As The Fintech Times celebrates Women in Fintech this September, we take a moment to hear more from some of its leading females.
With 10 years in the industry and a background in tech consulting at Accenture and the Boston Consulting Group, Mimi Nguyen is the co-founder of Mana Search R&D Mana Labs and is an Associate Lecturer of MA Innovation Management at Central Saint Martins.
Mimi is also a PhD candidate at Imperial College London, Faculty of Engineering and Royal College of Art, and also the co-host of Searching For Mana podcast – interviewing some of the leading and influential men and women in the fintech industry.
How did you come into Fintech?
Fintech was a new buzzword for me when I came to the UK in 2014. But when I learned more about the industry and its mission to shake up banking as usual, I was intrigued. So I applied to a few startups, and that led me to join iwoca, a London-based SME lending fintech that had just finished its Series A and had only 30 employees.
Two years later, the company was reaching its Series C, had hired an additional 120 people, and had set up a fully virtual platform that could provide working capital in one day. It was an amazing experience, and that possibility for real change continues to inspire me today.
What was your educational/corporate journey?
Ten years ago, I got my bachelor’s degree in Quantitative Methods in Economics and Information Systems. Little did I know that it would give me some of the most sought-after skills in fintech. Today, this major is known as Data Science, but at the time, data analysis and big data weren’t popular, and AI wasn’t a must-have for many companies.
So I started my career in tech consulting, joining Accenture Analytics, and then later Accenture Management Consulting and BCG, working specifically with clients in financial services and insurance. We implemented tech solutions in traditional institutions, creating some of their newest products in the process. That was the beginning of my fintech journey: taking my background in economics and IT and applying it to tech-forward financial projects.
What is your current day job?
I’m a Co-Founder and Lead of Mana Labs at Mana Search, which is a fintech headhunting firm that challenges traditional search companies. I’m also an Associate Lecturer of MA Innovation Management at Central Saint Martins and a PhD candidate at Imperial College London’s Faculty of Engineering.
My research at Imperial focuses on the development of shared cognition in virtual teams. Specifically, I study the best ways to organise creative professionals and help our clients build the teams that will create the next great innovations in fintech.
What achievement are you most proud of?
Bootstrapping an organically grown startup whilst raising a two-year-old baby. The COVID-19 lockdown has shown how difficult it is to balance work and family life for those with childcare commitments. That’s just one reason the ever-growing discussion about women in tech and finance is so important.
Any thoughts on women in Fintech generally?
Women seem to be even more underrepresented in fintech than they are in the broader tech industry. Those who specialise in STEM subjects face major stigma, which leads to fewer women applying for roles in tech and finance. Great organisations like Code First Girls are helping to address this imbalance, but more needs to be done.
Can more be done to encourage women to take Fintech up as a career?
In short, yes. Gender equality can’t just be reduced to a PR campaign. It starts with education, but fintech firms must also do more to welcome women and BAME professionals into the industry and promote their growth. We need more people like Charlotte Croswell (Innovate Finance) and Anne Boden (Starling Bank) shaping the future of finance in the UK.
At Mana Search, we’ve been lucky to learn from many fantastic women leaders on our podcast, Searching for Mana. Whether it’s TrueLayer’s Shefali Roy telling us about why it’s important to use inclusionary language in job postings or Binance’s Teana Baker-Taylor showing us how crypto can boost financial inclusion, these innovators are paving the way for better representation in fintech.
If there is anything you’re looking forward to delivering/moving forward in your current role
I’m excited to see how our clients will grow alongside us. It’s particularly fulfilling when past candidates circle back and tell us how we’ve helped their careers. A while ago, we placed a promising young professional with a challenger bank. Her background wasn’t in coding, but she excelled in the company’s machine learning department and has made her way up to a tech lead position. It’s amazing that we get to provide that kind of opportunity to talent across the industry every day.