“I would like to think that the journey I had taken, the different disciplines and just following the curiosity, following trying to get to making things better and fixing things only meant that I was prepared when the opportunity presented itself”
Michael Mucci describes his career as playing in a jungle gym rather than the traditional pattern of linear progression. Starting as an Operations Analyst for e-commerce giant eBay to Operations Manager for Asia Pacific, he was in the right place at the right time when Razer came calling.
Today, Michael is the Head of Account Management at Razer, a premier brand beloved by the global gaming and esports communities. He’s building their global payments platform and working with over 2,500 video game companies to develop their business and the industry as a whole. Michael shares how he found success in the space and helps others carve their own paths.
Leveraging Opportunities for Growth
As a fresh graduate with a degree in economics, Michael started by leveraging his skills in statistics and mathematics and applying them to business intelligence and analytics at eBay. Working at a Fortune 500 company, he was surrounded by talent, observed how things operated at scale and became acquainted with different aspects of the business.
Analytics for customer service was crucial for eBay as a marketplace. “It doesn't produce anything. It just facilitates a transaction between a buyer and seller. So a lot of mediation comes into play between that.” This was his springboard to project management and operational excellence, areas of the business that piqued his interest.
Michael was exposed to the different dimensions of operations, from Lean Six Sigma to process design. “I went from providing the data and the analytics which fueled the subject matter experts in operational analytics or expertise, being lean Six Sigma at that time, and finding there's this whole discipline that applies particular models and statistics to remove noise from a problem, get to the root cause and inform a decision that makes everything better.” He followed where his interests took him, gaining green belts to black belts in his disciplines as he leaned into upskilling himself.
Expanding Cultural Intelligence
Michael spent years honing his skills and improving things at eBay. “If you just make a great product to service, all these problems get solved upstream in theory.” His personal goals and career opportunities aligned when he relocated to Asia. “I wanted to get international experience. I wanted to understand foreign markets and cultures.”
He shifted into product management while in the Asia Pacific region, believing this is where he’d have the biggest impact. ”This is where different cultures, mental models and understanding the customer you're solving for comes in, which I think is where the APAC landscape added tremendous value.”
The diversity he observed in APAC far surpassed the regional differences in the West. “Now servicing those through a product from experience, you have to consider that in what you're designing. It becomes a very interesting and complex problem that you're trying to solve. Limited by resources, but nothing stops you from dreaming about what you ultimately want to create.”
Passionate about gaming, Michael was happy to join the industry. "I wasn't dogging it every day and hunting and pushing and networking. It just so happened to come, and when it came, I was ready for it."
His experience in operations prepared him for the role, but he knew that his understanding of the product and consumer needed fine-tuning to serve this market well. At Wargaming.net, he pulled things together to bring the operating model to maturity.
Recognising and Fostering Leadership Talent
Michael finds that middle management tends to be more robust in the West compared to Asia. Its value is often underappreciated in this part of the globe. “Should you be running a disseminated structure where you have shops in each country then it becomes even more important to have a strong middle management layer.”
Middle management is an untapped resource. “Typically, they just don't receive the necessary guidance and training.” Too often, middle managers focus on developing practical, functional subject matter expertise and passing that knowledge on. “When you're managing a function or organisation, and you become more responsible for an aspect of the business, that is an incredibly different set of skills that you need.” Recognising those paths and gaps early on and training for them remains the biggest, most complex problem Michael faces.
Having a Vision
“I gamified it”, Michael describes his approach to management as he compares how people, just like gamers, want something to achieve. “There can be a predesigned set goal that you're trying to achieve…But the whole point is you have a vision of what you're trying to achieve. And then there are probably three to five very broad but specific areas that you have to focus on.” Defining goals and desired outcomes determines the activities one does daily to attain the vision. Goals don’t feel out of reach, and with each task completed, “You can almost touch and feel it.”
“People are intelligent. They are motivated. You just need to give them that anchor and that North Star. I found that has been the biggest success in closing this gap in my experience in leading in Southeast Asia.”
Bridging the Human Side of Tech
“Between technology organisations and gaming companies, I didn't find much difference between the two.” The common theme Michael has seen in these environments is the high level of collaboration and divergent thinking. “It is its own challenge but I would say that in today's world where things change so fast every year due to technology or other factors, it lends itself an inherent agility within an organisation.”
Keeping teams in these fast-paced workplaces healthy begins with trust. “You ultimately want to be able to have an honest conversation with them about their interests and their goals. Definitely professionally, but also if possible, personal.” That information is vital to supporting them to become better versions of themselves.
Michael balances the practicality of training someone with the organisational and managerial investment required, knowing that a single strategy won’t work for everyone. He adapts methods to each individual. Knowing communication, work, and learning styles reduces friction. Some benefit more from structured learning, while others thrive with 1 on 1 mentorship.
As the saying goes: leaders aren’t born; they are made. Helping others find paths where they can come alive and thrive is the first step.
- What aspects of the business are interesting to you? What are you doing to lean into them?
- How is your organisation guiding middle managers to maturity?
- Are goals clearly defined for you and your team? How does your day to day bring you closer to attaining them?