Work-life balance: Semicon industry veteran Jennifer Teong has progressed
in her career by balancing time, priorities, work and life
It boils down to balance, says Jennifer Teong.
A 30-year semiconductor industry veteran, Jennifer is VP of Manufacturing & Quality at Silicon Labs International, leads the company’s Singapore site, and serves as a board member of the Singapore Semiconductor Industry Association (SSIA).
She is also a mother of three.
“When I speak at seminars or on panels at universities, I’m often asked how I managed to progress in my career and raise three children at the same time,” she says. The answer is almost always a variation on the theme of balance – of time, priorities, work, and life – and a pragmatic approach to making it work.
“If I have a job that requires travel, my husband, who works in an engineering role with a statutory board, takes a job where he can be at home more,” she explains. The same concept is applied at work, whether balancing her multiple responsibilities or between immediate and longer-term goals.
Mentee and Senior Product Test Engineering Manager, Amanda Fu, can attest to that: “Jennifer reminds me to not only look at immediate urgent problems, but to also think far ahead on important tasks that may shape our future,” she says.
Celebrating 50 years: Jennifer (fifth from the left) at a celebration marking the
50th Anniversary of the semiconductor industry in Singapore in 2018
Jennifer’s journey into the semiconductor world began when she became one of a handful of her junior college classmates to opt to study engineering at the National University of Singapore. “I wanted to be able to learn a few key principles and apply them, so engineering was the way to go,” she explains.
Attending on a Chartered Electronic Industries (CEI) scholarship, she had the opportunity to intern at the company, rotating through the different divisions, including microelectronics. “That’s how I got into the semiconductor field, and once I was in, my love for it started to develop.” She graduated with a MSc in Electrical Engineering (Microelectronics), and today takes the opportunity to promote engineering as a career at universities, with a focus on advancing women in the semiconductor industry. “There were 60 to 70 of us in my EE class, and fewer than ten of us were women. Most of us are still in engineering-related roles to this day.”
Breaking new ground: Jennifer (centre) with CEO Tyson Tuttle and colleagues
during the opening of the new SLI office in July 2017
Jennifer is a strong proponent of internships as a way to better understand the industry, and regularly mentors young managers.
“I enjoy taking people under my wing,” she says. “These are people who are early in their career, and already have high competencies in technical areas. The challenge is to move them from an individual technical contributor role to a leadership role – that’s where I can usually provide guidance.”
Setbacks are taken in stride – “without setbacks you will not be able to grow” – and recognising weaknesses is an important part of the learning process, she says. “You cannot ignore your weaknesses, you need to know them, accept them, and put effort into overcoming them.”
Giving back: Jennifer volunteering with her SLI colleagues at a foodbank in August 2020
This approach has worked well for her and the team she leads.
“Jennifer is a true role model for women in technology with a great deal of influence over a team in Singapore that is 45% female in a typically male-dominated industry,” says Silicon Labs Senior VP of Worldwide operations, Sandeep Kumar. “People look up to her as an example to follow.”