I've been at Ingram Micro Asia for over 15 years, having started off as a product executive. I have worked my way across teams and functions, including product management, sales, and many more, before taking on my current scope for the past three or so years.
I’m now tasked with driving the cloud business across ASEAN and Hong Kong and leading a team of 40 people, in both product and marketing divisions.
During those years, like many of you with multiple roles, I also met my amazing spouse, gave birth to two amazing children and took on the challenge of climbing the corporate ladder while starting my family.
During my career, although I haven't experienced extreme discrimination, I have been mindful of the affect being a woman has had on my corporate journey and the way I'm treated by those around me.
I've never been a soft-spoken or demure type, and I think this has served me well, as my peers don't think of me as ‘the woman in the room’, but just as Angela, the colleague and hard-nosed, outspoken leader who will always be driven to succeed.
Be true to yourself
Looking back on my career so far, I believe there are two areas that some women find challenging that have helped me reach where I am today, being true to myself, and always being bold.
Since being known as having a loud and outspoken nature, some might say that I've gotten where I am today because of these ‘manlier’ traits. The reality is, my progress has come from being true to myself in all my interactions, not because I may ‘act like a man’ sometimes.
I've seen women with many different styles and personality types thrive in their roles at all levels, actually, the two women who I consider my biggest mentors both have very different approaches than each other and myself but are consistently true to themselves.
I don't think women need to be more masculine, aggressive, or outspoken, the most important attribute is to be themselves.
When women don’t try to be someone who they think others will respect or listen to, then they will be able to fully realise their potential.
We have different personalities in many parts of our lives, and as women we play many roles to different people. But we can learn to be true to ourselves, to let our strengths shine through and genuinely bring our creativity and life experience to the table.
I've found when I'm being authentically me, my self-confidence skyrockets, which allows me the freedom to be more creative and daring with my work.
This brings me to the second aspect I've found important as a woman. Being bold. I always share with the young women I work with to never be afraid of failure.
Fail fast is an old adage, and for good reason, when we take risks, we either succeed or we learn, so there's no failure to be worried about.
I hear from many of my female friends and colleagues that they hold back, from expressing their opinion, pushing for a project, negotiating an offer etc because they are concerned they will be seen as too aggressive and they don't want to be on the receiving end of negative feedback.
In my experience, every time I've agonised and ended up going ahead and being bold, it's paid off. Maybe not exactly the way I planned or expected, I've had my share of plans gone awry too.
But in the end, the reward in experience, mind-share with leadership, and self-confidence has made them all worthwhile.
One example was when I was asked to take on a new role, building the then new cloud business here at Ingram Micro across ASEAN and Hong Kong. This role was expected to be very challenging.
Growing the cloud unit would take great determination to transform the way many of our partners and even internal teams were used to doing business.
The portfolio was small, the business model was new, the solutions unfamiliar, I had to get and hold the right people's attention, and then show results to keep it.
I didn't have the luxury of sitting back and waiting for orders to come in. Since then, there have many ups and downs, but I've had great support from my senior leadership, which allowed me to continue to be bold.
By being bold my team has been able achieve great results, exceeding our targets every quarter and even going beyond to lead some of the biggest and most memorable campaigns and events for Ingram Micro in this region.
For women of all ages, family situations, levels, and backgrounds, I urge you to always be yourself and be bold. There will always be challenges in the workplace, but when you are being true to yourself, you'll be able to push past any obstacles and succeed as yourself.
Don't let other people tell you how you ‘should’ act, talk, or behave because you are a woman. When you're being true to yourself, your words will resonate with the people you work with and you'll be much more effective.
Most importantly, you'll be comfortable and confident in who you are and the work you're doing.
Angela Choo is director of Cloud across ASEAN and Hong Kong at Ingram Micro