Shn Juay on working motherhood, ally networks, and thriving in the mobile game industry

Written by Taro Ishida Published on     5 mins read

Shn Juay shares her journey through Singapore’s startups as a leader and mother.

Shn Juay is the head of product and marketing at Storms, where she heads the marketing function and oversees Storms’ strategic vision and growth. Previously, she spent over ten years working on various projects in communications, digital marketing, and project management. She later joined Paktor Dating Group as VP of marketing, then became COO and eventually CEO of the company.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. 

KrASIA (Kr): Who have been the biggest allies in your life? How did they make an impact?

Shn Juay (SJ): I consider myself very fortunate to be able to balance family and work—thanks to my supportive family members and my encouraging employers, both in my current and previous roles.

As a mother of three young children, I am deeply appreciative of my family members’ unanimous support of my career decisions and help with caregiving. I fully relate to this saying: it takes a village to raise a child. For every late night when I stayed at work and for all the business trips that took me out of Singapore, my family has been a rock. This support system has enabled my career growth, because there are no career interruptions in order to attend to my family’s needs. I stay focused at work knowing that my children are well taken care of, even when they fall ill.

Kr: What sort of support have you received from colleagues?

SJ: Storms is the third startup where I’ve landed, and it is no secret that startup life can be grueling when resources are scarce. My past employers have seen me gone through the rites of womanhood, from marriage to childbirth and then motherhood. Each has been so understanding and accommodating to my personal needs, yet maintained their high expectations and gave me plenty of growth opportunities at work. I enjoy the stimulation that my jobs provide, and I am thankful that my employers see me as an equal and not as someone who is less able due to family commitments.

Kr: What sort of allies do women need more of?

SJ: Sponsors at work and a holistic friends network spanning different aspects of life. For everyone, not just women, every minute spent at work means less family time. For mothers especially, the stakes are higher because there is less time to keep up with the demands of motherhood. This is why my personal motto at work is to prioritize high-stakes assignments and impactful work.

At the same time, we need to have powerful sponsors in the workforce. Sponsors are allies who recognize the potential in you, mentor you, and offer you stepping stone roles such as team management and business budgeting so you are ready when roles with higher-level responsibilities are available in the organization.

Having a holistic friends network is essential too, because these friends offer perspectives outside of my typical work environment. Having spent the bulk of my time at work, I enjoy listening to others and discovering the world through my friends. Through them, I learn to be a better manager at work, a better spouse, and a parent. In my case, I have communities ranging from my marketing industry colleagues and verticals such entrepreneurs, dating and gaming, young women leadership groups, parenthood groups, and my close girlfriends whom I always count on for advice and support.

Kr: At Paktor, you rose through the ranks and became CEO. What was that journey like? 

SJ: At Paktor, a dating app startup, I experienced many firsts. Paktor is app-centric, yet I joined Paktor with only web marketing experience six years ago. At my peak, I managed the localized marketing efforts across six markets, yet I learned the most during this time, in terms of working closely with cross-cultural and cross-functional teams. Over-communication and making data-driven decisions were key when I navigated uncertainties, whereas a servant leadership approach was ideal for optimizing team dynamics.

Subsequently, I assumed a project management role to work closely with the mobile app developers, then I took up a senior operational role, and became the COO and eventually the CEO at Paktor. Again, uncertainty was constant throughout this whirlwind experience. I was handed my promotion letter when I returned from my first maternity leave, which speaks volumes to how gender-agnostic the Paktor founders were when it came to senior leadership roles.

Kr: What were some of your challenges and successes?

SJ: Outside of marketing, every role was new to me, they were all an eye-opener and it was humbling to start from zero. I read voraciously and connected with people from other industries in similar roles to understand performance benchmarks, and also communicated internally with peers and managers for consistent feedback.

When it came to C-suite appointments, I never felt I was ready. However, my former bosses were reassuring and adamant about promoting someone internally. Looking back now, I realized one can never be “ready” for opportunities in life, be it welcoming a new child or a new job appointment. In fact, the founders at Paktor had woven me into their plan for succession, given my job rotation across varying departments. They set me up for success as COO and CEO knowing that I was already familiar with the company structure and there would be a synergistic fit with the team’s culture. They deemed me ready to take on more responsibilities when the opportunity arose, never mind that I was a weary first-time mother.

One of Storms’ team outings. Photo courtesy of Storms.

Kr: You are now at Storms, working in an industry that is dominated by men. What needs to be done to dismantle this gender barrier?

SJ: Not only is the gaming industry dominated by men, I also joined Storms with no gaming background. But I am confident that I can contribute in my unique ways and lead by example.

At Storms, which already provides a supportive environment for women, there is no shortage of opportunities. Women should take initiative and create their own opportunities, such as focusing on the value they bring to the table and demonstrating accountability, with the added bonus of building new skills and keeping themselves relevant. In short, know your stuff, and earn respect.

This results in the flywheel effect. As more and more women ace in a male-dominated industry, it reaches a tipping point where it becomes a norm for women to shine, and there is absolutely no reason for women to think they cannot make it. Successful women excel by merit and not because of gender diversity or inclusiveness policies at the workplace.

Kr: There is a significant lack of women who are leaders in tech. What is your advice to aspiring women leaders who are shaping their careers in tech?

SJ: Do not be intimidated by people who are more well-versed in tech or have more experience in fast-paced workplaces. Everyone starts somewhere. Someone may start their career in tech earlier than you, but the key lies in your willingness to learn and “run.” Be humble and accept there are things that you have yet to discover. Be bold and go beyond your comfort zone.

There is no shortage of hard problems that need solving. What really matters is your ability to be resilient. Nurture allies so you grow both as a professional and as an individual.

If you are already a female leader, be reminded of how you became a leader, be fearless, and seize the opportunities ahead of you.


Taro Ishida


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