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A team built to succeed: PehKeong Teh, Chief Product Officer at Symend

PehKeong Teh Chief Product Officer

PehKeong (Peh) Teh joined Symend in October 2020 as our first Chief Product Officer. Peh has over 14 years of experience building global, large scale enterprise cloud technologys and services at Salesforce, Oracle and Microsoft. Peh has worked on every stage of product development from ideation to large scale implementation.

Learn more about Peh’s vision for delivering best-in-class products that scale, his thoughts on what makes a great product team and why he is excited to join Symend.

Tell us about your past experiences and what aspects you are most excited to bring to Symend.

I started my software career over fourteen years ago building box software (Windows). During the earlier part of my career, I had the privilege of participating in the early cloud evolution where I gained first-hand experience building some of the world’s largest enterprise grade PaaS (Technology as a Service – Azure SQL DB), IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service – Oracle Compute Service) and SaaS (Software as a Service – Salesforce Marketing Cloud) for some of the largest software companies on the planet.

My experience building highly reliable and large-scale enterprise cloud services, business/product acumen from navigating the seismic shift in the software industry (cloud) and experience leading product teams to deliver new innovations to a rapidly changing customer landscape are what I look forward to bringing to Symend.

I am really excited to leverage these experiences to help Symend scale-up and out through the hyper-growth phase into a global technology powerhouse leading the science of customer engagement.

What are some of the key product lessons you learned at Microsoft, Oracle and Salesforce?

My career in product began at Microsoft, which was a very high demand environment with global impact. Any changes to the product had the potential to impact over a billion people and it could take months to fix. Considering the global impact, I learned to be very thoughtful and intentional about the product changes. Pushing out something as trivial as a new icon can result in polarizing actions from customers. One may like the fresh design, while another may be upset when they cannot find the familiar icon quickly.

At Oracle, I was part of the early team that built a brand-new public cloud. At that time, we were about a decade plus behind other public cloud services, and we were trying to catch up. If you are a challenger trying to enter a highly contested market with established industry practices, you will need to be extremely focused on how you differentiate your product and leverage the strength of your company strategically to create an unfair advantage. Also, keep in mind that incumbents have deep pockets and are innovating at lightning speed, which means you do not have the luxury to not focus.

Most recently, my experience at Salesforce has taught me the importance of personalized customer engagement. The holy grail of customer engagement is to deliver the right content, at the right time, using the right channel. This is easier said than done because customer behavior is constantly changing and region-specific. This also makes it very important to build extensibility into the product to enable third parties to extend the product with value-added capability. This is key for a customer engagement product to be relevant and grow in an ever-changing consumer market.

What excites you most about the opportunity to join Symend during this stage of hyper-growth?

The global pandemic has transformed the entire economy, which can either lead to the extreme success or detriment of a product. One thing that this pandemic has shown us is that companies need a way to better engage and support their customers, particularly through a crisis. Symend’s human approach to customer engagement hit the mark. Its ability to deliver an extremely relevant solution to its clients will allow businesses to come out stronger on the other side of the pandemic.

Why do you think Symend is positioned to become a global technology leader?

Symend is addressing a critical market that has traditionally been underserved and poorly treated. Symend’s approach enables enterprises to build a deep understanding of their at-risk customers and apply that approach to other engagements across the entire customer journey. As customer experience becomes the key to attracting and retaining customers, I believe that Symend is well positioned to seize this massive market opportunity and become a category leader by delivering out-size value to businesses.

Why do you love working in product?

There is no playbook – everything is very ambiguous. Customer needs, the market and the overall environment continuously change. You need to find a way to leverage these changes and deliver a product that delivers ten times more value than existing solutions. That is what Symend has done. The next step is to scale, deliver them in less time and continuously improve. It is always better, better, better but never done! The key to this is to ensure we have our eye on the strategic long-term plan but execute short-term. We need to find a way to deliver continuous value not just for the next ten or twenty clients, but the next hundred and thousand clients.

What is your vision for product at Symend?

My vision is for our clients to see Symend as a synonymous with ‘trusted customer engagement’. I want to democratize Symend’s human approach to customer engagement for businesses to build long lasting trusted relationships with their customer.

How do product and engineering work together?

Product owns the what and the why, and engineering owns the how. It is essential that both functions work together in lockstep to deliver customer value. In highly effective teams, there is healthy tension – pull and push between product and engineering. This ultimately challenges each team’s assumptions with a data-driven approach that is laser-focused on delivering customer value. Make no mistake, delivering customer value is what we are here to do, and it is the responsibility of both teams.

What makes a great product team?

Product is one of those ambiguous roles where there is no prescribed playbook or talent you can hire for. It is ever changing because your customer needs continuously change and you need to be very agile and adapt to it. It takes a diverse set of people with different skill sets to make up a great product team that can ‘see over the horizon’, use data to frequently iterate, validate and innovate in the constant ambiguity.

Product managers that build out great product teams are hungry, biased towards action, data-driven, iterative and progressive thinkers.

What are some of the key growing pains you’ve experienced while scaling a team?

Integrating new talent that has “been there and done that” with the vanguard that invented the product. The talent that takes a product from zero to one are very different than the talent takes it from one to one hundred. The key to success is to integrate both groups and leverage their unique strengths to continue innovating and scaling the product.

The single most important thing that leadership can do to help is to provide clarity – clarity of charter, what success looks like for them and then unleash them to do their best work while holding the leaders and their teams accountable for the outcomes.

What are a few fun facts about you that we won’t find on your LinkedIn profile?

  • I am happily married and have a five-year-old son named Alexander
  • I recently got a puppy, named Cookie. He is a Havanese
  • My wife and I are all about food and trying new things