Name: Bettina Weiss
Job: Vice President, Global Business Development
Industry: Semiconductor/Microelectronics Manufacturing
What does leadership mean to you?
To me, leadership means sharing – you bring in your experience, your expertise, special skills, your humanity and self in the pursuit of a stated goal. Aside from achieving that work goal, I also think a good leader always thinks about making his/her team better, more effective, getting them to be more motivated and dedicated. And that, in turn, improves his/her leadership capabilities as well.
If you can share one piece of advice that you know now about navigating your career, what would that be?
Declare yourself. Management needs to know that you are interested in growing, in becoming more than you are today, in learning and investing time to get to your next goal. I found that by clearly stating that, my executive management has paid more attention to me. The organization I work for is small – 145 people worldwide – so access to top management is easy, and we have an open door policy. By discussing my plans and objectives during our annual strategic planning period and goal setting, I was able to articulate my intentions and determine the appropriate steps in line with our strategic priorities that would allow me to move forward.
What challenges have you faced in your daily job duties?
There is the constant, well-known struggle of bandwidth and prioritization, especially in a heavily matrixed and global organization such as SEMI. Everyone has a lot on their plates, and agreeing on priorities is sometimes difficult. However, nobody is an island, we all depend on others to help us achieve corporate goals. Having roles and responsibilities clearly defined helps set expectations and maximizing available expertise and bandwidth.
How have you grown your professional network?
I have the huge advantage that I work for an association that represents about 1,800 companies worldwide. By default, that puts me “out there”, meeting people in the industry, from our member companies, from government and academia worldwide. In a customer-facing position, I have been lucky that I have been able to grow my network organically over the years. LinkedIn and similar services have helped me keep in touch and find long lost contacts.
From your perspective, what are the most important trends that will take place in your industry in the next 10 years?
The semiconductor industry is consolidating at a fairly good clip. Large companies merge, acquire smaller companies – which shortens the manufacturing supply chain and leaves a few big corporations to supply to a few huge device manufacturers. These trends combined with some technological challenges and the ever grueling pursuit of cost reduction and scaling, are causing significant challenges as well as opportunities for a global association such as SEMI.
What is a career path to your position?
I think you can arrive at my position through a number of channels, including as a new hire if your skill set fits. I “grew up” in SEMI, joined in 1996 and worked my way up. I spent 12 years in one department, leading it for the last 5, then had an opportunity to lead a new global initiative we started in an entirely new field.
What role has mentorship played in your career?
Mentorship has played a key role in my career. I have been very lucky that, along the way, there has always been that one person who took an interest in me and my path forward. I have had 3 mentors so far, one in my very first job in the semiconductor industry, back in the ‘90s, one in my current organization who asked if I was interested in being mentored when I first became VP (and is now my boss), and one CEO of a major semiconductor equipment company who has served on our International Board of Directors. Each had a different way of mentoring, but all of them have helped me tremendously. All of my mentors have been men, interestingly enough.
What is your recommendation for choosing a good mentor?
I think trust is probably the #1 criterion for choosing a good mentor. You need to be able to speak your mind, voice your doubts, ask a lot of questions, without feeling vulnerable or exposed. A good mentor should make you feel safe. Equally important is a mentor’s ability to teach in a way that resonates with you – not pontificating just to hear him/herself talk, but to truly teach and share his/her knowledge to make you better.
What advice would you give to someone looking to grow in her career while making time for her family?
I struggle with this one mightily, even though I have improved my work-life balance in recent years. My advice: My first boss, back in Germany, told me once: “It’s all just stuff. Stuff was here yesterday and will be here tomorrow. Spend time with loved ones doing the things that make you happy, and “stuff” will remember its place”. Can’t put it any better than that.
Tell us something about yourself that is a fun fact.
I was born and raised in Germany and didn’t move to the US until I was 31. When I get mad or frustrated or agitated, I switch to German instinctively. This happens at work, too, occasionally!
What do you like to do to unwind?
My job requires a lot of international travel, so I’m happiest when I’m at home with my husband and our cats, Max and Sammie. I love to read, walk and meet up with friends. I also enjoy wine, and pairing wine with food, enjoying all this with good friends and family.