Making History at ON Semiconductor

by Kimberly Appleton, Senior Vice President of Global Sales Operations & EMSI
May 18, 2020 2:00 PM ET

Who am I?

Growing up in a blue-collar family I was not exposed to technical career options but I did love math and problem solving so I pursued an engineering degree followed by a Masters in Business. I honestly had no idea that would lead to such an exciting 28-year career in the semiconductor industry.

Currently, I am the senior vice president of global sales operations & EMSI (Electronic Manufacturing Services Industry) sales reporting to Paul Rolls, the executive vice president of worldwide sales and marketing. I lead an amazing global team with a broad scope that consists of various departments including customer service, corporate pricing, sales business operations and EMSI sales.

On a more personal level, I am passionate about driving new and innovative ideas that can positively affect our customers and shareholders. I believe in paying it forward and helping the next generation of female leaders navigate the corporate world because let me tell you, it can be incredibly isolating at times when you are repeatedly the only female present in a meeting. You have these panic moments when you wonder if you are representing the entire female population and that can feel like an incredibly heavy burden at times.

What drives you to succeed and strive higher every day?

I have been told I can be a bit competitive! I might just be the eternal optimist as I’m not programmed to label something as an obstacle, rather all I see are opportunities. If you frame every challenge as an opportunity then you eventually develop creative problem-solving techniques that accelerate your personal learning curve. I believe this trait has assisted colleagues and executives to view me as a self-starter and resourceful individual.

What inspired the charter of the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) at ON Semiconductor?

I and a few other key individuals launched ON Semiconductor’s WLI in 2014. The real revelation as to an impactful direction and purpose for WLI happened after watching Susan Colantuono’s Missing 33% Ted Talk. Her observations enabled me to articulate many personally observed, contributing factors as to why there is a distinct lack of women in executive positions throughout the semiconductor industry. We thought the premise of the “missing 33%” would be an excellent foundation for the women’s leadership initiative at ON Semiconductor. With the insight from Susan Colantuono, we felt we had a clear mission and vision to spread awareness on some of the common perceptions and misconceptions that might be preventing females from career advancement. My hope in establishing WLI at ON Semiconductor was that it would inspire more women to frame their ideas using business language and to become fluent in financial and strategic acumen.

What exactly is WLI?

As an employee-led affinity network group (ANG), or employee resource group (ERG), the leadership team and I ensure that everything we do aligns with our charter which is, “empowering and supporting women to succeed through professional development in business, strategic and financial acumen.” As leaders, we use our mission statement to outline clear, specific goals so that we are able to take strategic actions to meet these goals, ensuring employee career success and member satisfaction.

Something key to our success as a group is that we are inclusive. We are not only a support for women but also a resource for all who want to expand their business acumen. As a founder of WLI, I believe it is imperative that men and women support one another.

Currently, we have 19 steering committee members and multiple sub-committees, which allows our members to utilize their expertise in other areas, explore new growth opportunities and gain leadership skills. These subcommittees include strategic marketing, educational content and event proposal & planning.

We hold monthly steering committee meetings and quarterly events. In the past, we’ve held a co-event, “Women in the Workplace”, with RISE, which is Avnet’s equivalent to WLI where we explore data on the current state of women leaders in business and held a panel discussion with representatives from both companies. WLI also sponsors a “Quarterly Post-Earnings Brief” where we take a deeper look into the Company’s quarterly earnings. Attendance and interest in our events have grown significantly, as our most recent brief had over 600 attendees!

As the next generation of leaders enters the workforce, what are your hopes for them?

I hope their journey will be easier. The next generation already has 10x the confidence I had at their age, which is half the battle. My hope is that they will utilize that confidence and immerse themselves into their chosen trade and develop their business, strategic and financial acumen. With that combination, there is very little that can stand in their way.

What resources do you recommend?

There are millions of great resources out there but personally I believe we have extremely talented individuals all around us and I prefer to extract value from simply observing others. I highly recommend listening and observing the various styles and language that effective leaders use in order to achieve results. Then make a point to emulate those behaviors.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Never undermine situational learning, pay attention to people that are successful and learn from them. Tap into the resources (people) around you.
  2. Always look for opportunities and be intentional on demonstrating your business, strategic and financial acumen, especially when interacting with executives.
  3. Use every interaction with senior leaders to demonstrate your business/financial or strategic knowledge. Instead of asking about their weekend, ask something business relevant or something that demonstrates your business curiosity!

Be courageous! 

I encourage others to have courage and to take ownership of their career. Don’t let your first question be about work-life balance, instead ask how you can impact the business. Learn how to read a financial statement and understand how your efforts impact that financial statement. Put yourself in the shoes of your board of directors when you are evaluating alternatives.

Learn more about ON Semiconductor’s Diversity & Inclusion initiatives and company culture.