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 Chermaine Hu, Annalise Dragic, Bettina Hosp, Angélica Valle, Nimia Amaya, Lili Metodieva and Amabel Polglase as they share their advice on managing financial goals and personal expectations.
Chermaine Hu, CFO and Co-founder at Episode Six
“Although I started my career in investment banking, long before I really learned anything about the stock markets and investments, my parents instilled in me the importance of creating financial stability by owning my own home. Climbing the ‘property ladder’ was therefore my first real personal financial goal. On the day I received my first paycheck, I created a spreadsheet where I tracked all my expenses down to the cent. I was able to know exactly what I was spending money on, where I could save, how big of a mortgage I could afford and when I would have enough money for the down payment for my apartment.
“With that laser focus, I was able to buy my dream apartment three years out of university in the UK. The funny thing was, I had to really stretch to buy the dream apartment I wanted and while I could afford the apartment, I could not afford to buy all the furniture right away; so for months I had just one bed in the whole place but I was so happy walking around in my empty apartment which I had worked so hard towards. I did buy a table a few months later and a couch a few months after then! To this day, I still use the same spreadsheet to track all my expenses. It serves as a good reminder to me of the importance of setting ambitious goals and being disciplined in striving towards them.
“What I didn’t fully appreciate until later on is that the financial stability my parents encouraged me to build for myself also provided me with optionality in my personal and professional life. Without that foundation, I most probably would not have had the freedom to choose to live in and experience so many great cities in the US and the UK and definitely would not have had the courage and ability to start our own company with my two partners. All said, my advice is to be grounded while aiming high and staying focused and disciplined.”
Annalise Dragic, Principal, Sapphire Ventures
“There are a couple of points to consider here. Firstly, I think women should realise that the gender pay gap is real. And it’s something I think companies and software included are constantly aware of and trying to make sure that it doesn’t exist.
“But I think part of it, for women, is the fact that that still exists today. And so to be more proactive for yourself about how you think about addressing that with your current employer or potential employer, I think there’s a lot of research, and even learned about this when I was getting my MBA at Stanford, that in terms of negotiation, that there are differences in how men and women approach this.
“And so I encourage women, both friends and peers, to be really prepared when going into those conversations. So to do your homework around certain benchmarks, and even if you’re currently in a role, to understand what your market value is; I think all of that is very important.
“I haven’t reached the stage in my personal life yet where I’ve become a mother. I hope to be one day, but advice and support is definitely something that I seek out from others. And I feel quite fortunate that the women whom I consider to be mentors of mine are quite open in terms of both the challenges that they face, but also the positive aspects involved in this concept of balance, personal and professional, have helped them in their careers as well.”
Bettina Hosp, VP, Operations of Cake DeFi
“The most important advice I can offer is for you to set an overall target and smaller goals that will help you get there. These goals will act as milestones, and with every successful milestone you achieve, you need to celebrate as it brings you one step closer to your target. Don’t worry too much if your goals or even your main target changes, it’s just as important to celebrate the milestones you achieve and to constantly evaluate and re-evaluate them on your journey to make sure they are still relevant to you.
“The other key piece of advice that I can offer is to block out the white noise. At some point in your career, you’ll encounter unnecessary obstacles and distractions that could potentially throw you off your path. Don’t let these obstacles get the better of you. It’s very easy to lose track of your goals but as long as you can stay focussed and are determined to reach your target, anything is possible.”
Angélica Valle, Mexican Ecosystem Lead at Celo
“The world of finance and technology seems to be for men, with low representation of women, therefore I invite all women to explore and attend financial/technology forums or webinars, raise your voice, ask questions and do research. Meet the founders and learn about their backgrounds to find out about the projects and how legit they are before trying the financial services. Most webinars are free, and I also suggest looking for reputable channels or academies on YouTube to educate yourselves on new and reliable platforms.
“Never be afraid to ask. In my experience, the best questions and understandings come from women who want to know the details thoroughly in terms of money and the best way to get the most out of it.”
Nimia Amaya, Senior Marketing Director, Americas at Yooz USA
“I’m a single mom, a Latina, first-generation immigrant and first-generation college student. My path to success, which is an ongoing process, has been anything but easy.
“My advice is basic and straightforward: don’t be afraid to change your life. I was 25 years old when I became a single mom, and I thought the whole world was against me, but then soon learned to shift my perspective. I had no choice but to accept my circumstances.
“I was six months pregnant with a college degree and a lot of drive. I knew I could do this. As I prepared for my first job interview, I was nervous. I was obviously pregnant, and after doing my research, I decided to go for it anyway. To my surprise and delight, I got the job and we even discussed maternity leave. I stayed at that job for four years and was so grateful. While that job wasn’t in Fintech, it showed me that there are companies out there willing to take a chance on you if you show up prepared, with confidence and the desire to work hard.
“You can change your life and that includes your career. A lot of times as women, and there are studies about this, we don’t apply for jobs because we don’t think we meet all the qualifications, we’ve been out of the workforce due to parenting or other similar circumstances, or we simply feel unqualified. The reality is you are capable. Apply for that job but prepare yourself for it. Do your research, tailor your skills, explain your situation and show that hunger.
“My career in Fintech started because someone decided to take a chance on me even though I didn’t have years of experience in the field. I came to the interview prepared and created a personal presentation to help me study for it. In the end, the company asked to see it, and they loved it, which only helped my case even more, and guess what… I got the job!
“I’m still working at this company, and it has led to a world of opportunities. I’m happy to be a working mom and show my daughter that she can do anything and to hopefully inspire other women to apply for that job, ask for the promotion, ask for maternity leave without fear and always stay hungry for more. “
Lili Metodieva, MD at Monneo.
“Being the MD of the fast-growing fintech company, Monneo, I have learned so much over the years. My journey to being in this position, having gained so much management experience in my professional life, has undoubtedly had an impact on my personal life, mostly positive I might add! I am incredibly financially aware and strategic in order to be able to create a self-sufficient and sustainable business, and this definitely spills over into my personal life.
“When working towards a goal you need to be sure you know exactly what it is you are working towards and where you want your business to be. Once this vision has been put in place, it is much simpler to create the mission. Planning is key – as long as you can try and plan ahead and have support to help when you need it most, then you’ll manage. This works in both business and personal life and the more planning and preparation you do, the simpler the activity will be.
“As a mother, like many busy working mums, you’ll find life often feels like a constant juggle and you want to give your best to your work, but you always want to give your best to your family too and be the best parent you can possibly be.
“I’m sure I speak on behalf of the whole population when I say creating a viable work-life balance can be extremely challenging. We spend a lot of our time at work, and it is important not to neglect your personal and family life in the process, so getting the balance is crucial for long term happiness and success.
“It is also important to learn to adapt to changing expectations and environments. Adaptability can be a great strength to have, and one that will lead you to success.
“When managing personal expectations, it is essential to take a step back, digest all the work you have done and acknowledge your achievements. If we don’t celebrate the wins, it will be harder to learn from the losses. This is an important message that we implement at Monneo, and we believe the successes shared are worth more than those celebrated alone.”
Amabel Polglase, Chief Marketing Officer at Zilch
“When I had my first child, the workplace wasn’t set up for mothers. The person sitting next to me chain-smoked throughout my pregnancy and I was told I couldn’t attend an overseas meeting for fear of being culturally insensitive and insulting the clients with my 6-month baby bump. Thankfully the world has moved on, but I learnt a few survival tips along the way:
“Park the guilt. If you don’t, it will eat you up. Rather than dwell on how I was missing out, I reminded myself that my career was benefitting the family in other ways. My children are older now and they thank me for the extra activities they got to do when they were little. Some of which seem to have sparked lifelong passions.
“Dump perfection. It doesn’t exist. Pre-children I had perfectly manicured nails, regular blow dries and a pristine home. But as the house became a toddler zone, I came to realise that there were more important things in my life than a dust-free carpet.
“Get a support network. I got involved with a Working Mothers social group, met up every couple of months, chatted about life and traded childcare tips. This was a godsend as I felt supported by like-minded people, two of whom have become my best friends.
“To Nanny or not to Nanny? I found childcare was the single most important decision I had to make as a working mother. I tried everything from nannies to nurseries to au pairs. At the end of the day, I found flexibility was key and as much as I liked the social element of nurseries, I couldn’t bear the stress of having a fixed pick-up time.
“Finally, have fun along the way. Being stressed out isn’t productive. I made sure I made time for family holidays, long weekends and family fun. “