What first got you interested in the financial industry?
In the early 2000’s, I was at a startup which while an amazing experience, it, unfortunately, met the same end as most tech startups did during the dot com bust. Following this, I was looking to get into something different and more stable. I took a job with HSBC which was the complete opposite from the startup world I had come from. It was a bit too slow for my liking and I had started interviewing to find a different job about a year later. I got an interview with the CME and the rest was history. I had a math and CS background originally and the CME was a great mix of both. I learned a great deal about futures trading and the clearing business. It was an established company but it was moving really fast at the time. I really enjoyed the problems and the business we were in.
How do you think that the climate that saw so many startups appear in the early 2000's compares to the startup boom that is currently taking place?
Now I think there is more attention paid to viability. Back in 2000 almost every “.com” was seen as having large potential and got funding. Now, I think investors are more cautious. With so many cloud services available now, it’s much easier to spin up an environment and start executing on your work. One thing that hasn’t changed is the criticality of time to market, so being able to move faster is a huge benefit.
Can you tell us about your job at E*TRADE and what some of your responsibilities are?
I’m a development manager who runs several teams within the web trading area at E*TRADE. What I enjoy most about my job is my range of activities. My responsibilities go from tactical to strategic. I work on things like getting builds out, digging into support issues, code reviews (ie running the day to day of a dev team) to working on larger problems like figuring out ways to deliver software faster.
Is there an achievement from your career that you are particularly proud of? Or a particularly challenging problem you were able to overcome?
It was a pretty proud moment when I took over 3 of the largest teams in Clearing at the CME. I had worked really hard as a developer on Deliveries when my career began at the Merc and to be able to learn the entire clearing business and be able to manage those 3 groups was something I was really proud of. I think I had built a reputation of being a levelheaded engineer and lead that applied common sense to managing the teams. When I transferred to Risk my team got me a football that was autographed by each team member. It was a game ball. And I had been their quarterback for years. That may have been the proudest moment of my career.
In terms of particularly challenging problems? I think every night that I was on call, working with my engineers and support staff to make sure that the end of day processing was complete and that the exchange could open (because it had to) was a constant challenge. It is tough to pick just one thing. It takes a lot of effort and determination to fight through all the trading incidents and clearing issues under the stress of a nightly deadline. Either that or the NYMEX integration. Acquiring another exchange and getting their products to clear within a year, while I was pregnant with my first was a serious challenge as well.
How do you maintain work/life balance?
All working parents have to balance home life and work life. It’s hard. To say otherwise is not telling the whole truth. You are constantly balancing your kids’ schedules (days off, sick days, dr appts, getting them from after school care on time, etc…) with your work commitments. It has forced me to do a better job of prioritizing. You realize quickly that you can’t do everything so you have to pick and choose what you take on. Delegating is critical, not just at work but at home as well. My husband and I split kid duties and housework. I take care of kids afterschool activities, he signs them up for sports. I do the laundry, he does the grocery shopping. Any working mom that thinks she can do everything at home plus her job and do both well is going to find herself stretched way too thin.
Working in the tech industry does have its own set of unique challenges. It not a 9-5 job, which means that between supporting production issues, after hours deployments, meeting tight deadlines, etc.. I can put in a lot of hours. There are a couple of solutions that have made the long hours more manageable. The first is the ability to work remotely during non-traditional work hours. I know it sounds kind of silly, but this wasn’t always an option. There was a time before VPN access where I would have to drive into the office downtown in the middle of the night to help support production issues because I couldn’t get access to our application logs and databases from home. That seems crazy now, but back when I started, working remotely wasn’t nearly as wide spread as it is now.
Having two full time jobs is hard, but it’s not without its benefits. I enjoy what I do and I feel fortunate that E*TRADE allows me the flexibility to do my job sometimes after 9pm (sometimes at 6am) I also think I’m being a good role model for my two boys. They understand that if they want something, they need to work for it. They also see both their parents working and taking care of them. It’s a great lesson in equality.
What do you think is the future of fintech? Are there any emerging technologies that you think will have a big effect?
Making things more accessible and transparent to our customers. More and more financial services providers are going to finally catch up to the B2C-focused verticals like retail and even banking. This means we should see a large expansion toward mobile-friendly access. Transactions that can be completed in a secure fashion without the heft of an entire desktop platform.
Fintech is going to benefit from many of the same emerging technologies as other industries. Mobile access is a big one. People expect ease of use and services to be available even when they are on the go. AI is another emerging discipline that will have an impact on our industry. Utilizing chatbots and robo advisors will help to free up resources that were previously allocated to lower value operations. Big Data will allow companies to mine data for usage patterns that will help mitigate risk. Big Data in combination with AI, will let companies will be able to provide more personalized services for their customers.
Can you tell us some of the ways that E*TRADE uses AI in their operations?
We have begun utilizing chatbots to help customers with routine tasks in a user-friendly way, which frees up our service reps to handle the more complex customer challenges more quickly.
For example, we have chatbots that now help answer questions and guide users with real-time account activation.
What is some advice you have for leaders, or people that want to become leaders like you?
First and foremost, be yourself. Be authentic. I have learned that you don’t need to be loud and aggressive to be a leader. You can still be firm and thoughtful without the drama. You need to be a great listener that can balance the goals of your people and the organization. I think those are the things that I bring to the table and respect to other leaders I have worked with.