Aspire to Inspire – our lady interns’ reflection after interviewing the woman leaders
In conjunction with International Women’s Day, 11 lady interns in Singapore had the opportunity to interview 4 women leaders in Schneider Electric to learn from their experiences. Although each interview included varying questions, topics included: career journey, cultural and/or technical barriers, strengths and offerings women can offer to the corporate world, changes you would like to see in the younger female generation. Read the inspiring journey of women leaders through the eyes of young interns in their post-interview reflection.
Break down the misconceptions of a woman leader
Leader: Hui San CHUA, Director of Talent Acquisition – East Asia & Japan
- Danise Sng (Process Automation Human Resource Intern)
- Jasmine Chew (Internal Communication Intern)
With humility and humor, Hui San started the session by offering us assurance and advice. It is interesting to know she viewed common negative preconceptions about women differently. Hui San challenged the words commonly used to depreciate women. Instead of “demanding”, say “driven”. Instead of judging women’s “fragility”, notice their greater empathic disposition. Rather than critiquing women as “micromanaging”, commend women for their meticulousness.
It was reassuring to hear that the imposter syndrome is present even amongst talented leaders like her. While working at the start-up in the Regional Ridesharing Industry, she often doubted her abilities and was unsure how she could contribute when she could easily handle a huge company previously. When we shared about our fear of negative judgments and being trapped in “what if” scenarios, she rebutted us with “So what?”. Women often undermine themselves, hence we need to be more daring even if situations seem uncertain.
As both of us are introverted overthinkers, it was inspiring to see a real introvert take big strides successfully to improve herself and society. Hui San took the parlous yet calculated risk to move from 10 years of Sales experience to Human Resources. She spoke up against assumptions that women are supposed to involuntarily take minutes during meetings. Now, she works with her Talent Acquisition team to help Schneider Electric drive diversity and inclusivity at every level.
Amongst the questions asked, Hui San never mentioned the desire for “power” or “dominance”. She never thought she would be a leader in HR, but she never ruled out the possibility she could be better than what she already was. Her willingness to take courage and strive to be better allowed her to attain the prestige she has.
Overall, we appreciate the opportunity to chat openly with Hui San. While we know we cannot turn brave overnight, this interview allowed us to reflect critically on ourselves. The next time we doubt ourselves, we will recall Hui San’s words of encouragement to be more agile and excel!
Don’t wait for inclusive. Create it.
Leader: Brigitte Begasse, Vice President of Procurement, East Asia Japan and Pacific
- Fwu Hui Qi, Talent Acquisition Intern
- Jamie Yeng, Category Analyst Intern
- Nguyen Ngoc Han, Quality Control Intern
Brigitte came across to us as a very energetic, passionate and charming lady.
Humility is one of the core values Brigitte holds closely to – by staying humble, one remains inquisitive while learning. She held multiple roles within Schneider Electric and humility was the key to adapt to a new environment: All of us are learning as we face changes in our lives. This advice is of utmost importance to us as we will be stepping into the working industry soon. By building up our skills set and knowledge, we can then empower ourselves in handling a new task or team in a more strategic approach. Thus, by being humble, we acknowledge the need to learn every day in enabling growth.
Being Schneider Electric Singapore’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Champion in 2019, Brigette feels that the success of any D&I campaigns takes two hands to clap. In order to strike a balance, females should take our own step to be known and welcome males into our world. This can be done by taking initiatives to emerge and getting ourselves included in the organization we are in. Her thoughts inspired us to challenge ourselves in stepping out of our comfort zones and be confident in demonstrating our abilities.
While we are encouraged not to merely rely on any companies to “spoon-feed” us with inclusive opportunities, Brigette emphasized on the importance of building a professional network. By maintaining good relationships with stakeholders and colleagues, the collaboration makes tasks done more effectively.
Say 9 “Nos” for 1 “Yes”. We closed off the session with this phrase Brigette challenged us with. She stressed the importance of having our own set of personal values and motivations for results. People often neglect themselves while trying to please others, hence it is essential to lay a good foundation on what is important to us and focus on those elements. This would drive us through multiple decision-making processes in our career and personal life as well as define who we are different from the others.
Keep Learning. Keep Growing.
Leader: Ruth Seah, Vice President of Field Services for East Asia & Japan
- Patricia Lim, Application Engineering Intern
- Pang Kiat Si, Business Intelligence Intern
- Sarah Nurrachman, RAC Engineering Intern
Keep Learning, Keep Growing – This was Ruth Seah’s, Vice-President of Field Services for East Asia & Japan, closing words for us. Whilst simple, this quote left an impact, indicating the wise yet candor sharings Ruth had to offer. She brought along to the interview not just her cheerful and energetic disposition, but also many valuable insights on her journey as a female leader.
When asked how she overcame gender biases and the glass ceiling, Preparedness was Ruth’s answer. Ruth candidly shared how this trait has helped her overcome multiple challenges she faced throughout her career and has allowed her to gain the trust of leaders that “women can make good leaders”. Being Prepared, she shared, can be as simple as sharing meeting agenda in advance, always have an opinion and have courage to speak up during a meeting.
Yet, being overly-prepared and meticulous may be a double-edged sword. Ruth highlights the game-changing learning point of her career as the caveats of being a Perfectionist – “Nobody wants to work under a Perfectionist!”. Oftentimes, we ought to step back and reflect on our work habits. Subsequently, Ruth advocates the notion of working smart – rather than devoting everyone’s energy to perfecting work or demanding efficiency, how can we create an environment where everyone presents their best to the table?
Fail fast. Instead of adopting an “Intercept and Prevent” attitude, Ruth shared that perhaps the best way to learn is to allow failure, even in a high-expectation work environment. Having being raised in a generation where successes are prized and failures are shunned, Ruth’s advice was to be willing to step into the unfamiliar ground. She reassured us that taking this bold step could help overcome our fear of failure and emerge victorious with new experiences. Later, she quickly added that she, too, expects individuals to pick themselves up and to move on fast. Henceforth, adding on to her phrase, Learn Fast.
Looking back, we have walked away with much more on our plates than we had expected. Plenty of Ruth’s sharings were based on her personal experiences and these points are relevant and applicable in our day-to-day conduct. Every task is an avenue for us to reflect on, to learn from and more importantly, for us to grow in and build a wealth of experience with.
Ignition of Fire Within.
Leader: Kusum Verma, Global Account Executive & Regional Segment Director
- Chengxuan Feng, IT Analyst Intern
- Danielle Pang, Project Procurement Intern
- Yawen DING, Finance Intern
3 Times Winner of Women of Pride Award – For 100% Target Achievement, Biggest Software Deal Award and Largest Single Order of the Year award. These are just a few of the awards that Kusum has accomplished.
Kusum’s motivation drives her to reach where she is today and persists in this field for 14 years. Hearing her speak with such passion about her job, showed us that enjoying and valuing what our work can bring us a long way. We started thinking about the possibilities of achieving more during this internship as well as our future career.
It can be daunting at the start of a new internship or first job. However, Kusum emphasized that being young or surrounded by experienced colleagues should not stop us from bringing value to the table or speaking out. Being a woman in tech, sales, and energy, we are delighted to hear that she has never faced any discrimination or barriers towards her success against her gender. This has truly shown the inclusive culture Schneider has created to value all forms of diversity.
On a side note, Kusum highlighted that an opportunity we gave up because of insecurities will become a stepping stone for others to succeed. Do not allow a lack of confidence or believe that someone else is more suitable for the opportunity. It works both ways – we must always improve our skills and abilities so when the opportunity arises, we are ready to take on the challenge and shine. Improving our skills and abilities need not necessarily come from experts as there are always new things to learn from each other.
Her confidence and presence were infectious. We gained a new perspective on how we should approach our work and overcome the challenges along the way while keeping the fire she started in our hearts burning. We will keep less to ourselves and strive for opportunities to learn from colleagues during this internship.
About the Authors
The 11 woman interns above interviewed 4 women in leadership at Schneider Electric in Singapore. To celebrate International Women’s Day, they compiled the interviews of the women leaders and reflected on the conversations they had and advice they were given.