Leading Female Asian IT Project Manager Busts The Myth That It’s Not A Woman’s Job

Categories: Workplace

For decades, careers in the IT industry may not have been so welcoming to women but a female IT manager in Singapore tells us her story of how she thrives in a male-dominated workplace.

When Annie Chong started work at a global mega pharmaceutical company more than 20 years ago, she was one of the first female Asian IT managers in her company. Back then, she was eagerly seeking out senior female professionals to help her grow in her career. Today, she is a mentor for many other women.

Thriving in a male-dominated environment

Being a woman professional in any domain is not an easy task. We continue to live in a patriarchal world where women have to work doubly hard to prove their worth and skill. Phrases like “too strong” and “too assertive” remain as common, yet misplaced nomenclatures.

It takes a lot of courage and drive to power through this type of environment amidst all the negative chatter and presumptions, and Annie is one example of a female professional who displayed such resilience.

To rise above the situation and look beyond requires a calm and solution-focused mindset. Annie recalls an incident where she salvaged a detrimental work situation by finding a solution rather than focusing on the problem at hand, which involved different working styles, workplace bias and remote working. 

She realized the only way to earn trust and be respected for the value she brings is by pivoting the problem on its head and rising above it. When this is backed by skill and experience, success will follow naturally. In this particular example, she constructively drew up and presented a plan to help her management, stakeholders and team visualize her vision for the project.

From that day forward, everyone on the team was on the same page. By the end of the project, she reached out to one of the sponsors for his appraisal of her performance. Not only did Annie manage to change his perception of her, but she also gained a higher sense of respect and trust from him.

Building a career focused on change

Annie strongly believes that we should not “sit down and wait for the opportunities to come”. 

“Get up and break those barriers,” she said. “There is no point to just sit there with a victim mindset but better off to take the opportunity to change the situation instead.”

Annie’s challenge to women in male-dominated industries is to be bold, stand up for themselves and spend time building credibility at their workplaces. Authentic leadership beckons us to do this by collaborating, helping, and sharing our experiences with others.

Today, Annie is a member of the Women in Project Management (PM), which is a sub-group of the Singapore Project Management Institute. This group aims to lead and empower the community to reinvent the stereotypical perception of women in PM roles. She is also the global lead for her company’s PM Community of Practice which aims to provide a platform for PM practitioners to network, learn and grow in their profession.

Her career has in recent years centred around organisation change management. Previously she was the regional Change Management lead for an enterprise-wide ERP system, and currently, she is the Asia Pacific Change Management lead for the company’s IT transformation efforts. 

Notably, she recently initiated the establishment of the Association for Change Management Professionals (ACMP) Singapore Chapter and is currently collaborating with a passionate team to launch this chapter this year. This association aims to advocate for the change management discipline and create a thriving change community in Singapore.

Annie has already delivered significant changes in her industry, championing diversity and inclusion at the same time. She is also a board member of the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) Singapore Chapter. 

Working on project management to unlock her success

As an industry veteran, Annie shared how important project management is to an organisation. In essence, project management ensures what is being planned and executed will deliver real business value and is sustainable in the long run. In fact, project management is a very transferable skill and could be applied anywhere, even in our own personal lives. 

Annie also offered her insights on how to become a successful project manager. When becoming a project manager, one has to…

  • Understand the intent “Why” and focus on value creation
  • Be resourceful and build purpose networks with others
  • Focus on the people – team members, sponsors, clients, stakeholders etc.
  • Practice authentic, conscious and servant leadership
  • Incorporate effective change management principles
  • Help others to succeed 

What’s the next generation of project management? 

Cut to 2022, things have changed tremendously as project teams are working remotely and globally, and have become more complex and demanding in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world.

Change is the only constant, and it seems so true for the project management industry. The project management landscape is changing rapidly with evolving technologies, tools, and the latest trends. 

In her current role as a female leader and strong advocate of IT women in power, Annie always puts her family as the top priority and encourages her employees to do the same. She also actively promotes the importance of mental wellbeing and building emotional connections at the workplace.

Through it all, Annie has held her own, remained calm in the face of adversity, and focused on creating positive change within and around the organisation and beyond.

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