- Job title: Vice President and General Manager, VMware Greater China Region
- Base of operations: Beijing, China
- Typical weekend: I have two kids―a 12-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter. They play tennis, so I am usually taking them to practice over the weekend and spending time on the court with them.
- Favorite holiday destination: I love the beach! A few years ago, I traveled to Brazil and enjoyed the beaches in the country.
Bessie Yuan, you are responsible for VMware's business in Greater China. How did your career path lead you to such wide responsibility?
I didn’t grow up with a dream to be in technology. I wanted to be in the airline industry so I could travel and see the world. But I listened to my parents who wanted me to study computer science and then I did my master’s in economics. At the time that I graduated, I didn’t come across a job opportunity in economics that made me excited, so I had to switch back to computer science.
I started my career as a trainee at Oracle then worked for several multinational companies. Most recently, I was general manager of the Enterprise Commercial Group for Microsoft China. I think one important thing that enabled me to take my current VMware position is that all along my career path, I accessed opportunities that allowed me to gain experience through increased responsibilities.
Forbes China recently named you as one of the Top 100 Outstanding Businesswomen in China. That’s a wonderful way to be recognized for your contribution. Would you say your success derives from some mission you have?
I don’t call it a mission, but I’m passionate about helping other women in the technology industry and beyond this industry, as well. I want to be the person who can really contribute and give back to the community. And I want to see other women succeed and emerge as leaders.
Your answer aligns to the International Women's Day global theme, “Break the Bias.” How do you knowingly or unknowingly break the bias?
I was fortunate in that I worked for companies with very good cultures that respect diversity. While I personally didn’t experience any bias, I see many opportunities across the board where there are very few or even no women leaders at senior board member levels. So that’s part of my passion―to influence the local companies and promote women leadership development. I want to support other women entering technology and in the workforce. And in my role, I see an incredible opportunity to influence our partners and customers to promote greater diversity, equity and inclusion in the industry.
Another important way I provide influence is with my own children. Your children are the closest people you can influence, and you must lead by example. I strive to be a mother my children can be proud of.
Speaking of leading by example, is there a mentor or someone in your life whom you’ve admired and has inspired you?
A lot of people have helped me, and I have learned different things from each one. As an example, I learned a lot from Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, and I am inspired by Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla. Actually, so many people have inspired me and shaped who I am. I couldn’t name them all! However, I do want to mention a manager I had about 15 to 20 years ago.
This manager saw my potential. He told me that if I want to lead a company, I’d need to get more customer-facing experience in sales. At that time in my life, I thought of myself as someone that is just good at working with computers and coding. I didn’t value sales as a career path, so I didn’t want to try it. But when I did try it, I realized that sales is not the simple job that I thought it was. It’s an incredibly discerning role that requires heightened awareness and empathy for your customer.
This is such an exciting time to be at VMware because there’s so much transformation going on. You joined the company late last year, so what motivated you to join VMware?
Honestly, it was the role and the opportunity to lead the business in the region. When Duncan Hewett (erstwhile leader for VMware in Asia Pacific and Japan) talked to me about this role, I realized I could really make things happen because I know this local market and I’ve got solid experience. I also wanted this role because of the way it has been set up. I feel that I can make a large impact and I can realize my potential.
As I shared when I was hired, I look forward to leading this incredible team to accelerate the further development of the Greater China business. I want to do that by injecting an innovative drive into the digital transformation process of more companies.
I also want to say that I’ve been hired for my potential, and this is a great practice that’s important for women. Hiring to potential enlarges the opportunities for women leaders in the corporate world. And my advice to women would be, don’t limit your imagination, even if something may be beyond your current capability. The format of an enterprise is continually changing so the relationship between an employer and an employee will evolve and perhaps become more flexible than what it is today. My general advice to women is just don’t limit your imagination or creativity.