People ProfilesJanuary 22, 2024

What it takes to drive progress: Tips from a business leader

Learn how Josephine Ong forged a career as an executive, making an impact.
Avatar Dassault Systèmes

Josephine Ong is a leader. Having dedicated her career for the last 20 years to helping businesses create value through programs, expansion and marketing, she has the resume to prove it, too.

Ong is a Managing Director at Dassault Systèmes, spearheading critical efforts across geographies ranging from Australia to New Zealand to Southeast Asia. Ong helps Dassault Systèmes break into developing markets, creating opportunities for sustainable growth for the countries and the businesses within them. Ong spends much of her time leading all kinds of operations at Dassault Systèmes that range from meeting with government leaders to sales and marketing to legal and even human resources.

Recently, Ong opened up about her journey, leadership goals, and what it means to be a woman at the forefront of innovation and progress.  

Question: When you started your career in marketing, fresh out of college, over 20 years ago, did you think you would ever become an executive at a company as big and as prominent as Dassault Systèmes?

Answer: I don’t think there was any conscious effort of how I would move into management. I focused more about taking on more responsibilities and being given the opportunity to be exposed to different business functions. You have to know a little bit about everything and slowly prove to others what you know too. It’s been a challenging but rewarding experience working in so many facets of my past organizations.

Q: Can you talk about your experience being a leader at such a large organization?

A: As a managing director, there is an expectation that you’re leading not just the team but also the growth of the business. So obviously, there is a certain amount of pressure. It’s not just about the business doing well; there’s also this thought at the back of my mind about the people who work here, they have to feel fulfilled, and they have to feel like they want to continue growing with the company. So, I endeavor to also set the right environment and culture for everyone. As a leader, particularly in a big organization, you can’t lose sight of how critical it is to make sure your teams feel valued and heard.

Q: When the going gets tough, how do you stay organized, focused and level headed as a leader?

A: Tangibly? It’s a to-do list. It’s all about having the urgent things that need to be done today all in one place. What can I do at this hour? That’s something very tangible for me. However, it’s the broader picture that matters just as much too, especially when you are a leader. How are the sales teams doing? Is there something that could be a stumbling block interfering with new business? Are there gaps within processes amongst teams? I’m continuously cycling back and forth at the back of my mind to ensure I don’t miss anything. You need to be thinking about a lot of things all at once.

Q: So, what’s your secret? What makes you, you? What qualities give you an edge?

A: I definitely have a stubborn streak because I want to prove that I’m better than I was before, and I think that has helped me immensely. I’m also very competitive, and I don’t like to lose. This definitely pushes me because I want to be the one to build the winning team and be a part of it, and I think, ultimately, I am a better leader for it.

Q: To you, what makes a good leader? Are there any specific traits of female leaders that you’ve had that come to mind that still inspire you today?

A: I feel that the hallmark of a great leader is when the team and the business can function independently even when the leader is not around—it means sustainability in the business. The female figureheads that I knew left a deep impression at the beginning of my career—being able to speak up and be confident, especially in a male-dominated environment. You simply cannot let the fear of speaking up keep you from doing so.

Q: There’s no shying around the fact that you work in a male-dominated field. How do you remain confident when others doubt your abilities as a manager?

A: With my first female leader, it was very, very tough for her to survive because she had to bring new business ideas to the table in a male-dominated workplace. I always saw her being able to hold her head up high in the boardroom and explain her ideas. She was always able to present herself with a lot of confidence. And even when ideas failed, she was able to remain factual when she reported about them. I still carry this experience with me and try to do the same thing.

Q: How do you think about helping the next generation of leaders? How should other leaders be thinking about it?

A: I want to be proven wrong, because when I’m proven wrong, it means that my team has the capacity to think for themselves and the business, which is excellent. I was taught this is the legacy of a great leader because it can’t just be one person that upholds the business. It’s got to be a team effort. Everyone has to want to contribute to the company. I hope to pass this on to those I lead too. I make sure that even within the management team, it doesn’t matter whether they are female or male; everyone needs to be able to feel safe enough to speak up, ask questions, and share their thoughts. We’re all learning together. Everything we do matters, but how we treat others has a lasting impact too.

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