Curiosity and a determination to learn have driven Mr Lee throughout his career. PHOTO: MICRON

Leading with courage

WHEN Mr Lee Kok Choy joined Texas Instruments Singapore (TI) as a semiconductor assembly and packaging engineer in 1977, he knew nothing about the memory business.

TI has been active in the semiconductor industry since the 1950s, and by the 1970s, it was developing microprocessors and microcontrollers. Faced with a steep learning curve, Mr Lee — who was then fresh out of the National University of Singapore where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering — eagerly studied and learnt all he could about the job.

“There was no spoon-feeding, no training,” he recalls. “I learnt by reading the manual provided to me and every piece of documentation I could get my hands on. I asked my technicians about their experiences and used my engineering education to solve problems on the production line.”

Looking back today, Mr Lee is grateful for the experience of educating himself on his first job, and the opportunity to develop his skills and confidence.

“I used all the knowledge I gained through my education, applied my street wisdom and tackled the unknown. “I would not have wanted it any other way,” he says.

Persistence pays off

During his 13 years at TI, Mr Lee advanced through various roles in the organisation, including that of a senior process engineer to product and operations manager for DRAMs.

In 2012, he was appointed managing director and Singapore country manager for Micron Technology.

A leader in the semiconductor industry, Micron’s presence in Singapore consists of three fabrication plants, a test and assembly facility, and a technology centre.

“Interestingly enough, the chips we manufacture in the Micron factory in Singapore right now have 64 gigabits in the same amount of silicon space as the 4-kilobit DRAM chips I was working with back then in TI,” notes Mr Lee.

He too has come a long way from his first day as an assembly and packaging engineer in wire-bonding at TI. Now as a leader in a global organisation, he recognises the key skills that got him here, including knowledge of his chosen profession, as well as “a keen understanding of human nature, basic finance and the principles of law”.

He adds: “On top of these skills, a leader should also possess curiosity, courage, tenacity and a genuine care for their people.” He also has wise and time-served advice for graduates embarking on their careers.

“If possible, do your best to start your career in the profession you were trained in.

“Let your curiosity lead you in your career growth, and find the courage to make the leap when opportunities present themselves,” he says.