Forbes China recently released the “Women in Tech” list, paying tribute to women who break ground in science and technology in China. Two Lenovo leaders joined the 50 unranked women on the first Chinese list: Dr. Qianying (Jane) Wang, Vice President and General Manager of Technical Strategy and Innovation Platform of Lenovo Research, and Dr. Feiyu Xu, Vice President and Head of the AI Laboratory of Lenovo Research.
Read our interview with Dr. Wang below. For more concept and Dr. Xu’s perspective, read her story here.
In the future, I hope that my experience may inspire more women in the technology circle, give them more encouragement, and tell them ‘Yes, you can.’
How did you become interested in technology, especially when not many women are in the field?
I guess it’s just in my blood. I’m just into it. And there was also the influence of my parents, who both got into the Shanghai Jiao Tong University, well known for its engineering program.
I used to study in the Juvenile Class (also known as The Special Class for the Gifted Young) of Shanghai Jiao Tong University and became an undergraduate student at a very young age at the university. I majored in Electronic Engineering. While doing my master’s degree, I did an extra major in industrial management to expand my knowledge and thinking, and thus got double master’s degrees.
Later, I pursued my Ph.D. at Stanford University, where I studied human-computer interaction. It’s a very interesting field of study, as it involves both computer science and psychology, especially cognitive psychology. It’s a great interdisciplinary area where science meets design and social science.
I’m passionate about doing scientific research, which is like a process of solving puzzles. I am a fan of Agatha Christie and have a special liking for detective stories. I believe that doing anything is a process of constantly breaking up the clouds and seeing the moon, or of seeing the essence through phenomena. Especially in science, we need to be rigorous and curious, and need to insist on gradually finding the best way of solving problems.
Who encouraged you? Did you have a role model?
Many people have their own role models. Mine is my mother. In her school days, she was a curve wrecker and graduated from the prestigious Shanghai Jiao Tong University; she ran the whole family well, taking good care of me as I grew up. She never missed any important moment of life. And she had a great career. She served as the director and vice chairperson of the China Linear Motor Professional Committee and started her own motor company, running the business from scratch, and from small to large.
In my eyes, my mother is like a super woman, and a role model I’ll always admire and hold in respect.
Did you ever want to quit? What made you stick with it?
Never give up, I should say. Based on my experience, and like many of my fellow graduates from the Jiao Tong University, I never feel that there is any difference between men and women in science and engineering. We are all capable of achieving success.
Individual efforts matter a lot, yet support from the outside is equally important to the career development of women in technology.
My first job was at IBM Research, which placed great emphasis on the development of female employees. Each year, IBM brought together female tech talents from all over the world to the Thomas J. Watson Research Center to share our research results. I joined the program my first year and was assigned a senior researcher of the Watson Center as my mentor, who gave me lots of helpful advice and guidance.
Here at Lenovo, there is no gender barrier in the workplace. The company has always provided great support to female tech leaders like me. For example, last year, I took part in the company’s executive development program and learned a lot about leadership and management.
And I have unreserved support from my family. After I became a mother, I often feel exhausted and find it difficult striking a balance between life and work. My family always has my back, for which I’m very grateful.
Without all the support, I would not be where I am today.
What project are you most proud of and why?
Since I came to Lenovo, I’ve been involved in, or led, many innovation projects. One of them is LePhone, Lenovo’s first-ever smart phone. My team delivered user experience innovation of LePhone. It’s a great honor and extraordinary experience to be part of something that’s the first of its kind. Besides LePhone, we were also in charge of the interaction design of many of Lenovo’s innovative products such as U1, which won 2010 CES Best of the Show award, and Smart TV as well as tabletop PC Horizon.
These innovative products were mostly a result of top-down innovation. But I always believe that bottom-up innovation is also important. We established the Dream Lab, an innovation accelerator and incubator aimed at turning Lenovo employees’ innovation ideas into start-ups, or prototypes. So far, the Dream Lab has incubated eight projects, with total valuation topping $73 million, or 500 million RMB.
And another project I attach great importance to is smart education. Education, as is well known, shapes an individual’s and a country’s future. I’m leading team to develop Lenovo’s in-house smart education solutions. My dream is to make large-scale, high-quality personalized teaching and learning possible so that every child can unlock their full potential.
How can AI help society be more inclusive of gender and as a whole?
The development of AI has broken through the bottleneck of information technology and made the choice of users more inclusive. It is helping build up a world that is more inclusive and diverse. Computer vision and NUI technologies, for instance, are smartifying existing machines that can perform more and more physically demanding tasks for human beings. In the future, thanks to these cutting-edge technologies, disparity in physical strength, or disabilities, I guess, would be less likely to impede people’s pursuit of success both in life and work.
What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in the tech industry?
Just as I said earlier, there is no difference between men and women in science and engineering. We are all capable of achieving success in science and technology. Believe in yourself!
But to develop a career in the tech industry is not easy. You must stay curious, keep focused, and constantly improve yourself. Follow your heart and stick to your dreams!