As the world of Financial Services and Technology have been typically male-dominated, we want to share this Females in FinTech interview series with the aim to facilitate conversations specifically around females in FinTech as the market grows.
What is your current role and the most exciting part of your work?
I’m a Sales Director for MyComplianceOffice (MCO), a global leader in the provision of conduct risk solutions worldwide. MCO provides a best-of-breed Conduct Risk Platform allowing firms to address both personal and transactional conflicts of interest in a single platform. It is the only fully integrated, comprehensive conduct risk platform that uses a global company and security master data-set to identify conflicts across employee, firm transactions and third parties. We now govern some of the most complex conduct risk management programs in the world. The sale is complex, the clients are top tier, and the conversation is intellectually stimulating. Every day is new and exciting.
How did you get into FinTech?
When I thought about my career, the culmination is literally the definition of FinTech. I like to think of it as the amalgamation of all my skills. When I started my search, like any other sales vertical I sought, the barrier to entry was high. Hiring managers would tell me I had no tech background. I was confident I had all the skills necessary to exceed in the industry, and I pushed forward. I tapped into my network, and ultimately, landed interviews with two different tech companies. And both made me an offer. Never underestimate the power of persistence. It’s a vital tool in sales.
What do you think the future of FinTech is?
Exciting, not only from a sales perspective but from development. Big data, AI and robotics, blockchain, payment systems, a flurry of activity in those spaces. The consumer is also changing with a focus on Millennials, a generation hyper-connected to their mobile devices. Thematically, you have large organizations partnering with external solutions, consulting firms developing go to market products and venture investing pouring in. The opportunities are truly endless. And as a woman, even more so. In fact, it’s not unusual to be the only woman at the table in this space.
What advice would you give to someone looking to get into FinTech?
Do your research. FinTech can mean a lot of different things. I’ve heard NO many times, but I never gave up. NO, you don’t have Enterprise Sales experience, NO, you’ve never sold software, NO, your sales experience is not apples to apples with SaaS sales. That only motivated me more. If you do find there are barriers to entry, use your network. Maybe take a certificate course. Offer to do an internship or volunteer your time. Every time I made a career move, it was one step forward and two steps back. I knew I had to prove myself and that doesn’t happen overnight. But at the beginning of each new venture, I worked tirelessly to prove the naysayers wrong, and to launch early on. I learned quickly to build an early stage high volume pipeline and always ask for the close. As soon as the deals started coming in, there was no longer any question that I was the only person for the job.
What challenges have you faced in the workplace, especially your experience in male-dominated environments?
Quite a few. Men talking over me in meetings, politely saying ‘excuse me’ but then taking over the conversation. The top tier accounts going to the man first, and then when the deal didn’t close, they punted them to me. Knowingly being paid less, as I didn’t have ‘as much experience’ as my male counterparts. We all know that aggressive salesperson as a woman, is not a compliment. I think women have a great ability to harness their EQ, perhaps a bit more and in different ways than their male counterparts. Don’t get me wrong, some of the best salespeople I know are men.
Who has been your biggest advocate/mentor in your career and why?
I had a career coach for a while whom I met when I was still a Financial Advisor. She helped me navigate a very difficult job, one in which I began to lose faith in my abilities. It was at that time that I made some changes, still within financial services, and really looked at my skill set. When I spoke with her about my interest in technology, she thought it was a great career move. I don’t speak with her much anymore, but she absolutely supported and encouraged my transition, helping me launch.
What are the key skills you believe are beneficial for you to succeed in a career in FinTech?
Selling FinTech is very much an enterprise sale. The sales cycle is long, with multiple stakeholders involved in the decision making. Your time is spent understanding the client’s pain points and acting consultatively to help the client fill the gaps. You navigate NDAs, RFPs and contracts. You run the meetings, do the demo’s and literally, own the sale from end to end. It is a very nuanced, complex sale with a lot of moving parts. And though you often have a robust pipeline, to see one of the larger deal’s close takes time. You must be patient, persistent and passionate.
In a management position, how have you found it best to promote and nurture women’s careers?
I much prefer to be an individual contributor, as it gives you the opportunity to control your own destiny. That’s one of the things I love about sales. If you believe in what you’re selling, and fit into the culture of the company, you can literally forecast your financial future. Whether in management or not, you can help nurture and foster other women’s careers. I’m a big believer in paying it forward. If someone asks to link into my network, I’m happy to help. I’ll give a reference, share some of my career experience, especially all the doors that closed before one door opened. You never really fail, every opportunity gives you the chance to learn something that eventually, gets you to where you want to go. As I woman, I suggest tapping into your intuition, listening to that inside voice, never giving up, picking yourself up when you fall, and taking your experiences in stride. There are no coincidences, only occasions to learn who you are and help get you to where you want to be.
Is there one piece of advice you wish somebody gave you at the beginning of your career?
Yes, never aim for perfection, as it’s such a subjective definition. And it doesn’t exist. Work hard, work smart, take ‘failure’ in stride – it’s the reset button we all need to move us along on our path.
What job did you dream of when you were a kid – your Plan A career path?
Ah, I wanted to be a vet, and then a lawyer. My bleeding heart, all I can think of was helping people, animals, anyone I could. I’m still that bleeding heart but now, I take pride in representing companies and products that inspire me, working with smart honest people, and being as self sufficient and successful as I can, defined of course by things that are meaningful to me. I don’t live by how other people describe success, apart from the fact that in sales, there’s always a number on your head. I’ll beat that number and still define the things I think make me successful in my own unique way.
Fun fact about you?
I’m trained in and used to sell wine. It’ll be the last of my nine lives, my side hustle retirement project. I love the experience of having a good glass of wine with dinner, from the smell of the grape, to the experience the wine offers me. It’s art for me, the complexity of a good glass of wine is so special.
I like to say that I’m on the 4th (maybe 5th or 6th) of my nine lives though when I look back at my trajectory, it feels linear to me. My undergrad degree is in Psychology, I have a master’s degree in social (MSW) work from NYU, and after about one and a half years as a Social Worker, I realized that owing more in loans than I made in a year wasn’t a viable long-term plan. It felt like an easy transition from Social Work into Pharmaceutical Sales, which was a directed search at the time. Once I got in, I spent 10 years solidifying my sales aptitude. Since then, I spent 8 years as a Financial Advisor, selling an abstract concept on investment management to retail clients and ultimately, sought to move into technology. When asked about my background, many people seem surprised, but all my moves were deliberate and come together in what I call the perfect storm of skills.