Flipping through the pages of a magazine content containing the list of women whose giant strides in S.T.E.M are unbelievable, I noticed that one woman was distinctly different from the others just by the uniqueness displayed by each person in a particular S.T.E.M field.
Against all the odds, women in S.T.E.M are still excelling and impacting the world with their knowledge and skills in the various S.T.E.M fields in which they operate. They have been encouraging, impactful and very teachable to the worldwide women society.
An example of these women is the amiable Thai Lee, the Owner, CEO and President of the largest female-owned business in America, SHI International.
Thai is a successful woman in S.T.E.M and a wealthy female business leader; she was born in Bangkok, Thailand in 1958. Her father was a prominent Korean economist, who travelled the world with his wife and four children, promoting his country’s postwar development plan.
Thai was born during the period when the heat between both sides of Korea was really intense. She is the second girl among three sisters and a brother. During her early years, Thai acted differently from her other siblings, she was focused and a deep thinker, who spent most of her time thinking and planning on her family’s survival.
Thai moved to the United States with Margaret her older sister when she was a teenager, to pursue and further her education. They lived with a family friend in Amherst a little town in Massachusetts, United States.
She attended a high school in Amherst and later enrolled at Amherst College earning a double major BA in biology and economics. During her college days, like most foreigners, Thai had difficulty with her accent and fluency in English. Because she was determined to get the best grade, she avoided any course that required writing and speaking in class. She had always believed that her only chance of becoming a successful person in life was to do business and start-up her own enterprise.
She had set her heart on being an entrepreneur and she was ready to go the extra mile without any distraction. Her plans were to devote her 20s, to learning all about business so that by age 30, she would be running her own company and then get married and have kids by age 40.
As sweet and clean as it may sound, it did not end up as she had planned it out, but today she is a renowned successful woman in S.T.E.M.
Thai moved to Korea after college and worked at Daesung Industrial Co. an auto parts maker in Seoul in order to raise enough money to further her education. After some years, she was back in Massachusetts to pursue her MBA in the Harvard Business School and earned her degree in 1985, becoming the first Korean woman to graduate from the business school.
After her MBA, Thai started out with a job at Procter & Gamble working on brands like Always and Crest, she worked there for two years and later moved to American Express where she also worked for another two years. The whole essence of working after business school was to help prepare herself for the entrepreneurship journey which she has now built in the S.T.E.M Industry.
Speaking of S.T.E.M, Thai was never interested in technology, all the while she had been dreaming of becoming a self-made business tycoon, she was not looking at the Technology Industry. At the time when she became very passionate about her ambition, she had very little exposure to personal computers and her access to it was very limited.
Thai got married to a Columbia-educated lawyer Leo Koguan in 1989. Having shared her entrepreneurship dream with Leo, he was ready to go all the way with her to see that her dream becomes a reality. Soon after the couple was married they came face to face with a golden opportunity that could make Thai’s dream come true. It had to do with a software company in New Jersey, called Lautek. At that time, Lautek was on the verge of running down, the company had a tiny division called Software House that sold business licenses to run programs like Lotus 1-2-3. During that period the company had lost a large number of its customers and was left with just a few. However, the few customers were big like AT&T with vendors such as IBM.
Seeing the many potential values in its relationships with the vendors, the couple grabbed the opportunity by paying less than $1 million for the purchase of Software House, funding the purchase with savings and a few small loans.
Having bought the business, renamed the company as Software House International (SHI), just the way Thai has always dreamed about it. In the space of few years, with Thai’s vision and relentless hard work, she turned the company around into one of the most successful businesses in America with 3,000 employees.
Under her leadership, SHI has grown into a top-ranked provider of IT products and services. With an industry-high of 99 percent in customer retention. Currently, SHI is one of the largest privately-owned firms in the Industry.
Thai did not get up the ladder in a twinkle of an eye, it took dedication and perseverance amidst challenges for Thai to become a leading female business leader in the S.T.E.M industry and she is still making waves up till date.