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Secfi celebrates International Women’s Day

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Here at Secfi, one of our guiding principles is the pursuit of diversity to encourage newer, forward-thinking solutions. — by way of thought, talent, and insight. So, in honor of International Women’s Day, we thought we’d take a moment to dial in on some of the amazing women in our corner who have helped build, sustain, and secure the future of equity education, planning, and financing through their work at Secfi.

Amrita Banerjee
Head of Product, Financing

Can you tell us a bit about the journey that led you to Secfi?

It has been quite a journey starting when I was a student of architecture. I had friends who were studying Computer Science and they got me interested in coding. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to pursue a career as a software engineer and landed my first job as building an eBanking product at Infosys. To understand the business beyond technology, I decided to get an MBA in marketing and strategy. I joined Business Development in Comviva, a B2B company enabling access to financial services in emerging markets through mobile network operators.

I got into Product quite unexpectedly as I was looking for a change and the VP Product offered me a role in his team at Comviva. After getting a taste of B2B, I wanted to build B2C products. I joined Uber in 2017 where I was part of the Growth team - responsible for unlocking access for new customers by opening up payment acceptance. In my last role at Uber, I led Product for Payment Experience & Compliance globally. The next step was to learn how to build something grounds up in a startup environment and here I am at Secfi! Long story short, I strive for novelty and constantly challenge myself.

What do you think are the most significant barriers/challenges to female leadership?

I believe that every individual goes through different challenges but they usually fit into three main categories.

First, self-imposed boundaries that we set for ourselves. An example is when applying for a job, research shows that women tend to see if they meet all the requirements before they apply, as opposed to men - who would apply even if they don’t tick all the boxes. Or, when it comes to appraisal, men are more likely to speak up and ask for a raise or promotion.

Second, allyship. Finding allies is not always easy. I have been lucky in the amount of support and encouragement I have received from my family and that my voice was not the only one when we discussed diversity at work. I am grateful for my family, friends and colleagues for their support, guidance and for pulling me up whenever I struggled.

Third, parenthood. From getting back to work after parental leave to giving up their careers to take care of their kids, each of us have a different challenge. There are women who made the decision not to have kids just because their career will take a hit. Having to choose or play a balancing act between one's career and kids is hard. Initiatives such as equal parental leave for fathers and mothers, the return-to-work programs  go a long way in leveling the playing field.

What advice would you give for women who want to pursue a career in Product?

A good product manager must have empathy and should be able to multitask; something that women are usually good in :) Jokes aside, there are tons of resources available online about product management which can help one understand what Product Management is and what it takes to be a good product manager. I would also recommend finding a mentor, joining product networks that host product learning session or doing a small project in your current company. Reach out to product managers in your company and more often than not, they would be very happy to help.

Ioana Stanescu
Senior Software Engineer (Backend)

Can you tell us a bit about the journey that led you to Secfi?

At the beginning of 2019 I decided to move out of Romania together with my boyfriend (now fiancé) to experience different cultures. We decided for Netherlands after visiting various cities.

During my first video call with Secfi, my interviewer was walking down to the office from Amsterdam Centraal, which for me was very unusual but a very human, casual and pleasant experience, unlike typical interview setups. At the time I was interviewing with other companies too, but Secfi’s culture and mission captivated me through their interviews; the whole interview process was very natural and warm and I instantly wanted to be a part of the team. Bonus: Fred (our CEO) sent me the offer on my birthday.

Can you briefly describe what you do?

As you know at a startup you have to be flexible and you can wear many hats. Along with the usual backend work building our products, I also lead DevOps and SRE initiatives.

Nowadays I’m splitting my time between backend development, where I’m currently working on our next tools that help startup employees understand and take advantage of their equity, and growing into my next role as a Chapter Lead.

My journey to growing into a Chapter lead actually has a nice story. I found out that I like seeing the bigger picture, that’s why almost 2 years ago I wanted to focus on Software Architecture. Che (our Director of Engineering) connected me with a mentor and after a few sessions I realised that while the role checked all the boxes from a technical perspective, something was missing: the people. I like to build products and I also like to empower people and help them grow so, since mid last year I’ve been on track to become a Chapter Lead.

Another nice thing about going on this journey at Secfi is that I get support from everyone at the company and share this experience with a buddy: Sarah (Senior Frontend Engineer) who’s on a similar track and with whom I have regular syncs to discuss various topics or talk about our latest challenges.

Are there any challenges you’ve faced as a woman in the tech sector?

read many stories about the challenges that women encounter in tech and I am very lucky that in my career I have only experienced healthy environments. For example I think that during my Computer Science studies, about 40% of the students in my group were girls and had strong women role models among the professors. At the same time at work I was also very fortunate to have been in teams that were supportive. I’m happy that here at Secfi I can enjoy a healthy workplace and I feel appreciated and rewarded for being myself.

How would you encourage young girls out there to join software engineering?

It’s important not to get discouraged and experiment, be curious, find what you enjoy and what you’re good at. If you don’t have access to support, information or mentors in your local community, search for resources and communities online, there are many women who can help you out and give you advice.

Don’t be discouraged by statistics or what is shown in the media, apply to internships and to jobs that you want without fearing rejection. Every experience is a useful experience and gets you one step closer to your goal even when it might not feel like it.

Sarah Van de Laan
Senior Software Engineer (Frontend)

Can you briefly describe what you do?

As a Frontend developer I work closely with the product and design teams to deliver projects from the discovery phase to release and beyond. My day-to-day is not only coding, but also exploration, user interviews, and deep dive refinements of new and existing features. I’m also currently working towards a chapter lead position, so I’m incrementally integrating to the management and people side but still with a tech focus.

Are there any challenges you’ve faced as a woman in the tech sector?

I think one of the biggest struggles I have felt in the past is being underestimated or undervalued. I sometimes lack confidence in myself and my abilities and have a voice in my head convincing me that I always need to push myself harder to prove myself. That voice has gotten a lot quieter but I still need to intentionally challenge the imposter syndrome.

What advice would you give to young women who want to be in engineering?

Something that really helped me was discovering that there is a whole network of women in tech. There are so many groups, meetups and conferences that you can attend and meet other women in similar positions and with similar experiences! I really found that the awareness of this network empowered me and made me realize that I was not alone. Amsterdam is especially good for this as it is a massive tech hub.

Katrina Yuan
Finance Manager

Can you tell us a bit about the journey that led you to Secfi?

In my past lives I did finance at Softbank and Twitter. Having both private equity exposure and tech company experience, coming to Secfi is an interesting intersection between both. After working at larger organizations, I wanted to leverage my experience to build systems and analysis from the ground up. What I appreciate the most about working at Secfi, is that not only am I getting to grow by facing unsolved challenges, I am also making a material, positive impact for our customers who would be losing millions of dollars without Secfi.

Were there any challenges you’ve faced as a woman in leadership?

While I hope to be able to live in a world of equality, the reality is you sometimes need to face challenges with the cards you have been dealt. From my personal experience throughout my career, there have been many times where I felt the need to be more reserved with my opinions and have been often shocked by how other people voiced theirs. This is something that I still struggle with on a weekly basis but I have come to the realization that my opinion and voice matter just as much and my hope is that by getting out of my comfort zone that I can hopefully motivate others to do the same. I strive to better not only myself but also create an environment that is inclusive of people from all backgrounds.

What advice would you give to women who want to pursue a senior position in finance?

I would advise women to never sell themselves short and shoot for the moon. When I first read the job description for Secfi I almost did not apply as I did not feel that I was qualified. What I realized was that inaction, through not applying, was the same as applying and getting rejected. There are many cases in life where you will face similar situations where rejection and inaction leads to the same result, in these cases there is no reason not to try! While I still have not fully overcome my imposter syndrome, I am glad that I overcame it that day as I would have truly regretted not living through the Secfi experiences I have had thus far.

Lucinda Pouw
Senior Director of People

Can you tell us a bit about the journey that led you to Secfi?

I started my career in research and after my masters, I did my PhD in Development Psychology where I researched emotion regulation in children with autism. I then decided to explore the corporate world instead of academics, hence reached out to Michael Page to find job opportunities. Surprisingly, I ended up working for them instead and started my first corporate job as a recruiter! As you may know, the recruitment world is really fast-paced and I received a lot of training - it’s a very work hard, play hard culture. After working there for a while, I decided to make a big change and join my partner to East Africa where I first delved into the startup world. I joined a couple of startups and became super excited to make an impact with people from different backgrounds and seeing the companies I worked for grow.

After five years in East Africa, I moved back to the Netherlands and didn’t want to join a typical Dutch company, but rather a startup with an international community. I saw a vacancy for Head of Recruitment for Secfi, which was a bit junior for me as I left a job where I was managing a big People team. However, here I got the opportunity to build everything from scratch myself, which sounded super exciting. After talking with Frederik (CEO & Co-founder), I felt aligned with his beliefs and got extremely motivated and felt confident enough to take the next step. It turned out really well and now here we are! I am very glad I did not fixate on titles, this is one of the lessons I’ll always take with me.

Are there any challenges you’ve faced as a woman in your position?

There were times I was told to act less ‘girly’ or smile a bit less to be taken seriously. When I was younger, I repeatedly got the message that I needed to change my ‘sweet’ personality to ‘fit in’. And gosh, I tried. There were and still are times that I feel excluded or disregarded because I am a woman, including the times where a male colleague gets complimented for repeating exactly what I said earlier in the meeting.

There are also double standards imposed against working women by society, such as when I work late, they would ask shouldn’t I be home with my kids by now. I wonder if they would ask the same question to a man? Even Daycare still calls me as a first point of contact instead of my partner.

But having said all this, I’ve also learned a lot from this. I’ve learned to work very hard and to stand up for myself. I’ve also learned how to reach my goals, without losing my personality. I will never stop smiling ;)

What advice would you give to young women out there?

Be your authentic self! Don’t lose yourself in the process of listening to people forcing their own beliefs of what society expects a woman to behave like in the corporate world. Rather than trying to conform to social norms, we should help the world understand how diversity has a huge positive impact on culture and business.

Want to work alongside these amazing women? Check out our openings here.

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