Jabil’s global CIO breaks the glass ceiling and inspires other women to do so

As a leader who holds D&I close to her heart, May Yap, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Jabil is proud to encourage open dialogue and help women in the workforce realize their potential. .

May Yap, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer (CIO), Jabilis a source of inspiration for the company’s female employees.

Considered Jabil’s most visible female leader, she was honored as IDC’s first Asia-Pacific CIO of the Year at the Future Enterprise Awards (FE) – a regional recognition that precedes the CIO award from the Year in Singapore she received in September 2021, which celebrates outstanding industry professionals who have significantly disrupted or transformed the market using digital technologies.

To add another feather to his hat, Yap is also honored on Forbes’ inaugural CIO Next list as one of the 50 Innovative Technology Leaders, which recognizes his use of artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics. to improve operations and productivity to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, in a period that has seen many CIOs having to adjust or augment existing digital transformation strategies.

As a leader who cares about diversity and inclusion, Yap prides herself on being an active speaker who encourages open dialogue within the workforce and helps women in the workforce realize their potential.

In this edition of Breaking Barriers, let’s hear all about Yap’s growth and experience as a leader and professional in the industry, and the lessons she learned along the way.

Q As a global CIO, what are your priorities for operating sites in Asia and the US, and how does this relate to the HR agenda? Do you work with the CHRO to deploy them?

For a global manufacturing solutions provider like Jabil, with approximately 260,000 employees across 100 sites in 30 countries, our success and business resilience starts with our people.

Our business is diverse and complex. We offer industry-specific design, manufacturing and supply chain engineering services for the healthcare, defense, computing, storage, networking, electronics manufacturing and consumption, as well as materials technology services, to name a few.

We intentionally place talent/people as a critical pillar of our overall IT strategy, ensuring that the diversity of our team members enables us to foster innovation, advance ideas and offer new perspectives that create real business impact and resilience.

I believe there are three fundamental principles to empowering an effective workforce:

First of all, mindset and behaviors: Within our global IT team of some 1,700 people, we are guided by our 5C principles:

  • Be customer orientedestablish a community of practice, communicate effectivelyhave courage and maintain conformity.

Secondly, sustainability: From talent strategy to the adoption of cutting-edge strategic technologies to the development of advanced technical skill sets, we have shifted our role from traditional IT provider to enabler and strategic partner to leadership, creating new value and competitive differentiation for Jabil and our customers.

Thirdly, fair workplace: We have developed several key talent-based initiatives, such as our Early Career Talent program, Global Talent Transformation, Mentoring Women in Tech and Train for Hard-to-Acquire skills, which allow us to create an inclusive workforce and ready for the future.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also made us rethink the way work is done. We have enhanced human-machine collaboration capabilities, created new or upgraded skill sets and deployed hybrid working models to support an intelligent, dynamic and collaborative digital environment.

During this time, our employees have received training to take advantage of collaborative tools to work effectively around the world, including hosting regular virtual meetings and chats to compensate for the lack of in-person meetings.

As you can imagine, much of what we do involves people and we often work in partnership with our colleagues – including our CHRO – on how to improve productivity and collaboration across the company and how to get our employees to use IT tools in a smarter and more intuitive way. We also need to be mindful of the future of work, particularly the impact of emerging technologies and AI, demographic shifts in the workforce, and the creation of workplaces that inspire innovation. .

Q After starting your career in Singapore, you have since worked across China and currently in the United States (Florida). As a leader, what lessons have you learned about cross-cultural management?

When managing a multicultural global team, it is important to appreciate the notion of “culture” and its impact on the workforce; as well as developing global leaders who possess leadership traits that match the culture of the organization.

For example, there are key differences between Western and Eastern business ethics. In Eastern cultures, humility is considered an important virtue and employees tend to downplay their accomplishments, attributing success to a team and collective effort. Employees will not be too keen to self-promote their own abilities, but will wait for management to identify and arrange for career development or advancement opportunities.

In the West, humility can be seen as a sign of weakness. One is often evaluated on one’s own merit or individual performance and unique value proposition.

Within the hierarchy of work, Eastern ethics demand that rank-and-file employees know their place and abide by the unspoken rules that come with it. When engaged in casual conversations and even business discussions, these employees will be polite and indirect. Sometimes they find Western business communication too direct and aggressive. Another difference between Western and Eastern work ethics is the interpretation of power.

In the Eastern ethos, employees respect hierarchy and managers are much more directive compared to a Western culture that values ​​open discussion and partnership.

As global leaders, it is important to cultivate certain leadership traits, including self-discipline and motivation, the ability to accept and manage ambiguity, and interpersonal communication skills, including empathy, patience and good networking skills.

Q As a beneficiary of Jabil’s D&I program, what are the key learnings you would like to share with other women leaders looking to break the glass ceiling?

Prior to being promoted to CIO of Jabil, I was an active speaker on the company’s Jabil Joules program, an internal platform for creating open dialogue around diversity and inclusion through global educational forums, mentoring and community involvement activities. The program is open to all employees, men and women, and from those just starting their careers to senior managers.

Since the beginning of my career, I have tried to embrace all genders, personalities and ethnicities. For me, it is his ability that determines his future and his success. I’m also aware of the thin line between being assertive and being likeable.

Some decisions are difficult to make and are not always popular. But I discovered that an open dialogue is the best way to achieve a win-win situation and in doing so, I started speaking up and sharing my opinions, encouraging other female colleagues to do the same.

Supporting other female colleagues is close to my heart because I want to see more female leaders living up to their potential. As a working mother of three children, I understand how difficult it is to juggle a professional career and raising a family. To repay the kindness I have received throughout my career, I wanted to give back by supporting female colleagues who want to take that step forward and overcome the challenges that are holding them back.

Today, I mentor three other female leaders and always find time to have one-on-one meetings with my direct reports and host regular tea/coffee with small groups of my IT team members.

Q If there were three leaders you could have lunch with, who would you choose and why?

Although the following is not in any particular order, I would like to meet and spend time with these leaders:

Bill Gates – For all IT professionals, Bill is a legend and it will be a real honor to speak with him. Her leadership style of empowering people because individual perspectives create new opportunities to explore ideas really inspires and touches me. Many people follow him because they know he can turn them into better leaders.

Elon Musk – Elon Musk is bold and innovative, and sometimes a dreamer. He is able to enthuse people with his bold vision, plans and projects; but stay focused and committed to achieving those big, bold dreams. I think there are a lot of interesting ideas I can get from him.

Michelle Obama – Michelle is a true leader. The way she fights for issues that matter to the average family, community, and less privileged while remaining true to herself is impressive. She is a strong role model who will inspire women around the world today and for future generations.


In this series of interviews, titled Break down barriers, HR is for women leaders around the world who have made their mark and made their mark in the career of their choice, doing what they love most: living their passions and inspiring others to go further and faster. Read all of our Breaking Barriers interviews here.

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