Selina Ooi, Head of GEO Sales, South Asia and India, STMicroelectronics started her career with STMicroelectronics as a Process Engineer after graduating with First Class Honors in Bachelor of Engineering, majoring in Communications and Electronics. Her interest in the semiconductor industry was spurred by her final year project researching and analyzing the Silicon Transducer Membrane.
Selina held various technical and managerial roles within the company from Engineering to Field Quality, Marketing, Application and Sales. Currently, she is also the Women in Leadership Ambassador for the Sales and Marketing Organization in Asia Pacific and a Mentor to our Company’s Career Booster Program.
Q: You started out as a Process Engineer. Was STEM / Engineering a subject that you have always been keen on?
A: Since young, my goal was to pursue a career in a professional field that could be exciting yet challenging. It was not a common thing during my time for a woman to pursue a career as an Engineer, and I think choosing the field of Engineering for my graduate degree program, against my parent’s advice was for me to prove to myself that a girl can be successful in the male-dominated Engineering field.
Q: What were some of the challenges that you faced when you moved from a student into the workforce as an Engineer?
A: I had to learn that coming into the working world was different from being in school. While what I learned at school provided me the foundation and tools to be successful, the challenge was adapting and applying the theories and making them relevant and practical for the job. Living in Australia for over 10 years, during my schooling years, I had to learn to culturally adapt when I started my career with the company in Singapore. It was hard work as I wanted to make it out on my own, financially, and not depend on the family. I had to be humble, and many times, despite thinking that I know everything as an engineer, I realized I had to unlearn and relearn from experienced operators and technicians.
Q: You moved into various functional roles from Engineer to Technical field service, Quality and then to sales in ST. How did the transition come about?
A: My journey in STMicroelectronics and in my career, like many others, is not a linear one. I started as a Process Engineer and after 2 years, I wanted a change and decided to leave ST for a different portfolio in marketing at a local telecommunications company. However, I did not end up starting in the new company as I received a call from STMicroelectronics a day before I started the job and decided to rejoin the company in a marketing role for Industrial and Power Supply segment sector. Looking back, I realized that I am always looking for new challenges and something exciting, to fix, to grow and to position the organization for bigger things. I must admit I did not always feel 100% ready when there were new career opportunities presented to me but instead of letting that faze me, I take it up as a challenge, for example when I accepted the Field Quality role, and it was a totally different world for me. I had to deal with difficult customers of different cultures and in different languages. There were a lot of sacrifices. I had to learn how to balance between work and family as I had to spend great amount of time in the field and with the teams in the different countries. There were days that I felt like giving up but having a supportive, caring and understanding family played a big part to keep me going. Occasional golfing also kept me in sane during those days. To gain experience and to continuously learn, sometimes in one’s career, we need to be ready to make, not only, vertical upward moves but also horizontal and even take a step down. When I accepted the role in Sales, it was a big leap of faith and totally out of my comfort zone. Looking back today, this was one of the best “bungee jump” I ever did. I knew nothing about sales, pricing, quotations and its jargons then and depended heavily on the experienced team that I had. To speed up my learning curve, I even started taking Chinese language classes as it was one of my biggest challenges in the role being a Chinese in ethnicity, but not being able to speak the language. I had to learn how to interact with the Distributor partners, adapting my communication style and learning their needs to work on win-win solutions.
Q: What are some of the experiences that resonated with you through the various roles?
A: All the roles I held had different challenges but to be successful, the formula is the same. It is important to remember always to be a better version of myself and recognizing that developing my leadership skill is a never-ending journey, a journey of continuous learning. I tend to learn by watching other leaders which helps me realize what works and what does not in this dynamic, challenging work environment. Listening actively and learning from my mistakes has helped me over the years. In summary, be open to changes, observe, learn, listen, and practice.
Q: What impacted you the most in your tenure with ST so far?
A: I had some inspiring mentors at the beginning of my career. It is always the people. I am inspired not only by our leaders but my colleagues and the people I work with.
Q: You have been a strong advocate for Women in Leadership in ST. What has inspired you to be a champion of this cause?
A: My mother. She was an independent and self-driven individual, and worked herself from a teacher to become headmistress in twenty years, while managing four children. She is indeed an amazing woman leader in my eyes. She remains my greatest inspiration and I strive to be like her.
Q: Can you share some of the instances where you have perhaps championed this?
A: In ST, there are always new opportunities as long as you are willing to invest your time and take on the challenges. An example of this would the Women in Leadership program. An idea and a passing statement I made during a gathering that I would like to identify a woman leader to replace me one day when I retire that sparked the entire program that we have today at Asia Pacific Sales and Marketing level. I stepped now into the role of mentoring younger women, both technical and Sales and Marketing colleagues, developing women in leadership and drive specific initiatives for the region and the S&M organization. It is something I feel compelled to do knowing that personally, I would have appreciated having such a network and mentor in my early years, someone who could under- stand the challenges of a woman in a man’s (technical) world.
Q: What do you think are some of the inhibitions that women are not so inclined to be in the technical field?
A: This field is still very much dominated by men. Women in this field must develop a strong sense of their self-awareness, know what they really want to stay focused and not give in to our perceived mental limitations. Other than that, women must also be courageous enough to step forward and grab opportunities the same way it is presented to the male counterparts.
Q: A mentor plays a key role in the semiconductor industry to the students and young talents.
SSIA will be launching a Youth Ambassador Program where mentors in queen bee companies will be paired with student ambassadors. How do you think a mentor should engage with the young talents since this is also something close to your heart?
A: Continue to encourage the young talents to be the true version of themselves. Be brave, do not be afraid to fail and be ready to pick yourself up again. It will be nice to have a job shadowing program to engage our young people even before they join the workforce and industry. Learn the best from the role model you choose.
Q: What are some advice that you would give to anyone to explore the semiconductor industry given some of the volatility of it?
Look at it as sitting on a roller coaster ride. Hold on tight (to your dreams) and enjoy every moment of what the ups and downs bring from the exhilarating journey! Always look forward to stepping out of your comfort zone to grow.
Head of GEO Sales, South Asia and India, STMicroelectronics