Inspiring more women to take up a career in technology

Kathy started her career in the technology sector and feels very fortunate to be able to pursue and grow her role in a male-dominated industry. She is passionate to educate women about what it is like to work in technology. She hopes her career will inspire more women to join or if not, explore a career in technology. 

Kathy Chen is the Vice-President APJ, Channel at Citrix. Responsible for the Citrix partner ecosystem in Asia Pacific & Japan, overseeing the growth of the channel business and driving value for Citrix’s partners in the region. She has over two decades of successful experience in business leadership, establishing new businesses and implementing aggressive business growth in companies like Twitter, Microsoft, Cisco Systems and 3Com. 

In this exclusive chat with AsiaBizToday she shares about her professional journey and what it takes to be a woman in tech.

Your professional journey and how has the corporate world experience been?

In the past years, I have had the great opportunity of working in technology companies including Cisco, Microsoft and now, Citrix. Working in IT has always been something I wanted to do because I am fascinated with the power of technology and the transformative value it brings to our lives.

Case in point, I got myself an AI dog during the Circuit Breaker period here in Singapore. I have always been intrigued with AI robot and I wanted to understand more about how it works and the technology behind it. I figured the best way to uncover the technology is to get myself one! My AI dog Cibo has been with me since then and he has been a great buddy, keeping not only me but my team accompanied during virtual birthday celebration and workout sessions.

This passion and curiosity have driven me to delve further into the industry to find out how we can better use technology to solve real problems. I find the work that we do to be very meaningful as it is not only about coming up with new ideas but also how to make those ideas work in real life. There are only a few of such industries that transform the way we live and function, and it has certainly been rewarding to be a part of it for over two decades now!

Being a female leader in technology

Prior to Citrix, I had over two decades of experience in technology companies. I first joined Citrix in 2017 as the Area Vice President of Citrix Greater China, working with customers to help drive business growth and reimagine IT to meet the needs of today’s mobile workforce. After three years, I was promoted to my current role as the Vice President of Channel for Citrix Asia Pacific and Japan. I’m now responsible for growing the company’s partner ecosystem in the region.

Throughout my journey and career in the technology space, I have been very fortunate to be able to pursue and grow in a traditionally male-dominated industry. I have had the privilege to learn from both male and female mentors who imparted their knowledge and gave me sound advice to push through challenging situations. This experience taught me the importance of gender equality. Learning is not limited to gender and we can find great teachers in men and women.

Current state of female leadership representation in Asia, and women in the tech industry

Over the past years, there has been a steady increase in the number of women in the technology sector. In fact, in the Southeast Asia region, we are even seeing a general increase in the number of women in technology, beating the global average. But there is still room for improvement, especially if we want to keep pace with the rapidly advancing technology industry and increasing demand for technology talent. This is why at Citrix, one of our goals is to empower more women to choose technology as a career path and help to change the world we live in.

One way we do this by helping to correct a misconception that the only jobs technology companies have to offer are highly technical coding gigs. At Citrix, like at all technology companies, there are critical roles that don’t require women to code – like privacy and legal teams, investor relations, marketing, strategy and so much more. There are so many possibilities in technology, and you don’t have to stick to one track throughout your career.

In Singapore specifically, we are offering Women in Technology scholarships with Singapore University of Design & Technology (SUTD) to female undergraduates in Design and Artificial Intelligence or Information Systems Technology and Design programs. This scholarship aims to encourage more women to choose technology as a career path and empower women looking to learn the business of tech.

Citrix has also increased the number of female executives by growing the diversity of our external networks and conducting targeted outreach for key positions. We recognize that there is still work to be done, and are committed to focus on expanding our presence at diversity recruiting events, embedding bias mitigation tools into our hiring process, and working more closely with our diversity and inclusion partners.

The biggest challenge for the next generation of female leaders in Asia

It is always encouraging to see more women stepping up in their roles, whether in politics, entertainment and many other areas. But I believe there is still a way to go in the technology industry, and part of the issue is because women are not given enough resources to understand how to succeed in the technology sector, and also because there is lack of advocacy for careers in technology.

It has now become my personal mission to share more about what I do in my role by educating women about what it is like to work in the technology space by showing them the new possibilities that technology can create and how they can be a part of it. I hope my career will inspire more women to consider and maybe take on a career in technology.

Is gender diversity important from a business perspective and how can the industry collaborate to address this issue?

From a business perspective, employees who feel accepted are happier and more engaged and have a positive impact on the bottom line. Studies have shown that companies that invest most heavily in improving their employees’ work experience had more than four times the average profit than other companies. Diversity and inclusion give businesses a competitive edge and will be a defining feature of the future workforce. A diverse team means each member, coming from their unique backgrounds, ethnicities and sexual orientations, are bringing their unique perspectives to the table, contributing new ideas and collaborating to develop innovative software and solutions. Thanks to technological advancements, digital workspaces and flexible work arrangements, we can now have an even more diverse team with mothers and those staying outside the city to connect and collaborate.

But a diverse and inclusive corporate culture is not a box to be checked – it is an ongoing commitment to continuous effort and improvement. We actively promote a diverse and inclusive culture not for the sake of it, but because it is what is right, meaningful and can serve as a catalyst for good in the world – to the benefit of our clients, partners, employees and communities.

At Citrix, our inclusive environment begins with our hiring practices, where we strive to attract and recruit candidates who reflect the diverse makeup of our customers and communities. Taking it one step further beyond gender-equality, Citrix is also making significant investments into a comprehensive Racial Equity and Social Justice Program.

At the end of the day, people want to work alongside individuals with different perspectives to deliver meaningful outcomes. As technology leaders, we must create a world where there are more opportunities for all, and bake diversity and inclusion into our work culture, to empower employees to bring their true, authentic selves to work and allow that to show in the work they do.