Rethinking Women in Tech with Former Instagram Tech Lead – Jocelin Ho

Former Instagram Tech Lead founding CTO of CoobyJocelin Ho, Co-founder of Cooby.

An equal world is an empowered world. In celebration for International Women’s Day of 2021 with the theme #ChooseToChallenge, TechOrange interviewed four women forging innovation and technology about the challenges they met and adventures they took.

I talked with Jocelin Ho who is the co-founder and CTO of Cooby. She was previously a Tech Lead at Instagram before returning to Taiwan and started up her own business with co-founder Wen Shaw last year.

Cooby is an app dedicated to streamlining workflows from various messy messaging apps – think of an integrated Line and Whatsapp. They aim to enhance the rigid way of client management. Below we conduct the interview in Q&As.


Education and early career grew her startup motivation

Whitney: Hi, Jocelin, it’s great to have you. Could you first share with us a bit about your startup journey?

Jocelin: Sure. Starting up a company was actually always at the back of my head, I only wasn’t sure when.

It all began from my college years, when I first joined an entrepreneurship program dedicated to cultivate our creativity and innovation. From there I had the chance to do an internship at Whoscall which was then, relatively small. Nevertheless, I was ignited by the team spirit and strong motivation united by thriving to achieve the meaningful goals.

Later I went to the US to study at Stanford University, which was known for its vigorous startup culture, I took the chance to take courses in design thinking and business, so the startup seed was nurtured in my mind.

Two years into working at Facebook, I had thought about joining startups or smaller companies to get a clearer sense of startups. I had a few options, either I could join a ten people startup, or a hundred people startup, or I could join the Instagram ad team.

I consulted many predecessors about joining a startup, they had a common view that even if you join a startup from the earliest stage, it is still not the same as starting out completely from scratch, whether its the responsibility you bear or the feedback you gain. Looking back in hindsight now, I’d say that’s definitely the case. 

“You will only know something by actually doing it.”

Another factor was whether I’d regret leaving Facebook without learning about its ad ecosystem. Facebook ads is a leader in the industry and the answer was certain. Luckily, Instagram was just starting to introduce the story ads in 2018. There was a vacant position and so I joined the team, it was an impactful role and I enjoyed it very much. I later became a tech lead.

Surrounded by women in tech at work, she never felt being a woman has to be unique

Whitney: What was the journey like as a woman in tech?

Jocelin: I am very lucky in my journey in tech, as I have actually never thought about myself being a “woman” because nine out of the ten engineers in the Facebook iOS group meetings that I was in were women when it was at its extreme! My manager, Director and I, were also women, so we were actually a majority, being a women engineer was nothing special. 

“Nine out of ten engineers in the technical group meetings that I was a part of were women.”

I did begin to feel a bit more conscious when I returned to Taiwan in search of fundings for the company. 

Wen and I would attend various Venture Capitals. In the US every one would look at us and say, ‘So you (Wen) are the CEO and you (Jocelin) are the CTO,’ ok let’s get on to business.

But when we went on our daily ventures to visit some seniors here in Taiwan, while they would greet us warmly, sometimes they’d assume I’m the assistant or even Wen’s girlfriend.

After discovering that I am the CTO, some would praise my position as being a woman engineer as if it was something extraordinary and I feel that’s why we need to talk about Women in Tech before it eventually becomes invisible, equal and natural.

“Just like you wouldn’t have an ‘Asian in Tech’.”

As more and more women enter the industry and become more representative, I think the problem will gradually dissolve.

Whitney: Could you tell us about your startup?

Jocelin: We built Cooby, which is an app dedicated to streamlining workflows from messaging apps, as we see the trend of messaging taking over lengthy emailing for business communication happening in the US and Europe. 

But these messaging apps weren’t originally designed for such purposes, so it makes client management and communication very messy. Imagine waking up to 100 messages from a ton of different apps, quite dreadful isn’t it? Think of Cooby as an integrated Line and Whatsapp which serves users’ needs to set reminders and manage them easier all in one go.

“We are certain there are a lot of talents here in Taiwan.”

Cooby is Taiwan-based, instilled with our work experience from the US, and searching for talents based in Taiwan. We are starting up with developing on Line app with Taiwan as our initial testing market. The feedback we’ve received so far have been great, which reinforces our motivation, but our plan is to stretch across the globe to target Whatsapp in the near future.

Altering career path led to frustrations

Whitney: Did you have any frustrations along the way?

Jocelin: I certainly did. 

There was a period I thought I wasn’t very “engineer” compared to my male classmates. I wouldn’t go into splitting hairs. While many of them would pursue a PhD and dive extremely deep into solutions, I would go as far as things are well-functioning. Also, I feel I can communicate well with people so I thought being a Product Manager might suit me well. 

I went on to pursue an alien intern in an alien industry and of course, it didn’t end very well.

I began to panic as all my friends who interned at big software companies, such as Google, Amazon, etc. all secured a return offer where I was only left to find out the job wasn’t for me! Everything I prepared to work as a PM needed to be converted and start the job searching process all over again.

I remember receiving three rejection letters in a single day from top tier companies I longed for. Very luckily though, I eventually got an offer from Facebook after nine rejections. As people always say, achievements are a combination of 70% luck and 30% effort.

Focus on your unique characteristics to steer the career path

Whitney: Do you have a female role model?

Jocelin: Yes, Mathilde Collin, the CEO of Front. I was impressed by her elaborative communications and her leading style. Front is a highly rated company on Glassdoor which I believe reflects a company’s leadership. 

My dad is also my role model, he was an entrepreneur and even more adventurous than me. He went directly to the US to develop his business without much possessions. I guess such upbringing also had an impact on me.

Whitney: Do you have any suggestions for other women interested to pursue a career in tech?

Jocelin: Don’t be afraid.

Being a woman doesn’t make you inferior at all. Rather, we should focus on our individual characteristics and strengths, such as good observations, sensitivity to people and our ability to communicate with clarity, or whatever it may be uniquely to you, which are the power for us to achieve work goals in whichever industry.

 

 

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