Wind River is a global leader in delivering software for the intelligent edge. For nearly four decades, the company has helped the world’s leading technology enterprises power the safest and the most secure devices in the world.
Wind River continues to lead the way in this new era of autonomy and connectivity. The company’s software runs the “can’t fail” computing systems of the most important modern infrastructure, and is accelerating the evolution from automated to autonomous systems across a diverse range of use cases from collaborative robots to commercial and military drones, connected cars to the connected factory floor as well as the intelligent communication networks that support these applications. As Wind River enters its next phase of growth, its DNA is poised to accelerate the digital transformation of the customers in a data-driven, AI-first world.
A Responsible Leadership Dedicated to Human Resource
Terese is the Chief People Officer for Wind River. She is also a member of the Executive Leadership Team, responsible for the company’s global HR function. Terese considers herself fortunate in her journey to hold various HR leadership roles, including learning and development, talent management, HR business partner at site, country, region and global levels. The diversity in her roles and geographies has enhanced her learning agility and perspective of the world, which is why she is such a strong advocate of career mobility.
Terese was born in Vietnam and migrated to Australia with her family when she was two years old. Terese is the eldest of four and has graduated with a Bachelor of Business degree majoring in HR and a Masters in HR and Training. She started the first half of her career into human resources in Australia. The second half of her 21 years of professional experience was gained in both large multinational and medium-sized high-growth organizations across the globe. Terese has lived in Singapore, UK, France, and now has been residing in the Bay Area, US for almost 5 years. Along her career journey, Terese has started a few businesses, sold them but has always gravitated back to human resources since she loves the complexity of HR making an impact at both a business and human level.
Driving a Strategic Change with a Reputation for Achieving Results
Terese has faced many highs and lows throughout her career journey. These combined experiences, both achievements and failures have shaped the person she is today. Her moral compass has guided her through thick and thin, and Terese truly believes that things happen for a reason, therefore she continuously looks for learnings in every experience and challenge to do better and be better.
Terese did not grow up in a family that had abundances. Her parents worked very hard and made sacrifices to send her to a private all-girl school to enable a bright future. This has certainly made her appreciate opportunities and persevere in challenging times.
Although most of Terese’s career has been in human resources, she has always been interested in how companies operate and businesses are developed. During her 21 year plus professional career, Terese has built several businesses from scratch, enabling her to gain an intimate understanding of the workings of a business, securing customers, and what it means to manage finances. This has truly shaped her as an HR executive to be able to lead from both a business and people perspective.
Terese’s multinational experiences living and working in Australia, Asia, Europe, and now in the US have also been invaluable. Although with an Asian ethnicity, Terese grew up in Australia so her cultural background is a blend of the two, and being abroad for the last 11 years, Terese considers herself as a true global citizen with a great appreciation of every culture and way of life. This has helped her to imbibe diversity and inclusion working for a global company like Wind River.
Relishing Challenges to Drive the Company’s Vision
Early in her career, Terese was a practitioner who was relentless on results and getting things done to achieve impact. She learned early on the hard way that transitioning from an individual contributor to a manager of a team requires a mindset shift towards developing, empowering, coaching and mentoring others, as opposed to just directing and/or doing everything by self. As a leader, she asserts that it is critical to build and nurture a great team who can share in the same vision, aspirations and purpose. Success is determined by the people one has on their team and the influence one has on those who are not. This is certainly important in HR where the accountability is shared with other leaders when it comes to people-related topics such as culture, diversity, and engagement.
Another challenge Terese faced early on was starting her career in predominately male industries. Although women account for 50% of the workforce, for most of her career, she has worked in male dominated industries/companies where on an average 20% of women were represented, and even less at the executive levels (5-11%). Terese started her HR career straight out of university and supported/provided advice to mainly male managers from the onset. She quickly learned that she had to stand up for what she believed in and have/maintain a strong voice when she was the only woman in the room. Terese has worked extra hard to deliver results in order to gain respect and be heard. Throughout her career, she has been very fortunate to have executives who believed in her and supported her growth.
Terese believes that one should seek out mentors and supporters in their career, especially early on.
Embracing a Transformational Leader Mindset
Terese believes that ‘driving transformation’ should be part of every leader’s success toolbox. According to McKinsey and Company, 70% of all transformation efforts fail and why is this? Most often, transformations fail not because the solution was not the right one, but because the leaders have not brought the teams along the journey with them.
A vital component of any transformation is that it involves people, which requires winning hearts and minds. This means a leader needs to be able to listen, collaborate and involve others in the transformation journey. There are a number of key attributes that every transformation leader needs to possess to increase the chances of success. It first starts with the leader embracing a growth mindset.
Every transformation is different with their own strategies. Therefore, approaching every transformation opportunity with curiosity and a thirst for learning and listening to others is paramount. “Communication, communication, communication is imperative during any transformation efforts. Starting with articulating the why and painting a picture of the future vs. where things are today. Regular communication and keeping people updated on progress, even when one does not have all the answers is key to keeping the momentum going”, she adds.
Driving transformative outcomes requires a leader who is great at driving flawless execution as much as they are a visionary and an innovator. The ability to zoom in and out and oscillate between the bigger picture and the minutiae is critical. This involves being able to translate broad strategies into clear, specific objectives, plans, as well as postulating between digging into the details and then how it relates to the bigger picture.
Incorporating Innovation Principles
Incorporating design thinking principles and agile approaches to drive innovation in products/solutions regardless of whether it is applied to HR programs, business products, or solutions is vital according to Terese. This involves listening to and understanding the customers (both internal and external), their problems and balancing between creating the need and addressing that need in an iterative cycle. At times, the customers don’t know what they don’t know and the leader needs to show them the way. That’s why when it comes to innovation, understanding their challenges and desired outcomes first is imperative.
Towards Faster and Dynamic Technological Advances
Addressing the cause of disruptive technological advances, Terese says that ‘as the world is getting smaller, our lives are becoming more and more complex, faster and dynamic with the aid of technological advances. Digital transformation is accelerating this revolution across all industries. We are seeing the rapid rise of new digital-native companies that have disrupted traditional business models and destabilized established players and industry sectors.’ She concludes by saying that according to Forbes and Inc.Digital just 28% of organizations are currently succeeding in their digital transformation journeys.
The advent of advanced technologies such as 5G networks, cloud computing, Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence (AI)/ Machine Learning have augmented how company products are being innovated, how operations and the customer experience can be improved. These technologies are being used to create a new generation of AI-infused use cases. AI is also fundamentally changing every company, every industry, and every economy, as well as the society. The rapid adoption of AI, along with edge computing with the onset of 5G, has enabled and accelerated exciting new experiences across one’s lives with autonomous vehicles, smart medical devices, drones, robotics, industrial automation systems, augmented reality headsets, intelligent assistants, and human augmentation.
Today’s C-suite is investing in the latest technology, and the COVID-19 pandemic is an accelerant that is pushing even the most reluctant businesses into hyper-digital mode. Leaders who embrace the latest digital technologies to innovate, make business decisions with data analytics, improve operational efficiencies powered by AI automation, improve customer experiences that are digital, personalized and contextualized, have shown to be more successful in staying ahead of the game and often experience more than double the revenue growth.
Riding the Future Wave of Digital Transformation
Looking ahead, the next wave of digital transformation is forecast to be in the Operational Technology (OT) domain in an AI-first world. In this AI-first world, we will continue to see the rapid rise of new digitally native businesses that are disrupting business models and destabilizing established companies and industry sectors. Traditional companies are understanding that to realize their future of transforming into digital platforms, they need to embrace software, data, and AI as value drivers for their business, transform their products and optimize their operations.
As Wind River enters its next phase of growth, it will be at the center of this AI-first world playing a leadership role with its software for the intelligent edge. With its proven expertise, it will help its customers on their digital transformation journey where AI enables them to solve the world’s hardest problems.
Becoming a Strong Woman Leader
There are a few areas of advice Terese would like to share for emerging women leaders. First, machines are becoming smarter and more humanistic; having surpassed humans in terms of learning, speed and power. What differentiates humans from machines remain their people skills, EQ and soft skills. Building both business acumen and honing on the soft skills, people skills, and empathy are essential as these are the superpowers needed today and well into the future.
Secondly, emerging women leaders must approach every challenge and opportunity with a growth mindset for continuous learning and development. Asking for feedback is part of practicing a growth mindset as more is learnt about oneself through others, which helps us to become better and do better.
Lastly, budding women leaders must always believe in themselves while remaining humble and exude confidence, but not arrogance. These approaches will help them to have a voice, stand up for what they believe in, take risks and challenges as a strong woman leader.