A Room Full of Hustlers – Part 1
By Nicole Casperson
FINTECH IS FEMME
A Room Full of Hustlers – Part 1
Work is more than just a four-letter word. Work can and should be a source of belonging, growth, and pleasure.
I’ve read about that concept from one of the greatest journalists and leaders of the modern feminism movement (and a personal hero), Gloria Steinem.
Her words rang true during last week’s Fintech Is Femme event. Fintech leaders shared stories of discovering work they love which gave them purpose.
The pathways to getting there are not linear and rarely look the same. It takes the perfect amount of nerve, grit, and self-reflection to decide what your version of success will look like in our fast-moving fintech world.
But in the words of Gloria, “until you de-magnetize whatever early patterns you inherited, you are probably making choices that aren’t really yours.”
I hope revisiting (or seeing for the first time) the stories of the women who were so vulnerable on stage on that soulful evening brings you value. Whether that be your next inspiration, career move, or texting your support group, you love them.
Anna Stone, Web3 Impact and Innovation, eToro
A native New Yorker filled with the same authentic energy as the big city itself, Anna Stone went to study economics in hopes of learning about all the ways money is intimate.
Money has a massive paradox. It’s both the great equalizer — in that it’s one of the few things that all humans on this planet need and have in common — a tool meant to help us achieve our purpose.
But it’s also the biggest guardrail for all of us in achieving our purpose and often is the factor that shows the most significant disparities on our planet.
Studying economics, however, meant Anna learned formulas, abbreviations, ratios, and concepts wholly divorced from how the people who live in the economy experience money.
She learned how capital is meant to flow to who or what will most optimally use it. Money flows and accumulates to those who have the most, not those who need it most or put it to the best use. Bullshit. That’s why poverty continues to increase.
This leads Anna into blockchain technology — a technology that went into the hands of people and broke the government and big banks’ monopoly on monetary value.
So instead, we have the chance to imagine people using money differently. We can imagine a world where our social values begin to align with monetary value. We can start to create economies where the economic value is linked to the social values we want to see in the world.
Anna’s been working on a project called Good Dollar, where the whole purpose of digital currency is designed to let value flow, across the globe, to those who are least likely to receive money.
“We all have so much more value to give than the money that’s in our bank account. Value comes from community.
It comes from trusting one another, creating together, looking for ways to help one another, and collaborate with one another.
It’s creation. It’s human. It’s personal. It’s the domain of women. My journey to blockchain is my journey that led me to understand money, and that Fintech is indeed the most Femme.”
Carolyn Vadino, Global Head of Communications, Gemini
Carolyn Vadino never thought much about crypto until she met a woman who made her think differently. A woman who convinced her that Gemini was doing something bigger.
She talked to Carolyn about gatekeepers who keep women and minorities from accessing value, and how those barriers would replace all of that with computer code.
All you needed was access to the internet.
So she got hooked on the idea that she could be doing communications for Gemini, a company that provided access to value for people who might not have had it before.
Women often sit on the sidelines, we don’t take risks, we watch other people get rich, and that’s not going to happen here.
That ideology sent Carolyn down the Bitcoin rabbit hole. It also jumpstarted her passion and desire within the job to bring more women into crypto.
It also gave her the confidence to take the next job that she’s about to enter.
Spoiler alert: Carolyn is no longer the Head of Communications at Gemini, that job wrapped earlier this month, and she’s taking on her next adventure starting in June and taking a couple of weeks off to recharge.
“Listen, crypto is still very predominantly male, it’s still very, very much white. But for me personally, when I made the decision to move on, I knew that it was time for me to pass the torch.
All of us will have come to this point in a career, you’re going to hit a crossroads where you’re going to say, ‘do I keep going in this job in this industry? Or do I take a moment and move on or reflect or pivot or do something differently?’”
I’m really proud of the fact that most members of the team are women. And I’m super excited to pass that torch on to them.”
Heather Buffo, Senior Manager of Venture Growth & Partnerships, Republic
Hitting a quarter-life crisis spurred Heather Buffo to pursue her personal legend.
So she left the nonprofit world to pack her bags and move to Austin, Texas. She moved with no job, no car, and no plan but with the perseverance to make her mark in the startup world.
She got a job at a brewery and would cold-call companies that she admired, companies with women CEOs. It’s early 2020, and she starts getting interviews but doesn’t have any warm intros.
But she’s got a Harvard degree, some leadership potential, and a lot of nerve.
Then March 2020 hits. All of her prospects dry up, and for the next six weeks, 5 million people lose their jobs every week. Followed by ending a relationship and an unfortunate roommate situation — Heather was left with nowhere to go.
She hit rock bottom.
Heather won’t let things end like this for her. She’s got conviction — and a belief that our rent for our space here on Earth is to leave it better than we found it.
But service can have no impact without power, and power is inherently tied to money. And as they say, time is money. And she had none left to waste.
So she picked up the phone. She started calling the people that have her back. They’re all women. They’re all old coworkers, friends, classmates, and people whose careers she admires.
Then someone picks up the phone — she works at Republic, a fintech startup.
The opportunity: Helping founders get access to money to fund their businesses. It’s a perfect fit.
Heather grows this program from about 50 to over 200 people. Over a year, she does enough work to need to hire two women to follow in her place and take over the program.
Heather is now working on a new project for angel investors to make more good people wealthy and bring full circle the service work that she was doing in nonprofits.
“Let’s make it simple. Pick up your phone. No, seriously, pick up your phone right now. Pick it up. Get out your phone, open a text message. Whose got your back?
Send them a text and tell them thank you in advance. Whose back do you have? Text them and tell them that you’re here waiting for them to call you. You’re not alone. We are not alone. Let’s do this together.”
Janjay Sherman, Senior Brand Strategist, Square
Janjay Sherman’s mom was the Donda to her Kanye.
Her mother was an entrepreneur. She had her own business — a clothing store named after Janjay. Janjay loved going to the shop with her growing up. Customers didn’t leave with just a new dress. Instead, they left with a bit of pep in their step and newfound confidence.
It was her superpower — she could help people see the beauty in themselves. Anything was possible for Janjay with her mother by her side.
In 2016, Janjay’s mother passed away.
This leads Janjay on her journey of becoming. Janjay doesn’t speak from a mountaintop of success but the valley of self-discovery and a fierce attempt to master self-love.
Before her mother got sick, Janjay was a part of the group of Millennials who were engraved in hustle culture. You know it: Work hard and play harder.
But the rude awakening of her mother’s sickness had her slow down and turn her hustle-culture mentality away from work and into taking care of her mother full-time.
That led to burnout and convinced Janjay to go on her Eat, Pray, Love journey. She traveled the world. When she got back, she went through an intensive interview process to land the position at Square.
Without her mother, she moved to a new city, started a new job, and started to work in an industry not created for people that look like her. Janjay would think to herself: ‘How did this courageous Black girl from the midwest with no Ivy League degree and no Silicon Valley Tech experience land a job at Square?’
It’s a weird paradox because a part of her job is to help brands build brand perception — which means assisting customers in associating a feeling and an experience and an attitude toward a positive brand.
But here she was — “challenged to sell me on me,” she said.
Women, in general, struggle with allowing other people’s perceptions of us to shape our perceptions. However, Janjay got to a point where she realized what other people think of her is none of her business, as long as she’s being authentic to herself.
Today, Janjay doesn’t have all the answers to solve impostor syndrome. But she has started to invest in herself. She’s continued to up-level her skills as a strategist, never stopped learning, and found some bomb-ass mentors to guide her along the way.
And just like that…she’s not feeling as much like an imposture.
“Hear me when I say this: You belong. You belong in that job, you belong in that school, and you belong to the life you’re living.
So the next time you may feel burned out or like an impostor, just remember to take rest, to invest in yourself, and believe in yourself.”
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