I’ve always believed that if you want to live a fulfilling life, you must follow your passion. From a career standpoint, my passion was and is the reinvigoration of a vibrant manufacturing centered economy in the United States. Luckily, I grew up in the fairy tale kingdom called The Silicon Valley, so I was automatically drawn to the high tech industry that was sprouting here when I began my career. Being in high technology business also meant being in a predominantly male industry.
It should have been no surprise to me then that when I started my career, professional women were in short supply. I was brought up short on this point though, one day when a group of us had to work late into the evening on an issue. In the midst of 6 male counterparts, two of us were women. At 6pm, the male GM executive said to me and my other female colleague, “Shouldn’t you girls call home...” I was shocked into silence. But undeterred. I would even say more determined to be “permanently on the map” to change the landscape.
A little over ten years later, when I was hired at Intel as a senior financial controller, I was often still the only woman in the room. Not only was I different in gender but also an outsider coming in to a very tight knit group. It was double whammy and combined with having young children at home, it was tough. But I decided not to blink because I still wanted to chase my passion, and I thought I could make a difference. I wanted to do a meaningful part to make Intel stronger as a manufacturing powerhouse and consequently, help nurture a stronger economy. So I focused on making an impact. I set my priorities based on my passion, made my own tradeoffs (and accepted the implications), used my own business judgment and tried to find the right answers and I decided NOT ask permission to do what appears to be the right thing. Success soon followed.
Today, I marvel at what we at Intel have been able to achieve, for the local economies where our manufacturing is located as well as the impact our computing technology has had on society. I am also pleased with the changing faces of our employees in diversity representation compared to the early years of my career. It’s happening in the executive offices as well. But statistics still say women have a long way to go to parity and I suspect that I won’t see it in my lifetime at this pace. That’s a darn shame because just as manufacturing is a foundation to a strong economy so are diverse teams for problem solving and innovation and small businesses for innovation and job creation. By the way – many of those small enterprises are owned by women. Recently, I am taking an even more active role in sponsoring and mentoring the next generations of leaders to make an impact on this issue.
So I say to you, follow your passion and lean in. You won’t be sorry.