Beth Yam’s affinity with chemistry began in high school. Under the tutelage of a beloved Ms. Koh — who made it virtually impossible to pass the subject but taught with dedication, attention to detail, and care — Beth not only succeeded in passing with flying colors, she also found her vocation. Now with a PhD in polymer science under her belt, Beth has found her calling and grown a rewarding career at Intel Malaysia.
Defying the odds
“When I started out in material engineering, I did a lot of research and connected with my peers to help ramp my learning curve. At the time, I still didn’t know my ultimate career goals or where I wanted to go. It was really a blank piece of paper, and I decided to just go with the flow.”
It was the affirmation of a director who saw her potential that led Beth into materials development. Since then, Beth’s career of over 20 years has seen her contribute significantly across multiple departments and become Intel Malaysia’s first female principal engineer. “Progress really has a lot to do with the belief and trust that people have in you,” she says.
Looking back, Beth reflects that her father also influenced and fostered her interest in STEM. Without a formal education himself, Beth’s father could read schematic diagrams and always emphasized the importance of effort over oft-perpetuated gender stereotypes. Through him, she learned that with determination, everything is possible. It’s only a matter of whether you want something enough or not.
Choosing a path — and the right mentors
By nature, Beth is strongly self-motivated. She isn’t one to depend on external praise — she’s always been happy staying under the radar and focusing on getting the job done. She sets her own path and determines her own measures of success, and this in turn helps her derive her own excitement. Qualities that play an important role in her work as an innovator. “As a technologist, you have to craft your own path. Your manager can support and cheer you on, but they aren’t there to help you chart your way,” she says.
But Beth acknowledges that everyone is different, and great achievements often take a village to be made. “Coaching and guidance is still important, be it from a peer or someone senior. But you need to choose the right mentor, someone who will knock on your door and help you up when you’re down.”
Reaching the TOP
To women who are looking to go into technical roles, Beth outlines her TOP three important considerations and factors:
- Talent – you need to possess technical skills that people acknowledge.
- Opportunity – know where you want to go and keep an eye out for openings.
- Passion – without it, you’ll find it hard to push through and be in danger of burning out.
Assess these aspects within yourself, she says, advising that, “You’ll need at least the talent and passion. The opportunity will come along in good time, as long as you listen to your heart, your mind, and strive to be good at what you do. If you feel you lack the talent, work at polishing it. Pick up projects that require you to step up and demonstrate your abilities. Be your own compass and go boldly.”
Given the varied roles that women play both at work and at home, Beth stresses the importance of communication.
“Always go back to what is important to you. We (women) often come as a package, with a family, husband, kids. It’s important to share your aspirations and plans with your partner and loved ones as opposed to internalizing them.”
As Beth proves, with flexibility, a supportive work culture, and an encouraging family, there is no impediment to women reaching the TOP.
Beth is one of the many wonderful principal engineers, interested in a growing your career as a technical leader? Check out open opportunities in Intel Malaysia here.