SEMI is excited to recognize Amy Leong, Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President, Mergers and Acquisitions at FormFactor, as the SEMI Spotlight on Women Honoree for Q1 2020!
Spotlight on SEMI Women celebrates the many accomplished women who work in the global microelectronics industry. Nominees in the quarterly spotlight include women who are beacons of knowledge, leaders of organizations and initiatives, hidden heroes and innovators in our industry. They are volunteers, protectors, intellectual disruptors and activists. Learn how you can nominate a woman for Spotlight on SEMI Women.
An accomplished technology executive, Amy Leong has been an invaluable leader and role model at FormFactor for over a decade. During her tenure at Formfactor, Amy has led numerous successful new‐technology adoption and customer‐penetration initiatives that have helped drive FormFactor’s market share and profitability gains. Recently, she assumed oversight of the company’s M&A strategy and execution.
Amy is on the advisory board of the China International Semiconductor Executive Summit (CISES) and is a committee member for both the Semiconductor Wafer Test Workshop (SWTW) and the SEMI Industry Strategy Symposium (ISS) organizing group. Amy is an accomplished, engaging speaker and has presented at industry conferences and events. As a leader and role model, she shares her experiences and lessons as a successful technology executive, coaching peers and mentoring younger women to help overcome the challenges of building their careers in the semiconductor industry. Recently, Amy broadened these efforts by spearheading the formation of FormFactor’s b3.wn Women’s Network, a group of more than 120 FormFactor employees designed to gather and solidify the community of women at FormFactor.
SEMI sat down with Amy to get some insights into her success.
SEMI: Tell me about your background?
Leong: I was born and raised in Tianjin, China and came to United States with my family when I was 16 years old. I always liked math and science growing up, which led me to pursue an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering at UC Berkeley and then enter the semiconductor industry. My work inspired me and, with the support of my employer, I earned my masters in Material Science and Engineering at Stanford University.
SEMI: How did you get into the industry?
Leong: At the time of my graduation, I had been considering several career paths and industries that were open to me because of my degree. Several of my peers had already joined the semiconductor industry and told me about the amazing technology they were helping to build. Once I entered the industry, the more I worked, the more fascinated I became with the fast pace of technology and innovation. Every year there were new opportunities to innovate that came with their own exciting challenges and problems to solve. I’ve now been in the industry for 22 years and I still love what I do.
SEMI: Tell me about an accomplishment you are proud of?
Leong: I have been at FormFactor twice now for cumulatively over 15 years. During my current tenure of about 10 years I have worked under Mike Slessor, our CEO. What I am most proud of is my commitment to professional growth by taking on new challenges. During my time at FormFactor I have jumped on opportunities to help solve challenges in different areas of the organization. Because I pushed myself into these new challenges and experiences, I have become a versatile leader with expertise in multiple areas within the business. I remember I started in product marketing, but when a sales account manager left a need in the business, I stepped in to help the customer and found my hidden talent of customer engagement and relationship building. When we urgently needed a new supplier for product development, I drove the supplier qualification and ramp up, and learned many aspects in operations.
Of course without Mike allowing and encouraging me to stretch my skills in different directions, I would not be who I am today.
SEMI: Is this strategy how you ended up in the M&A space for FormFactor?
Leong: My role now happened through a combination of organic and planned career opportunities. M&A is a key component of the FormFactor growth strategy. When Mike needed help in the new space, I was able to volunteer, and relied on the knowledge and support of our board members and our executive team in order to meaningfully contribute to our M&A strategies and execution
My mentality is to always get out of my own comfort zones. If you try and fail, so what? You learn, and you improve from your setbacks. But unless you try you will never know.
SEMI: You have done so much for women in the industry and at FormFactor. What drives you to do this work?
Leong: There are two primary driving moments in recent years that pushed me to step up.
When Ajit Manocha joined SEMI, he started raising awareness of the importance of female leaders in tackling the industry’s challenges. While I had industry visibility, I wasn’t aware that the number of women in technology shrinks alarmingly the higher up the chain of command you look. My optimistic view is that we have a nearly balanced talent pipeline at the entry-levels, and there is great opportunity for the industry to take action and change the disheartening decline in female representation by mid-career.
The second moment was a personal experience. In 2015, Formfactor hired our first woman board of director Kelley Steven-Waiss. (We now have three women board members.) Having Kelley on the board and leaning on her experience when I needed guidance showed me the power of having a mentor and a role model. Having somebody there as a sounding board was extremely helpful, and this triggered me to learn more about women leadership in technology and led me to want to do more for other women who were earlier in their career.
SEMI’s influence was one of the major turning points in our industry and created a clarity that was not present by putting data in front of leaders for a powerful impact.
SEMI: Tell be about the process of building the network of women at FormFactor?
Leong: FormFactor’s women network grew mostly through a grassroots approach. A year ago, during a QBR (Quarterly Business Review) week, I had an opportunity to get together with a group of FormFactor female sales leaders. We had a wonderful evening together, shared our experiences and learned from each other. Our conversation left an impression on us, and we decided to start a women’s networking group at FormFactor so that more women can join the conversation. We named it b3.wn – Beautiful (be confident in ourselves and kind to others) Brilliant (make smart decisions) Bold (be fearless) Women Network. These three B words are the empowering characteristics of modern women to achieve our highest happiness potential at work, home and society.
We had a modest goal for the group: Provide an informal venue for employees to engage, support and learn from each other. Little did we anticipate how quickly it would gather steam. Before long, we took the initiative on the road and hosted several events at our California and Oregon sites, featuring themes that ranged from women leadership panel discussion, to FormFactor executive chats on strategies to improve work and life balance and master effective business communications. One year later we now have over 120 members.
This year we are going to expand the program into Asia and Germany as well! Global expansion is an exciting step and we are getting strong support from global sites. I think people are seeing the benefits of knowing there are colleagues or friends out there that share the same sets of work life challenges and you can seek support and help from each other.
We need to be the change we want to see. I hope more of us can help support women in tech and create a more inclusive work environment at your company.
SEMI: What advice would you give to people looking to grow their careers?
Leong: Fearlessly step out of your comfort zone. When you are far outside your element, you can discover the new skills and strengths that you didn’t know existed before. It’s a super fun adventure, but you need to expect and embrace the failures that may come along the way, learn from them, and keep going. By continuously pushing the boundaries of our comfort zone, we can expand our horizon beyond what we once thought was possible.
Cristina Sandoval is manager of Workforce Development at SEMI.