By SGN | 15 July 2020
When the coronavirus pandemic struck earlier this year, an extraordinary volunteering movement started. From 10,000 miles In this edition of our Women in Tech series, we speak to two tech leaders – Dr Megan Yao, head of advanced analytics at NTUC FairPrice, and Shaowen Ang, regional lead of seller operations and listings at Shopee – who are both leading teams to capitalise on data for organisational success.
The recent circuit breaker in Singapore has seen a majority of us plugging into tech. Evidently, the way we live today is rapidly changing, and businesses must adapt to new norms.
Behind the scenes, and screens, businesses are revving up with the meaningful and creative usage of data to go beyond consumer expectations – and this is no walk in the park.
Data: a powerful tool that drives greater business decisions
Dr Megan Yao, head of advanced analytics at NTUC FairPrice, is helming a team tasked with switching up the online grocery business of Singapore’s largest supermarket chain. The team has been paving the foundation for the business to make better and faster data-driven decisions.
This stems from collaborations with other business functions to build and deploy advanced data science solutions, with the aim of bringing a direct and measurable impact on business operations and customers. “We worked with the data engineering team to bring related data to the cloud and established a data mart for downstream users,” Dr Megan says.
Aside from training business users on how to use the platform for their day-to-day reporting and business analytics needs, the team also extends further support with their in-house helpdesk. These contribute to higher adoption rates on the platform, which have resulted in improved cost and operation efficiencies within different departments.
Most recently, the team started on a project with its customer experience team to further enhance the user journey of its consumers. Dr Megan shares that to improve after-order customer care, the team analyses past feedback from customers to create a data model that automates the decision-making process for approval of a refund request.
“After we integrated that model to the customer service platform, the average response time was significantly reduced from 12 hours to less than an hour, freeing up time for the customer service team to focus on cultivating and enhancing customer relations,” she says.
Tapping into an improved customer experience
In a customer-centric business, improving the customer experience and enhancing service is key. Shaowen Ang, the regional lead of seller operations and listings at e-commerce platform Shopee, shares that data is a “critical component in analysing problems, designing strategy, and measuring impact” for the business.
“The e-commerce industry evolves at a rapid pace and this means that the way we utilise data in our approach takes on many shapes and forms. That level of adaptability comes with a combination of technical prowess, creative problem-solving and a desire to deliver the best for our sellers,” Shaowen says.
She joined Shopee at a time when e-commerce was charting rapid growth despite just being introduced in the region. Shaowen shares that Shopee was experiencing a phase of hypergrowth in a budding sector at the time, which also meant that the team had many ambiguities to navigate.
However, being in that space served as both a motivator and inspiration for Shaowen to continue uncovering opportunities. Today, Shaowen manages two teams at Shopee, the seller operations team and listings team, which both hold data at the core of all aspects of their work.
Being women leaders in tech
In an industry that is traditionally male-dominated, Shaowen reckons that it is important for women to support, motivate, and raise one another. “Personally, it inspires me to see more women in leadership roles and positions today. It is a firm testament to the fact that truly, gender is no inhibitor to one’s accomplishments,” she says.
Being in a working environment that celebrates female empowerment, gender equality and diversity has laid firm grounds for women to achieve a successful career in tech. For example, working mothers are granted flexible work hours at Shopee, and the business has also partnered with organisations like Coding Girls to empower more women to pick up coding skills. Initiatives like these enable new mothers like Shaowen to give her best both at home and at work.
“I was able to spread out my four months of maternity leave, instead of taking it all at once. This flexibility enabled me to stay connected to work during the transition and remain fully involved in my baby’s formative first year,” she says.
For Dr Megan, she believes that even as industries are becoming more accepting today, more can be done to accommodate women who are pursuing high-powered careers. “On a professional basis, we ought to make decisions objectively for the business and not be influenced by gender,” she says.
She shares that the Asian culture has a traditional notion of gender roles dictating how a woman should act. Women are typically also expected to shoulder a heavier portion of family responsibilities, balancing household duties and their careers.
On that note, Dr Megan encourages women who are pursuing careers in a male-dominated industry to “recognise [the traditional notions], learn to tune it out, and let data and logic guide your decisions.”