Christina Huang of Schneider Electric Discusses Success, Mentorship, and Promoting Women in STEM: Part One

EIN Christina Schneider 400

Feb 12, 2020

Christina Huang, Senior Contracts Manager for Schneider Electric, was born in Beijing, China and emigrated to Montreal as she was entering high school. She has an Electrical Engineering degree with a minor in Management from McGill University as well as a Nuclear Technology Graduate Diploma from McMaster.

Christina has a wide range of technical experience defined by a penchant to take on new challenges. Her commitment to life-long learning and skill acquisition has contributed greatly to her career success. A professional outlook that is informed by her equally eclectic personal experience. She has an enlightened approach to work as well as life, one that is constantly evolving.

In the interview below, Christina goes in depth on what has contributed to her success, as well as providing some interesting insight into her role with the WiSE (Women in Schneider Electric) program. She has demonstrated a dedication to improving the industry in which she works by promoting and actively supporting women in STEM, as well as making herself available as a mentor. Particularly for other women in her industry. 

With respect to yourself, what has been key to your success? Have there been any pivotal learning experiences that have contributed to your ability to get as far as you have?

I view life as a journey and my life’s purpose evolves as I go through small wins and losses. It’s an evolution, and life-long learning.  

A key success factor for me has been continuous education to understand as many details as possible to excel in my job. As work is always fast-paced, further education equipped me with the toolkit to discuss work matters swiftly and intelligently. Schneider Electric has supported me in completing my master’s degree in construction law and arbitration, which has further allowed me to hone my contracts and negotiation skills.

Coincidentally, I am also in the process of reading a book called Pivot by Jenny Blake. I’ve had a few pivotal experiences that I can share and have helped anchor my personality. The first one was joining my volleyball club when I was 17, which taught me perseverance, teamwork and the value of a support system in life. Untill today, whenever I am in the situations of self-doubt, I can still hear my first volleyball coach and mentor telling me in encouraging tone “Never say you can’t until you practiced the drill at least 100 times. But I know you can, and you will master the skills!” Secondly, it was moving from Montreal to Toronto shortly after university which taught me new independences while learning in my new technical role. Thirdly, it was my work experience on construction sites, where I learned the true meaning of camaraderie and construction site “survival” skills such as being highly disciplined and adapting quickly to fluid working and living conditions. Lastly, it was my recent experience of having a child. My son motivates me to improve myself, to be a better-rounded person and strive to be more impactful in what I do so that hopefully he will see me as a role model in his life. 

Each pivotal experience allows me to re-assess myself and understand my strengths and weaknesses at these junctions with the goal of bettering myself thereafter. I think no matter what age or experience level, we can always learn and grow as a person if we are open to it. 

Can you explain to me a bit about what your role as Women Community Awareness Chair entails?

Women in Schneider Electric (WiSE) is one of the Company’s most engaged Employee Resource Groups. WiSE aims to create an interactive community for development and support of the women at Schneider Electric by building a culture of gender diversity and inclusion. The employee-led group empowers women in aspiring leadership roles, provides training around topics critical to career success, facilitates the development and retention of women through mentoring and coaching, work directly with schools at all levels/youth programs/professional networks to lay the foundation for future success, and finally, creating networking opportunities for Schneider Electric employees to connect with each other.

WiSE has four main pillars: Awareness, Business Impact, Community and Development. As the Chair of the Awareness Pillar, I aim to raise awareness of the barriers to diversity and inclusivity, how to overcome those barriers, switching the narrative so it can become an ally. Another key initiative I am proud of is the driving internal policy changes to promote the retention of women, such as offering a top-up maternity program and designated parking for pregnant women.

What are some of the things that can be done to address and promote gender diversity in the industry?

Our Diversity & Inclusion ambition is to provide equal opportunities to everyone everywhere and to ensure all employees feel uniquely valued and safe to contribute their best. The WiSE group helps to achieve this ambition externally and internally through multiple initiatives:

  • University Events: Partners with “Women in Engineering” groups at universities across Canada to hold sessions with women leaders from Schneider Electric to inspire more women in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) industries. 
  • WiSE book club: Helps Schneider employees with professional and personal development and growth, building a community/network within the organization that aids in team building. 
  • Workshops: WiSE hosts multiple workshops throughout the year to provide professional and personal development. The workshops are facilitated by both internal and external groups.
  • Clothing Drive: WiSE works on ways to provide women without the financial means attire for interviews or working in a professional environment.
  • International Women’s Day: Every year, Schneider Electric hosts an International Women’s Day event.

I am happy to share that as a result of the initiatives driven by WiSE, Schneider has received multiple Diversity & Inclusion and top employer recognitions:

  • Diversity & Inclusion Award from France Canada Chamber of Commerce (ON)
  • Parity Certification from Women in Governance
  • Canada’s Top 100 Employers (2019)
  • Canada’s Top 100 Employers for Young People (2019)

Are there any industry trends in this space that are encouraging?

As a female in a historically male dominated industry, it is very encouraging to see that more females are choosing to pursue a career in STEM. When I was an undergraduate in engineering, females were a significant minority representing around 20% of the constituents.  Now, I can see that Schneider Electric’s new graduate rotational program has female representation accounting for roughly 64%. It is also wonderful to witness more females entering leadership roles at Schneider Electric in recent years.  Finally, I have observed more organizations adopting better workplace practices and policies that drive a more inclusive and positive work environment.

Have you had any mentor-type figures that helped you throughout your career, or have you been a mentor, yourself?

I have been lucky to have open-minded and supportive mentors throughout my career. My first mentor hired me because I had an engineering mindset and the ability to quickly and easily learn commercial principles to handle contract review and negotiations. Throughout my career, I was fortunate to be mentored by leaders with strong project and construction experience who shared their view of industry philosophy, and project processes and nuances.  Through discussions with my mentors, I was able to understand how to seize opportunities and plan for a progressive and fulfilling career in my field.

In my current position, I am also mentoring others in hopes to give back to the industry. I hope others can benefit from my knowledge and experience in the ways others have helped me previously. 

What is the importance of that dynamic, in your opinion?

Mentorship allows people to gain insights based on the real-world experience of others, prepare themselves for the future, and identify the right moment to “pivot.” I am a big believer in mentorship and hope to see more women-women mentorship going forward.

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