A Room Full of Hustlers – Part 2
By Nicole Casperson
FINTECH IS FEMME
A Room Full of Hustlers – Part 2
If you came to Fintech Is Femme, or you’re subscribed to my newsletter and reading this right now — we probably share interests and values.
I want to encourage you all to share with me, or anyone new you met because of WTFintech?, to reach out to them and tell them what you care about, why you came to Fintech Is Femme, or read this newsletter.
Tell them what work you do or what makes you hopeful.
Then each of us may open the door to a new job, a new colleague, a new revolutionary idea – who knows what might happen?
We may never know what will come of our work. But the only lasting guide is: Do work you love.
Sofiat Abdulrazaaq, CEO and Founder, Goodfynd
Sofiat Abdulrazaaq learned early from the strong women in her life — grandma and great-grandma — that no matter what life hands you, never settle.
That’s because life is filled with facing different bridges and tunnels, or moments that lead you to the next opportunity.
Sofia’s first bridge was her family. Fast forward to 2007, she’s a straight-A student at Virginia Tech, living her best life and a part of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
On April 16, 2007, Sofiat experienced the worst day of her life. 32 students were killed that day in the Virginia Tech shooting, including one of her closest friends. This was her tunnel.
After graduating from law school, she later lands a job at Wells Fargo, working for a woman, Elaine Cunningham. Sofiat was hired as her executive assistant, but she never treated her like one.
Elaine would take Sofiat on business trips, let her in on big business deals, and got her managerial classes — eventually giving Sofiat her first management job.
One day, she asks Elaine: ‘Why are you doing all this?’ And she told Sofiat that she felt a responsibility to pour everything into her as a successful woman in finance and pay it forward.
Elaine, like Sofiat’s family, was a bridge.
So when fintech came calling, and a friend pitched her the idea of mixing finance with impact, it meant leaving the comfortable life she grew accustomed to to do something that meant being something more for others.
There are situations, places, and moments in life that will accelerate your career. Those are bridges. And there are things, businesses, and moments that you have to struggle and preserver through — those are tunnels.
On the opposite side of both is opportunity.
“I want to encourage you to take advantage of the bridges and to persevere through the tunnels because I have never met a badass woman in my life that squanders opportunity.”
Clarissa Horowitz, Head of Marketing, Lithic
Every great CEO needs a strong marketing head to take their visionary idea and turn it into something tangible and durable.
That person is Clarissa Horowitz — and she is one hell of a builder. She understands that the best way to find a great partner is to be a great partner.
She’s a marketing head and follows the rules of three: create, commit, and communicate.
But none of this works without a team. Look, we all love a good hero story as much as anyone else. But Clarissa isn’t interested in being Lara Croft — she wants to be a part of Ocean’s 8.
When you bring people together with different abilities and backgrounds, doing what feels impossible is entirely possible.
Whether you’re charting a career path or laying the foundation for a brilliant new company, teamwork is good, but a partnership makes the difference.
“The only reason that everyone can pull this off is that together as a partnership, they are way greater than the sum of their parts, which is why I do this.”
Check this post written by Clarissa to learn more about her journey and tips for being a stellar marketer.
Swati Chaturvedi, Co-founder and CEO, Propel(x)
Fresh off the plane from India, Swati Chaturvedi swooped into Fintech Is Femme.
She shared why investing in areas where our heart and passion lie is critical in moving humankind forward.
That’s why she founded Propel(x) to enable more people to invest in startups, particularly in deep technology startups, companies that are leveraging breakthroughs in science and engineering.
“Turns out that is one of the biggest motivators for angel investors, solving some of the greatest challenges in this world using technology.
And these could be across sectors in life sciences, computer sciences, communications, aerospace, transportation, advanced manufacturing, and more.”
Megan Crowell, VP of People at BlockFi
Does anyone ever feel like they have huge dreams but aren’t qualified for their dream job yet?
Megan Crowell grew her team of hundreds at BlockFi, all while feeling as if she was never even qualified for the job in the first place. So how do you get out of that headspace?
For context, Meg worked at a big bank to start and, not surprisingly, hated her job. She was miserable with her 15 pairs of sensible heels hiding underneath her desk that began to smell.
Most importantly, she was uninspired by the culture. She couldn’t help but feel like a cog in a machine building something she wasn’t excited about, like making the rich richer.
So she left to bike around the country. To make ends meet, she’d take babysitting jobs because, as a woman, her mother taught her constantly to make sure she could look out for herself and have cash flow.
One day, she gets an email from Flori Marquez, a former classmate and the founder of BlockFi. Meg was hesitant – “am I about to take another job in finance – something I’ve sworn off permanently somewhere between Wisconsin and California?”
But she listened to her gut — it felt right.
Meg found success along the way by being shameless and unapologetic. She asks for help from friends and mentors. She isn’t afraid to admit when she doesn’t know something and has also learned to follow her intuition.
With these keys to success in hand — Meg finally got her sea legs. She built her team at BlockFi from her and 33 people to over 600 worldwide.
Then another new task came up – the team was too big. She needed to hire her own boss to help navigate the fast scale. Meg didn’t look for a boss that would make her life easy – she looked for the right partner.
And when she found that person, she realized that owning a smaller piece of the pie for the greater good is a gratifying feeling.
“Be patient with yourself, in your journey, wherever you are on it. If you are working your hardest, trying to do the right thing — odds are, you’re your harshest critic in those moments.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You look so much sillier pretending to know something than just saying you don’t know.
This is a room of hustlers — people with big ambitions. So I would encourage everyone to be as present as possible, even though you might be looking for that next thing or the big thing down the line. And be as grateful as possible for everything at the moment.”
Glenna DeRoy, Director of Product at Yieldstreet
Glenna DeRoy always reads the acknowledgment section in books. Two women helped her achieve success in her career: Mom and Grandma.
Glenna’s mom spent her career in insurance and started her own retail and care management business. Her mom has completed a master’s degree in the past ten years. Last month, Glenna watched her walk across the stage to get a doctorate in medical ethics from Albany Medical College. The same institution educated her as a nurse over 40 years ago.
The lesson is that you can have many different jobs across different industries and even entirely different careers throughout your life.
You can’t predict where life will take you, and that openness and flexibility to new opportunities will serve you well.
This leads to her Grandmother, who she is named after, imprinted on Glenna early that women should take up space and that we deserve to be respected for our intellects.
As the Ontario Nurses Association CEO, Glenna’s grandmother advocated for higher wages for nurses. She pointed out that the labor shortage they were experiencing at the time wasn’t a shortage of skilled labor. It was a shortage of people willing to work for the low wages offered.
She pushed back on sexist, manipulative arguments at the time that said the real problem is that nurses don’t care enough about their patients, as if care workers deserve lower pay.
Glenna’s grandmother worked on behalf of not just herself but for many others. While we all aren’t union organizers, there are always ways we can do this in our day-to-day.
For example, as hiring managers at fintech companies, it’s super important that we take every opportunity to call out exclusionary practices where we see them, and you will see them because they are everywhere.
It’s the language that promotes a work hard, play hard culture. It’s the job requirements that are not strictly necessary for the role. So it’s embedded, honestly, in how we do business.
And so Glenna feels it’s super important that we use whatever power or privilege we have in a situation to demand a diverse hiring pipeline, to hire women to pay them equally and promote them equally.
“We can all be forces of encouragement. Be the person in your friend group or professional network, who’s always ready to give that pep talk. We all have moments where what we feel inside doesn’t match what people can see.”
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