As part of our Leading Women series, we want to highlight the professional challenges and career aspirations of the women we work with here in Asia.
In this story, Voranuch Dejakaisaya, Chief Information and Operations Officer at Siam Commercial Bank, shares how she had to work on her English language skills to prove her worth, as well as how an old boss inspired her to achieve the impossible. She was awarded the ‘Chief Information and Technology Officer of the Year’ at The Financial Technology Innovation Awards Programme 2019.
Q: What sacrifices have you made for your career?
For me, when I joined the IT sector, we had a lot of fun, so I’m not sure if the word ‘sacrifice’ applies here. Nowadays, people always talk about work-life balance. In IT, it simply doesn’t exist. You can’t divide your time between work and life. You need to enjoy life while you are working. So for me, it’s not really a sacrifice because, instead of sacrificing the ‘fun activities’ in life for work, it’s about creating these fun activities at work.
Q: What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders, especially in STEM?
I think my first advice is to be patient. I think people from the younger generation want to become the CEO the day after they graduate. They tend to have less patience in terms of learning, but they also expect everything they do to be successes. So for me, it’s about being patient and, if you fail, you learn and try to make it better. Another thing is that, in the old days, we had less competition. Now, everyone is smart, and everyone has better education. As such, you really need to find your own way and differentiate yourself from the crowd.
Q: What are the best decision that you have made?
Such decisions are part of everyday life, and a decision is considered ‘best’ only if the results turn out good. So for me, the best decision is the career I have. At one point, I was about to move into academia. I got a scholarship, and I could have gone for a Master’s degree and a Doctorate’s degree after that to become a lecturer. But I decided to quit and work full time in IT. I feel like that decision ultimately proved to be the right choice.
Q: How do you empower and engage with others?
I believe that you do unto others what you want others to do unto you. So for me, it’s always about honesty and sincerity when empowering and engaging others. If you tell your team something, if it doesn’t come from the heart, it is not natural.
Q: Have you experienced any barriers in your journey to become a leader?
Sure. As a woman in IT back in the day, it cannot be compared with what the younger generation is experiencing now. I started working around 35 years ago. At the time, there were fewer women working in IT. When I worked for a multinational company, I had a Chinese boss and, because English was not my first language, I feel like I had a lot more to prove at work. So it’s about the outcome of my work, and I had to show everything on my own.
Q: What’s a key leadership lesson you learnt along the way?
For me, my boss at General Electric, he’s my role model. He’s a Korean-American. He told me that I could do anything that I wanted to achieve. At the time, I believed that if something is too difficult, then it couldn’t be done. But he told me, firstly, if you think you can do it, then you’re going to make it, so don’t give up in the beginning. That’s always been the case for me. So whenever I feel like I cannot do anything, I believe that there’s still light at the end of the tunnel.
Q: Why do you think empathy is so important in this day and age?
It’s important because, it doesn’t matter if you are a leader of a big or small team, you cannot forget about how you were in the past. When I was younger, when I started my career as a programmer, I really needed someone to tell me what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong. I needed those feedback and suggestions. So it’s important not for you as a leader to look down. You should look at your team as if they were your family members. That way you can try to understand what kind of issues they are facing, and you can try to help solve those issues. Make them feel part of the family. At the end of the day, you cannot do everything by yourself. You need your team. Teamwork is so important, and I really would prefer it if people enjoyed working with me, instead of staying with me because of the power that I have.
Q: How have you gained more confidence as a leader?
In the past, I was very shy. I felt that I never had confidence at all. English is not my first language, but I was working for General Electric, which is a multinational company. So I had to practise and really learn the language well. If you don’t have confidence, you just have to practise. The other thing is feedback you get from others. You need to have an open mind and listen to others. Learn from them. Find out why someone is doing well. What kind of tips or techniques they are offering. That’s how you build confidence.
This interview was conducted by Jonathan Goldstein, Head of Page Executive in Southeast Asia. He has more than 14 years of experience in connecting women of the C-suite to both Asian businesses and Fortune 500 companies. Being the son of a mom who speaks 5 languages and received her masters in New York after immigrating into the country through Ellis Island in her teenage years, Jon was exposed to female leaders early in his life and was deeply influenced by them and their leadership styles.
He envisions himself to be part of the Gender & Diversity revolution in Asia Pacific and hopes to give prominence to women executives and the important elements they bring to senior leadership teams for companies to grow holistically.
Partner with Jon to strengthen your senior leadership team, discuss about your next opportunity or contribute to our Leading Women series to inspire others.