Tiffany Hsiao is the VP Finance at Rubikloud, a company dedicated to helping retailers by using machine learning and big data systems. Prior to her current role, she worked in Vancouver and Melbourne, Australia as a PwC manager.
Tiffany Hsiao dishes on her career, lessons learnt, and being a woman in industry:
What is Rubikloud?
Tiffany Hsiao: “We are a machine learning company, so we’re building a machine-learning platform for retailers, using automated machine learning to increase their revenue. We do that in a few different ways: One way is through the data ingestion process, so we ingest multiple data forces and we’re able to put it into one single view format for the retailer to actually access their data. The other is through mass merchandising. The promotion manager will go back and look at all of (the user’s) promotion history.”
“Our platform involves a few different phases. The final level is where things are really interesting, and where it drives back to my financial background: how do we optimize the promotions that the models have provided and how do you optimize for the things that you want. Increasing your top line, increasing your margin, or focusing on specific brands, that’s where the retailers get really excited. Using machine learning is actually helping them do their job better. They can focus on things that actually drive value, rather than spending time filtering through different data sources, spreadsheets and trying to come up with some sort of way of trying to develop these promotions or campaigns.”
“It’s very easy to stay in one spot. You get comfortable. But getting international exposure is one very important way to try to step outside of your comfort zone.”
“When you’re (in) not only a foreign office but a foreign country, you actually learn how different people work. In that office, we had people from all over Europe and the U.S. Most of my team were actually non-Australians, which provides for an interesting mix of opinions.”
“Melbourne was a much bigger market than Vancouver so that was a great experience for me. I had moved back to Vancouver for a year before the CEO of Rubikloud reached out to me. At that time, he had just raised their first round. The advice that he got from one of his mentors, was that once you raise (money), find someone that you trust. That set the tone when we first started.”
Early Stage Start-Up Lessons
“Patience is integral and be prepared for a really big learning curve, especially if you haven’t had industry experience before.”
“I came right out of public practice, into industry. I think people don’t really realize how much of a support network they have had at a public practice. You have to quickly find your own support network and mentors to guide you.”
“I think a lot of times, when you step out of public practice, you want to prove yourself. You’re like “I know a lot of things” but in reality, you know don’t anything because you’ve been on the other side. Now you’re the one who has to establish processes and think about what strategy actually means. It was important for me to know when to ask questions.”
Learning to be Confident
“From my perspective, some of the things I’m continually trying to learn is to be more confident and more vocal in the company. One thing that I think of for most startups, is depending on the type of startup you’re at, there are a lot of people around you are at a more senior level.”
“When you’re thinking, ‘what do I bring to the table’, that’s when you have to put yourself out there, be confident, and do your homework. You have to practice so that you are not stumbling in the boardroom and you’re making your points and standing behind them. Do not apologize for what you say or think.”
Advice to Women in Industry
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Don’t apologize for coming up with your own points.
Be confident and be fearless.”
“A lot of time, females don’t ask for what they want. If you’re talking to your boss about your career goals, provide your own ways of getting there. You are in charge of your own career, no one else will do that for you. You should ask for feedback and ask what needs to be done to take you to the next level, but keep in mind it’s your decision. For myself, I always do my own year in review and think about where I want to be in the next few years. That will help you have a direction and have a goal to achieve. It’s very easy to lose motivation if you don’t know where you’re going. Having that drive is really important.”
“Finally, find your peer group or a mentor. In our role right now, you have your boss, but a lot of time, the CEO might be someone who is a bit younger. They may not be as experienced in planning out a career path with you. That’s something you have to seek out on your own.”