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The latest candidate in our series of Q&As with influential women in the technology business in Canada is Sylvia Ng, CEO, ReturnBear, an end-to-end retail returns solution.
Name: Sylvia Ng
Job Title: CEO, ReturnBear
Years in the Industry: 18 Years
The Quote That Most Inspires You: “For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way and at last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” (- Alfred D’Souza)
What drew you to a career in the consumer and/or business technology industry?
I’ve always loved solving problems and creating new things, and ended up studying engineering and analytics early in my career. That led me to roles at eBay Canada, Google, and Shopify. More recently I’ve had a growing interest in using my skills to better the environment so that my two kids (and their generation) have a good future to look forward to. In my current role at ReturnBear, I’m able to positively impact the environment while helping e-commerce brands to grow.
Have you encountered any roadblocks along the way that were related to your gender?
We know there are biases held for all sorts of human characteristics. I’m a short woman of Asian descent. So, when it comes to the roadblocks I’ve faced, it’s hard to say whether it’s really just about my gender or other parts of me, too. However, I truly believe we should be pushing for access to opportunities for everyone. If anything, one major roadblock that I have faced along the way is fighting the narrative of just being a woman in tech. I am more than just my gender: I’m a person in tech!
What unique characteristics or perspective do you feel you bring to your organization as a woman?
As a mom, I have learned the importance of prioritization. You can get your work done, and achieve meaningful results, without spending every hour at work.
Technology is historically a male-dominated industry, yet the use of tech is fully embraced by women, and many studies even suggest that females are the primary buyers of tech in the home. What do you feel the technology industry needs to attract more women, particularly into high-level positions?
We need to start talking about commonalities with men and women in technology, not differences. It’s hard for us to get men and women to fight for the same causes when all we do is call out our differences. I am a person in tech. I have had challenges in the industry, but so have many other people. It’s important that there is equitable access to support for both women and men in the space, and that it’s not only seen as a male-dominated industry, but one filled with opportunities for everyone.
Are there other women in the tech industry who inspire you?
Janet Bannister, Managing Partner at Real Ventures. Janet is passionate about tech, but she is also passionate about entrepreneurship and giving back.
What are some of the misconceptions/myths about women working in the technology space that you’d like to dispel?
I’d like to dispel the myth that moms are not invested in work. Moms are just as dedicated as any other professional in the technology space. In fact, moms have more at stake – we just might not work on a fixed schedule.
What’s one thing you wish was done differently in the industry, and why?
People often try to take on problems themselves, particularly in the ecommerce industry. It is ok to reach out for support, whether it’s with regards to work-from-home capabilities, mental health support, and solutions to make your business more functional. We have certainly seen this at ReturnBear, where retailers tried to make returns easier on their own. This is our bread and butter – we are here to provide that solution. There are so many incredible tech companies that offer support in the same way, and we all need to lean on each other for the whole tech industry to progress and excel.
Are you optimistic for the future in general and for the industry?
I’m very optimistic about the future and the role that technology will play in that. E-commerce boomed with the pandemic, and we know that it is here to stay. Tech professionals are stepping up to make an impact. The e-commerce industry will only benefit from everyone thinking of new, innovative solutions to make the space easier for brands and customers, and more importantly, more responsible to society and better for the planet. This is a future that I know everybody at ReturnBear is happy to play a part in building.