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 Amelie Arras, Ivy Lu, Adriana Pirela and Helen Hodges as they share with us how they smashed the glass ceiling.
Amelie Arras, Marketing Director, Zumo
“I believe that I’ve smashed my own personal glass ceiling by beating that little negative voice in my head to grab opportunities to grow into roles that needed to be filled. That little voice that lacked confidence and was scared to ask for help; scared to even touch the glass, let alone break it.
“Because when I decided to ask for help to grow in my career, that was when I was lucky enough to find so many supportive people to help me with my ambitions. People like Peter Coyle at Ad Astra, who gave me the belief to take on a role that I would have otherwise looked at on paper and believed to be out of my league; Ali Paterson, who gave me a chance to take on the Payments Race; and the leadership team who believe in me to head up the marketing efforts at Zumo.
“My passion and personal mission is to bring fun and accessibility to fintech and crypto. I’ve worked hard to do so, and I’m very proud to have helped thousands of people to start on their own crypto journey. It’s got me recognised in The Fintech Times’ ‘Rising Women in Crypto Power List’, and I was blown away to this year be announced as the ‘Rising Star of the Year’ at the UK Fintech Awards.
“Sometimes you can be your own glass ceiling, and as such I hope that I can help to inspire a new generation of women to smash through it! My advice to women in the industry is to overcome any fears, go for it, and ask for help along the way when you need it.
“Another issue close to my heart is sustainability; one of the reasons that I joined Zumo is it’s strong desire to be a values and sustainability-driven business. We have partnered with WasteAid and support the decarbonisation of the crypto industry as a signatory of the Crypto Climate Accord. I must therefore give a shout-out to our wonderful environmental advisor Kirsteen Harrison, who is leading the development and implementation of our net zero strategy. I find her hugely inspirational, and would suggest there is a glass ceiling we all need to break through when it comes to taking better care of our planet and protecting it for future generations.”
Ivy Lu, Chief Data Scientist at Oxygen
“I think my role as a female executive in a technology startup in a sector (financial services) and function (engineering and data) that are both woefully behind other industries and functions on inclusivity is proof positive that I have ‘smashed the glass ceiling’, as the saying goes. The path may not always have been easy, no major achievement ever is. I believe strongly in pursuing passions regardless of the challenges in the way. For women in any industry, that is just a fact of life.
“In my current role at Oxygen, I oversee a team responsible for everything related to AI and machine learning. As a member of the founding team and the sole female on the executive committee, I help provide an invaluable perspective and voice to ensure diverse viewpoints are considered to hopefully make it a little easier for the next generation of women leaders. A good of this is in the hiring process at Oxygen. To ensure we attract diverse talent, I helped design our hiring process that ensures our job descriptions did not include biased language, and I am always pushing our team to think about how we can better attract a diverse roster of candidates. Fortunately, our CEO (Hussein Ahmed) and broader executive team are supportive of these efforts and recognise that diversity is a strategic advantage.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t recognise the importance the incredible mentorship I have received along the way has influenced my career and helped lead to my success to date. I have been fortunate to have many strong women leaders in my life, and would not be where I am without them. From advice to encouragement or just being there to push me outside of my comfort zone, I am a strong advocate for finding mentors and importantly paying it forward for the next generation. I believe that leaders are made and not born, and mentorship is a key ingredient in the making of any great leader.
“Giving back to the community is part of my core. I realise no one succeeds alone. Since 2017, I have served as a committee member for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) in the AI and Data Science track. As the world’s largest gathering of women in computing, GHC brings the research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront. I really enjoy doing this as it gives me the chance to offer both formal and informal guidance and support to young professionals and women in the fintech industry looking to advance in their careers.”
Adriana Pirela, Chief Marketing Officer at Digicel Group
“I feel that my story is very particular because I had to build a career and a reputation with a combination of characteristics that sometimes do not play in your favour. When I started working, I was in my early 20s, facing a purely English market, with a Venezuelan degree in a foreign country. In other words, I was a young professional immigrant woman who had to start from ground zero in a country that was not hers and in a language, that I did not understand at all. Additionally, I was beginning to work in the Technology industry, which mainly, at that time, was a male-oriented world. Therefore, with every step I made, I felt I was opening doors not only for women but also for immigrants and, especially, for fellow Venezuelans that due to the situation of our country had and have to leave every day and start again as I did.
“I have managed to build a career in a second language, and I have become a true team player to everyone who works with me, from my role in Samsung to the ones performed in BlackBerry and TLC to my current role as a CMO at Digicel Financial Services. The smashing of the glassing ceiling has occurred when the people you work with look over the fundamental characteristics that traditionally have been perceived as negative, to see the infinite value you bring to the table as an outstanding employee.”
Helen Hodges, Chief of Staff and Operations at Urban Jungle
“I actually think I’ve been incredibly lucky as I’ve felt very little direct resistance to my career progression – at least so far. I benefited a lot from enjoying learning and growing up in an environment where education was highly valued, and my education and early career in particular were in environments where the best answers were what was important, not who came up with them. That’s an ethos we also encourage and keep to at Urban Jungle.
“Probably the biggest challenge I had personally was having the confidence to have an opinion (that was often different) and the skills to make it heard in what could be loud, brash environments. This can be a stereotypically female challenge in a workplace, but a lot of the feedback and suggestions I got early on weren’t that helpful for me – essentially to ‘be more male’ in how I did things, and this didn’t sit well with me. A particularly transformational manager helped me find a coach who helped me work out where my confidence came from and how to bring that to my communicating style, which was much more powerful for me.
“One of the things I credit the most with helping me get to where I am today is that I’ve had some excellent managers and mentors – male and female – from whom I’ve learnt a huge amount. It’s often said that men approach networking and asking for help or advice differently to women, so I’ve also done quite a lot of thinking about what my version of that looks like. I also think it’s important to pay it forward on this one, and mentor and coach other women who are at early stages in their careers – we think this is important at Urban Jungle as well, and assign everyone a mentor alongside their line managers to help them think about their potential career opportunities and development.
“One of the driving factors for me in my career is to have a positive impact – for the customers we support through our business, and for the team that we bring in and develop. I’m not interested in playing the game the old way, but more interested in reinventing the game – including definitions of success and bringing different ways of thinking about things to the table (think Jacinta Ardern vs Margaret Thatcher) – which is also very much in line with Urban Jungle’s overall philosophy; to keep getting better and take responsibility for making it that way to build fairer world.”