Aglaia Kong is Symantec’s first
She can’t take all the credit for the high distinction, she says. “I work with a talented team of engineers, and I continue to learn from our teamwork.”
‘I was not trying to become a Fellow. My focus has always been just to do a good job every day,” declares Aglaia Kong. Nevertheless, Kong has the distinction of being the first woman Fellow at Symantec (Cupertino, CA).
It’s the highest technical distinction at the software giant, only conferred on folks with a sustained record of important technical achievement. Symantec expects its Fellows to show broad leadership and influence, not only across the organization but throughout the whole industry. And Kong has done that.
Help from many people
“I can’t take all the credit,” she says. “I had help from many other people. I work with a talented team of engineers, and I continue to learn from our teamwork.”
She is, however, willing to take credit for “speaking up when it really matters and constantly thinking outside the box. This is important for innovation, which is a core value at Symantec.”
The company has operations in forty countries, helping customers protect infrastructure and interactions ranging from business documents to e-mail, audio and video files.
Chief architect and more
Kong is chief architect for storage foundation products at Symantec’s data center management division in Mountain View, CA. “Our storage foundation is the key storage infrastructure to enable data availability for our customers,” Kong explains.
She adds that the division generates about a quarter of the company’s revenue. Customers are assured that their data is both highly secure and available to them. Symantec products let them back up their data and feel confident that their server is available, storage is adequate and the site where the data is stored can, if needed, be easily restored and replicated.
Kong helps define integration efforts and business and technical strategy for the division. She’s also the point person who brings together groups with differing agendas so positive change can occur within the division, she notes.
The storage foundation product line is supported by some 800 people worldwide. Thirty of them are product architects, and Kong is the visionary among them. Her work is involved with what the products do and how they interact. For example, she removes duplicate or competing architectures to be sure the products make flexible use of technologies, and she empowers architects and engineers to take ownership of what they design.
A major challenge is posed by some of the products in the line, Kong notes. Some were added more than fifteen years ago, others were acquired outside the company. Kong’s group has to make sure everything is properly integrated.
Fortunately, she enjoys problem-solving.“I get to figure out the right solution and I get exposed to a lot of new technologies. Best of all, the people I work with are smart and a lot of fun,” she says.
As chief architect, Kong is asked to craft goals for the division. Short-term, she wants to be sure the products are solid, efficient, well integrated, and satisfy the customer. For the future, she hopes to help expand Symantec’s software products to make sure they integrate smoothly with the company’s security products. File virtualization is another area she wants to address: “It helps with the rapid growth of unstructured data,” she explains.
Support for technical women
Kong notes that Symantec sponsors a number of programs encouraging women in engineering. The Symantec woman’s engineering network, for example, invites successful leaders to share their stories. The company also provides formal mentoring opportunities, and participates in programs to interest high school and college women in IT careers.
Early years in China
Kong was born and raised in FarYue, a small farming village in China. Her grandma took care of the four children in the family because the government had assigned Kong’s parents to work in the city. Her father was a busy CE and ME and her mother a chemistry professor, and Kong only saw them on holidays.
When Kong was ten the family emigrated to Macau, a Portuguese colony near Hong Kong. Kong was sent to Canada for high school and went on to the U.S. for college. She studied EE, high-energy physics and ChE, completing her BSEE at the University of Minnesota in 1988.
In school Kong was a research assistant in the ChE department. After graduation she went to work as a software engineer and EE for Geo-Research Inc, which did real-time data collection for GPS satellite data. In 1991 Kong became senior software engineer for Trimble Navigation Ltd.
Next she started her own company, ConTerra Systems Ltd. From 1992 to 1994 ConTerra developed several software systems for digitizing GIS features.
“As part of that venture, I learned about different technologies, and I ran across storage management. This was an area I had not been exposed to before,” Kong says.
ConTerra is still in business, selling products as an OEM to GPS companies. But Kong left ConTerra for a job at Siren Software as an engineering manager and senior software engineer. As a project manager and developer there she worked out the first e-mail and e-fax software using IMAP protocol.
Fruitful times at Symantec
Kong joined Symantec in 1997 as a software engineer, working in the Windows volume manager group. She went on to senior software engineer, principal engineer and distinguished engineer, and now she’s been named a Fellow.
“I’ve been involved in design and development and have helped deliver more than twenty products in my career,” she says with pride. They included navigation software used in GPS receivers, logical disk manager software embedded in Windows systems for volume management, software for array management for all Dell servers, and Symantec’s storage foundation products, Kong says.
Kong makes a point of advising others to focus beyond their own product responsibilities. “Look around at other products and technologies outside the company. There’s a lot of potential for your products.”
Her best advice of all: “Help others to grow so they can eventually take over your job. Then you can move up to something else that’s even more fun!”