Killing the middle man: a product manager's coding journey
By Kylee McIntyre01-Nov-2018Views 2086

chauncy yin product manager

ViSenze solutions engineer Chauncy Yin. Location courtesy of CoQoons.

As a product manager for companies like Shopee, Chauncy Yin often found himself at the intersection of an important relationship between tech talents, company stakeholders, and customers. But that wasn't enough.

Who knows the product knowledge the best? It's the developer.

“I don't want to be that middle man," he says. In order to solve customers' problems and communicate those back his counterparts at the company, he felt that he needed to know more.

“In order to advance and to further my career [as a] product manager [. . .] even in a sales career, I have to know some product knowledge, and who knows the product knowledge the best?" he says. “It's the developer."

His journey would lead him on a looping journey to his position today: solutions engineer at visual search AI startup ViSenze.

Developing roots

Chauncy's dive into tech may have taken place later in life - he first wanted to be a chemical engineer. His education at Columbia University and University of Colorado Boulder combined engineering management with maths and sciences.

“I was very good at mathematical modeling, breaking down complex engineering problems into mathematics and solving them numerically," he explains. That would lead him to pursue a career in artificial intelligence later on.

His graduate study concluded in 2015, while he spent time working on various management roles, including founding his own startup - EvolveNYC. The firm helped internet startups in the greater New York City area to transform IT resources into business-focused services.

In 2016, he moved on to work as a product support engineer at OSISoft, where he developed an AI algorithm using Python to help resolve customers' inquiries.

In May 2017, he moved to product management at Shopee, where he oversaw international projects and also served as the company's Thailand product manager. But the idea of product manager who does not know coding bothers him.

Now, he just needed the skillset to achieve his goal.

Self-taught

“I learned some of the coding during my own time," Chauncy says. But it wasn't as much time as he wanted. “Every day [at Shopee] I have a lot of meetings. I don't really have that time to brush up on my coding skillsets."

Chauncy is a largely self-taught developer, though, having dipped his toes into programming via online resources on and off over the years - he is a strong advocate of spending an hour after work learning something before moving on. But his interview for ViSenze, which he landed through 100offer's platform, was his first coding interview ever.

His risk paid off.

“They actually gave me the coding test, so I was just coding in front of the interviewer who was on the other side of the screen," he recalls. His lack of experience in software development didn't faze him, because his desire to learn was stronger. The risk paid off; he did not fully solve the problem given to him, but his multi-angled approach to the assignment won him the job.

He now works as a solutions engineer at ViSenze, where he fills a pre-sales consultant role for markets across Asia-Pacific. “What really satisfies me is the ability to go through the entire sales cycle," he explains. Working at a startup gives him the opportunity to experience different roles, and his job takes him across industries - retail and commerce, marketing and advertising, and software-as-a-service (SaaS), among others.

chauncy yin product manager 1

Location courtesy of CoQoons.

“Sometimes I can become the developers, become the solution integrators. I can become the product managers designing and building my own products," he says. “I can also become the [quality assurance] for testing my own products." His reward came after collaborating on so many different parts of a project and seeing positive customer feedback.

Though his role involves as much learning as doing, he enjoys the versatility involved. “I can pitch to C-level executives, to product managers, all the way to developers," he says. “You are not just trying to sell them a solution but rather just help them to build something and guide them through these kinds of implementation cycles and empower them to succeed.

The Singapore developer community is also a diverse environment that empowers him to succeed. “I think this community is for people who are really passionate about learning, and I am just one of that kind of group of people who is passionate about products, passionate about learning," Chauncy says.


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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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