Stephany Yong (she/her) is a Product Manager at Glossier, formerly at Facebook, and Head of Marketing at Women of Silicon Valley. Prior to Facebook, she worked at Instagram, YouTube, and Box. The proud daughter of two immigrant engineers, she cares deeply about creating equal access to educational resources especially in STEM and celebrating the stories of strong, inspiring women.
After graduating from college in 2016, Stephany moved to San Francisco, where she spends her free time exploring the city’s food scene, hiking around the Bay Area, and rooting for her hometown LA Lakers.
1. When did you know that you wanted to work in tech?
Going into college, I didn’t have much prior exposure to Silicon Valley and the tech industry. I actually spent most of my free time in high school writing for the school yearbook and wanted to pursue a career in journalism.
During freshman orientation at Stanford, there were dinnertime conversations where kids were casually talked about their startup ideas or which systems engineering class they were taking. I was intimidated by those discussions and wasn’t sure if there was a place for someone like me in tech.
Nevertheless, I still wanted to learn more about the startup scene, so I got an internship at a startup called Pixlee, which at the time was based out of the Stanford startup accelerator. After class, I would take a bus to their office, where I worked on marketing and copywriting. After a quarter of interning there, I was absolutely enamored. I got to work with some of the most intelligent, humble, and scrappy people I had ever met, and had a front-row seat to a founding team finding product-market fit and raising their seed round.
Through that experience, I began to draw parallels between the product development cycle — of deeply understanding a people problem and building a solution — with what I loved most about journalism, which was getting to the core of what people care about and creating a compelling story around it. From there, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in tech.
2. Who is a role model that you look up to?
My mom. When she was 17, she moved from Shanghai to West Virginia by herself to live with her uncle and went on to study Electrical Engineering in college. She shared her love of math with me, stressed the importance of doing things in a principled manner (i.e. show your work), and taught me that although you can’t control the hand you were dealt, you can move forward and build what you can with what you have.
My mom is a wonderful role model of a woman that can hack, sew, build, and run anything she wants to, whether it was maintaining our household, fixing up one of the apartments she manages with my dad, rewiring the piping in my bathroom, or helping me construct a trebuchet for my high school physics class. She embodies what a female engineer is in my eyes — determined, resilient, and a humble problem solver.
3. Where is your hometown?
Chino Hills, CA.
4. What is a challenge that you’ve faced and how did you handle it?
In navigating my career, I’ve encountered imposter syndrome at almost every turn — whether it was when I decided to switch my major to computer science late into college (facing the internal dialogue of — wait, programming doesn’t come naturally to me), or when I was applying to PM jobs (wait, I don’t have any formal software engineering experience), or when I started out as a full-time PM at Facebook after college (wait, I feel severely under-qualified to lead this very talented team).
I’m still very much a work in progress on this front, but I’ve been lucky to have amazing mentors and managers who have seen the best in me even when it was not entirely clear to me if I was good enough — they’ve pushed me to speak up more, go for promotions, and take on increased scope.
5. What is something that you are proud of?
I was working at Box the summer before my junior year in product marketing. I loved the people and the company, but I wanted a role that centered more on building products. I had lunch with a senior female product manager (PM) at the company, and she told me that in order to break into product management, I would need to have a strong technical background in computer science. Although I’ve since learned that great PMs come from various backgrounds (including non-technical), at the time I took this advice at face value.
For someone who likes to plan out everything, switching majors halfway into college into an engineering discipline was severely out of my comfort zone. Although I enjoyed the handful of computer science classes I had taken to get my feet wet, coding didn’t come naturally to me. It took a lot of work for me to overcome that fear of failure, but once I set my sights out on pursuing a career in product, I went all in.
For two years, I played catch up and took extra classes, which led to long hours in the library and at office hours. But looking back, it was well worth it — in the process, I ended up taking some of my favorite classes at Stanford in human-centered design that reaffirmed how I wanted to build consumer-facing products. Later that fall when I passed the technical Google Associate Product Management interview, it affirmed that I had the chops to be a PM at a tech company.
6. What’s something that’s been on your mind a lot lately?
This idea of living life at your own pace. I think there’s this meme around turning 30 (especially for women) that you need to be at a certain place both personally and professionally. And once you pair that with Silicon Valley culture, where you’re constantly bombarded with stories of a founder of X having accomplished Y by the age of Z, that pressure to hit targets by a certain age seem even stronger.
I think it’s important to bring into perspective that our careers span several decades and that it’s ok to make decisions that maximize for long-term growth, as opposed to immediate payouts. It’s something I’m actively working on, but getting rid of superficially imposed timelines seems like a good first step.
7. Favorite food?
Clam chowder. I’ve yet to encounter a clam chowder that I haven’t enjoyed, whether it be in a cup, in bread bowl, or from a can.
8. Mac or PC?
9. If you could try another job for a day, what would it be?
I’ve gotten into a few lifestyle podcasts lately, so I would try out being a podcaster. The podcast in question would be some cross between Armchair Expert and We Met At Acme.
10. If you could give your 18-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?
You’re a lot more resilient and capable than you give yourself credit for. You have as much of a right to be where you are as anyone else; while you should be self-aware of your shortcomings, don’t downplay your strengths. And on a slightly unrelated note, the Lakers are going to suck for the next few years; do not feel obliged to become a bandwagon Warriors fan.