By Stephanie Ly, Chief Operating Office
I can still remember the initial advice that my father, founder of TL Machine, gave to me when I started working for him in 2012. He looked at me and said, “have an open heart.” Though I didn’t know what he meant at the time, I later realized that TL Machine was an essential key to my growth as a leader.
Prior to joining TLM, I was a software engineer for 11+ years and loved it. My work as an engineer was surrounded on critical mission projects, specifically, development and system integration. The scope of my work required strong critical analysis and was made possible with dynamic team work.
Even though I loved my job as a software engineer, I saw something in my father’s company that inspired me to leave. My father’s dedication to his work and his impact on those around him ultimately convinced me that I wanted to be a part of that too. My father often jokes that TLM was one of his kids. From watching my father start out with little to no work opportunities to managing a successful company for over 23 years not only inspires me but challenges me to see how I can make an impact by progressing our company to the next level.
It took me years through trial and error to truly understand my father’s advice. When he said, “have an open heart,” what he meant was to be open to possibilities, relationships and change. Being open to possibilities has allowed me to become more open minded, flexible and quick to adapt to change.
Before I start my work day, I begin with fueling my energy with an iced Vietnamese coffee with one extra shot of espresso or sometimes a steamy cup of dark black coffee–there is no one right way to enjoy coffee. A great cup of coffee gets me into the proper work-mode.
After coffee, I start each day by reviewing my daily agenda for priorities. I then hold my ‘start-the-day’ meeting with the operational and sales teams. These short but productive meetings allow our team to set priorities and expectations such that we are in sync with the same goals for the day.
Much of the rest of my day is spent helping my team with any challenges they may encounter such as: production, sales, HR, IT, and/or customer issues. Even though my responsibilities at work are scheduled in advance, I always make sure to set aside time to support my team with whatever they may need.
For me, being open to possibilities also means thinking outside of the box. One of the best parts of my job is when I see my team members finding out creative solutions for the challenges they are facing. This makes a big difference for our customers when we can offer solutions for their tight deadline.
I believe that apart of having a successful business requires open communication and great relationships with employees. At TLM we make it a priority to incorporate a fun work environment by hosting team activities such as scavenger hunts or the team’s favorite company lunches. Whether it’s catering from a local restaurant or calling a food truck, we do it. Nothing brings people together quite like food.
Outside of the box thinking also opens other doors for change. Through working at TLM, I have learned how to embrace change. We have gone through a series of processes to advance the company by utilizing data analysis and strong production strategies in order to improve cycle time and reduce scrap rate.
As much as I enjoy working, I also love taking on new hobbies such as drawing, photography and cosplay. Cosplay, at least for me, brings together the world of engineering, and art. The engineering aspect of Cosplay consists of looking at problems from different angles in order to create a design on paper that looks as realistic as possible off paper. This thought process transfers over to the way I think about a lot of things at work.
Being open to possibilities, open to change, and having open relationships ultimately builds a strong culture at TLM. These core values are what drives our company’s vision to tangible success. Incorporating this kind of mindset makes TLM a strong, reliable and trustworthy supplier for customers.
Now when someone asks me for advice on how to become a leader, I simply tell them, “have an open heart.”