Finding success as a woman in FinTech

In this post, we introduce readers to Paula Wilson, marketing director at Xchanging, a DXC company. Wilson was recently named to the 2016 Women in FinTech Powerlist, a prestigious list published by Innovate Finance that celebrates the contributions of women in the development of the global FinTech sector. She is responsible for marketing Xchanging’s software business and business processing services to the global insurance sector.

Prior to her role at Xchanging, Wilson worked extensively in financial services, including insurance, asset management and debt markets, at XL Catlin, Deutsche Bank and Nat West Group respectively.

paula_wilson CSC BlogsTell us a bit about yourself, your background and current role.

“My career has spanned the breadth of financial services from debt markets to asset management to insurance. While I only started working for a technology company quite recently, I’ve always been interested in technology as an enabler, and have worked in IT departments and within joint IT/marketing teams many times over the years. Currently I’m working a lot on marketing products and services that will help the London insurance market modernise. The potential is incredible and it’s so exciting to participate in an industry on the verge of massive change.”

You have been nominated as one of the 50 women in the FinTech list. What does this mean to you?

“It’s truly an honour to be among such esteemed company. I particularly like the breadth of roles and companies represented, from start-up to blue chip, representing FinTech in its widest sense. We so often hear about FinTech and InsurTech as if they’re a class apart from other financial services companies. Yes, in some ways they’re different, but we’re all competitors selling technology-enabled financial services and we’re often more alike than we think.”

What do you find interesting about working in the technology industry?

“Technology is behind almost every important innovation – it disrupts industries, influences human behaviour and helps us dream bigger. TV, Internet, smartphone, driverless cars, robotics, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things…. Every innovation offers more possibilities and as such, when we think of technology we’re always looking forward to the art of the possible. It’s one of the most inspiring industries in the world.

“On a personal level, I hate inefficiency, so any boring, repetitive task that can be automated for greater speed and accuracy and free up people for more interesting / value-added contributions gets my vote.”

What inspired you to work in the technology industry?

“Whenever I’ve changed jobs it’s been for an opportunity to grow my skillset or gain valuable experience. So while I didn’t make a conscious choice to move into this industry, it was in a way inevitable because right now there are so many opportunities in the technology sector. As my previous role was in insurance, I’ve seen firsthand the potential for modernisation across that industry, so when I was looking for a new role, technology companies were very relevant. I was very lucky that this role came up at the right time, giving me the opportunity to use my experience and learn new things at the same time.”

How do you see the current state of play for women in technology?

“I think it’s very positive. Sure, it’s a male-dominated industry, but there are many senior women in technology roles and technology companies, so there are plenty of role models for women. As they’re in the minority, women enjoy a visibility that men don’t. There’s so much demand for talent, and with the renewed focus on gender equality, there are more opportunities for women than ever.”

How can schools play a bigger role in informing girls about careers in technology?

“I haven’t experienced current careers advice, but in my last job we used to hold career days for local schools. The young people all really valued hearing about real experiences. If we want young women to come into technology, we need to make sure it’s relevant to them. In my opinion, education needs to be a combination of making sure our young people are equipped with the right qualifications / subjects; are encouraged to consider all careers, not just those traditionally considered ‘gender-appropriate’; and are exposed to real-life role models who can help them make informed choices.”

What do you think women bring to the technology industry?

“I find female colleagues tend to be collaborative, supportive, empathetic… but of course there are plenty of men that have all those qualities in abundance too. For me, it’s less about the qualities that women bring and more about having a diverse workforce that helps deliver appropriate products and solutions to our diverse customer base. I’d like to see a better gender and ethnic balance, and more opportunities for disabled people. In InsurTech, FinTech, and financial services in general, I think we’ve really been missing an opportunity in respect of diversity, although happily it’s starting to get better.”

Do you have any female business role models?

“Personally I’m inspired more by women I work with, than high-profile business leaders who I don’t know. I’ve been fortunate over the years to work with some amazing women, too many to mention here. For some or all of the following — business acumen, work ethic, functional skills, communications prowess and leadership style — my standout list would include: Louise Dennerståhl, Sarah German and Kelly Lyles (all at XL Catlin); Louise Robertson (Hubio); Mairi Mallon (Rein4ce PR); Kerry Rainer (Xchanging) and Marian Kelley (DXC).

“Also, just about every working mother on the planet. I find work all-consuming, and can barely imagine raising a family at the same time. Respect.”

How do you inspire women and men in your current role?

“I think leaders need to lead by example so I try to model the behaviours I want to see. Nothing undermines a message more than seeing a leader say one thing and do another. I’m very keen on skills development, so I always make sure my team members have at least one personal development goal alongside business goals.

“I also think my very varied career path (Chef, Catering Manager, Conference Manager, Web Designer, Internal Communications Manager through to Marketing Director in insurance and now technology) proves that no one needs to be pigeon-holed. I truly believe that there are no limits.”

What advice would you give to young women considering a career in technology?

“In respect of the technology sector, I’d say there’s probably nowhere that offers as much opportunity right now, so you can’t do any better. I’d also like to borrow some advice I was given many years ago, which is just as relevant today. ‘Do what you commit to. You’ll be noticed because you’re a woman, but you’ll be remembered for your integrity.'”

RELATED LINKS

Winning through diversity

To be or not to be … a woman in IT

How to add 6 percent to your net margin

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