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Welcome to Advent: SEA, our series highlighting Southeast Asian tech innovations, products, inventions, discoveries, startups, and personalities.

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The tech industry has been a male dominant industry but things are changing with more female experts coming into the foray. Yet, the industry suffers from lack of female representation especially in leadership positions.

According to a study conducted by Deloitte, in the U.S. alone women make only 47 percent of the labor force in 2018. However, for technology positions, they make only 27 percent.

On the bright side, things are changing for the better and many women are slowly being made leaders. In Southeast Asia, there’s Chin Keat Yin who is currently the Head Product Specialist, APAC, overseeing foodpanda’s product development strategy across 12 markets in Asia.

We recently spoke to Keat Yin to gain her insights on what’s it like to be a female leader in the tech industry.

Keat Yin (seated in pink) and the product and tech team, which grew significantly bigger in just a few months IMAGE: Chin Keat Yin.

Hey there, Keat Yin. In your own words, can you share a little about yourself?

I currently oversee the brand’s product development strategy with a team of over 40 product specialists across the 12 markets foodpanda operates in. Unlike many others in tech roles, my journey didn’t actually begin in tech or product. I majored in economics and marketing in school, and started my career in the corporate world in the finance industry. As I started climbing the corporate ladder, I craved for a more exciting, dynamic, and fast-paced work, which led me into the tech industry.

I had my first brush with product development in an online fashion retailer, where I was originally in an operations role and had to work closely with our product teams. Through this, I learned first-hand how good product development can contribute to a better customer experience, and I was inspired to take a leap into the product space and have not looked back ever since.

I enjoy the fast-paced nature of technology, and coupled with my experience in project management, I progressed to take on product management roles in tech start-ups, focusing on bridging the more technical aspects like machine-learning, automation and optimization, to a better user experience.

My journey has taught me that though I may not have followed a traditional career path, the dynamic world of tech presents so many possibilities, and that there is a role for everyone, as long as you pursue your interests.

What is your preferred leadership style and how long did it take you to hone your leadership skills?

Trust, transparency and teamwork form the foundation of my leadership style. I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to become a manager at a fairly early stage of my career, working hand-in-hand with junior team members in a less hierarchical structure, and this has shaped the way I lead over the years.

I currently lead a relatively young team that is spread across 12 markets — especially as we transit to remote working, I think it’s important to foster strong relationships with each of my team members to better understand their strengths and working style. This has allowed me to create an environment of trust and autonomy, where every specialist feels empowered to bring their best ideas to the table, yet know that they have my support through their work.

I also encourage my teams to share freely and collaborate deeply, so that we are better aligned as a team to work towards our business goals. We catch up bi-weekly, coming together to share latest updates and discuss product priorities. We want to ensure that everyone can have access to all the information and insights they need to do their job well.

I believe that true leadership is about building a robust and sustainable team for the business, while taking into consideration each team player’s personal growth and goals.

Late night dinner after work in Berlin with the developers. IMAGE: Chin Keat Yin.

They say leaders are made. Who are some of the people in your life who’ve served as inspiration to you into becoming a leader?

Role models and mentors are so important in inspiring and instilling confidence in women, especially those who are considering, or are new to a career in technology. I’ve always looked up to my first boss, who was incredibly supportive of me as I expressed interest in a career switch to tech.

She had given me the opportunity to explore the role of product, which was not in my scope in an operations role at that time, even if this might mean that I will be leaving her team. As a fellow woman in tech, she taught me the importance of self-confidence in navigating the traditionally-male dominated industry, as well as the importance of being supportive to young team members who are finding their footing in their careers.

I find myself paying this forward today, as I play the role of a mentor as a manager, looking out for my younger team members and taking interest in their personal development beyond our day-to-day work.

What’s your advice for young women who aspire to be leaders in their workplace but struggle to either speak up or share their thoughts?

When you’re young and inexperienced, sitting at a table full of men can be intimidating. My advice for young women aspiring to be leaders is to recognize that your voice has value! Trust your instincts, be confident, and never be afraid to speak up.

As leaders, we also have a role to play in enabling newer team members and helping them gain visibility and confidence at work. I’ve learned to create opportunities for my younger team members and personally coach them through practice sessions and setting up dry runs and rehearsals with them ahead of presentations. This helps build their confidence, and goes a long way in helping them do better at work.

One of the first team photos of Keat Yin and her product and tech team at foodpanda. IMAGE: Chin Keat Yin.

How do you overcome discrimination in the tech industry?

As a woman in tech, I believe that we bring with us unique strengths such as empathy, attention to detail and interpersonal skills, which contribute positively to the development and management of tech and products. I’m also very fortunate to be working in a company that thrives on the diversity of its people, and I was never made to feel that gender was a stumbling block.

At foodpanda, we find strength in our diversity — women make up more than half the product team in Singapore, and we’ve seen how the diversity of views and experiences have contributed to better results. In Singapore, the representation of female employees in foodpanda is higher than the industry average across, working across a variety of departments and roles in product and tech, marketing, communications, finance, human resource and more.

What are your thoughts about allyship?

While it is good to be working within a supportive network with a level playing field, I think it is important to recognize that we can be in control of our own empowerment at the individual level.

I believe that empowerment should come from within, and that we have the ability to empower ourselves. This means constantly honing your craft to get better at what you do, gaining experience, knowing to speak up at the right moment, and surrounding ourselves with mentors to help you in your journey.

What was your lowest and highest point as a leader?

The highest point for me was seeing my team members step up with the confidence to challenge each other. It shows that the team is unafraid to share ideas and encourage each other to do better, and that we have created an environment in which everyone feels empowered, and safe.

I remember working on a product pitch last year with a team member — a shy and quiet, but incredibly talented girl. I recall sitting down with her in several 1:1 sessions to run through the ideas and figure out how we can best equip her for the pitch. I felt really proud watching her speak confidently on pitch day (where she eventually got the buy-in from everyone!) but beyond that, there is a sense of accomplishment knowing you have helped someone find their voice.

Product specialists are a relatively new and unique function within a tech company, and charting new territories can sometimes be a bumpy and lonely ride, as there is no precedence for you to fall back on or seek lessons from. As a leader, we also often think we need to have the answers for everything, but the reality is that there is value in asking questions and seeking opinions. This is why at foodpanda, we’ve taken great steps to ensure our teams thrive as they work alongside each other.

Finally, what are some books you’ll recommend to any person who’s aspiring to be a leader?

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Sheila Heen, Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, and Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

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Cover image sourced from Chin Keat Yin.

ที่มา : Mashable

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