04 July 2023 |

From Military to Fintech: Nasdaq Exec Brandis DeSimone’s Unconventional Journey


Brandis DeSimone, Head of Data Sales at Nasdaq, understands the challenges of transitioning from military to civilian life.

In a special episode of my podcast Humans of Fintech, recorded live at the iconic Nasdaq MarketSite in Times Square, Brandis shares her inspiring experience of pursuing her dream of making a mark in the fintech industry after leaving the armed forces. Plus, her story highlights the importance of women supporting each other.

Let’s dive in! 

Brandis’s journey began at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where she witnessed the world shift dramatically after 9/11.

The Naval Academy, although an esteemed institution, presented its unique challenges. 

Sure, it was a leadership laboratory where followers learned to become leaders, and everyone earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree, underpinning the belief that leaders must possess a fundamental understanding of the technology they work with

Yes, this foundational belief resonated with Brandis and carried her through her career, as finance, too, relies on the backbone of market structure and technology.

Yet, it was also heavily male-dominated, and after graduating, Brandis soon realized that her military background didn’t make her the most sought-after candidate on Wall Street. The world of finance seemed like an impenetrable fortress, leaving her feeling like a solitary “female island” rather than an attractive prospect.

During our conversation on Humans of Fintech, Brandis shed light on the challenges veterans face transitioning into civilian job searches. For example, military training emphasizes individualization, self-sufficiency, and getting the job done without asking questions. 

Unfortunately, these qualities often come at the expense of networking skills and the ability to seek help—a vital aspect of civilian employment, especially in finance and fintech.

Amidst her struggles to break into the finance industry, Brandis found solace in the organization 85 Broad, founded by Janet Hanson— who, in 1986 became the first woman to be promoted to sales management at Goldman Sachs.

This organization, dedicated to women helping women, eventually led Brandis to her breakthrough. 

In a serendipitous turn of events, Janet Hanson reached out to Brandis in response to an email she had sent to customer service at 85broad.com in the middle of the night. 

Janet recognized Brandis’s potential and imparted invaluable wisdom: the importance of relationships. 

She introduced Brandis to three influential women and encouraged her to meet them personally. After these initial meetings, Janet tasked Brandis with asking each woman for three more connections, exponentially expanding her network

This reverse funnel approach became the catalyst for her eventual success. 

These women became her mentors and guided her toward her first job in finance—on the trading floor of Merrill Lynch.

Today, Brandis attributes her wins to the women who extended a helping hand when she needed it most. She recognized the significance of networking and human interaction and founded Nasdaq’s first women’s network group upon joining the organization.

It was her way of paying forward the support she received, fostering an environment where women uplift and empower each other. Additionally, she spearheaded the establishment of Nasdaq’s veterans’ program, recognizing the specific challenges faced by veterans trying to integrate into civilian life.

Through mentoring and support, Brandis believes that individuals like her can be identified early on and have opportunities to thrive.

Beyond Brandis’s journey, the Humans of Fintech episode delved into various compelling topics including: 

  • The rise of female CEOs and founders in the public markets, exemplified by companies like Rent the Runway and 23andMe. 
  • These success stories are powerful examples of women’s increasing representation in leadership positions within the fintech industry. 
  • The importance of continuing this positive trend and creating an environment where women can flourish and contribute significantly.
  • We also emphasized the vital role of human connection in business partnerships, particularly in the context of the pandemic. 
  • Plus, the challenges from remote work and limited in-person interactions underscored the significance of fostering strong relationships to drive successful collaborations in the fintech world.

Brandis stressed that establishing a genuine connection and shared values before entering any partnership is crucial. 

Of course, the episode would only be complete with exploring the role of Nasdaq in the fintech industry

Brandis shed light on Nasdaq’s pivotal contributions, providing fintech companies with the means to go public and empowering them with essential data through their data business. Despite often flying under the radar, these capabilities significantly fuel innovation and growth within the fintech sector.

So, if you’re ready for an insightful and thought-provoking experience, grab your headphones and tune in to this remarkable episode here. 

I hope Brandis’s story leaves you both inspired and introspective.