From Coder to Manager: How He Got to Amazon, Shopee
By Kylee McIntyre10-Dec-2018Views 2264

shuning wang manager

Shuning Wang, senior manager at Shopee.

Today, Shuning Wang is a senior manager at Shopee in Singapore, but back then, he was working in the oil industry. Around 2010, it was not uncommon for someone to have stayed with a company for 30 years, and one of his most poignant memories occurred when watching his manager leave the company.

“My manager was a vice president. He left the company. On that day, we took photos and had the party," Shuning remembers. But it was to be more than just a fond farewell among colleagues. Things were different back then, Shuning remembers. Part of the supervisor's rant was that he'd seen the same desktop background screen on his computer - an oil rig - for three decades. He was tired of working the same job for three decades, with little room for his own individual expression.

Shuning couldn't have known it at the time, but he wasn't going to follow the same path into management; his career would lead him to ecommerce, from China to the US to Singapore.

Amazon knocking

In 2011, Amazon was nowhere near the giant it is now, but that was where Shuning got his foothold into commerce. He had studied computer science and geochemistry at Nanjing University, then worked as a software engineer at Schlumberger and Motorola.

“I think it [the Amazon opportunity] fell in front of me," he says. He had been interviewing at several companies, and on a recommendation from a previous manager, he accepted a position at Amazon, where he would stay for the next eight years, about evenly split between Beijing and Seattle.

Despite his experience in the field, Shuning wasn't feeling the code life. He felt his strengths lay elsewhere, but he also saw opportunity to stay at work with Amazon to make that happen. “I'm good at talking to people and coordinating. I tried to change from a developer to a TPM - a technical program manager," he recalls.

Managerial life suited Shuning. Whereas with coding, he had a single task he had to focus on, being a manager meant that he had to do several different kinds of tasks with different groups of people. He welcomed the variety.

“The communication is more important than the job itself," he says.

As a TPM, Shuning felt much more useful. Able to serve as a bridge between the business team and the technical program, he'd found a good fit - but he also had a family then, so even though Amazon was letting him work from Beijing once again, it was time to make a move. Two years ago, he set out to find a new job once again.

Managers' manager

100offer came into Shuning's life through Chinese Q&A platform Zhihu. He applied to the platform and received several interview invitations. He was able to choose the senior roles with which he wanted to proceed.

Eventually, he found a good fit with Shopee, where he remains at work to this day, overseeing a team of 10 people across Singapore and Shenzhen. (When it comes to team size, Shuning likes to use Amazon's “pizza rule" - that the team lunch should only require one pizza.) In his particular role, he oversees developer managers.

The most important thing about being a manager, according to Shuning, is to remember that diversity is important, but if one is communicating across parties, then different people require different communication styles. “For the silent people, it doesn't mean that because they don't talk, they don't have things to say," he says.

For quiet team members, he finds it useful to have a catch-up one-on-one session before the meeting to figure out where their heads are. Then, he can help mediate the subject during the meeting.

“You don't always treat people the same. You don't have to treat the senior people the same as the junior people," he says. At the same time, a good manager has to keep a somewhat objective view of the job at hand.


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Kylee McIntyre
American tech, science, health, and environmental writer. Lover of scifi, fantasy, travel, and coffee. Find her on Twitter @ejkyleem.
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