6 June 2024

“I have to tell you that I am an achiever.”

This is how female CEO, Dr. Karndee Leopairote, who has been considered the ideal “working woman” for many Thais, defines herself.

“I would like to achieve something; be better, know more, get things done faster. I just don’t fall back to say that I need to be a sweetheart in the office. I never thought of that and I never thought that I would be able to achieve that. I would achieve the work result and the performance.”


Aim to build a better future

Dr.Karndee is the Executive Vice President of Future Tales Lab, a research lab that analyses and creates future solutions, as well as providing such information to government sectors, private sectors, and the public.

“So, all the trends emerge and new things pop up 24 hours a day and actually around the globe. So I wouldn’t say that’s a challenge, but it’s an exciting thing that makes this job so awesome that we keep ourselves updated all the time.”

However when talking about her vision of the future, Dr.Karndee said she is not going to predict how the future would look like. She would rather analyse scenarios systematically.

All of this, we actually inform the strategies, and we need to tell the world that this is what we find, tell the cities this is what we know, so that we can have tangible changes together.”

Photo Credit: Dr.Karndee Leopairote

Being logical VS compassionate

Formerly a lecturer at Thammasat University and having worked in top-positions at companies such as C-ASEAN, connecting Thai startups and SMEs with the ASEAN market, and ICORA, focusing on the investment of digital currencies, Dr. Karndee said that her leadership style has changed over the years.

Being a good coach is what remains the same. However, as she reflects on herself, she admits that being logical was the most important factor, which she felt, came from her solid background in engineering, where every decision is based on numbers.

“I don’t like emotions, I don’t like anything subjective, prove me by the numbers, and that was me before.”

Now she says she became calmer and more compassionate towards others.

“When I make decisions, especially when it deals with people, I think I weigh on compassion rather than judgment, trying to understand the root cause of the problem. It could be a technical problem, it could be human errors, and behind the human errors it could be human problems, family problems, or anything along the road. I’ll try to understand that and solve the problem with my better understanding of others.”

Dr. Karndee would rather call herself a team player rather than a boss, where she also noted the difference between a boss and a leader, by referring to the first book that she read after she quit teaching; Too many bosses, Too few leaders.

“A leader doesn’t have to come with a position,” she explains. “You can be a good leader without any authority. So I tried to understand what a leader looks like, and most of them would try to set examples. Being a good leader means you need to promote well-being, opportunities and growth for your team.”

Photo Credit: Dr.Karndee Leopairote

Double burden

Growing up with two brothers and a number of male cousins, Dr. Karndee said that being the only female in the family also comes with, what she calls, a double burden, where women are expected to be responsible for a large amount of unpaid work as well as their paid work.

Dr. Karndee recalls her childhood days where her mother told her to help in the kitchen, instead of spending all her free time playing and watching cartoons with her brothers.

“I went to help my mom in the kitchen very effectively and efficiently, get things done, and watch cartoons with my brothers. I would do that perfectly, and ran out to climb trees with my brothers.”

She admits that she didn’t like it back then, but her childhood responsibilities developed her into a woman who can take care of her family and work in a male-dominant environment without fear.

Now that she’s a mother of two teenage daughters, she now encourages her husband and her brothers to take part in household chores.

“It’s all about living together, making a great team, with great women and great men working together. Not that I teach equality, but I just don’t make a case on gender bias at all.”

On top of that, she never sets limitations on what her daughters can do based on their gender.

“I don’t say, you’re a girl you can’t play soccer. I would let them play soccer, but they don’t like it anyhow. That’s the kind of thing that I groom my two daughters that you can do anything you want.”

Photo Credit: Dr.Karndee Leopairote

Tough decision for any woman

Although there are many successful women at work, Dr. Karndee undeniably admits that at a certain point, women would have to make some tough choices about their lives, whether to slow down their career and pay attention to something else, such as starting a family and having children.

Having kids is one thing I have to tell you, it has changed my life,” she said.

“Even though I’m a great achiever, I want to be at the top all the time, I want to be the leader all the time, I need to ask myself, what exactly do I see more important? Is it my work, my career, or my family with my kids?”

Being a mother became a turning point in her career, where she decided to quit her full-time job, in order to spend more time with her children, and be there for them during their critical stage of their lives.

“I’ll never be a stay-at-home mom,” she clarified.

The tough decisions that women have to make could be the reason why Dr. Karndee thinks there are still male leaders more than females, despite that Thailand has a higher percentage of women in top-management positions compared to other countries in Asia.

“I would like to see the infrastructures or the norm of society that open up the same doors and opportunities to women and men, or genders in between. So that’s how we empower them; give them tools, give them knowledge, wisdom, and the opportunity to shine.”

Photo Credit: Dr.Karndee Leopairote

You write your own destiny

When being asked what she would like to say, if she could speak to every single woman around the world at the same time, Dr. Karndee refers to one of her favourite postcards she wrote to her daughter, who is currently studying in Massachusetts, which says “The person you destined to become, is the person you decide to be.”

In other words, “You write your own destiny.”

By Nad Bunnag, Thai PBS World