Roxanne Ma hero image

Roxanne Ma
Creative Lead,
iX China Client Innovation Center

Introduce yourself.

My name is Roxanne Ma, the creative leader of iX China Client Innovation Center. I’ve been with IBM for three years now. Previous to that, I was the marketing manager for a real estate developer. I was an English major back in college, and I have adapted and learned to thrive in different organizations. I am a mom to six-year-old boy.

Which career stage is the hardest for women?

Raising a young baby while maintaining a full-time job.

As a new mom, you are overwhelmed with the new child, breastfeeding, having to wake up five times a night, and still needing to get up for work in the morning. You are exhausted all the time, forget things easily, can’t focus on work, missing your child.

How do you get through this phase? I was quite fortunate that my team didn’t isolate me and offered me great support during that time. Without that support, I could not have survived, for sure.

It took time for me to adjust to the new norm. In the beginning, I felt like any minute I spent on work was a betrayal to my son. Then, I started to talk to my baby boy about my work, the things I need to do the next day, people I met at work, and who made me angry that day. It was really a good practice for me to gather my thoughts at work, and at the same time, spend time with my newborn baby. There are other ways to cope with the problems. You just have to find out which suits you the best.

How do you see IBM being different from other tech companies for women in design?

As a designer in IBM, the resources that you can leverage are endless. When I first joined IBM, I was overwhelmed by how many resources we can access.

Also, the great partnership that we have with Adobe, MURAL, InDesign, and others allows us to have the many licensed tools. Coupled with our design language, the power of our design community is limitless.

How can we shape a better future for more diversity in design at IBM?

We should foster and guide woman in design by assigning them mentors early on in their career and deliver special education that can help them learn from more experienced designers. We should also build a global community of practice where woman designers can come together to share best practices and even collaborate on projects they are assigned to gain more knowledge from the community.

Another thing we can do is to share inspiring stories for women designers—how they thrive in their positions and how they balance their work and life.

How would your career have been different if you were a man?

I suppose I would be in a bigger city and sitting at a bigger table.

I took some time off when I gave birth to my son. And I started all over again as an executive assistant after I get back to work. As a new mom, I did struggle with that job. And I lost my confidence and creativity for quite some time. However, I was able to use my prior marketing experience to get back in design, and here I am leading a big design team and working on very interesting projects with some of the major international clients that IBM has.

And I suppose I would feel less guilty for travels and late hours at work. In China, a mom is supposed to be the housekeeper, as well as the tutor for the kids. How do you deal with that guilt? Hire a cleaning lady, hire personal tutors. Talk to your child about your dreams, what you are working for every day, why you need to work late. Show him or her how hard you work for your dreams. He or she would be inspired by how devoted you are and be proud of you. Working hard doesn’t mean that you don’t have to spend quality time with your children. When you are off, stop worrying about work, focus on your child and family. They are the most important, after all.

Any last thoughts?

Believe in yourself. Set a target and go for it no matter how distant it seems. You can achieve it if you have the will.