Like most career women, balancing work and family life is a juggling act, leaving precious little time for hobbies. However, I’ve recently acquired quite a knack for managing NFL fantasy football teams. Despite being a first-time fantasy football manager and the only woman on the team, I was thrilled to win the championship at my workplace! In fantasy football, we assemble a virtual team of players and, hopefully, they score for you in the real-life game. Building our professional network is analogous to the game — picking the right players really matters. And it matters even more when the game being played is your career.
Earlier this month I was honored to be on the Women in Semiconductors (WiS) Panel Discussion held during the Advanced Semiconductor Manufacturing Conference (ASMC) organized by SEMI. Now in its 4th year, more than 140 attendees were at this event, up from about 60 attendees four years ago. Titled “Building Your Network—Crucial Connections,” the panel explored the vital role networking plays in the success of women throughout various stages of their careers, as they pursue opportunities and overcome challenges.
For my segment of the panel discussion, I highlighted the importance of leveraging relationships as we invest in building a professional network. A professional network is a mutually beneficial relationship: “You help me, and I help you.” It is win-win horse trading. The professional relationship can have a dimension of personal friendship. However, the main intention of the relationship is to create more opportunities for one another. Ultimately, the broader the network, the more beneficial to everybody.
While building our professional network, we need to be smart about return-on-investment (ROI) between building performance achievement and building a relationship network. Early on in your career, spend more time and efforts on delivering performance above expectation. This gets you noticed and helps cement your reputation as a stellar and valuable performer. It helps you get raises and promotions. It will also attract a sponsor.
However, as your seniority increases, relationships become more valuable to women who want to climb the corporate ladder. People already know that you get to the senior level because you are a phenomenal performer, and they expect nothing less. So, it is vital to spend almost a disproportionate effort on building relationships that will get you visibility outside your department, at senior management levels, and across the semiconductor industry. An illustrative example of the value shift between performance and professional relationships at various stages of one’s career is shown in the following graph.
I believe, in general, that women are very talented in forming and sustaining relationships. It’s up to us smartly leverage it for our own fulfillment and success. A mutually beneficial relationship is good for you, and it’s good for others. A rising tide will lift all boats. ~ A. Leong
Editor’s Note: For more on the WiS conference, read what Cristina Chu, ASM-NEXX shared here on LinkedIn.