When Alecia Heng called and asked if I could represent her on behalf of Gorgeous Geeks at TechFemme 2015, Taylors University, I was lucky to be available, so I said yes. That was the first time I heard about TechFemme, and little did I know it was a forum by Microsoft to excite students to choose tech as career.
The panel I was part of was hosted by beautiful Ms Azlin, who used to intern at Microsoft Malaysia. The other lady panelists were Azizah Ali from Microsoft and Nadhirah Yusoff, a Malaysia serial tech entrepreneur. Azizah Ali built Microsoft Brunei, now holding leadership role at Microsoft, while Nadhirah owns 5 companies and a mother of six. I was of course not at the same level as these successful women, but happy to share some of my geeky experience, the fun and joy being in tech.
There was a good audience of about 200 people, a mix of girls and boys from various universities in Malaysia.
Here are my responses to some of the questions:
- What did you want to be when you were young? And what changed? What is your typical day at work?
I wanted to be a dancer. It changed as I realised there were not many career options for a dancer, although I was really keen to fusionize Malay & Modern dance.
At the same time, during childhood, I found joy in programming when I started learning Basic at 11. I was supposed to study Computer Science after SPM but changed to Electrical Engineering department along the way and specialized in embedded systems. I studied Social Science during high school where I learned commerce, accounting and add math. I was not a Pure Science student.
Today, my day at work is about making my customers happy and building modest sportswear.
- Why do you think young women don’t want to join tech industry? What is your Solution?
I think it is probably because they think it is a men’s world. Perhaps it is to certain extend when you see more men in tech. But I never see myself as a woman when I was working as a software developer at Intel or when I was at Microsoft. I look at my male colleagues as work mates and they treat me like another colleague. To me, at work, I am just another person on the job and I never look at my role at work from gender perspective. I think it helps as when you have such thinking hat on, you will automatically blend in well with others at work. So build your skills and expertise in your job and industry and there is where you will earn respect and trust from peers.
- Not many women hold senior positions in an Tech Company, tell us, how did you climb the career ladder and advanced yourself to the position you are in today?
I do not believe in ladder, but rather in building myself. I believe in leading without a title. I have worked in many companies and my interest and skills in tech have helped me progress and be the person I am today. I have acquired many skills on the job, mainly because of my passion. I want to build products, make customers happy and build a company that generates more jobs and more and more export. There is so much to do, so much to learn. After Microsoft, I joined a local venture capital company and my experience at Teak Capital was invaluable. I advance myself by building skills, keeping abreast with trends and tech, being with young people and understanding customers’ needs. I suggest graduating techies to follow news on tech and industries of your concerned on twitter and social network. It is also good to have mentors in fields you are interested in and learn from them.
- Refer to the crowd, what do you want these young women to do and make a change?
The upcoming IT graduates are at the best stage of tech industry, where they have many options in tech. They can choose to specialise in User Experience, Computer Graphic and Design, Animation, E-Commerce, Digital marketing, other than the usual programming stuff. Some of these jobs suit women well. Take User Experience (UX) for example, Marissa Meyers the current CEO of Yahoo is a UX expert. Ai Ching, the co-founder of Piktochart has the eye for building graphical tools that offers flattering features and user experience. So, stay hungry, stay humble & never give up your talent. Stay in the workforce and continue working no matter what. I have quit jobs several times to suit my family and personal needs, but I never left the industry. Find ways to pursue your career, even though they are non-conventional.
I ended with a quote by Oprah Winfrey “You can have it all but not all at once”
Indeed.. as it definitely applies to me!
Many thanks to the organising team and sponsor for having such session. I thought of sharing the session after my meet with Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir. She mentioned that it does not help when career women do not admit that having a career is NOT easy. It is difficult and looking back and based on my current situation, yes, has not been easy. It is surely not a traditional route for me. I have to keep learning, have a lot of faith in myself in order to take bold steps that are suitable for myself.
So to all tech ladies who are about to embark into the workforce, you life is about to begin, and it is full of excitement and choices.