Shaw-chin Ioana Chiu, Managing Client Partner, State of California, IBM

Shaw-chin Ioana Chiu is a multifaceted individual who balances a demanding career as a technology executive, author, and community builder, while also being a dedicated mom and athlete. With over 18 years of experience in driving global business transformation, digital innovation, process improvement, and organizational change management, she leverages her expertise to enhance government services. Her professional work has spanned multiple industries, including government, healthcare, life sciences, consumer, and retail, with a global reach across North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America. Additionally, she is a best-selling author, having written “Integrating Me in Motherhood: A Mom’s Guide to Preventing Burnout and Unleashing Her True Essence,” a book that celebrates the power and potential of working moms.

Shaw-chin received numerous accolades for her outstanding leadership and innovative contributions. Most recently, she was named one of the 2024 Top 50 Women Leaders of Sacramento by Women We Admire. Additionally, she is a two-time winner of the prestigious IBM North America Innovation Delivery Excellence Award (IDEA), which honors her innovative approaches to delivering business outcomes. Some of her most notable achievements include embedding design thinking to enable thoughtful speed and human-centered solutions through “IBM Garages,” helping clients successfully transition to and get the most value out of cloud-based technologies and delivering IBM’s blockchain-based COVID digital credential platform during the Pandemic.

In a recent exclusive interview with CXO Outlook Magazine, Shaw-chin shared valuable insights from her best-selling book, as well as her thoughts on promoting gender equality and inclusion in the tech industry. She also opened up about her sources of inspiration, the secret sauce behind her success, and her plans for the future. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

Hi Shaw-chin. What do you love the most about your current role?

As a 26-year California resident, I pride myself in the ability to directly contribute to making California better with GoodTech solutions that enhance the lives of millions, who, like my parents, struggle with navigating public services due to highly convoluted processes, systems, and data.

Can you please share the major takeaways from your best-selling book, “Integrating Me in Motherhood: A Mom’s Guide to Preventing Burnout and Unleashing Her True Essence”?

Being a mom is an everyday transformative experience that requires purposeful focus and a growth mindset. Becoming a mom calls for us to redefine who we are and who we want to be. On one hand, it’s magical to realize that our capacity for love is even greater than ever imagined. On the other hand, we’re also hit with the harsh reality that we’re working with the same amount of time and energy we had prior to motherhood, and society isn’t set up to support the success of working moms. Trying to do it all is often overwhelming.

Purposeful focus is about making tough decisions around what stays, goes, and where to reinvest time and energy to maximize our return on happiness. It includes reinvesting in habits that create even more time and energy, like asking for help, empowering and trusting others to take things off our plate, taking care of ourselves, and engaging in play, which is the fertilizer for brain growth, creativity and innovation.

Having a growth mindset means internalizing an acute sense of awareness for who we are versus who we want to be at any point of time, using every moment to learn and get smarter on our reinvestment strategy, and having the confidence to ask for what we need to be successful based on our own unique definition of success.

But this isn’t just a working mom prerogative. Our societies also need to make changes. There needs to be more investment in childcare infrastructure, and we need to unlearn the beliefs that women must burden the majority, if not all, parenting and home responsibilities.

What are your thoughts on gender equality and inclusion? Do you think there is a gender bias in your industry?

Although we’ve made significant progress to aid the advancement of working moms in their careers, such as paid family leave and protections for women’s jobs when they’re out on maternity leave, we still have at least a generation to go. Unfortunately, women are still on average paid less than their male counterparts and are often pigeonholed into support roles. According to the 2023 IBM and Chief study called “Women in leadership: Why perception outpaces the pipeline – and what to do about it,” only 41% of male managers agreed that their organization’s leadership believed that women with children were just as dedicated to jobs as women without children. What’s even more interesting is that organizations identified as gender equity leaders report 19% higher revenue growth than others studied.

Gender equality and inclusion require a mindset shift, and as mentioned earlier, unlearning societal biases, to view working moms as a competitive advantage versus an inconvenience. The same sentiment extends to women in general. Beyond representing half of the population, we are often more educated and make the majority of buying decisions across households. It’s no surprise why organizations who have already invested in unleashing women’s potential and perspectives are thriving.

Looking back now, what is one thing you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?

Practice vulnerability. It is the core to human connection. Vulnerability is the precursor to empathy, which allows us to truly understand and care for the needs of our clients and bring out the best in our teams. It also fuels growth, because we are able to embrace our shortcomings as opportunities to evolve and get smarter.

Is there a particular person you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are?

My parents. They sacrificed a lot to get us to the U.S. so we can have access to more opportunities we didn’t have in American Samoa. They left behind their loved ones, careers, and everything they knew for a better life for us. They are one of the reasons why I drive so hard every day.

What does the term “authentic leadership” mean to you?

It means being ourselves. We can’t practice vulnerability if what we’re saying or doing contradict our core beliefs and values. Business outcomes are natural byproducts of doing what’s right for our clients and bringing the best out of people.

What are some of your passions outside of work? What do you like to do in your time off?

I spend quality time with my daughter, husband, family and friends, contribute thought leadership or organize events to help working moms, train as a cross-format athlete, play piano, and work on my second book, which is an exploration of what today’s modern family looks like.

You were recently honored and recognized at the second spot for Top Women Leaders of Sacramento for 2024 among other awards and accolades over the years. Our readers would love to know the secret sauce behind our success.

Firstly, I’ve made big thinking second nature, complemented by patience, discipline, and humility to build towards grand aspirations brick by brick. Secondly, I primarily do things that align to my passions or fuel me. Life is too short to be unhappy. Finally, and most importantly, I surround myself with people who are much smarter and better than me. Success takes a village, and I lean heavily on that village to do way more than I am individually capable of.

What is your biggest goal? Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?

My biggest goal is to master being a heart-centered leader, mom, partner, and friend. I strongly believe that outstanding character goes hand in hand with outstanding performance. My ability to exponentially grow any business or businesses I lead, have a thriving global brand in health and wellness for moms, and be someone that those around me, including my daughter, can trust stems from character over pure performance.

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