Breaking Barriers and Inspiring Change

Woman engineer working on motherboard

Phillip Thompson, the Vice President Global Growth, Client Services and Marketing of Kepner-Tregoe, recently had the opportunity to interview Sim Cher Whee, a seasoned professional who shared her career journeys, challenges, and achievements. In this interview, she discussed her experiences and insights on how to overcome challenges in the workplace, navigate through different career stages, and achieve success in one’s chosen career path. 

What is a remarkable woman leader?

Remarkable women leaders are those who have achieved success in their fields despite facing significant obstacles. They are women who have broken down barriers, shattered glass ceilings, and paved the way for others to follow in their footsteps. They are trailblazers, innovators, and change-makers who have made a significant impact on their communities and the world.

Sim Cher Whee, the Vice President for Global Talent Acquisitions, Immigrations, and Mobility at Micron Technology, is one such remarkable woman leader who has navigated the complex and constantly evolving landscape of the semiconductor industry with determination and vision.


Becoming a Change-Maker

Cher Whee’s journey as a woman leader in the STEM industry is marked by various challenges and obstacles, but she has risen to become a true change-maker in the industry – with a story of resilience, perseverance, and growth.

As a minority engineer in a male-dominated industry, Cher Whee faced significant obstacles early in her career. She was one of only five women in a cohort of 100 engineers, which made it difficult for her voice to be heard and her views to be valued. However, she recognized that this problem extended beyond her own experience and was a systemic issue in the industry. She vowed to change it.

She overcame these challenges through hard work and dedication. She recognized the importance of setting and achieving goals and worked tirelessly to achieve them. She also developed a growth mindset, recognizing that failure is an essential part of the learning process.

Her commitment to diversity and inclusion also played a significant role in her success, as she recognized the importance of creating an inclusive work environment where people can bring their whole selves to work.


Leadership Style

Leadership is a complex and dynamic field, requiring a combination of skills, experience, and a deep understanding of human behaviour. Women have been making their mark in the world of leadership for years, bringing their unique perspectives and experiences to the table.

Cher Whee’s leadership style is defined by her strong commitment to diversity and inclusion. She believes that diversity is essential in creating an inclusive work environment where people can bring their whole selves to work.

Her commitment to asking questions is also integral to her leadership style. She encourages her team to ask clarifying questions and not to get comfortable with the quick answer. She believes that asking questions is a trainable business skill that can be developed with practice.

We can learn several lessons from Cher Whee’s leadership style. First, we can learn the importance of diversity and inclusion in creating an inclusive work environment. Second, we can learn the importance of asking questions and not getting comfortable with the quick answer. Finally, we can learn the value of developing a growth mindset and recognizing that failure is an essential part of the learning process.


Leadership is Not About Me, It’s About the Team

One of the first lessons this remarkable woman learned in her career is that leadership is not about the individual, but about the team. She believes that only by harnessing the strength of every individual can the organizations bring out the best performance. She explains, “In my career, I learned that it’s not about me in leadership. It’s about the team. It’s about inclusiveness, whether it’s male, female, whatever background.”

Having great mentors in her early career played a significant role in her growth as a leader. They not only opened doors for her and empowered her but also gave her the space to fail. This allowed her to develop her own leadership style, which was to observe and reflect on her actions as a leader. She also had a powerful role model and mentor who was a woman leader. Seeing her successfully balance her career and family life was a source of inspiration and motivation for this remarkable woman.


The Importance of Mentorship

Mentorship can come from anyone and take many forms. Cher Whee’s adult children have also become mentors to her, providing insight into the thoughts and attitudes of the younger workforce. She notes that as a mentor, it’s important to understand the challenges faced by the mentee and to contextualize your experience within that connection.

One of her mentors, a Vice President, took the time to fly to Singapore to meet with her in person. This meeting proved to be a turning point in her career as he helped her adjust to working in a big company with a global lens. He mentored her and shared his experiences, which allowed her to maximize her intentions for collaborating globally and bringing different perspectives together.

Contextualizing advice is also crucial, as she explains, “Contextualizing advice is important. One of my mentors said that as a woman you need to be twice or three times better than a man. I was very overwhelmed by the unfairness of this advice, but I knew I was probably not alone feeling this. But to bring about equality, when a woman is as good as a man, she deserves the same opportunity to try different things, expand her scope, tackle new rotations.


Respect for the Person Receiving Advice

The core fundamental of mentorship, according to Cher Whee, is to be respectful of the person receiving advice. As a woman leader, she doesn’t just stand for the agenda of women but also needs to align with men and avoid unconscious bias that doesn’t give equal opportunities to males and females.

Cher Whee also emphasizes the importance of mentorship in a holistic way. Some mentors may provide siloed coaching or mentoring, but it’s important to provide a complete picture.

She explains, “Mentoring in a holistic way is also important. If you only show one part of the element and much later another, you never see the whole elephant. It’s important to provide a holistic picture.”


The Importance of Diversity

The importance of diversity in the workplace cannot be overstated, especially in industries like STEM that rely on innovation and problem-solving to drive growth and progress. Cher Whee believes that diversity influences the voice, the ideas, and the way that we go about doing things.

She adds, “For example, in problem solving. In Kepner-Tregoe Problem Analysis, we go through brainstorming the IS and the IS NOT in describing a problem. I always felt that when the room has a more diverse view, it provides a richness in understanding the data that helps to really accelerate problem solving.”

Cher Whee’s commitment to increasing female representation is not just a personal goal but also a strategic imperative for Micron Technology. She states, “Just last year, when we looked at every hundred new hires, at least 40 were from an underrepresented group. This includes women and people with disabilities. It’s important to set goals. When you look at talent, if you just look at those you know and who apply, you might not be able to get that diversity right.”

According to Cher Whee, building diverse teams is essential for success in today’s global marketplace. By bringing together individuals from different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences, you can generate new ideas and perspectives that can help drive innovation and creativity.

Diversity is extremely important because it influences the voice, the ideas, the way that we go about doing things,” she says. Cher Whee also emphasizes the importance of setting diversity goals and measuring progress to ensure that you are making progress toward building a more diverse and inclusive workplace.


Power of Persistence

Cher Whee’s story is a testament to the power of persistence, determination, and resilience. Despite facing numerous obstacles throughout her career, she never gave up on her dreams and continued to push forward. Her unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion has also made her a remarkable leader, inspiring many to follow in her footsteps.

As more and more women take on leadership roles in various industries, it is essential to celebrate their achievements and learn from their experiences. By embracing the key concepts discussed in this article and asking the right questions, we can continue to foster a more inclusive and equitable workplace for all.

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