Max Chan: Avnet’s Global, Visionary CIO

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Businesses operate in a global economy. And while there has recently been a trend towards nationalism, global business experience is a valuable asset for any business technology leader to succeed in today’s turbulent economy.

HMG Strategy Founder and CEO Hunter Muller recently conducted an HMG Spotlight interview with Max Chan, CIO at Avnet, a global distributor of electronic components. Here are the excerpts of the interview with Max, who was recently named as an HMG Strategy Global Leadership Institute Hall of Fame CIO of the Year.

Hunter Muller: Hi, I’m Hunter Muller, Founder and CEO of HMG Strategy. I’m excited and delighted to be here with my good friend, Max Chan. Max is the CIO of Avnet. Max, congratulations on being named as an HMG Strategy 2024 Global Leadership Institute Hall of Fame CIO of the Year.

Max Chan: Thank you, Hunter, it’s always a privilege and I’m really excited to talk about some of the things that we have been working on.

HM: Max, in 2024 and beyond, we’re studying global visionary leadership. You’ve had an amazing global career. Talk to us about being a global executive.

MC: Avnet has come a long way. In 2021, we celebrated our 100th anniversary as a corporation. Avnet operates globally, which means that it’s really, really important for us to be able to create value for every single business that we have anywhere around the world.

 At the end of the day, we want to be able to allow the business to achieve what they need, and we want to be able to provide them with the right technology offering with the right platform with the right innovation so that they can go achieve more and do more with what they currently have. And that is really an exciting proposition that me and my team continue to deliver.

Last but not the least, in being a global leader, the human aspect is absolutely important. There’s too much misunderstanding across the board already, whether in the business world or in the social economy. We need to have humility to be able to connect better with anyone that we work with, to understand that while we talk with each other, it may or may not communicate well. So having that humility, having that diverse thinking and being receptive to that is of the utmost importance.

 HM: Max, you truly do live what you say. You lived in Hong Kong for — what was it — 20 years?

MC: Yes. If you notice, behind me is a silhouette painting of the Hong Kong skyline. I lived there for 20 years, and I have learned a lot. It’s probably one of the most international cities in the world. That gives me the opportunity to

Truly understand the culture and the inner workings of different countries, from China to Japan to Korea to India to everywhere in between. And they are all very, very different. It was one of the best experiences in my career.

HM: Max, as you know, there’s a bit of a trend towards nationalism. But we continue to work in a global business environment. You would counsel people to get global experience, right?

MC: In a heartbeat. Whenever you have an opportunity to take on a global opportunity or role, go for it. Because the experience that you’re going to be able to gain is just tremendous.

For me, I have taken at least four or five global assignments throughout my career, and I never regretted a second of it.

HM: Max, talk to us about career ascent and career elevation. When you take that new assignment, isn’t it important to be, to stretch yourself, to be a little bit uncomfortable?

MC: You know, you are always uncomfortable and nervous about taking on a new role. But for every one of us, the reason that we are being offered that role is someone has faith and confidence in us to be able to do this job. We may not be coming to the realization that we can do it yet, but someone sees that in us.

 Another really important thing is to always rely on your network because wherever you go, you need to rely on that tribal knowledge. And believe in yourself — just go and try. If you feel that you need some help in coaching, reach out, ask for it. And never stop learning.

HM: Max, you and Philip Gallagher, Avnet’s CEO, hit it off really well. and he believes in you and your elevated role in the organization. Talk to us about your relationship with Philip and why it works.

MC:  We were just talking about how Avnet is a 103-year-old company. Phil has been with a company for 40-plus years and the reason that Phil has so much love across Avnet and the entire industry is his collaborations, his teamwork mentality, and his ability to connect people.

I had the opportunity to work with Phil when I first joined Avnet. Phil was the global president at that time. We have been able to form that relationship because no matter where you are in the organization, he knows your name, he knows who you are, he knows about your family, right? He has been a great coach. He has been a great mentor.

 When he became the CEO, he saw something that I was able to do.

 We were looking at a new CIO at that time and I was given the role.

Max Chan will be co-host and a featured speaker at the 15th Annual Phoenix C-Level Technology Leadership Summit on March 21. To learn more about the summit and to register, click here.

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