When Vivian Chua started at HP, then Hewlett-Packard, the year was 1999 and the technology industry was gearing up for an era of profound change.
With a new millennium around the corner, the market braced for the impact of Y2K, music file sharing network Napster was launched, Compaq was fighting for survival and Microsoft faced off against AOL in all-out chat war.
During this time, Vivian Chua started at Hewlett-Packard, holding a business development role before assuming a product-focused position in the Personal Systems team - a modest entrance ahead of what would be a sharp rise up the company ranks.
Fast forward more than two decades and Chua now leads the Singapore business as managing director, with additional responsibilities for Malaysia operations.
In recognition of International Women’s Day on 8 March, Chua shares her journey with Channel Asia, while offering career advice for aspiring female technology leaders in Singapore and the wider ASEAN market.
“I highly encourage aspiring women leaders to never stop learning by constantly seeking opportunities to upgrade their skills,” said Chua, when speaking to Channel Asia. “Engage in open conversations with mentors and always look out for avenues to step up and take on leadership positions.
“Do not shy away from being seen and heard for the good work you are doing. Lastly, always take feedback seriously to help employers know what they can do to help them succeed at work.”
During her tenure at HP, Chua has held roles in business development and channel marketing, as well as leading the Personal Systems team in Asia Pacific, which develops laptops, PCs and other consumer technology.
In a direct message to aspiring female leaders within the industry, Chua advocated the value of displaying confidence within an organisation, complemented by the ability to provide new ways to add value to the business.
“Always have confidence and look out for avenues to step up and show your value to the organisation,” she advised. “I am thankful to have had mentors who ensured I was able to follow this advice. It also helped to be in a diverse and inclusive environment where women can thrive in the workplace. All of these were significant in helping me reach where I am today."
Furthermore, Chua said the key attributes of a successful modern-day technology executive centre around perseverance, backed up by a mindset to constantly strive to be a better version of themselves.
“Up-skilling is of paramount importance in the industry given how fast it evolves,” she added. “It is necessary to continuously find avenues to up-skill and keep up with the latest technology trends. It also helps to understand the business from a local, regional and global lens, to value-add to the company’s growth.”
In assessing more than two decades of in-market experience, Chua cited “striking a good balance” between work and family as a leading career achievement.
“I understand the struggle working mothers face in having to care for their families while juggling work responsibilities,” she acknowledged. “Looking at my own career journey, I am grateful to have a supportive family who gave me the space I needed to excel at work.
“It was also heartening to have mentors and colleagues who are supportive of me as a working mother. This has made me more empathetic and resilient.”
Chua also oversees the vendor’s Business Impact Networks in Singapore, an internal initiative with the aim of building communities that can thrive in the company, while helping others advance careers.
“One of these is the Young Employee Network (YEN) that encourages younger employees to harness their creativity, develop a sense of belonging and work with the senior management to promote their ideas,” she explained.
Even though Chua held a business degree, she always maintained an early interest in the technology industry and its growth potential.
“I was fortunate to have supportive mentors and colleagues and opportunities to participate in various up-skilling programs in the company,” she recalled. “This helped me better understand and appreciate working in the industry.”
In reference to diversity in 2020, Chua said companies are now placing more emphasis on merit-based rewards and providing an equal playing field for women and men to rise up in leadership.
“This allows women to have more opportunity to take up positions where they can pioneer new technologies, effect change and impact communities that are close to their hearts,” she said.
“With more female technology leaders, we can gradually change the way people perceive the industry, dispel stereotypes, and thus, influence more women to pursue careers in tech. The younger generation will also have more female leaders they can look up to.”
On the flip side however, Chua acknowledged the continued struggles against existing gender biases, gender wage gaps and lack of career opportunities, still ranked as some of the critical challenges facing women in the industry.
“The longstanding stereotype that some roles are only applicable for men also places a glass ceiling on the roles that are open to women,” she added.
“Some women might hold back on taking up positions that allow them to stretch and grow due to concerns about juggling work and family responsibilities. That’s why it’s important to have strong diversity and inclusion initiatives, ensure diverse bench strength, and have allies that advocate for change.”
Specific to HP, Chua said the vendor has always viewed diversity and inclusion as key to the company’s people strategy, at local, regional and global levels.
“Aside from YEN, our Women Impact Network provides employees opportunities to advance their careers through regular skills building programs, networking, as well as mentoring from other global female leaders,” Chua added.
“We see value in nurturing relationships and promoting collaboration across our multi-generational workforce. In the long run, we want to advocate for more intergenerational learning through our business impact networks and reverse mentorship programs.”