18th January 2022

How I Became Vodafone’s First Female Network Engineer in APAC

Diana Ho
Network Engineer

I chose a career in tech back when the internet was a fast-evolving emerging technology. I was completely fascinated by what it could offer to people of any age, how wide its reach was across industries and geographies, and the springboard it promised to be for even greater developments in tech.

From my early beginnings as a system engineer taking care of ISP infrastructure, one thing led to another. I've been part of many technical teams over the past 20 years, each one building more and more complex, high-capacity networking solutions. The novelty hasn’t worn off. Technology just keeps changing and it never stops exciting and motivating me. I am really driven by my desire to continue becoming better and better at what I do.

Throughout my career, I have had the good fortune of being consistently mentored and supported by amazing managers. I’ve been with Vodafone for eight years now and my time here has been a continuous journey of development towards the leadership career I enjoy today.

My experience with Vodafone

I was working for another telecom company when Vodafone acquired us. I had joined that company when their APAC team was expanding the network infrastructure in the region. At that time, all of my colleagues were male. I was the first female network engineer in the team supporting the network builds, as well as provisioning enterprise customer orders. We became part of the Vodafone family in 2013.

I am currently in the core network planning function within GNED TTE APAC and the Middle East. My team is responsible for planning the strategic rollout of new builds, upgrades and expansions on existing networks, as well as supporting the account and pre-sales team on complex customer requirements.

We also provide our local expertise to our European colleagues in the quest to expand Vodafone’s special platforms environment, which includes Cloud Connect, M2M and IVC in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Helping support crisis responses

One of the things I am thankful for with Vodafone is that we are often given opportunities to make a difference through the work we do. Two projects in particular have left a deep impression on me.

In 2009, the Taiwan earthquake took down half of the regional network capacity, and in 2011, a major earthquake in Japan caused a massive Tsunami. Both times, Vodafone provided significant support for the affected regions.

In those crucial moments, I saw colleagues, suppliers and international carriers in the industry come together and pull off very long hours in order to restore network connectivity for customers. The feeling of being able to chip in and help out however we could in a disaster recovery was truly out of this world.

Overcoming gender bias in the tech world

The tech/telecommunications industry can be challenging for women because there is still a lot of inherent bias about females doing this type of work. In Asia and the Middle East, cultural differences can make it difficult because a lot of people prefer working with male engineers.

I have personally overcome this by being patient and taking the time and effort to build up a rapport with carriers, suppliers and field engineers. Within Vodafone itself, my gender hasn’t been an issue. There is a really a strong sense of equality here, and playing to the strength of each employee regardless of age, gender or race. Vodafone’s culture is really about  partnership and working together in an open, cohesive environment.

We are also given plenty of platforms to provide feedback. Recently we set up our internal ‘Asia Women's Network’ that looks into things that concern all employees – not just women!

I’ve been lucky

Early on, I had a line manager who not only mentored me but also gave my whole team enough autonomy and independence to grow and develop our leadership skills.

I’ve also been able to take advantage of the abundance of training to be found at Vodafone University. I've known of many other companies that do not have such programs for their employees, or if they do, it is not free of charge. Among many other things, I love this about Vodafone!