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  • Elsie Russell

FinTech Female Fridays: Meet Founder & CEO, Chengchen Li

US-based employers and employees are all well aware of the complications that come with parental leave. Actuary-turned-founder Chengchen Li is combating these complexities and providing new parents with the ability to focus on welcoming their little ones, while simultaneously navigating their benefits with ease. Chengchen founded Penguin Benefits and the company is now helping families understand insurance and benefits to maintain financial stability during these important life events.

Full name: Chengchen Li

Current job title: Founder and CEO

Current company: Penguin Benefits

Current location: San Jose

“I am helping working parents get an integrated view of the different federal, state, city, and employer level benefits that all come together to form parental leave."

Chengchen started her career and worked for over 8 years as an actuary in insurance product development. With growing interest in how innovation can happen in a traditional industry like insurance, she wanted to help people understand how to use insurance to provide stability and security for the family.

“The inflection point in my career happened soon after I had my first child - I went to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, and focused on learning about innovation, design thinking, and entrepreneurship.” She then founded Penguin Benefits after graduating, Chengchen merged the concepts learned in school with her insurance background and is now helping families navigate their insurance and benefits in the important time period leading up to and during their parental leave.

“I am helping working parents get an integrated view of the different federal, state, city, and employer level benefits that all come together to form parental leave. What makes this a confusing problem for parents is because parental leave is not a ‘standalone’ benefit, we have a piecemeal approach to parental leave in this country.”

Federal and state laws, state insurance programs, employer group insurance, and employer HR policies all influence parental leave - making it very confusing and difficult to navigate for parents. Chengchen’s goal is to help parents navigate their benefits with ease, and spend their time and energy where they should - with their newborn baby. Penguin Benefits helps families understand insurance and benefits, it helps to maintain financial stability during the important life event of having a baby.

“Insurance is a branch of finance that is both important and often misunderstood. A family’s financial stability and sound decision making during this life event set a firm foundation for their future financial and insurance planning.”

With Penguin Benefits currently being run by such a small team, the team is still establishing and evolving the culture. Chengchen places importance on honesty with customers, partners, and even the Penguin team. “We continuously strive to refine our definition of the problem we are solving, and we iterate on the solution based on real customer feedback.”


More on Chengchen

Where you currently live: San Jose

Family at home: My husband and 3.5-year-old daughter

Favorite hobby: Cooking, watching drama series

Best job decision you ever made: Built a solid foundation in insurance knowledge through the rigorous actuarial education, combined with starting my career in an actuarial development rotation program at a large insurance company, mostly focused on understanding insurance product risks, profit, and cost drivers, and product development process. I see everything as a learning experience, good or bad. I don’t have any regrets so far, I have learned a lot from my past experiences and am continuing to grow at a steep curve.

A time when someone encouraged you to take on more: It was a very difficult decision to quit my stable career as an actuary, to attend a full-time, on-campus, 12-month business school program at Stanford. Stepping into that uncertainty was hard, especially with a daughter who was only 1 at the time. I moved away from my family to be on campus and commuted home on weekends to see my family. Taking the first step to applying to the program was the most difficult, my mother encouraged me to apply.

Productivity hack: I try to make room for “focus time” on my calendar. Some days are packed with meetings, and some days have a large interval of time with no meetings at all, which I call “Focus Time”. I can do work that requires intense focus and thinking during the “Focus times”. For smaller tasks that don’t require cohesive concentration for a prolonged period of time, I do them in-between meetings, or during times when my energy level is lower.


Daily Diary

Weekday (a day with meetings)

7:00 am: Zoom meeting with people from East Coast

8:00 am: Get ready to go outside

8:30 am: Drop off my daughter at pre-school/summer camp

9:30 am: Get home, have a bite to eat while responding/writing emails or tending to smaller tasks, listening to a webcast related to our industry

11:00: Zoom call with Insurtech Advisory Committee with Society of Actuaries

12:00 pm: Participate in Famtech community call

1:00 pm: Feedback session on our product design from an industry expert/potential customer

2:00 pm: Meeting with a mentor to discuss strategy and B2B sales cycle

3:00 pm: Meeting with a VC

3:30 pm: Meeting with designer

4:30 pm: Meeting with our HR Advisor

5:30 pm: Meeting with developer

6:30 pm: Dinner, spend time with my daughter

8:00 pm Emails and other tasks, preparation for meetings for the next day

10:00 pm Core exercise, ride indoor bike while watching Netflix

11:00 pm Shower and get ready for bed

Weekday (a day with “Focus Time”)

8:30 am: Drop off daughter at pre-school/summer camp

9:30 am: Focus work, such as reading insurance contracts and designing system architecture or designing product UI/UX

12:00 pm: Lunch

12:30 pm: More focus work

5:30 pm Meeting with developer to answer detailed technical design questions

7:00 pm: Make and eat dinner and spend time with my daughter

8:30 pm: Emails and preparation for meetings for the next day

10:00 pm: Core exercise, ride indoor bike while watching Netflix

11:00 pm: Shower and get ready for bed


8:00 am: Have breakfast, get my daughter ready to head out for the day

10:00 am: Take my daughter to the farmers market, go to a live seafood wholesale place, pick up lunch on our way home

1:00 pm: Have lunch and clean up

3:00 pm: Hiking somewhere within a 45-min drive from home

6:00 pm: Make dinner using the fresh seafood we bought during the day, usually steaming oysters or scallops, we love them!

After dinner: cleanups, spend time with my daughter, check emails, and work a bit before bed


Reach out to Chengchen on LinkedIn.

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