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Women in Tech: Sylvia Ng

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Women in Tech: Sylvia Ng

Sylia VP of Product & Growth at 500px.png

 

 

I'm intrigued to find out more about your journey Sylvia, but first tell me a little bit about yourself.

I’m currently the VP of Product & Growth at 500px, an online photography community with 10M+ members globally. There I lead multi-disciplinary teams to create delightful products and work on user acquisition, community building, and product monetization. I live in Toronto with my husband and 2 kids, and in my spare time I love to travel, read fantasy fiction, and spending time outdoors.

 

What were you doing before you joined 500px?

I’ve always been at the intersection of marketing and data - before 500px I held roles at Google, eBay, OANDA, and ScribbleLive leading cross-functional teams to drive business value and growth. I’m also a mother of two, and a breast cancer survivor.

 

Getting involved in Tech is still a hot topic for women, what was your push into the industry?

I don’t think there was any one specific thing that got me into tech. My dad is an engineer, and he’s always been a strong influence on me. But aside from that, I’ve always been interested in STEM subjects; I like to create and engineer things. Growing up I created games and puzzles for my cousins to play with, and in high school I took robotics and computing classes as my electives. Ultimately my interests led me to select Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo as my undergraduate program, and because it was a co-op program, I ended up getting a wide range of tech experience in my early 20s - from MRI research to extrusion die optimization and CRM consulting. That, of course, kickstarted my entire career in tech.

 

How have you found your journey so far and what has been your greatest accomplishment?

I’ve worked at amazing places doing great things with great people and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world.

Defeating breast cancer at a young age is probably my largest personal accomplishment. Career-wise I’d say building teams and creating programs at companies like Google where my work has lasting impacting is also something I’m proud of. And of course, coaching others is on that list as well - I’ve been fortunate enough to coach some great talent, including Jordan Pierson who made the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2016.

 

What has been the most challenging thing so far?

Given my medical history, balancing health and work / home life has been the most challenging in recent years. Most working moms identify with the challenges of work-life-balance, but for me there is an added layer of worry about getting sick again. On many days it’s a mental game - a positive attitude is required for career success and health, but it’s not always easy to stay positive when the pressure piles on, at work and at home.

 

 

What educational route did you take to get to where you are now?

I have a Bachelor of Applied Science from the University of Waterloo and a Masters of Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. But honestly, applied learning is the most important. For me the 6 internships that I did as part of my undergraduate degree was what really helped to stage my career.  Learning is a lifelong journey, and continuous reading is a must to stay current, especially in tech. I also wouldn’t underestimate learning unrelated disciplines; the skills you gain there could be the extra edge that helps you to stand out in tech. Currently I’m learning Mandarin in my spare time.

 

Tell me about your experience working in a male dominated industry?

As a woman in tech I’d have to say that I’ve been super lucky. I’ve only ever experienced support and encouragement from those around me. Even when I’ve been outnumbered as a woman (I was the only woman on the executive staff of ScribbleLive) my peers have been understanding of my needs, be it breastfeeding or working from home to deal with a sick kid.

I have, unfortunately, come across many other women who have not been as fortunate as me. I’ve spoken at various panels and events about gender diversity in tech and invariably women approach me afterward, sharing their frustrations at having been passed over for promotions, harassed, or demeaned in the workplace based on their gender. The answers or solutions to the problems aren’t always clear, so having continued discussion is always a good way forward, and I’m heartened by the increased attention the topic is getting within the tech industry.

 

What advice would you give to young female entrepreneurs getting ready to enter the tech industry?

Don’t be afraid to fail and jump in! Get mentorship, know that being nerdy is cool, and don’t feel guilty about your choices. And if confidence is something you lack, check out my full list of tips here.

 

How do you think tech will look in 10 years for consumers and more women getting into tech?

Increased adoption of AI and VR/AR usage in our daily lives will definitely change the landscape. It will become increasingly important for anybody in tech to be flexible and adaptive to change, and I personally think there will be a new emphasis on the creative disciplines that will be harder for AI to disrupt.

Getting more women into tech can only help us to adapt to these technological changes better, especially if the women are in leadership roles. Diversity of perspective is required to make sure that the technology we build is providing a net benefit without unintended economic, social, or environmental side-effects.

 

 
 

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Women in Tech: Marielle Price

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Women in Tech: Marielle Price

Marielle for Press Final.jpg

 

 

 

Hi Marielle, tell me a little bit about yourself and your journey into Fieldwire?

My name is Marielle and I live in San Francisco. I trained as a civil engineer at Stanford before joining Pankow Builders as an engineer and then project manager. At Fieldwire I head the Construction Team which is composed of experienced construction professionals. Fieldwire is a construction management software.  We help improve the day-to-day for people in the construction field. Industry knowledge is paramount to understand the difficulties that people are facing on-site, and as such my team is the primary interface between the company and its customers.

 

What were you doing before you decided to join Fieldwire?

I was working for Pankow Builders, a $450M commercial general contractor, before joining Fieldwire. I built several sustainable buildings in the educational sector as well as a $180M public building in San Francisco. While working at Pankow, I realized there was a ton of waste in the industry - between materials, cost, and time. One of the ways to reduce time waste is by using mobile technology to stop double data entry, streamline communication, and have all of the latest information with you at all times. I was using a few different tools when I found Fieldwire and loved it. Fieldwire streamlined my job and I decided to switch over to the tech side and join the team here.

 

Getting involved in Tech is still a hot topic for women, what was your push into the industry?

Construction is already an industry that struggles with gender balance so I didn’t notice it as much in the tech world. That being said, it is an issue that I think both the construction and technology industries have identified and know that it’s necessary to improve.

I attended a women in construction conference earlier this year and learned an interesting fact – companies that have added more women and minorities at the executive and board levels have experienced higher profits as their boards became more diverse. Companies work smarter when there is more diversity in backgrounds and experiences. In terms of getting into the industry, it wasn’t a giant leap because I knew the construction really well and project management skills are very applicable in tech. Construction technology was the perfect fit.

 

How have you found your journey so far and what has been your greatest accomplishment?

My journey has been interesting - I wasn’t expecting to switch to the technology side but it’s been great. I think that a construction job site is basically like a startup in terms of people needing to wear a bunch of hats and get things done, so it translates pretty well. My greatest accomplishments have been helping the customers I work with be more efficient in their day-to-day. It’s feels great to speak with customers and hear how Fieldwire is making their lives easier. It’s also awesome to visit all of the amazing structures that our clients build!

 

What has been the most challenging thing so far?

Our company is expanding and it has been challenging growing a team. You have to be very careful on who you hire to maintain your company culture, especially when you grow 5-10 times the size.

 

What educational route did you take to get to where you are now?

I studied civil engineering for my bachelor’s degree and construction management for my master’s degree, both at Stanford University. The most important things I gained besides technical knowledge are critical thinking skills, experience working in groups, and the network.

 

 

Tell me about your experience working in a male dominated industry?

I definitely had some experiences in construction that my male colleagues did not encounter (being called certain terms of endearment, people ignoring what I said, and being asked to make coffee on many occasions) but I also found several mentors (male and female) that helped me grow in my career. It’s an old-school industry that has a ways to go for women but it’s an amazing industry to be a part of!  In tech, I haven’t experienced the same things, but I work at a young, progressive company. I was the first female hire at Fieldwire, since then we have hired several other talented females but we still have some ways to go to improve our gender diversity.

 

How do you overcome competition in the tech industry?

The product and service are definitely the differentiators for Fieldwire. Many of us are straight from the construction industry and we focus on making a tool that we know is useful for the field. (We also use it internally to manage the product development cycles!) As construction is an old school industry, we know that the app needs to be very easy to pick up and use, with no training needed. Our support services are also top notch - whether customers want to call, email, or chat us.

 

What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs getting ready to enter the tech industry?

Go for it! There are a lot of exciting things going on right now and there are opportunities to have a big impact and move our industry in the right direction. As a piece of advice, I would focus on surrounding yourself with people that you like to work with. If you start at a small company (or even a big one), that makes a big difference. Also, find a connection between what you’re doing now and a tech company - there are transferable skills and knowledge that are incredibly valuable to startups even if you’re not in tech now. If you’re ready to dive in and get your hands dirty, you’re good to go!

 

 

Overview of how Fieldwire works: