This October at The Fintech Times we are championing the fantastic females in the fintech industry. Around 30% of the fintech workforce are women, and we want to spotlight those who have not only made it to the top, but those who have overcome hurdles, bulldozing a path for the women to follow.
Here we hear from Monica Eaton-Cardone, Andrea Dunlop, Pari Lennartz, Sarah Davies, Christine Perry and Nicole Meyers as they share their advice on managing financial goals and personal expectations.
Monica Eaton-Cardone, COO and Co-Founder, Chargebacks 911
“When it comes to managing expectations, I have always found that you need to realistic about how little control you have over the future of the FinTech industry, even if you are the CEO of a successful business. I am lucky to have found a niche that will be important for the foreseeable future, but technological and legal changes can make any business unviable if they are not willing to pivot. If your financial expectations are tied to everything staying the same, especially in industries that move as fast as finance and technology, then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
“The impact doubles if you are balancing a career and a family. I am not somebody who thinks that it’s unreasonable for people, and especially women, to raise the bar, go for the gold and ‘have it all’ – though my husband can take his share of the credit, I do think achieving financial goals requires adaptability, rather than just planning.
“That has been the key reason that Chargebacks911 has grown from 11 employees to over 300 and 45,000 customers around the world – and we’re still growing. The idea came to me when I was running an eCommerce business that had a serious problem with chargebacks. Instead of continuing to watch my financial plans continue to fail (due to this chargeback problem), I switched gears and pioneered my own solution. I didn’t have any skills in fintech at the time, and I definitely didn’t know how to code, but you can pick up any skill given enough time and motivation! A lack of formal education doesn’t have to hold you back if you’re committed to your goals and if you know where to look for help.
“The same goes for balancing your financial goals and personal expectations. To take a quote from one of my favourite Disney characters, as Cinderella says, “the only choice you have is to have courage and be kind.” Have courage because it’s not impossible, and be kind because you’ll need other people to be kind to you, and the only way to ensure that, is to build networks (families, friendship groups, office cultures and professional organisations) that help each other.”
Andrea Dunlop, managing director of Access PaySuite
“Growing up in the bottom quartile, it became familiar to have a provident knocking at our door every week where my mum would repay her small loans. My mother had very limited money management skills and she was just surviving the best she knew how. As it stands, in the UK women are three times as likely to have lower rates of financial literacy as men. No one is given a handbook on how to manage money!
“With no role model and no financial education, I fell into the same trap in my 20s. It was probably by accident that later in life I was working in financial services and whilst working at Experian I saw the significance of credit score. From this, I realised the importance of my financial wellbeing, to lift myself out of a lower level and not fall into the same situation as my mum living week to week.
“Seeing all the challenges my mum faced motivated me to gain financial independence. It didn’t happen overnight but I had a clear vision of what I wanted to achieve and that’s when I started to implement short-term goals.
“It is important to set realistic goals for yourself and that way it will feel like you are making progress through this process. The more you achieve by setting small steps, it will continue to motivate you to the next goal. My mindset and behaviours didn’t change overnight but over time I adjusted my relationship with money and broke the cycle that I grew up with.
I think the best advice is to be honest with yourself about the situation. It’s hard to get help and a real strategy out of the situation without trusting someone who can support in facing that hard truth.
“The key plan was to create a budget, build an emergency fund of three months and ensure the budget is being followed. Get out of debt paying the highest interest items first, pay cash for big items and most importantly spend less than you earn whilst compounding the difference in savings and investments. It takes a long time but it’s worth it.”
Pari Lennartz, AVP of Engineering, MPOWER
“I consider myself a goal-oriented person and having expectations for myself has helped me get to where I am today. As a teen in India, it was my dream to go to the US and pursue a higher education. However, I knew it was a long shot, not due to grades but due to funding.
“My four-year undergraduate computer science and engineering degree at a public university in India cost me $100 USD a year in tuition. That was what was affordable for me at the time.
“Once I set my sights on pursuing a master’s degree in the US, I put together a financial plan to give myself a pathway to achieve my goal. This included planning for any fees associated with prep and entrance exams and selecting schools that were both somewhat affordable and offered programs I was interested in. To keep fees down, I limited myself to five applications.
“Once I secured admission at a few schools, I reached out to financial aid offices and explored scholarship and funding options. I picked Utah State over others purely because of funding options and the possibility of research assistant and teaching assistant opportunities that would grant me a huge tuition waiver. However, it was nearly impossible to land one of these positions before getting to the campus. So, it was still a gamble – but one that paid off.
“I share this story because we tend to think that our dreams are out of reach, especially financially, when programs aren’t readily available. But, with enough planning and expectation management, our goals are always within reach. I’ve applied this thinking at every stage of my career and life to achieve my professional and personal aspirations.”
Sarah Davies, Head of Risk and Analytics, Nova Credit
“My experiences have taught me that our culture and society are often not helpful when women need to clarify our expectations for career development, work-life management and financial goals. Work culture tells us fairly directly that there is a simple, causal relationship between career growth and financial success – stay focused on a unique career path and financial success occurs. Unfortunately, this does not, make allowances for broader work and life experiences, or the inevitable ‘moments in time’ when far more important priorities require attention.
“It’s best to try to set aside the misperception of a linear causal path for your career. Anticipate and be ready to embrace a few realities.
“Your personal life should, and must, take priority at times. My career spans more than thirty years. I love my job, and the various work experiences I’ve been fortunate to have. However one of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t take the time to be fully present when both my parents were terminally ill. I was with them at their home, but convinced myself that I could continue to work while caring for them. I juggled way too many things and ultimately was not present or effective in either context. At the end of your life, don’t wish you’d worked those extra hours. You’re going to want to know you supported your family in a critical moment. Recognise that if you’re working in a healthy and respectful work environment, the organisation will want you to take the time you need in order for you to come back stronger and focused.
“Be receptive to lateral career moves at times. Again this appears to be counter-intuitive but we can learn so much more when we step into new work spheres that may not immediately align with our career direction. I’ve worked in analytics almost all of my career apart from a three year experience in marketing operations. I went from running a 30 person team of data scientists, to managing more than 300 individuals with a diverse range of experiences, backgrounds and roles. It was singularly the most valuable experience in leadership and management I’ve ever had – it was also one of the hardest and most enjoyable. While initially there was no major financial or promotion upside, over time this experience opened many career doors for me.”
Christine Renee Perry, VP, Global Solutions Engineering, SKALE
“Visible role models and mentoring are key. I’d been fascinated by blockchain, crypto and decentralized finance and the ways in which they intersect with traditional tech and fintech. So after many years in the
enterprise technology space, I jumped at the opportunity to work at SKALE , a multichain ethereum scaling solution that powers many of these applications. Working as a woman in the blockchain space it’s quickly apparent that there’s a shortage of women leaders. I’d go to conferences and could count the number of female executives on my fingers, not to mention the broader lack of diversity. That presents a huge challenge, when you go to a conference and no one on stage looks like you, both as a woman and as someone who is black, indigenous or a person of color (BIPOC). So when you go, all the panels consist of men, which begs the question: How do you bring more women’s voices to the table?
“One of the things about SKALE that was exciting to me was the commitment to creating a diverse set of voices to the group. Half of the executive team is women, we have people of different cultures and we’ve done this by making some extra effort. That extends (very importantly) throughout the organisation beyond roles that have more female representation already such as marketing/business development and into our technical team, like myself as the VP of Solutions engineering.
“One of the things I did early on was connecting with a “women in blockchain” group at UC Berkeley called
SHE256. I spoke on panels and at events so they could see that representation of women exists in blockchain and encourage them to persevere. Additionally, at SKALE I made a point of getting on stage at conferences and hackathons. I believe in the adage “you can’t be what you can’t see”, which has always resonated deeply with me. The more women on stage at hackathons, more so as an exec, the more other women see that they too can be one. It was amazing to be approached after doing highly technical talks and get the feedback that it was inspiring that they saw other women in high level technical roles succeeding. Which has even led to mentoring female students, professionals and new hackers alike in how they too can navigate the waters. Visibility and mentorship are critical to succeeding.”
Nicole Meyers, VP Strategic Account Management at Personetics
“My best advice is to design your life for the flexibility you want to have. For me, it’s important I have a partner who accepts the importance of my career and my unwillingness to compromise for it and everyone deserves that. At the same time, there are certain jobs I will no longer consider because of the personal sacrifices they require to truly excel in them.”
“Leveraging the resources around you to keep informed and grow your wealth is the key to managing your personal finances and achieving your goals. Managing the finances isn’t just down to you or the person in your family who is good with numbers. It’s important to turn to your bank app and see the support or services it offers. Setting up a life plan through digital tools or an advisor is crucial to achieving your goals as early as possible, whilst balancing everything else in your life.”