Power Individuals: Yong Su-Lin On Her Journey To Become Lendlease Malaysia’s First Female Managing Director And Forging A Path In Construction And Real Estate

When Su-Lin Yong reflects on her career stretching across 25 years in finance, banking, advisory and now real estate with Lendlease, she is grateful—not only for her successes and achievements, but also for the opportunities she has had to work with, learn from and receive immeasurable support from others. The managing director of Lendlease Malaysia remembers a momentous fork in the road, one many working women face: her first child. At the same time she gave birth to her daughter, Yong was identified to take over as CEO at a previous organisation. It was a conundrum, to say the least. 

“On one hand, I wanted to succeed in the role my organisation wanted to entrust to me, but at the same time, I was thinking about how to take care of my child,” Yong remembers of that time. “Fortunately, I had a very understanding board of directors and colleagues who helped me through that journey. It was emotionally tough but the support I had from my husband, family and colleagues really helped. If I was in that situation where I am now in Lendlease, I think Lendlease would be accommodating as well because we have family-friendly policies.”

In fact, workplace flexibility is one of Lendlease’s three global priorities. It also started the Ignite initiative in 2022, which is a mentor-mentee programme to identify potential female leaders within the company for the next stages in their, and Lendlease’s, future. Yong explains: “We provide them with the pathway to grow to be the next, future female leaders for the organisation.”

Yong is also quick to dispel the myth that women are reluctant to join the construction industry, and points out that 41 per cent of the Lendlease workforce is female. “I always say construction people are usually louder but people who are loud are not necessarily demeaning. The industry has also evolved to accept different sets of people,” she says. “So I don’t think females specifically say they don’t want to be in the construction industry but previously, we didn’t have flexible working arrangements that could encourage more women participation in the industry. Construction is an aspect of the larger real estate industry and so, there’s a diverse spectrum of experience that is needed, which has brought in more females into the business.” Even at the very top, Yong has seen the value in having more inclusivity in a company’s board. “The diversity in conversations of the board will give a different perspective on how business should evolve and grow. So, the industry is not just about wearing hard hats and going to construction sites.”

Anyone looking at Yong’s curriculum vitae and her numerous awards would be envious, but she is quick to define success not as specific milestones but as “all the small blessings in life and about all the people I’m with”. On the other side of the coin, she readily admits encountering setbacks and failures in her career too, but has learnt how to recover from them from a teacher who is very close to her heart. “When I get quite annoyed, my daughter, when she was young, used to tell me, ‘Mummy, it’s okay to fail. If I fail already, I know what to do’,” Yong remembers fondly. “It made me realise that she was right. You can feel bad in the moment but failures make you stronger because you learn from them.”

Yong isn’t resting on her laurels either, especially when it comes to the next generation, whether in her own home or in the organisation she runs. Besides Ignite, Yong explains that Lendlease offers numerous opportunities and courses for new and young employees for the purposes of self-development and self-discovery. It’s a value she treasures greatly and one she’d like to impart to others too:.“The key is to try discovering yourself, never give up, and go in with an ‘I can do’ attitude,” Yong says. “If you go in with a negative attitude, half the battle is lost. More importantly, enjoy the journey. Otherwise, you will burn out or give up.”

Lendlease Malaysia

Illustrations by Tan Eng Huat

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