Stay-at-home mom turned future CEO: Yeng Lee rediscovers what it means to be In HER Element.
Returning to the workforce can be challenging but doing so while expecting your fourth child is remarkable. Yeng Lee, Operations Manager and incoming CEO (as of 1/1/2022) at Como Student Community Cooperative, did just that. She had the courage to come back even stronger and rediscover her role in an organization that she has held many hats during her career.
What helped Yeng? Belief from her leader and the In HER Element program.
We caught up with Yeng to learn more about her journey and her experience with In HER Element.
Yeng, you talk about how In HER Element has helped you be a role model for your children. What does that mean to you?
It means so much to me. I hope that the strength and confidence showed through me and other women encourage them to see the potential in life, to know that they can achieve anything they want, and if they choose, can contribute or create change through their leadership.
Was there a specific moment when you realized the change you wanted to see in yourself or your life?
Before In HER Element, I had most recently been a stay-at-home mom for three years, and it was an incredible season in my life. That time at home was devoted to my family, and I didn’t necessarily lose myself, but I put myself on the backburner.
I realized that I wanted to contribute and support my family in different ways that would allow me to achieve my goals and be my best self. But, coming back to work after time away, my confidence was low. I needed to rediscover myself and believe in my professional capabilities.
Have you always been in operations, or did that change when you returned to work?
I started as the administrative assistant and then worked my way through other roles before taking time off. This position was new, and there were many unknowns with it and with me coming back professionally. I knew the organization well; my entire career has been at CSCC, but this was new territory and a big transition, so I had to navigate through that.
The year of my return was one of the most challenging years I've ever been through, but it was also good because that was the year I did In HER Element, which helped me find my footing. I started at work in January, began the program in March, and had my fourth baby in May. Though, the season of change is not yet over for me. I’m fortunate to have been hired as the new Chief Executive Officer and am currently in a transitional phase once again.
How did In HER Element help with your journey to CEO?
The future CEO position was an opportunity that Marcie (my leader, the current CEO of CSCC) and I had previously discussed. I began In HER Element knowing this, but the program gave me the confidence to go to that next level. My return to work began with a rocky start which shook my belief in myself, and I felt a little lost. But, In HER Element helps you take care of one problem at a time, gaining sustained results.
There was still a wild card aspect to our plans, whether the board would hire me on. Ultimately, they make the decision. For the last two years, I’ve been in my element, laying the groundwork so they can see the fruits of my labor. Luckily, they recognized that. Part of being a role model is that representation, and as a female person-of-color, I’m happy that others can see me in this position.
Much of my confidence came from insights I gained through In HER Element and applying them in this new role. My boss (Marcie) saw potential in me early on, which I’m fortunate she did. It’s important that people in power give opportunities to those who have the potential, allowing chances for growth.
What does confidence look like to you now?
For me, confidence is showing up as my best self, and often that involves being vulnerable. I don't know all the answers, but it's being curious and asking questions. Making what I believe is the best decision with the information I have and being okay with it.
In the In HER Element program, women are given a bracelet made from their colors, a reminder of positive forward movement in their life.
You joined In HER Element in-person, as the only individual from your organization. How was that experience for you?
I was nervous about doing it on my own – I felt like I could potentially be the odd one out. I was with smart and accomplished women, and I wondered whether I'd be able to connect with them.
However, the program created a safe space which I could share my honest thoughts and experiences. It was in person, outside of a work setting, where I could put my shield down and be myself. I realized that we were a community of women from different backgrounds, sharing similar experiences and dealing with the same issues. It was great to connect and bond with women I never would have had the chance to get to know otherwise.
Did you experience an “aha” moment while participating in In HER Element?
In HER Element helped me discover and pinpoint what fuels me. It helped me realize what I need to be my best self when I feel depleted. I used to think it was this when it’s not that at all. I really need this and I’m running on empty.
Life was so busy - I didn’t always take the time to stop. I would go a million miles an hour putting out fires at work and then going straight into doing the same at home. I realized how valuable time was and that I needed to be intentional about giving myself a break to stop, reflect and plan. When I make tough decisions, I follow those steps and move on more confidently and productively. It makes me a better leader, mom, wife, and person.
How did your relationship with your leader change?
Marcie (current CEO) was really on board and open to my needs– she’s always had my back all along as an amazing boss, mentor, and listener. When I returned to work, I had to get used to everything and didn’t want to rock the boat. I was trying to make it work and change myself to do so. In reality, I needed to flip that and make myself part of the picture.
We had a conversation about what I saw for the organization's future. I felt I could go to her more confidently saying “this is what I want for my team” or “these are the pieces I don’t see working,” and she gave me the room to make those changes. Not everybody gets that opportunity! One of the biggest things we did was implement a more remote system - it happened in the nick of time, just ahead of the pandemic.
Was In HER Element what you expected it to be? What would you say to a friend/coworker debating signing up?
I thought the program would be very work-related and dry, but it was so much more than that. The TDE team was so supportive, and you could never say the wrong thing. It was nice to have that when working with what can be very personal issues.
The program is designed to provide you with the clarity and tools you need to make your goals actionable in all facets of your life. I see the difference in myself and the change in my confidence levels.
Imagine if a friend of yours or coworker is debating doing In HER Element. What would you say to them?
Do it, and be all-in. What you’ll learn you’ll take with you anywhere you go. You won’t regret it!
About the In HER Element program:
The In HER Element Program is a transformative leadership development cohort program for women that combines mindfulness and neuroscience with one-on-one coaching and community. Our goal for this program is to build upon women’s leadership skills and empower them to be their best self. Click here to learn more.