Top developers in FinTech give insight into success in the field.
By Kate Brodock (CCO, untapt)
At untapt, we’re committed to diversity, so we spoke to several women in this field to get their advice. Our machine intelligence connects programmers with their dream job in FinTech, and we want to make sure our hiring firms have every type of developer out there at their fingertips.
Kei Downey (Senior Project Manager, RBC Capital Markets)
Firstly, choose a line of work that you are passionate about. There will be ups and downs in any line of work — it should be your passion and love for the work that will sustain you during those challenging moments.
Secondly, continue being curious. Curiosity will motivate you to stay at the forefront of the technology and financial industry. Lastly, Prioritize. Do not strive to be perfect in everything but to be very good at a few things that matter the most.
Katerina Ekmekci (Senior IT Manager, Annaly)
The turning point in my career was when a manager told me I’d never be that person who enters a room and commands everyone’s attention. I knew my stuff, but I was quiet and reserved, and that comment made me question whether I had future in a leadership position in information technology. I spent the following year taking public speaking courses and practicing golf — to fit in with the guys — so when a young woman came to me and said I was her inspiration, I was expecting her to tell me it was because of my newly acquired presentation skills. “You really care about the company, and you always do the right thing, even when it’s tough,” she explained.
Is it possible I was wasting my time practicing my swing? I wasn’t, since I happen to enjoy playing sports, but that wasn’t the point. Her words made me realize there are many paths to success, and while we need to grow, what differentiates us is our authenticity. We must learn our strengths and cultivate those, while remembering that women contribute unique perspective to any organization.
Leadership is about confidence and carrying out the next-level job before getting that promotion. For me, it’s about starting my day looking into an imaginary crystal ball and seeing my company and department several years down the road, with everyone working in perfect harmony, much more efficient, productive, and happy. Even when I can’t spend more than a few minutes a day working toward materializing that vision, I know I’m on the right track.
Helen Altshuler (CTO, PeerIQ)
Don’t think of yourself as a woman in tech, per se, and don’t stop to think about what you should/should not do. Follow your passions and keep going forward. I didn’t realize I was a woman in tech until I was invited to speak at Women in Tech leadership panel. Technology is the best equalizer — skill and commitment is what matters most — everything else is secondary.
A great way to get engaged in the community and learn a new skill is by joining relevant meetups or networking groups. However, don’t limit yourself just to women’s groups. Join a few other groups for diversity of thought and experience.
Beth Boyd (Consultant, Crossbridge)
Don’t always be the first to volunteer. As women our, natural tendency is to help, and if someone asks, we often are the first to raise our hands. This can lead to being involved in a lot of ancillary tasks or projects and left out of critical projects which could be the most important to the business, and the most beneficial to our careers.
Nowadays, we’re responsible for our own career development, and to move up or stay relevant means getting involved in and tackling hard, mission-critical projects that directly impact the business. Being on these projects includes getting access to key people — and usually the most experienced ones — which provides a huge learning and relationship opportunity for you. If you’re constantly the volunteer and juggling many small things, then you might get the reputation of being a good team player, but not a key member.
Pam Mantri (Vice President & Lead Architect, Security Master Systems)
FinTech presents tough but rewarding challenges for women in a strongly male-dominated intersection. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the challenge of complex, multi-dimensional problems; and FinTech provides a never-ending stream of these.
But this demands of the practitioner an ongoing, outward-bound journey towards acquiring and maintaining hard-skills such as quantitative and technological smarts, as well as soft-skills such as leadership, negotiation, assertiveness, team-dynamics and EQ-emotional intelligence. And for whatever the reason (genetic/cultural), I think ladies have a strategic advantage regarding the latter.
Additionally, in FinTech, time is of the essence. It is therefore critical to establish good planning and execution skills, both at the personal as well as at the group level. So the challenges are many. But at the end of the day, that sense of having made a difference is quite worth the run.
About the guest blogger: Kate Brodock is the CCO of untapt and Adjunct Professor of PR and Marketing at Syracuse University. She’s very heavily involved in issues and projects around women in technology startups and technology investing. She is the former President of Girls in Tech, a global non-profit focused women in technology and entrepreneurship, Founder and CEO of the Other Side Group. Follow her on Twitter at @Just_Kate.