Le, the keynote speaker at the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM) celebration that continued last week, shared her history and her determination for success.
Born in Vietnam, Le migrated to the United States in her youth, leaving behind her father whose last words to her were, "No matter what, study hard." And, Le did just that.
With the language barrier as a challenge, she pressed on and succeeded in receiving her bachelor's degree in engineering from the University of Texas in Austin, where she graduated with high honors and her master's degree in business administration from the University of Houston.
Today, Le is a registered professional engineer and is responsible for technology, readiness and product execution for Texas Instruments (TI), a multibillion-digital business. She oversees the definition of technology requirements for the businesses, leads technology qualifications with the development teams, and directs execution.
What is remarkable about Le is that in 2002, she became the first Asian-American and the first woman to get elected as a TI senior fellow. Today, she continues to be the only woman to hold this title in TI's 80-year history and is only one of four senior fellows worldwide. Before the age of 40, Le made history by breaking into a field primarily dominated by men.
"I was determined," Le said.
"What drives you?" is the question people most often ask her. She shared with the audience what she calls the three pillars -- her philosophy of living that highlights soul, heart and mind.
Le said that she has much gratitude for America and sees citizenship as a privilege not an entitlement. Along with that, she believes in civic service. "I have the moral obligation to give back." That sense of gratitude represents the core of the soul, what shapes her vision, she explained.
Next is the heart. Passion is powerful. It brings energy to the table and attracts people, she said. Passion makes the impossible possible. "After 20 years, I am still in love with my work."
The third pillar is the mind. "Use your brain to help solve not just your own problems, but the problems of others," Le encouraged the audience, referring to her theory as "executing to excellence."
Le also believes that interpersonal skills are as essential in careers as other skills. "Computers don't talk to you, but people do," she emphasized.
Some other tips for succeeding in the workplace according to Le are: Don't take things personal and camaraderie at work is important.
During her talk, one begins to understand that Le is what might be called a "workaholic." She openly admitted to getting only three hours of sleep a night, and saving time by having her husband cut her hair, rather than visit a beautician or spa for several hours.
"Internal happiness -- that is my aspiration in life, "she said. "Life has turned out to be more than I hoped for."
Toward the conclusion of her talk, Le said, "I am breaking an Asian rule and talking about myself," adding that she wanted to share and have an honest dialogue prior to the question-and-answer period that followed.