Talent search isn’t as easy as pressing a buzzer

Shopee's Head of Regional Operations and People weighs in on how the successful startup has grown its talent base in a competitive market.
By: | February 22, 2019


About the Author
Lim Teck Yong is the Head of Regional Operations and People Team at Shopee.

The shortage of talent is not a new challenge for employers in Singapore and the region.

It has been an issue across industries for several years now especially in filling up positions that require specialised experience and skills in applicants.

New technologies are fast expanding, however, they are redefining rather than replacing in-demand roles.

Recruiting talents like data scientists, analysts, engineers, designers, marketers has also become tougher as Southeast Asia becomes a hotspot for many e-commerce and start-up ventures.

 Shopee began as a start-up in 2015 from a team of 10 in Singapore to around 700 this year. This growth did not come without any bumps on the road.

Over the years, we have been able to fill the positions and scale the teams to deliver what the company has to accomplish.

However, as industries progress, the battle for talent will continue – which brings to question of how we can keep our existing ones, while also attracting new blood.


Growing our existing talent base

We have taken an aggressive recruiting stance from the beginning as we were competing against much more established companies.

Starting with a very young workforce proved to be a challenge and an opportunity. It was a challenge because there were not many people experienced with e-commerce or m-commerce.

But it was also an opportunity because we were able to identify the necessary training the company needed to grow fast.

Building Shopee’s learning and development programme has allowed us to bring in a fresh talent pool and train them to become a relevant foundation of the business.

Initiatives such as detailed onboarding programmes, structured training roadmaps, career development, and internal and external courses, are put together based on each employee’s job scope and level.

This allows them to understand the entire organisation and the relevance of their role within the ecosystem.

Additionally, employees can sign up for a 3-month mentorship program, which allows them to receive guidance and direction from more experienced colleagues in the company.


Creating a gateway to a career within the company

Organisations can expand the talent pool by opening up gateways for professionals and students to join their business.

Students from National University of Singapore attending a lecture on Data Analytics at Shopee Boot Camp, led by a Shopee employee

This can be done through free workshops providing advanced learning opportunities for existing employees or holding competitions to spark interest in specific roles.

These can be leveraged to identify and reward potential talents with full-time or internship opportunities within the company.

As part of the Singapore government’s Smart Nation campaign to equip students with essential technical skills and expertise to prepare them for the digital and data-driven economy, we see companies across various industries working with educational institutions to drive this initiative.

Shopee, for example, will be organising the upcoming National Data Science Challenge 2019, which is the largest data science competition in Singapore.

Earlier this year, we also partnered with Nanyang Polytechnic’s Singapore Institute of Retail Studies (SIRS) to offer e-commerce workshops.

Our objective was to empower the participants with the essential knowledge in setting up their business online.

Other activities that are being explored include complimentary workshops for students with a revolving focus on data science, data engineering, and data analytics through the Shopee Tech Bootcamp.

We have also opened our office to students from National University of Singapore for full-day sessions with exercises led by experienced speakers from the team.

Through these activities, students are introduced to various data platforms and tools during the hands-on lab session.


Students from National University of Singapore at a hands-on lab session at Shopee’s headquarters


Empowering more females to take interest and pursue a career in STEM

The demand for talents is expected to grow as we move towards becoming a Smart Nation, especially in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

However, while female employment rate in Singapore ranks high globally, the number of women in the science and technology sector has stagnated over the decade.

Establishing initiatives to encourage women in technology is something that Shopee is supporting. We acknowledge the importance of building a strong core for this growth sector and furthering diversity in the workplace.

Having a platform for female technology leaders to come together to share their knowledge and network creates opportunities for women from all walks of life to get in touch with the tech community.

Coding Girls: Du Juan, Product and User Behavior Analytics Lead, Shopee, at a panel discussion to empower more girls to code and achieve their ambitions in the technology world

For example, Shopee collaborated with Coding Girls, a locally-registered non-profit organization to empower more girls to code and achieve their ambitions in the technology world, and to establish an avenue for future professionals to connect with women leaders and to learn from their experiences and perspectives.

As technology develops, industries will grow – therefore, there is no end in sight in the search for talent. Identifying someone who is a good fit or the right fit for your company is not an easy task.

It’s not just pressing a buzzer after a performance showcase. The search for talents is a rigorous process of sieving through potentials to recruit like-minded people whose values are in line with our company’s.

As part of a fast-growing industry like e-commerce, our challenge will always be keeping up with the demands of the industry.

With this in mind, we must ensure that our teams are armed and ready to support the business through continual reviewing and assessment to understand our changing needs.


Further Reading:

More women needed in science, technology sectors: Josephine Teo

Encouraging female perspectives in traditionally male-dominated fields