Currently, only about 1 in 4 employees in the tech industry identifies as a woman. So what does it take to create a successful career as a woman in tech? In this interview series called Women in Tech, we spoke to successful leaders in the tech industry to share stories and insights about what they did to lead flourishing careers. We also discuss the steps needed to create a great tech product. As part of this series, I had the opportunity to interview Kanyarat Nuchangpuek.
Kanyarat Nuchangpuek is the co-founder of Simya Solutions and one of the creators of Ling App, a gamified language learning app with over 10 million downloads, 62 languages and a growing blog with over 500k monthly views. Having started her app to help bridge a language gap, Kanyarat generously shared her story of attaining success despite significant setbacks.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before diving in, our readers would love to learn more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
The most controversial thing I ever did was quit a very successful career. I worked for a large, well-respected IT consulting company in Germany. I loved my work, my colleagues, my home, and everything in Germany. Truly, from most people’s point of view I had it all. Or so I thought! Then I decided to let it all go. I jumped two feet into my entrepreneurial journey and never looked back!
It has been said that our mistakes can sometimes be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Initially, we had a very small team and a relaxed work policy with flexible timings. Eventually, the lack of structure created proved to be difficult. Communication was challenging, information was missed. We realized that people needed at least some overlapping time to talk over issues and coordinate their work. Learning this lesson the hard way, we came up with ideas for a hybrid workspace, including both in-office and remote working along with regular communication as a necessity with the entire team. So far, these are working very well for us.
What do you feel has been your ‘career-defining’ moment? We’d love to hear the lead-up, what happened, and the impact it had on your life.
I feel quitting our high paying consultant jobs in Germany, and moving to Thailand to start our own business would be THAT moment for me. At that time, it was a difficult decision between a comfortable life in a stable career, or taking the plunge into the unknown full of challenges but the excitement was there.
I did not throw all logic out of the window! Rather, rationally and then listening to my heart and gut as well led me in the right direction.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Moving to Thailand was one of the hardest times. I considered giving up the idea several times. But need outweighed fear; the goal behind this idea was large enough to inspire me. I allowed it to take over the hardships keeping my focus on our goal with this business idea.
Ok, super. Thank you for all that. Let’s shift to the main focus of our interview. We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address? How does your company help people?
Ling started as a means and desire to learn Thai. I met my husband who is from Germany, and he wanted to learn Thai to communicate with my friends and parents. At the time, we couldn’t find a good app to learn it, so we decided to make one ourselves!
If someone wants to lead a great company and create great products, what is the most important quality (for example, “determination” or “eye for detail”) that person should have, and what habits or behaviors would you suggest for honing that particular quality?
For me as a leader, the single most important character trait is to trust in your people. If you truly believe that people will achieve the best they can, and empower them to do so, amazing things will happen.
Next, let’s talk about teams. What’s a team management strategy or framework that you’ve found to be exceptionally useful for the product development process?
I have a small list regarding this! Firstly, for a great team, get the company and team culture set right from earlier on. Then, clarify responsibilities. This adds structure and is very helpful for both leaders and team members. In our line of work, get data-driven. This is so important for Tech products, but now – in pretty much any business! Finally, help the team to stay focused with the eyes on the prize!
When you think of the strongest team you’ve ever worked with, why do you think the team worked so well together, and can you recall an anecdote that illustrates the dynamic?
Recognizing my team’s strength and abilities was the best. With this knowledge our work plans became clear, structured and focused. I also made sure that we do not overload our team members. A small and efficient team can create magic and get exhausted quickly if there is no one advising otherwise. I take this seriously and the team appreciates it.
If you had only one software tool in your arsenal, what would it be, why, and what other tools (software or tangible items) do you consider to be mission-critical?
One tool I find regularly helps me for my role is Trello. It helps me to keep track of tasks and time used for this. It also gives our team a clear vision of goals and time needed to accomplish them. Perspective is important and although there are tons of software and tools for us, this one I particularly look into several times a day to be connected with our hybrid team of remote and in-house team members.
We also have Drop Box Paper to collect all our internal knowledge and SOP. This helps all the new hires to know how to go about everything but also helps us to go back and recheck procedures and steps we might have skipped.
Let’s talk about downtime. What’s your go-to practice or ritual for preventing burnout?
Perspective. I’m glad you asked this question. The Tool I mentioned earlier links to this. Having a hybrid super talented team can be challenging. I find myself needing perspective and clear goals if not the focus is not there. My down time actually includes looking at the Trello board and helping my staff in achieving their goals. It adds value to me as a person if I can help them in any way to make their roles and tasks easier.
Thank you for all of that. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what are your “5 Steps Needed to Create Great Tech Products”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
1 . Defining my product and objectives.
It helps create your tech product by providing a clear set of goals and requirements for the product. This helps to guide the development process and ensure that the final product meets the needs of its intended users and achieves the desired outcomes.
For example, as in our case - if you are developing a mobile app for a retail business, you might define your product as an app that allows customers to browse and purchase products from their phone.
2 . Hire staff, especially engineers and experts in the development field to support our work.
It is an effective way to support the creation of tech products. Engineers and other technical experts can provide the necessary knowledge and skills to design, develop, and maintain your tech products. They can also help to identify and solve technical challenges that may arise during the development process.
3 . Produce a prototype: This helped us in so many ways!
- It can help in testing and validation of the product, identifying issues and problems early.
- It helps to get user feedback. It helped us to make our product user-friendly.
- It opens pathways for partnerships and investments. It gives pointers for you to pitch to investors and raise funding.
- It helps in the development process, giving information to production team, prioritizing a plan, giving an idea on how to use resources more carefully.
4 . Test, test and test again!
Testing the units and components of the product, and then testing the product as a whole is key to reaching the goal. Then testing a real-world environment is important. You need to know the functionality of your tech product, especially ask the question – does it meet the specified requirements? The last part of testing would be with a group of the target audience. Does it meet the requirements there too? Then you are ready to go.
5 . Finally, develop the packaging of the product.
This important because it helps in marketing the product and your brand. It also ensures the protection of the tech product to prevent any damage, for example during delivery to the customer. It helps in convenience. You want your customers to access the product from the package with ease for a positive user experience. And, think about sustainability. Product packaging needs to be done with awareness of protecting our environment. Supporting sustainability efforts should be made part of your company’s goal to help our world.
Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in Tech? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
There are many changes that could be made to improve the status of women in tech. Some specific changes that could be beneficial include:
- Increasing representation: Increasing the representation of women in tech at all levels, including leadership positions, can help to create a more inclusive and diverse industry.
- Addressing bias and discrimination: Addressing bias and discrimination against women in tech, both in the workplace and in educational and training programs, can help to create a more equitable environment for women in the industry.
- Providing support and resources: Providing support and resources, such as mentorship programs, networking opportunities, and career development resources, can help to create a more supportive and welcoming environment for women in tech.
- Encouraging girls and young women to pursue careers in tech: Encouraging girls and young women to pursue careers in tech, through programs such as STEM education and outreach, can help to create a more diverse and inclusive tech industry in the future.
Is there a person in the world with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why?
Angela Ahrendts, the former Senior Vice President of Retail at Apple, who was responsible for the development and expansion of Apple's retail and online stores and has been recognized as one of the most influential business leaders in the world.
You can find Kanyarat on LinkedIn. You can learn more about the Ling app on their website.
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