SINGAPORE – Since she was very young, Xiuwen Zhang has marvelled at the power of technology as an enabler. However when it came to choosing her career, she didn’t want to lose the human touch which is why she decided to venture into the field of recruiting. After spending almost a decade in human resources, she was able to marry her two interests in her role as the customer success manager for impress.ai, a chatbot that helps companies with automating the recruitment process.
She was first introduced to the HR stream as a student at Singapore Management University. Intrigued by the experiences of one of her teachers there in the field, she decided to take a chance on this role that not only has a human element but also adds value to the organisation. In fact, it was while working with her previous employer DBS Bank where she started working on the creation of an automated recruitment process that led her to her current role.
Right after graduating from SMU, Zhang joined the banking sector as an HR professional. She started out at a cautious and uncertain note, worried about how others would perceive her. Fortunately, she met the right set of people who would mentor her, and managers who would help boost her confidence.
She had just about got a foothold into the job when an economic downturn in Europe made her company decide to cut costs. This meant that from handling recruitment in Singapore, her team was tasked with overseeing the HR operations abroad. “It was not something that I had prepared myself for. However, it was an experience that I value. It has helped me build the foundation of my knowledge of HR,” she recalls.
There also came a time when she had to decide between staying in the HR field or venturing into a completely different area in the tech industry. After evaluating her options and taking a step back to review her achievements over the years, she felt that it was time to build up the courage to try something new.
Gender Equality @ Workplace
Zhang believes that it is the collective responsibility of all working adults to create an inclusive environment and provide equal opportunities to all. “More efforts should be made to reduce the unconscious bias in recruitment practices so as to level the playing field between men and women and improve diversity at the workplace,” she asserts.
This is where a technological solution like impress.ai comes into the picture. It helps to attain unbiased hiring practices in the truest sense, she feels. It is a definite step in the right direction for the industry, she adds.
Role of Leaders
Fortunately for her, Zhang herself has had the privilege of working with senior leaders who have inspired her to take the ownership of her career. She thinks that all senior leaders could take active steps towards identifying high potential female colleagues and support their development through the right training, mentorship and guidance. Such a step would help workplaces have more gender equality, she believes.
She stresses the importance of the role of management working closely with HR in setting up the right policies and direction for hiring practices, promotion eligibility, and similar policies. “Regardless of gender, there should be equal opportunities for employees to contribute to the company’ success. In impress.ai, we have created an inclusive environment where people feel empowered to be at their best regardless of gender,” she informs.
These efforts need to be made by members of the top management members of both genders. “Leaders, regardless of gender, need to be equally invested in efforts to build and shape an inclusive culture,” says Zhang.
Through her career, she has held close the philosophy that one must not be afraid of making mistakes. However, they must also ensure that they don’t end up making the same mistake twice. She doesn’t fail to remind young recruits that learning never stops if one remains curious and humble.
The ‘new normal’ introduced by the changes like work from home that were a direct result of the covid pandemic has also brought along a few lessons for everyone. “It has been a tough year for a lot of individuals in terms of balancing work and life. Personally, it’s also a year of transition for me as I spent the majority of my first year in the tech industry at home,” she shares. From this experience, her biggest learning is to stay positive and adapt to the different challenges that life throws at you and enjoy the journey.