Sometimes we forget the humans behind the tech in our ever busy world. DSF is fortunate enough to know some incredible tech leaders across the world and has the privilege of hearing them present at our events. That being said, our Speaker Spotlight sets the stage to get to know our speakers on a more personal level and connect them with our growing community. Read the mini interview below!

A bit about Yu-Lan

I’m Yu-Lan, Head of Product at Checkstep, a Trust & Safety content moderation and compliance solution to help online platforms keep their communities safe and manage their risk. Previously, I worked at Meta and the Boston Consulting Group. I’m originally from Belgium – with Chinese roots. I’m passionate about helping to build a safer internet – and outside of work I love reading, hiking, horse-riding, playing the piano and traveling.

How did you start out in your tech career?

I started my career as a strategy consultant at the Boston Consulting Group in Brussels, but missed working with tech and data (after studying engineering) and moved to a data analyst role at Dunnhumby in London. From there I transitioned into a data science role at Meta which was my first big-tech experience. After 5 years at Meta, I joined a tech startup, Checkstep, while also transitioning into product management.

What are the signs of success in your field?

As a product leader in a startup, I ensure our company is building the right and innovative products for the market and our existing customers and provide our team with clarity on our mission, strategy and priorities and help empower each individual to do what they do best, while also growing our company through focusing on our sales and marketing efforts and building our internal remote company culture.

What is the best and worst thing about your job role?

I love my job – I wear many hats, am learning a lot and growing as a person, which is the main reason I switched careers from big tech to a startup. The founders are incredible people to work with, I work with an amazing and passionate team while also meeting many different organisations and people through our sales and marketing efforts. To top that off, we are a fully remote company which has allowed me to travel more freely and explore the world. I feel very lucky! The flipside of a startup is that there is a lot to do and very often lots of context switching. I wouldn’t consider this as “the worst” but it has definitely been a challenge and a growth area, learning to prioritise to ensure a sustainable pace of execution.

What can you advise someone just starting out to be successful?

It might sound a bit cliché – focus on what fulfills and energizes you and where you see yourself in the long term and work backwards from there to figure out what your career trajectory should look like to get there, rather than focusing on the next promotion, the next bonus and getting stuck in a local optimum. I myself got stuck there – focusing on what my peers were achieving and always trying to get to the next level, while losing track of where I ultimately wanted to be, which was outside of the career path I was getting myself into. In order to get there, I worked with a professional development coach, and I’d recommend people starting out to find mentorship – by reaching out to people they find inspiring or through their network – and/or through coaching.

How do you switch off?

I love nature – so a good run, hike or exploration together with my partner or getting lost in a good book really help me disconnect and feel resourced. The same goes for spending quality time with friends, listening or playing music or horse-riding.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be more spontaneous and adventurous, have more fun and travel more. Through my upbringing, I had a very set idea of what success looked like and how I should behave in society as a person and as a woman. Only in the last couple of years, I discovered my own values and ideas through self-development and I would definitely advise my younger self to start this journey sooner.

What is next for you?

I want to grow Checkstep, grow as a leader and learn more about running startups. In addition, I want to help in whatever way I can to make the internet a safer place through building tools but also education.

Finally, I also have a personal bucket list (it’s become more of a bucket-spreadsheet really) where some of my goals for 2023 are around exploring new countries, trying new things, learning more about investing and spending quality time with loved ones.

If you could do anything now, what would you do? Why?

I would love an environment, both offline as online, where people are respectful, caring and supportive towards each other and their environment. I would end wars, suppression and hunger, create fair and democratic ecosystems for everyone with access to primary resources and education, reduce global warming and preserve our beautiful planet.

What are your top 5 predictions in tech for the next 5 years?

I don’t have five, but a couple of trends I think are coming…

– the role of data science functions will change a lot with recent technologies in AI and open-source initiatives, i.e. GPT. It’ll make some of the work done today by people more automated and will shift the work towards higher value-add projects.
– existing and upcoming regulations on online safety, AI and privacy are already shifting the way companies leverage data and AI for their business, i.e. for advertising, ranking or content moderation. I think the different regulations across the world will piggy-back upon each other (with Europe being the forerunner) and create a minimal requirements framework that will change the way companies think about implementing new technologies. It will generate lots of discussions on the fine line between safety and privacy, which will create strong opinions on both sides but overal result in better awareness and education of navigating the internet safely, the same way we learn how to more-or-less safely navigate the offline world.

Thank you to all our wonderful speakers for taking part in our Speaker Spotlight!

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