Spanning a wide array of backgrounds, talents, experiences, disciplines and geographies, women are an integral part of our team and help create the extraordinary, every day. 44 percent of Flex’s global workforce are women, each making a mark on our company’s history and having a unique story to share. We’re proud to prioritize increasing our female representation as we continue building an inclusive and diverse workplace, where each team member is empowered to bring their authentic self to work and push the bounds of what’s possible.
We caught up with three team members from across the world to learn about their professional journey, their advice for other women and colleagues, and what excites them about the path ahead.
Check out excerpts from our conversations with Weronika Piela-Janków, senior manager, business excellence, Marcela Herrera, program management director, and Asmah Binti Mohd Rejab, senior production planning manager.
Please describe your journey at Flex starting from the beginning.
Weronika: My time at Flex started over 14 years ago when I began as a lean project manager. I was responsible for continuous operational improvement projects in the mechanicals building, including kaizen activities on integration areas.
After three years, I took responsibility for the entire lean department at our Tczew, Poland site, focusing on developing the facility’s business excellence vision and strategy, creating optimization processes for variable cost reduction, managing lean audits and trainings, and more with the management team and functions.
Today, we are mostly focused on end-to-end process optimization from new product or transfer product implementation through mass production and end of life for products spanning teleconference, security, 5G and electrical vehicle charging stations.
Marcela: In 2007, I started as a senior program manager at our Guadalajara, Mexico facility, supporting a complex program. I had several ideas for revamping how we support the customer, and from the beginning, my manager gave me the space to organize the team and our processes for success.
I had several ideas for revamping how we support the customer, and from the beginning, my manager gave me the space to organize the team and our processes for success.
— Marcela Herrera, Program Management Director
After two years in that role, I moved into a global services and solutions role, specifically managing repairs, where I learned new processes and different industries, which was fascinating. From there, I worked on a business transfer following the Alcatel-Lucent facility acquisition, which was one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences. There was a tremendous amount of learning around various equipment, moving production lines, and managing complex discussions as part of the agreement.
Today, my responsibilities are centered on the standardization and oversight of program management and critical KPIs at several of our campuses in Mexico, including Guadalajara North and South as well as Colorado. We track metrics related to sales versus forecast, on-time delivery, accounts receivable, and claims of the programs. Every day is different as we deal with varying metrics and new processes, customers, or solutions to be developed.
Asmah: I joined Flex in May 2005 as an assistant manager at one of our Penang, Malaysia facilities, managing production planning and responses to customer forecasts. I worked with the team to create an end item pack plan tracking system with capacity indication to visualize the line utilization.
After being promoted to a manager, I lead the Penang Plant 5B planning team, which focused on production and material planning. Then in 2011, I was promoted to senior manager in the same capacity of production planning to lead the planning team for plant 5 overall.
In my experience, it’s all about learning and thinking through new ways of how to deliver value for the business. Over the last few years, I’ve been in the planning department, and it’s truly been a never-ending journey of learning to move processes and programs forward in a positive way.
In thinking about how you’ve helped shape Flex’s history, what initiative stands out as formative to your experience?
Weronika: For many years, we’ve collaborated with the Kaizen Institute in Poland, one of the well-known providers of kaizen services, to host local students at our facility and give young professionals a glimpse of lean practices and manufacturing in action. The collaboration provides opportunities to network, learn from leading lean practitioners and share best practices.
In 2021, we decided to partake in the Kaizen Awards. As part of the process, we hosted an auditor, who spent a day on the shop floor interviewing various department representatives. Different team members presented continuous improvement activities that have been implemented, marking a true collaborative effort.
Following a successful audit, finalists, including Flex, were invited to Warsaw where they presented their project of choice. For our electric vehicle charging station process optimization, Tczew was named a 2021 Kaizen Award Winner thanks to the innovative and effective implementation of continuous improvement, which was a highlight during my time with the company.
Marcela: I have enjoyed every part of the journey; however, the most rewarding project was the Alcatel transition. Despite the difficulties and complexities of the acquisition, I was very proud of how the team came together and collaborated to ensure a successful transition.
I’m fortunate for the learnings gathered and colleagues that I’ve met as part of the integration efforts. We had the opportunity to reconfigure the building and build out a team. I’m an accountant by trade, not an engineer. So, having the exposure to discuss how a facility ramped up was fantastic. From a learning standpoint, the project helped me deepen my understanding of the business. I also made really good friends after traveling and working for hours together, which is something I appreciate.
Asmah: One of the most meaningful projects is the Pack Plan Sequencing (PPS) work with the planning team and operation leads, which was a kaizen effort.
Previously, we issued a pack plan report via spreadsheets and email to the production team, a cumbersome process with minimal visibility. So, we came up with PPS. It’s a board on the production floor that shows the schedule for next 48 hours.
Team members can view the schedule and work from there. This is an effective visual management tool and provides real time updates of production lines. It enhanced communication and information flow between the customer focus team, and enabled timely response to lines abnormalities and trigger attentions.
It enhanced communication and information flow between the customer focus team, and enabled timely response to lines abnormalities and trigger attentions.
— Asmah Binti Mohd Rejab, Sr. Production Planning Manager
We continue to enhance the PPS logic to better suit production. Today, in China, the approach has evolved to Electronic Pack Plan Sequencing (EPPS). The concept is the same, but now, the planners can be anywhere and upload the schedule.
I’ve always been involved with many kaizen activities but throughout all the projects, the only one that sticks out as still relevant today is PPS.
How have mentors or sponsors helped you along the way?
Weronika: My manager, who is the site general manager, provides a good amount of support. He serves as a fantastic role model for me as I think about my leadership style and abilities. He creates space to be creative and is open to new ideas, because I have plenty of them.
Another person who helps me is our learning and development manager in Tczew. She is always challenging me to think about projects or approaches differently. We have lots of insightful discussions, where we share our knowledge, experiences, and motivation methods.
Marcela: One of the most important things my first manager taught me was to not be afraid of the work and try to understand as much as possible. I’ve worked with talented people throughout my career who took the time to share best practices or lessons learned that have helped with negotiating or managing conflict, critical skills for effective program managers.
Asmah: Earlier in my career, I learned a lot from my managers, especially in report-writing, leadership and resiliency skills. Abilities like how to collaborate with people with different perspectives and ideas, present data clearly, and navigate challenges and adversity were impressed upon me through the interactions with leadership.
I admire my current manager’s energy in driving the team toward meeting supply chain goals. She has a persevering, can-do approach and continues to find ways for solutions. I’ve learned a lot from her especially in inventory management and turnover. She has empowered me to lead the planning team toward meeting department KPIs.
What advice do you have for other women at Flex?
Weronika: Always be open for new things like career opportunities, tasks, or responsibilities. Be brave, build your own courage, share your experience, and support one another. Many times, our CEO Revathi talks about having the courage to take calculated risks. We need to build the courage to make decisions and navigate our professional and personal lives with confidence.
Marcela: Throughout my career, I’ve tried to embrace the power of listening and recognize that approaching projects different ways can yield successful results. This has been instrumental in earning the respect and trust of my counterparts. I strive to listen to others’ perspectives. When you have a strong point of view, it’s important to also have data to ground your position and gain alignment with others.
I also advise others to learn as much as possible from those who have solved a tough problem or came up with an innovative solution. Don’t shy away from asking questions or for guidance, either. Most people are willing to help.
Asmah: Be passionate about your job. It’s incredibly important to love what you do daily. Loving your job doesn’t mean that you don’t establish healthy boundaries with work-life balance. Having a strong balance is critical to feeling energized to tackle tasks set forth and carrying out a good job.
Looking forward, what are you most excited about at Flex?
Weronika: Whether it’s a new customer engagement, product, or opportunity, there’s always something new at Flex, so it’s quite an exciting place. But another thing that excites me are the efforts around inclusion and diversity.
Whether it’s a new customer engagement, product, or opportunity, there’s always something new at Flex, so it’s quite an exciting place.
— Weronika Piela-Janków, Sr. Manager, Business Excellence
A few years ago, there were a small number of women on the site management team. Today, there are additional women leaders for finance, quality, and HR. During my time with the company, there’s has never been so much emphasis on professional development opportunities for women.
For example, my mentor is leading a fantastic program for women in Tczew with a clear purpose — increasing women representation in the leadership roles and supporting women’s career advancement. Programs like this encourage employees to reflect, discuss, and connect with each other, and grow personally and professionally.
Marcela: Working in program management requires incorporating order to the chaos, thinking creatively and critically, and having the ability to handle multiple moving parts of a project—no easy feat. Given the challenges brought on by COVID-19 over the past two years, I’m energized about ensuring program managers are well prepared and equipped to manage customer needs as best as possible through training. Our roles are essential because we talk to and problem-solve with customers on a regular basis, working to ensure their success.
Working with the account management team, we designed a program with Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara to work together to create a PM Diploma, called “PM Reconversion.” In this program, program managers go to the university twice a week for about 8 months to deepen their understanding across several topics such as finance, processes, leadership, and communication.
Asmah: I’m excited to see the continued growth for women at the company under the leadership of our CEO Revathi. Growing the number of women in leadership roles is invaluable for current and future generations. The fact that Flex is working on this is wonderful to see as an employee and for those considering joining the company.
I also love the Flex Pulse, which provides easily, accessible real-time inventory information and data visualization—a planning team’s dream! Previously, generating reports could take up to an hour, and you had to do so much formatting to get one piece of information. Now, we can visualize specific data from anywhere, at any time. This type of technology and capability is particularly exciting, specifically given my role.
People from all the world, in any field, can learn from these inspiring women who are making their mark in their own way. We hope that you can take away some pearls of wisdom and inspiration from their stories and apply to your own path.