. I enjoy working with the ATEN team very much. I love the atmosphere, the efficiency, the quick response, and the team accountability.
And last but not the least, my family. I couldn’t not have gone this far without them. I appreciate their guidance, caring, and all the love. Especially my mom, even from the very beginning when she did a very good job giving birth to me, a 10.3 pounds, upside-down giant baby. Thank you, my family, for everything.
(Header image: YT conducting a training – video wall solution. She enjoys doing trainings immensely.