International Women’s Day – the logistics view

Today marks International Women’s Day across the globe. While it is improving (here at Twill 50% of our management are women – a stat that we’re very proud of) the logistics industry continues to dominated by men.

As we look to tackle this disparity we spoke to Daisy Zhang, Twill Head of Product, about her experience as a woman working in logistics – and the lessons she has learnt in her time in the industry:

Q: International Women’s Day covers a host of issues – how do you embrace it? 

“If you search online, you can find plenty of articles talking about women’s rights in the workplace, as well as how to keep the balance between work, life, family and the million other things we all want to keep up with! That can be a very heated topic, but I like to focus on how we as women can empower ourselves and each other – because we know we can do the same jobs as men in this industry.

“Let’s assume that you are lucky, as I am, to work for an organization respecting diversity and equality. I’ve found that it is about how we embrace the opportunities presented to us – how do we take hold of them and let our work shine; leading us to the rewards and recognition we know we deserve.”

Q: Have you ever felt a unique pressure as a woman in this industry? 

“I think for a lot of women in any industry, but particularly in technical industries where men do still represent the majority of positions, there is a tendency to question yourself – if you might be one of few women in your team, it might feel like there is more of a spotlight on you. I know there have been times in my career when I asked myself – ‘am I really capable of this?’, ‘what if I fail?’, ‘what might people say or think if I fail?’ – but you have to be confident!

“When I decided to join Twill, if I had worried too much about my lack of digital experience for example, instead of focusing on what value I can bring, that could have swallowed me up and I might not have joined the company in the first place – which I know I would have regretted for life.

“It’s natural for anyone, woman or man, to question themselves, but now when I do question myself I try and be more constructive – ‘What should I do if I take this opportunity?’ or ‘How can I manage the capability gap?’ – these questions aren’t about whether I can do X, Y or Z, because I know I can. They’re about how I will do it.”

Q: You talk about being more confident – how did you get that confidence?

“I think the most important thing is, if you know there are things that you’re good at, don’t be shy – let people know about it!

“There are a lot of women who don’t need to be told this – every woman is different – but in previous jobs I used to be one of those people who sits in the corner and silently gets the job done. It wasn’t until later that I found out that people had very little visibility of what I achieved and what I was good at. That’s a frustrating feeling and it’s something I have actively worked to change.

“Hiding your strengths is a loss of opportunity to both you and your organization. At Twill we know what each other’s strengths are across the company and we work to give everyone the opportunity to display those strengths whenever possible.” 

Q: Is there a final piece of advice you’d like to leave us with?

“I’d say know what it is you deserve. If you feel that you are demotivated because you are not getting what you deserve – whether that’s a salary increase or job opportunity, or something much smaller – don’t keep the feeling to yourself. Be outspoken about it. You owe yourself a fair chance to fight for what you deserve.

“I greatly appreciate all the efforts from those organizations and communities which are pushing forward the progress of women rights and equality in the workplace – particularly in the logistics industry. But I truly believe, at the end of day, the greatest empowerment has to come from ourselves!”

Twill’s exciting product journey in 2018

With numerous new product features planned, 2018 looks hugely exciting for Twill. And 2017 was a year full of learning for us.

We understood our customers better by dividing them into different groups based on needs; we learnt how to make our product scalable for new markets and services; we learnt how to keep product design consistent; and we gained a deeper knowledge of the behind-the-scene processes and have so many ideas about how to make them more efficient.

Now it’s time to apply all of those learnings and insights.

Our future journey

The key topic for Twill in 2018 is rapid growth. We have an ambitious business plan that we are all passionate about, and to support that, we’re in no doubt that the product journey ahead of us will be hugely exciting.

There are four key dimensions that we are focusing on in Twill’s product development.

  1. Launch Twill in more countries

Last year, we opened the UK, Spain, Poland and the Czech Republic as import countries and China, Vietnam, Indonesia as export countries. This year, we will accelerate the pace and bring Twill to more destinations across the globe, including North America, South America and Australia. Based on our experience gained last year in terms of the process of rolling out to new countries and the scalability of our product, we are confident that we can continue to onboard international customers in an effective manner. This is a critical aspect of our growth and the improvement of essential product features.

  1. Expand our service scope

Another key aspect of our future growth is service scope. We started Twill with a mindset of doing one thing really well rather than doing everything averagely. Therefore, we were very specific about the service that we provided, focusing solely on ocean, FCL and FOB to start with. And because of that, we have been able to achieve good results in our current service offering.

Now we are ready to expand our service scope, offering new capabilities such as LCL, more value-added service, CIF etc. This will enable our customers to use Twill as THE platform to satisfy their diversified business needs.

  1. Improve the user experience

This is a never-ending journey for us. Last year, we released some high-rated product features based on our customers’ feedback, such as supplier initiated booking. This year, we want to take this to the next level by investing more time to engage with our customers. With some great initiatives in place already, we truly believe that Twill will continue to create great value for our customers.

  1. Design smarter ways of working

Here at Twill, our employees are our most important asset. Customer care, pricing and the sales team are our internal customers, and last year we worked closely with each other and improved our internal systems to enable the team to work smarter but not harder. This year, we will keep working together with the help of technology, to create an excellent working experience for all Twillers.

Every single day in the Twill office, you can feel the energy and excitement around the blueprint that we have ahead of us. I hope you are as excited as we are about all that is to come in 2018.

To learn more about our upcoming product features, subscribe to our newsletter below and stay ahead of the curve!

-Daisy Zhang, Twill Head of Product

The difficulty with simplicity

November 30, 2017 – “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

If you ask “what’s rule number one for Twill?” there is one answer that you will hear across the board – simplicity! This overarching principle penetrates how we develop our product and how we operate.

Where the logistics industry started

The business world is complex, especially in the logistics industry. Legacy systems, outdated processes, old working habits, local exceptions – all of these factors add up to the complexity level on top of the business nature.

I clearly remember the “business origami” we drew when we started Twill. It is so huge with dots and lines all over the place representing different parties and their interactions.

Standing in front of it made me think. This doesn’t make sense…This whole process makes our customers frustrated and makes us less efficient. We need a solution to make both our customers’ and our own lives easier.

So our goal is very clear. We want to simplify the logistics business.

Now the question is how…

Creating change one step at a time

Very soon we realised that to be simple is much more difficult than to be complex.

The reason why the logistics industry is so complex today is exactly because people in the industry were not critical and diligent enough to make it simple in its early days. Adding things to that process is easy but removing things is certainly not.

We still have a long way to go if we want to make – and keep – Twill as simple to use as possible. Here I just want to share a few learnings I had.

Three keys to simplicity

First of all, we need to learn and understand all the complexity and the reasons behind it. Understanding the problem is the foundation of any innovation. We need to expose ourselves in every business process and industry practice, as well as understand why things are done in this way. Luckily, with Twill, we have access to a huge number of logistics experts from Damco and Maersk to get the best knowledge in the industry.

Secondly, we need to constantly challenge the status quo to innovate solutions in order to handle those problems. Being critical and courageous to challenge is in our blood here at Twill. And this is what triggers the thinking of solution design.

Thirdly, if the complexity is something that exists for a reason or will stay for a while, we need to define a logic to handle it. There will be cases where the complexity is necessary for the time being. For example, customs clearance processes across the world are all individually different in terms of timeline and documents. We know that this won’t change overnight, but our customers don’t need to be experts on this. At Twill, we configure the logic based on our expertise and we maintain simplicity for our customers.

I want to finish off with a quote that I heard from one of our customers and which keeps me on my toes all the time. He said: “I like the simplicity of Twill and I hope over the time of its development, you don’t make it difficult to use.”

-Daisy Zhang, Head of Product

Our little product secret: Ask Customers!

October 20, 2017 – As head of product in Twill, the two biggest topics that I need to provide answers to are: What to build, and what to build first.

On one afternoon, we have our regular review on product roadmap. How do we make decisions on what Twill will look like in one year, or even in three years? We list all the ideas and ask customers!

Another time, we have different opinions about user experience design. What do we do? We put both options in mockups and ask customers!

Does it sound easy? Yes, it is easy. We just need to keep in mind that we are developing a platform to solve customers’ problems. The only way this can work is that we put aside our “arrogance” and listen to our customers.

However, it was not always so simple. I come from a background of ten years working in the logistics industry before joining Twill. You can imagine how many assumptions I have built up along the way. I thought I understood customers’ needs very well. I thought I could design a great solution on my own to address their problems.

I could not have been more wrong!  Every time I talk to customers, I find little surprises (sometimes even big surprises) that challenge my assumptions. Every time I learn something new from customers.  If I hadn’t talked to customers, we could have built a platform for my imaginary problems and my solutions. Then Twill would have had no chance to succeed.

Twill’s vision is to make shipping simple. At the end of the day, customers are the judges. They tell us if their life is easier with Twill.

Customer feedback is the strongest foundation and the most valuable asset throughout the process of how we build Twill. Twill’s value proposition stems from customer research. For every new feature-design, we run user acceptance testing. Almost every day, we receive and discuss product feedback from customers, commercial teams, and our customer care team. For every country roll-out, we conduct user research to understand how our product fits the local market.

Customer-driven product development will ensure that we are headed in the right direction, and that we are prioritizing the right features. This will address my two biggest responsibilities.

Today, my industry knowledge is no longer a wall between me and our customers. I use it as a tool to better understand what customers say, and to design the initial proposals. Of course, all the proposals need to be validated by customers.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all the customers that gave feedback to Twill. We are looking forward to hearing more from you. Let’s shape Twill together!

By Daisy Zhang, Head of Product, Twill.