Seasoned mentor: Lim Chee Kien, Vice-President of External Manufacturing at ams Sensors,
believes in pushing young people out of their comfort zones

Resilience, Lim Chee Kien believes, comes from stepping outside your comfort zone – and the Vice-President of External Manufacturing at ams Sensors is known for challenging those he mentors to do exactly that.

As a result, the mix of young engineers and managers under him are just as likely to find themselves solving a technical or business issue as they are discussing new ideas and challenges at one of the company’s bimonthly meetings – in front of a 50-strong group of decision makers and overseas manufacturing partners.

“Being an engineer today is different from what it was three decades ago, when I graduated as an engineer from the National University of Singapore,” he says. “Now, markets are volatile, supply chains are more vulnerable to disruption and competition is fiercer. You have to be prepared for change, and align your approach and adapt, or you’ll get left behind.”

Building bonds: Making time to hear his mentees out – whether for work or other issues –
is key to Chee Kien’s leadership style. He prefers casual communications over formal meetings

While young graduates today are more knowledgeable and resourceful than ever, they often need extra guidance when it comes to “soft skills” – resilience, for one, but also self-expression and communication, self-management, teamwork and decision-making. Which is why such skills are integral to his mentorship approach.

“They were nervous at first,” he says of his mentees’ initial attempts at presenting, “but with every new attempt their confidence grows a little.”

A 30-year veteran in the optoelectronics/optical sensors industry, Chee Kien has occupied management positions in companies across the United States, Europe, Taiwan, China and Singapore. He has also welcomed the opportunity to train and mentor young professionals in these geographies.

He firmly believes in enabling a learning culture that encourages continuous learning and growth, with no finish line.

He also adopts an open door policy, and ensures his mentees know they can approach him at any time to discuss anything, whether issues from work or personal problems. He believes that giving them that space to open up, without fear of being judged or criticised, builds trust and unity.

Work hard, play hard: Chee Kien (first from the left) hits the lanes
with some of his younger team members

“It is what keeps a team strong. You can have superstars but even superstars run into trouble and you have to care about them,” he says. “A company is nothing without its people, after all. I want my mentees to look after one another, to consider one another’s thoughts and feelings, and to acknowledge one another’s needs and contributions. This cultivates a shared vision and motivates everyone in the team to do their best work.”

He also ensures that he always walks the talk.

“The best way to drive home any message to my mentees is to set the example myself,” he explains. “I always make sure that my actions align with what I tell them.”

As for failure – well, that’s taken in stride and looked upon as an opportunity to improve rather than a setback. “You can always recover and do better next time,” he says. “With this perspective and faith in yourself, you’ll find it easier to bounce back when things don’t go your way.”