Edward Yip earned an undergrad degree in Bioengineering: Biotechnology, a Master’s in Biomedical Engineering from Cornell University, and a Master’s in Information Management & Systems at UC Berkeley. But life in a lab wasn’t for him. His desire to make a tangible impact took him into management consulting and, eventually, to product management at Ontra. Ed is also a member of Ontra’s Asian Pacific Islander (API) Employee Resource Group (ERG).*
In celebration of API Heritage Month in May, Ed sat down to discuss his journey at Ontra, what he hopes to accomplish with Ontra’s API ERG, and a little bit about his home gym (and beloved Zoom background).
Can you describe the road you took to Ontra’s director of product?
At first glance, you’ll think biotechnology and legal technology have nothing in common. That’s because they don’t. I knew in my heart of hearts that science wasn’t for me the very first time I stepped into a lab. I loved working with people, but in lab, I only worked with cells, so something needed to change.
I pivoted out of lab and into management consulting at Accenture where I worked closely with people to create tangible solutions. But after having a kid, travel life didn’t seem as appealing. That’s when I found out about product management, which essentially had all of the fun things I liked about consulting and none of the travel.
After getting a master’s at UC Berkeley’s School of Information, I started my career in product management at Doximity, where I worked for Mitch, Ontra’s VP of product. He showed me the ropes and taught me the ins and outs of product management.
When Mitch left Doximity to join Ontra, I knew I couldn’t miss this opportunity. Together with him and our other Director of Product, Kyle O’Connor, we set out to build the Product team here.
Two years later, becoming a director at Ontra represents the confluence of a few things. First, it’s seeing the tangible fruits of our labor come to fruition. Second, it’s a humbling acknowledgment of the contributions that we’ve made. And third, most importantly, it’s the privilege of continuing to build amazing things with amazing people.
What do you consider your top achievements at Ontra?
From a product perspective, it’s been an incredible experience helping Insight grow from an MVP product with one paying customer to the Insight we know today that supports over 50 customers, including some of the world’s top asset managers. In addition to the product itself, it’s the teams, structures, and processes we’ve built to make Insight possible that make me so proud of what we’ve accomplished together. Seeing the fruits of those labors culminate in a product that not only impacts the industry, but also has a real shot at changing it, has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my product career.
From an organizational perspective, it’s been a privilege and joy to be a part of building this product org. I’m so proud of the way each member of our team brings their best each day, how hard and how humbly they work to get stuff done, and how seriously they take the responsibility of owning the products they work on. More than ever, I see the next generation of product leaders being trained up at Ontra and am thankful to be a part of helping this org grow.
Can you tell us about Ontra’s Hack Week and give us some highlights?
Hack Week is all about setting aside OKR work for a week and focusing on side projects people find interesting, and will add value to the company, but haven’t had the time to do. Historically, we’ve only seen one to two Hack Week projects per quarter, but as the company has grown, so has the interest in Hack Week. This quarter, we saw 10 projects come through the pipeline!
This Hack Week, we saw projects ranging from features focused on developer experience, investigations to explore a technology, Slack integrations that helped pioneer external integrations into our workflows, and building a proof of concept that users will benefit from one day.
One of the biggest highlights was an idea that came from outside R&D. One of our developers, Jessie Keck, built out a feature called multi-document redlining, which was an idea that came from Caitlin Melchior, our director of legal training & development. What started as an internal idea to make grading NDAs easier resulted in a prototype that opened the doorway for discussing and breaking ground on in-app file editing, a potentially game-changing feature for our users.
R&D is a team sport but ideas aren’t limited to just R&D and, as Hack Week showed, if you have an idea, come to us and let’s chat!
What do you hope to accomplish with Ontra’s API ERG, and what does API Heritage Month mean to you?
My hope with the ERG is twofold. One is to increase, as a company, awareness of the breadth of diversity within the API community. The second is to empower people within that community to take pride in and embrace their heritage. It doesn’t have to be something you sacrifice to fit into the company culture. It can empower the way people express themselves and contribute to the company culture.
For me, my parents are from Hong Kong, and Hong Kong people are known, among other things, for their irreverence, humor, hustle, and food. As a leader here at Ontra, I attribute a lot of how I express myself at work to my cultural heritage: From striving to treat everyone equally irrespective of title, to the ways I try to infuse humor and energy into my presentations, to the intenseness and seriousness I treat my food recommendations. My hope is that people appreciate the differences in expression they bring and learn to embrace them as a means of enriching the culture here at Ontra.
As a member of Ontra’s fitness channel, can you talk about your home gym setup and what your workouts look like?
My gym has a little bit of everything. It has a Peloton for my wife. It has a lot of CrossFit equipment for me, and random fitness things that I’ve collected over time before and throughout the pandemic.
The greatest function my gym has served hasn’t been for working out but for breaking the ice with coworkers and external clients. It’s legitimately been the greatest conversation piece I’ve had heading into Zoom meetings, but it’s always a little sad when people find out the meeting was not, in fact, sponsored by Rogue Fitness.
In terms of what my actual workouts look like, having 3 kids and all, I’m mostly focused on cardio chasing them around. Outside of my own workouts, one thing my gym has helped facilitate is the #fitness-ontraurage Slack channel at Ontra where we share fitness-related updates and host monthly fitness challenges. One of our colleagues joined the channel when she first joined the company, started running because of a one-mile run challenge we had, and has since signed up and completed her first half marathon. Obviously all credit to her but I’d like to think my gym helped in some small way to make that a reality.
*Ontra uses the term “Asian Pacific Islander (API)” rather than “Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI)” to acknowledge our global colleagues.