Shaowen Ang of Shopee on the inclusive culture that helps working mothers: Women in Tech

A little flexibility goes a long way.

Source: Shopee.

In 2016, Shaowen Ang joined Shopee shortly after the online shopping portal turned one. She heads its listings and sellers operations teams and manages the protocols that make sure Shopee’s users can connect smoothly. Then, in 2018, she became a mother. To take care of her daughter, Ang was able to take advantage of the benefits offered by her employer for parents with newborns.

KrASIA recently spoke with Ang to learn more about her work, achievements, as well as the changes that she had to undergo as a working parent.

KrASIA (Kr): What inspired you to leave management consulting and build a career in e-commerce? Did you feel any apprehension at first?

Shaowen Ang (A): While I found management consulting to be very intellectually stimulating and rigorous, I wanted to embark on a career that went beyond strategic advisory. I wanted to pursue a role that drives impact through both strategy and end-to-end implementation, and joining Shopee felt like a natural next step. Though I was initially worried that I lacked extensive knowledge of the e-commerce space, I realized very quickly that it could be learned on the job, and I was able to ease into my role seamlessly.

Kr: Why did you specifically choose to join Shopee? What makes Shopee stand out in terms of the professional challenge and as an employer?

A: I chose to join Shopee in 2016 while it was in a nascent stage of development and the local e-commerce industry was still budding. Coming on board during a phase of hypergrowth for the company meant there were many ambiguities to navigate. However, I knew there would be plenty of room for me to contribute, so I relished the challenge of turning ambiguity into opportunity and began setting up processes and policies as well as building my team quickly.

In just a few years, Shopee has grown rapidly to become one of Southeast Asia’s top e-commerce destinations. In conjunction with our business growth, our team size has also expanded tremendously and we are proud to be grooming some of Singapore’s future leaders in the tech industry. One thing that has and will always remain a constant, however, is the fast-paced, dynamic, and innovative culture that has enabled Shopee to get to where it is today. Despite our tremendous success, our team does not rest on its laurels and is constantly motivated by the challenges that each new day brings.

Kr: What’s the day-to-day work in “regional operations” like?

A: In my role as senior manager of regional operations at Shopee, I oversee our e-commerce operations, design strategy, and implement the processes and policies needed to reduce potential friction between buyers and sellers. I manage the listings operations team, which aims to elevate the quality of listings and ensure buyers can easily find what they want, and the seller operations teams, which helps buyers list their products quickly and accurately.

On a day-to-day basis, I design platform-wide policies to boost our sellers’ performance and drive high-quality content. As Shopee is committed to empowering our sellers, I work closely with the product team to roll out features aimed at supporting them, and craft communication strategies to help them better understand new policies and initiatives. I also identify key seller pain points, introduce processes to address them, and analyze the impact of our overall features and plans.

Kr: What are the key indicators you keep track of to measure your progress?

A: Key indicators I track to measure Shopee’s progress include seller performance metrics, which looks at operational efficiency and customer satisfaction. My team also monitors the quality of our listings carefully and check for things such as search accuracy, how many duplicates we have, and click-through and conversion rates, among many other things.

Kr: How has your background in management consulting helped with your current role of overseeing Shopee’s seller operations?

A: Throughout my management consulting career, I honed a variety of skills that are easily transferable to e-commerce. For example, management consulting requires people to be adept at solving complex problems and addressing issues from a structured and logical perspective. As Shopee grows exponentially, I am required to make decisions daily on how to allocate resources. Being able to solve problems and draw on my previous experience in consulting is therefore critical in helping me to make calculated decisions.

Kr: What are some of your achievements as the regional head of seller operations and content at Shopee?

A: As a senior manager of regional operations, I am proud to have built my team from the ground up and created automated processes to improve overall workflow and efficiency. The systems I have put in place have enabled us to enhance the quality of content on Shopee’s platform, identifying problematic content such as spam, counterfeit products, and duplicates across all our listings to create the best possible shopping experience for our users.

Kr: What are some of the adjustments you have had to make while leading a regional team after becoming a new mother?

A: In juggling my roles as a new mother and senior manager of regional operations, I have learned the importance of prioritizing and delegation. As my team’s scope of work continues to grow in tandem with Shopee’s rapid expansion, it is crucial that I am able to delegate tasks and trust them to perform and deliver. As a leader, I believe that this empowers my team by giving them the confidence to drive initiatives independently and assume more responsibility. I also actively foster open channels of communication within my team so they know they have my support when facing challenges or complex decisions.

Kr: One of the decisions you made was to spread out your four-month maternity leave. How has that helped you strike a balance between work and family?

A: Spreading out my four months of maternity leave, rather than taking it in one go, has enabled me to ease back into working life slowly yet stay connected and involved in my baby’s formative first year. I have the flexibility to take leave when needed to attend to her needs, such as when I have to bring her to get immunization shots at the doctor.

Kr: Could you share how Shopee’s flexible workspace scheme differs from policies at other companies? What measures are in place for parents with newborns?

A: Inclusion is an essential aspect of Shopee’s culture, and we strive to ensure all employees feel valued in the workplace. Some practices that have been put in place to create a supportive and inclusive work environment for new mothers include the creation of the working mother group at Shopee, which allows participants across all levels and functions to come together and discuss policies and proposals for working mothers. These include the option of flexible working hours and remote meetings to help working mothers strike a balance between career and family.

In the office, nursing mothers are also very fortunate to have a well-equipped, lockable nursing room that features electronic sanitizers and fridges to store milk. Having such infrastructure in place is hugely important and makes going back to work much easier for mothers with newborns.

Kr: What is one piece of advice that you would give mothers-to-be who are working in the tech industry?

A: Identify what is most important to you and make it work. Personally, I decided that it was a priority for me to put my baby to bed every night at 7:30 p.m. In order to make that happen, I choose to leave work earlier, only coming back online once my baby is asleep and if needed. I think as a mother who works full time in the tech industry, it is necessary to make sacrifices. For me, this means sleeping a bit less than I used to and waking up earlier in order to bring my daughter for a walk every morning before I go to work.

This article is part of “Women in Tech,” a series by KrASIA that highlights the achievements of women who are a driving force behind Southeast Asia’s tech startups.