She is a mere 28-years-old, but Josephine ‘Josey’ Chow is currently the Country Head of the homegrown e-commerce start-up ShopBack in Singapore and this badass woman isn’t stepping the brakes on her promising career in tech anytime soon…
Women are kicking down the doors and not just in their own way in the tech world, over in Singapore, there are some rising badass women doing it with a tomboy spirit of their own.
Meet Josephine Chow. She is a mere 28-years-old, but is currently the Country Head of the homegrown e-commerce start-up ShopBack Singapore. A former National Tennis player and avid gamer, Josephine (or more affectionately known as Josey), maps out the plans for all eight departments of the ShopBack Headquarters and has grown its database to over 300,000 users in Singapore alone. During Alibaba’s most recent 11.11 Singles’ Day sale, Josey led the team to groundbreaking success, with ShopBack clocking at least 1 order per second. With a wealth of knowledge and experience under her belt, Josey is one of the few young women in Singapore who hold senior managerial positions in companies.
And “few”, is a quantification that is unsurprising to most, even in a country like Singapore where the gender gap appears to be less evident in terms of opportunity to education, economic and political participation. Singapore may rank 5th in the world for fostering female entrepreneurship, according to the Dell Women Entrepreneur Cities Index 2016, however this merely indicates changing mindsets toward gender biases, rather than a complete eradication. In the technological industry, where the occupational segregation is exceptionally apparent, women choose to conceal their gender for fear of the lack of equal opportunity and an impartial review by potential employers.
TT [Tomboy Tarts]: So tell us a little bit about yourself and what makes you a “badass”.
JC [Josephine Chow]: I absolutely love sports and video games, which might come as a surprise to some, given my petite frame – but I guess that’s what makes me badass! I represented Singapore in tennis at international tournaments including the ASEM Youth Games 2005 and SEA Games 2003, and was part of the Kallang Tennis Elite Squad for 5 years. However, I started tennis pretty late compared to others, and I guess that made me work a lot harder to catch up.
Despite my love for gaming, I’ve never owned a gaming device; until two years ago when I bought my first Xbox One. I have always been (or aspired to be) an avid gamer but was never given a chance to own one by my parents. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time now, but I still sneak in a game of Call of Duty whenever I can.
TT: Where did you work at before ShopBack?
JC: I started off as a Social Media Executive in Zalora, where I later took on the role of the Regional Head of Offline Marketing/Partnerships. To be honest, it wasn’t easy. I was surrounded by brilliant minds from top Ivy Leagues, major consulting firms, investment banks – basically people who had years of experience or a much larger wealth of knowledge. Me? I was just an ordinary girl with a degree from a local university, struggling to pay off my own school fees even years after graduation. Most of these individuals were working beyond a normal person’s capacity – which only meant that I had to work beyond THEIR capacity.
TT: What were some of the challenges you faced there?
JC: Not everyone was patient with me during the training process, unfortunately. In the beginning, I grappled with trying to keep up with the pace of things. Definitely, it wasn’t all bad, especially since I got a chance to learn from only the best. I guess this was where I learnt the ‘do or die’ rule the hard way.
Luckily, I had the best mentor who took me through some the lowest points I had. Without her (yes, her!) constant guidance and encouragement, I probably wouldn’t have gotten this far.
TT: What made you want to join ShopBack?
JC: There were 2 aspects of ShopBack that caught my eye and made me want to be a part of what I knew could become something bigger.
First: the business model. It needs to be sustainable, as well as have the ability to have an impact on customers or businesses to keep me interested. With a little digging around, it wasn’t hard to discover information hinting that the ShopBack business model had the potential to become something huge.
Second, and more importantly: the people. In the past, I was always surrounded by people I could work well with and had so much to learn from, which caused me to ask for the same wherever I went. I believe having the same goals, beliefs and drive are the prerequisites of working well together, and are essential for self-improvement. I’m glad I found colleagues in ShopBack whom I can call friends, and I will always be grateful to them for constantly pushing me to be a better version of myself.
TT: What are some of the challenges you faced in ShopBack that got you to where you are now?
JC: The position as Country Head in ShopBack marks my first time dealing with such a diverse team – and also made me realise that my biggest obstacle was myself. There were many instances where I doubted my ability to add value to the company, and this always made me second-guess the decisions I made. Only after some time did I realise that every path was bound to be fraught with risks and challenges; and a path with no probability of error would be doomed from the start.
From that moment on, I started to make decisions more quickly and firmly. Mistakes were made, and in fact, mistakes are still being made. But that’s the beauty of life – everyone makes mistakes, you just have to ensure that you don’t make the same ones twice. Up till today, I’m still learning – acquiring knowledge is a process, not a destination. ShopBack has managed to grow 6-folds within 9 months and I hope to maintain, if not further this level of progress.
“Those who have managed to climb their way up with nothing but hardwork still have their capabilities questioned.” As Josey observes, even in situations where women are able to break the glass ceiling, their authority is often called into question and assertive female managers are lambasted for being “demanding”, “turbulent” and “emotional”.
Fortunately, there are an increasing number of prominent female role models in the tech industry like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Furthermore, in the start-up and entrepreneurial scene where professional ability is placed in the highest regard, the systemic gender inequality traditionally observed in corporate environments is less entrenched. With women added to the equation, it only spells good things for consumers as female entrepreneurs are able to fill an important gap in the market, having a better understanding of their female clientele and creating creative solutions more specific to their needs. In a relatively new start-up like ShopBack, a good 50% of its employees are female and apart from Josey, many of its other key managerial positions are also filled by women. Fortunately for women, this is a trend that is being observed increasingly in other start-ups – though it still far from suggests a complete obliteration of the glass ceiling. Women still face ridicule in the workplace, but Josey is hopeful that much can be done to close the gender gap and advocate equality, especially in the tech industry.
TT: What do you think are some of the challenges faced by women in the workplace and breaking the elusive glass ceiling?
JC: To me, results should be a key determinant of a person’s position – nothing should overpower hard work and abilities. Sadly, I hardly see many women high up in ranks in spite of their calibre and those that do manage to rise to the top, are consistently faced with this very question. A very relevant example is Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign in the past few months. The amount of times she’s been associated with gender-specific profanities, without any relevance to her qualifications or abilities, is simply astounding.
TT: What advice do you have for women hoping to rise the raise the ranks?
JC: Based on my own experience, you have to keep your end goal in mind and make sure you deliver results as it is the most telling reflection of your capabilities. If you face gender ridicule at your workplace, serve it back with objectivity and impact. Never let their negativity get to you, especially self-doubt as it is a dangerous emotion. Keep your head up, treat equality as reality and you will go a long way!
Even if it takes women longer to get to the top or to earn respect in the male-dominated workplace, the gender gap is certainly closing in. Josey is certainly one of many women who will be at the forefront of a movement to promote gender equality in the workplace. Fortunately, there’s no gender discrimination in any form in ShopBack – the warm environment ensures equal opportunities for both genders to excel.