A prolific basketball player in school, AK Chong initially dreamed of studying law. But when the much-anticipated opportunity for a local university degree came up, her choices were limited to engineering or agriculture. She chose the former and graduated with a degree in electrical engineering after five years at the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Kuala Lumpur. Then in 1991, she began her journey with Intel as a product quality engineer.
The past 29 years have seen AK researching and troubleshooting in the lab, providing solutions as an individual contributor, managing teams — experiences that led her to where she is now: running an entire factory. Today, the Kedah native is in charge of one of Intel’s four advanced assembly test manufacturing factories in Malaysia.
At a time when civil and mechanical engineers were in demand, AK’s decision to study electrical engineering was a leap of faith that truly paid off. “I love what I do now, every day. You could say I landed upon it accidentally, but I developed an interest in the field. The logical thinking and the ability to find solutions excites me.”
Loving what you do matters
Reflecting on what keeps her driven, she believes that her personal motivation and that of her team are interrelated — likening it to her love for gardening. “It’s a positive energy that flows both ways. Just as a gardener finds joy in seeing a new leaf or flower, seeing the people around me grow, flourish. and succeed keeps me motivated.”
AK emphasizes the importance of nurturing a healthy environment and loving what you do. “No matter how hard a day it is, I push myself to show up positively because my outlook impacts the team, and theirs in turn impact mine. When you love what you do, showing up when the going gets tough is easier.”
Set your own standards
A strong advocate for woman leadership development at Intel Malaysia, AK is a core member of the Women Leadership Development (WLD) forum with the aim of enhancing efforts to attract, recruit, integrate, develop, and retain talented women in the workforce.
To her, the main challenges revolve around differing values and responsibilities that come with being a woman and the accompanying scrutiny and biases. “Many women hold themselves back, skipping opportunities. For instance, when I had to care for my young kids, I had to make work-life adjustments. Sometimes women take a slower pace to adjust to other responsibilities.”
“My advice to women: apart from doing what you like, establish your own scorecard. Go with what works for you both at the workplace and at home. Trust that what you’re doing is best for you, your family, and the organization and hold your own scorecard. Don’t cave to external pressure.”
Staying focused, vigilant, and adaptable
Leading an organization of over a thousand people through the Covid-19 pandemic has been a mammoth task for AK, whose main priority is to make the workplace comfortable and safe for employees. But she also sees this as opportunity to establish greater trust and communication.
“For us, at the moment, it’s about staying focused on the things we can control. Understanding the disease and its characteristics, making timely decisions and communicating directives clearly. And it’s equally important to convey the rationale behind the steps that are being taken so employees understand.”
Considering the many upheavals brought about by the pandemic (such as working from home), AK stresses the importance of staying flexible to the people around you — and to yourself.
Can you relate to AK’s journey? Explore empowering careers at Intel Malaysia.