In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re introducing We Belong, a new series where women and allies at Intel help you with career questions and life challenges by sharing their personal stories, advice, and expertise showing how they – and you – belong in leadership.
A title does not make you a leader. A leader is made by the work they put in, the people they empower, and the trust they build.
No one knows this better than Soo Hooi, Kimberly, Ching, and Fran. They live in different parts of the world, work in different fields, and have had different paths to success but they share at least one thing in common. They prove that leadership is a choice you make—even when you might not feel ready.
Get to know these four amazing women leaders and be inspired by the advice they share on how to take action and become a leader yourself.
Advisors answers to “How do you define a leader?”
Tell us how you got to where you are today.
Soo Hooi Lee, Site Manager of Intel Product Vietnam: Being the eldest, I was naturally a leader at home. Driving change, making tough decisions, and influencing others are pretty normal for me. Before I started work, I did not recognize these as leadership skills, but they are the foundation I built upon to became a leader.
I worked my way up to a formal “leadership” role mostly through extra effort, hard work, and grasping opportunities when they arose. After graduating with my chemistry degree and joining Intel, I read almost every technical document so I could have meaningful conversations with engineers to improve operation efficiency. I also never said no to a new challenge and dared to get out of my comfort zone. I have been in four leadership positions in three countries within the last three years.Was that easy? Definitely not. Could I manage? Obviously yes. I built my mental toughness and programed myself to reframe challenges and setbacks positively.I accelerated into each of my new roles by building in-depth technical knowledge and understanding of my new organization, team, and culture. My motto is fearlessly change and accelerate.
Kim Mayes, Human Resources Director: My mother often shared with me that as a little girl, I was rallying the people in my circle (my older brothers, my friends, my little cousins), so it appears leadership has always been intrinsically within me. As a professional, I take my leadership role very seriously because I understand the responsibility leaders have to assist others in their development while meeting organizational outcomes.
I have been very deliberate about gaining experiences within different areas of HR to become well rounded in my discipline. I created a roadmap outlining career development areas and a timeline to get the experience. I also focused on developing my communications skills and the art of inspiring and empowering others. So when the HR director role opened up, something that had always been on my roadmap, I was prepared. After meeting with my leaders and understanding the business needs, I knew I would accept it if offered to me.
Ching Yu, System-on-Chip Architect: I realized my leadership attributes when I was around 10 years old. Influencing was the first skill that I honed in school and at home. I realized leaders need to be visionaries and enablers. Throughout my career, besides building strong technical expertise, I have always kept the best interest of the company and team in my goals and on my radar. I have led teams to expand goal setting beyond their comfort zone. I focus on navigating the constant challenges and changing tide so the team can focus on the work and maintain confidence of success. At Intel, I built Intel’s test chip program by first believing in the importance of the program and high impact to Intel. Then I used my influence skills on my teams and partner teams to enable them to succeed.
It takes tremendous focus, domain expertise, trust, and soft-skills to become a trusted leader. Those are all things you want to work on before, during, and after you take a formal leadership role. It is a continuous learning process.
Fran Ashcroft, Global Communications Manager: Before Intel I worked at Nokia where my position grew quickly from managing agency partners to becoming the team lead and ultimately becoming a sales and marketing director. I became not only the first female to join the UK Board of Directors but also the youngest. I benefited from training at the International Business School in Lausanne and then, later, Situational Leadership at Nokia. A dedication to continuing to grow and develop is important for leaders.
Networking is another key talent that has helped me significantly in my career. My curiosity of people drives new relationships and business acumen every day. It helped me navigate my way around this huge corporation in my early months at Intel. Being comfortable with – and able to embrace – change has also helped me enormously. You have to ride the wave of change. It almost always offers opportunity, if you are willing to be fearless and seize it.
What is the one thing someone who wants to be leader should do?
Soo Hooi: Develop the right mindset and attitude. I always say, “Attitude defines your altitude.” Do not focus too much on what can you get, ask what you can contribute.
Kim: Assess your strengths. Use a tool such as Strengths Finders or ask for 360 feedback to understand where you need to further develop. Surround yourself with leaders whom you trust and seek their coaching and mentorship.
Ching: Build trustwith others. You can’t lead if people don’t trust you. Learn to deal with difficult situations by facing them head on. Go beyond your own job to ask for more and help others. Develop perseverance. You’ll need it as a leader.
Fran: Build and lean on your network. Get yourself a mentor—not your manager—somebody outside of your area of business or maybe even some external coaching. Don’t be afraid to simply ask for a meeting with people and take your time to find the right mentor. Like leaders, they are not all equal. If you don’t feel it’s working, make a change. Be fearless.
We Belong – on the team, in leadership, as allies.
Do you struggle feeling like you belong?
Have a burning career question or thorny challenge you’d like help tackling?
Ask our leaders for advice in the comments below!