Retired Telecom and Payment Industry Exec Drina Yue Wins College Alumni Award

4/6/2021 5:22:46 PM Illinois CS Communications

Illinois alumna Drina Yue (BS EE ’80, MS CS ’84) was one of eight Grainger College of Engineering graduates to win a 2021 Alumni Award for Distinguished Service, which is conferred upon exceptional alumni for their outstanding leadership, contributions to the field of engineering, creativity, and entrepreneurship; as well as service to society, the professional community, and to the department, college, or university.

Drina Yue
Drina Yue

Yue was cited for outstanding leadership and contributions in the fields of telecommunications and finance.

“Of course, this is a privilege and honor, and I’m honestly surprised,” Yue said during the online awards ceremony hosted by Grainger Dean Rashid Bashir on March 26.

A retired executive with more than 30 years of experience on both the technical and business sides of companies like Western Union, Motorola, AT&T, and BellSouth, Yue excelled professionally at a time when tech fields were overwhelmingly dominated by men. The inventor of eight telecommunications-related patents, Yue’s work has involved network design, broadband systems and mobile technologies, as well as the money-transfer and payments businesses. 

While at BellSouth’s WorldWide Wireless Division, Yue oversaw the development and management of GSM networks in Denmark, Australia, Germany, and New Zealand. Later, she served as a director for BellSouth China, developing a 34-site microwave network for the Jilin province.

In 2000, Yue joined iSteelAsia as director and CEO, building the online steel trading portal from the ground up, and then overseeing its rapid growth and IPO in Hong Kong’s Growth Enterprise Market. iSteelAsia’s success was the subject of a Harvard Business School case study of a company using new economy tools to benefit traditional industry operations.

As vice president of Motorola’s Asia Pacific Home and Networks Mobility business (2004-2010), Yue was recognized with Motorola’s Business Council of the Year Award in 2008 for 5 years of double-digit growth in the company’s Home business.

From 2010 to 2014, she was senior vice president of the Asia-Pacific region at the Western Union Company, where she was responsible for the company’s operations in 45 countries, overseeing a major expansion in the number of locations and in business partnerships. She earned the "Spirit of Enterprises Award" from the CEO of BellSouth Enterprises.

She has served on a diverse group of boards during her career and is currently an independent director of Taiwan Mobile, an advisory board member of Fintonia Investment Group, and a board member with Christian Action Asia Inc.

During the ceremony, Yue, who earned a BS in electrical engineering and an MS in computer science, recalled the challenges she faced her first year at Illinois and encouraged current students to never give up.

“My English was way below average, especially in technical terms,” said Yue, who in 2017 earned an Illinois CS Distinguished Alumni Award. “When professors were talking [in a lecture], I had to translate in my head. The first week, I was totally lost and couldn’t follow.”

Undeterred, Yue brought a tape recorder to class with her and played back the recordings in her dorm room. “In a couple of months, I caught up,” she said. “So, I want you to have a never-give-up attitude. If there is a will, there is a way. Work hard and you will succeed.”