Scarlett as 2022 Taipei Women In Tech Honoree, is a global team builder, visionary leader in Tech/IT industry, and now a visiting scholar in UC Berkeley. Scarlett is enthusiastic about women empowerment. She was the Co-Chair of Women In Action ERG club in Dell and initiated Cool Connected Women club with Google, Facebook, Uber. In her spare time, she is passionate about wine tasting. Scarlett won the 1st Place of blind tasting in the Final of Fujian Province and represented the region in China National Competition in 2019. Scarlett lives to the fullest. She is a golfer, certified diver, hiker, and snowboarder.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? (educational background, hobbies, interests, anything you would like to share with our Berkeley engineering community?)
Hi! My name is Scarlett Ho. I was born and raised in Taiwan and moved to San Francisco just last year. Before joining this Berkeley-Taiwan biomedical fellowship, I was a senior principal product development manager for Dell doing server developments. I was in charge of everything engineering-related; for example, design features, fixing issues – things related to designing a server box from the bottom up. Before Dell, I was a manager in HP also doing servers. I built up a team from scratch. So I think from hiring, coaching, and defining your own road map scope, equipping labs, starting from empty labs, that was quite a unique experience for me.
Other than jobs, I am also very passionate about women empowerment. I was co-chair in Women in Action in Dell and initiated a Cool Connected club with other smart, cool women in the industry.
Before my career, I majored in mechanical engineering at National Taiwan University (NTU) in Taipei, Taiwan. I also have a master’s degree in materials science from National Chiao Tung University (NCTU) in Hsinchu, Taiwan.
These are some brief introductions about myself!
How did your university experiences translate over to the workforce?
I would say that other than the hard skills you learn more in the workforce. The soft skills are learned more in the university, since coordination and communication are all part of unique club experiences. Volunteer and club experiences all develop leadership skills as well. Also, doing team projects and collaborating with classmates in the lab are also helpful.
I wanted to talk about your engineer vs product/program manager path – why did you make those career choices?
When I just graduated, I was debating on whether I should start as an engineer or as a program manager. I know many engineering students often debate on what position they should take on after graduating. I started as an engineer first, but after one-and-a-half years, I switched to a PM role. My thinking was that I could always start as an engineer and it would be relatively easy to switch to PM, but switching from PM to engineer would take a lot more effort. My advice would be to think of your own preferences, your own characteristics, and what you are really interested in. For example, in the engineering role, you spend most of your time in labs or working in front of a computer. You deal with keeping things consistent in your results. In contrast, as a PM, most of the time you will be in meetings talking with people, dealing with ambiguity, and lots of various situations. Also, there are different types of PMs, such as project managers, product management – which have different responsibilities. Furthermore, different PMs in the software versus engineering industry have different roles.
Can you share your experiences of building a global team in your early career?
When I graduated from university and eventually became an Manager in HP after 3 years, I was able to start a new product line team in Taiwan. It was a big challenge since it was my first time being a manager, but it was also a great opportunity for me. As a leader, I learned and tried things at the same time. It’s not just about managing people – you need to also build your roadmaps with the entire team and collaborate with other teams internationally. The international teams, such as those from Taiwan, US, and Singapore, all provided unique perspectives. I think it is important to have varieties within the team in order to come up with the best solutions.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I would say that I like to trust my team, and guide my team through the big picture, instead of micromanagement. Since I would describe myself as transparent, I appreciate transparency from my team members as well.
I would also like to think that I am a supportive manager. If the team makes a solid decision based on data and facts, I will support the decision.
I definitely think that leadership styles vary from person to person since we all have different personalities. Introverts versus extroverts tend to lead people differently. How would you describe yourself – as more of an introvert or extrovert?
I would say that I am 50/50. Although I like to interact and talk with people, I also enjoy my time alone.
What has been your most challenging experience in your career?
My biggest challenge came when it was the first time being a manager over my team. There were many questions I needed to figure out: how do you earn trust from other people who have more seniority and experience than you, how do you build your credibility when you are a first-timer?
What I learned from this challenge is that you should pay more attention to people, instead of just focusing on doing things right. When I first started in the PM role, I was still more “engineering-brained” – data-driven, logical, analytical. Gradually, I learned how to build trust with people who have more seniority than myself by giving them more flexibility to perform their roles since they don’t need as much guidance. I would get them on board to assist me with guiding the other team members and mentor the junior members.
You were Co-Chair or Women In Action club and initiated Cool Connected Women; can you share more about that?
The platforms Women in Action and Cool Connected Women are for building a network and providing a place for women to learn and develop their skills. I’m interested in women empowerment because from my background as a mechanical engineer, there are few girls there; also, in the tech industry, it can be hard as one of the sole women in the office. I was one of the only women in my team. Having these platforms enables us to not just share with each other, but also have more friends in the tech industry and excel. Diversity is a big part of these clubs as well.
The difference between Women in Action club and Cool Connected Women is that Cool Connected Women is more industrialized, as we collaborate with big tech companies such as Google, Uber, and Facebook in Taiwan.
What is your ultimate career goal?
My goal would be to continue building up my influence level because I think that the broader influence level you have, the more people you can learn from and help with.
I also want to expand the women empowerment platforms I mentioned earlier. Sharing career paths and experiences with others definitely makes it easier as a woman in the tech industry.
Any caveats, observations or advice that you learned through your career that you would like to share to current students?ble thing you learned in Bioengineering at Berkeley?
Especially to engineering students, I encourage you to be proactive in your early career. As a senior in the tech industry, I now know that people are the key to your success. Taking care of team members is crucial to success.
Also, don’t forget to be authentic to everyone – those around you and yourself.
Personally, I have a hard time balancing everything at times. What would your advice be on that?
When it comes to balance, I think it’s important to first consider your goals and priorities – is it family, academics, work, etc.? After you clarify those priorities, then it becomes easier to utilize your time and resources. Also, keep in mind that these priorities will change from time to time – depending on the different stages in your life.
Do you miss anything about being a student?
Honestly, not that much!
I did have a good time in school with friends and classmates – I have enjoyed every stage of my life, and that included my time in university. Because of this, I don’t feel like I need to revisit the past. I always look forward to the future.
What keeps you enthusiastic about your work?
Honor and respect are very important to me, so I always strive to pursue that in my work, at school, and with my relationships with people. I like to recognize and encourage people at work, whether it be for achievement or for their hard work.
Can you tell me more about how you became a Visiting Scholar of the Berkeley-Taiwan-Biomedical Fellowship?
I’m interested in biomedical because my family is in the business, so I am interested in the bioengineering and biomedical industry. I came to the States to learn more about the business side of biomedical engineering. The Bay Area is well known for startups and the ecosystem , so Berkeley was a perfect fit for pursuing that.priorities will change from time to time – depending on the different stages in your life.
Lastly, can you go more into the wine blind taste testing competition?
Yes! So I am a big fan of wine tasting. When I was in Taiwan, my friends and I enjoyed tasting wine together. The engineering side of me comes into play here, as I always asked questions about the wine: where did the wine come from, what variety the wine was, etc. A couple of friends and I went to wine tasting training so that we could differentiate between different varieties, regions, and vintages, as well as to tell which characteristics are of which wines.
In 2019, we joined the Final Wine Tasting Competition in Guangzhou, China. Luckily, we won first place. We also represented the city to join Final Competition in Shanghai.
Now, I still enjoy wine tasting, but I probably forgot a lot of the tasting techniques. I need to practice more!
Scarlett is a 2022 Taipei Women In Tech Honoree, a global team builder, visionary leader in Tech/IT industry, and now a visiting scholar in UC Berkeley.