Leading in a Male-dominated Field: How Aspire’s Product Manager Paves Her Own Way in Tech

By
Writers@Aspire
Published
August 24, 2021

While the tech industry has come a long way when it comes to diversity and inclusivity, you’d often see more men than women in the tech team. Andrea Yeo, one of Aspire’s product managers (PMs), knows this stereotype more than most. Having found her calling in the startup scene through the NUS Overseas Colleges programme, hitting her stride in product only deepened her passion in tech.

At Aspire, she spearheads the entire feature-building process from shaping the product vision to analysing customer adoption metrics once it goes live. With many successful product launches under her belt, she is a role model for anyone who is looking to break into a tech leadership role.

In this interview, we picked Andrea’s brain about her approach to succeeding as a product manager, her sure-fire cure to the post-lunch slump and how she builds impactful features that brings maximum value to over 10,000 Aspire users across the region.


Can you briefly share your background prior to joining Aspire?

I first discovered the startup scene through a school programme called NUS Overseas Colleges. It provided me with the opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship, and immerse myself in the startup scene for a year in Shanghai.

Since then, I have always been in startups一for the love of building new business verticals and products from the ground up.

It has been quite the journey, where I had front-row seats to the growth of an early-stage startup as its first employee and found my place in Product by a stroke of luck.


How did you find out about Aspire? What made you decide to join the team?

I was first attracted to Aspire's mission to empower entrepreneurs一which I saw through a TechInAsia job listing! Eventually, I decided to take the plunge after speaking to the team, who left me feeling quite inspired.


Aspire Product Team Bonding, early 2021


What does a product manager at Aspire do?

PMs at Aspire are responsible for building features that deliver customer and business value, as well as the overall user experience for specific product areas. We work closely with our design and engineering counterparts in the product team, and cross-functionally with the rest of the Aspire team to ensure the success of the product!

What the role looks like for each PM depends heavily on the exact product area that we own. However, some of my key responsibilities include:

#1: Shaping the product vision and roadmap based on customer and market insights.

These insights are gathered from customer interviews, feature requests, competitive analysis etc. We’d also need to ensure that the eventual roadmap is aligned with business strategy and priorities.


#2: Defining the problem to solve and discovering the "right" solution.

This is done through interviews, usability tests, data etc. as well as managing trade-offs.


#3: Writing product requirements document (PRDs).

The PRD guides the development team on the why, what and how of the feature - and my role here is to support the team in shipping features smoothly.


#4: Preparing for product launches.

It is crucial that customer-facing teams are on top of changes in a customer's experience, and that new processes are in place for the relevant team whenever the need arises. Beyond that, it is also about enabling marketing and sales teams to realise the potential value of the features we've built.


#5: Monitoring product adoption and customer feedback post-launch.

This informs our next iteration and is the ultimate milestone to see if we've succeeded in achieving our objectives.


What does a typical day in your role look like? What’s your go-to coffee to get you through the day?

No two days are the same一especially since our product is always evolving and things move quite quickly here in Aspire! But on the extremes, I’ve had days focused on pure execution and other days focused on defining what's next.

My go-to coffee is homemade. I'd grind my coffee beans right before brewing一which takes a bit of effort, but I've managed to keep the process to around seven minutes. It's how I survive the post-lunch slump!

Andrea's homemade coffee


In your years as a product manager in a male-dominated field, what are the tips required to succeed in your role?

Tip #1: Get comfortable with being uncomfortable! Given how few women we have in tech, it is common to be the only female on the team.

Tip #2: Be mindful of any self-limiting beliefs, whether it is coming from a voice in your head or the people around you. Ultimately what matters is what you bring to the table, so keep faith and put in the work!

Tip #3: Have courage to stay authentic and stand up for yourself.

Tip #4: Build great working relationships. I've been blessed thus far一 my teams have always been really collaborative and supportive.


Aspire Product Bonding Day, mid 2021


What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced when leading a team?

One of my biggest challenges lies in the need to lead the team through uncertainty, although this is also what keeps things exciting. There is never one right answer, but it's my responsibility to drive the conversation forward and make sure that everyone is working towards the same goals.


What do you do during your free time? How do you keep a work-life balance?

I like to keep active! These days, I switch between yoga, swimming, skating and running一 depending on how much time I have and what I'm feeling up for that day.

From time to time, I try to break up my routine and search for new inspiration or experiences.

To maintain a work-life balance, I've recently said goodbye to Slack and Gmail on my phone! It helps me stay present when I'm off work, and I get on my laptop whenever I have something work-related to do or check.

Aspire Product Team Bonding, early 2021


Tell us about your proudest moment since starting your journey at Aspire.

It is most rewarding for me when customers come back saying that they absolutely loved what we've built for them!


Any favourite quotes that inspire you to do the best work that you want to share?

I’ve always been inspired by this classic Winston Churchill quote which goes,

"If you're going through hell, keep going"

My best work comes from staying the course when the going gets tough, because the most pivotal moments are precisely when things are difficult. Overcoming challenges typically means that we will have a better solution/ product, or there is a lesson to be learned at the end of the day.

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