We’re celebrating Women’s History Month with a series highlighting the experiences of females in our company. Check out the other spotlights by Hadas Tamir and Tyi Whitcomb. Stay tuned for the remainder of this 4-part series, with articles being published weekly throughout March.
I got the finance “bug” after I took my first economics class at Wellesley College and I subsequently started my career in financial services as an intern at Lehman Brothers in 2008. After I graduated with a double major in Economics and Italian Studies, I was accepted into a competitive management and leadership development program at State Street Bank. I rotated through various foreign exchange and fixed income trading teams in State Street’s capital markets division, State Street Global Markets (SSGM). During my last two years at State Street, I was an integral part of the build out of a new team and product - a repo trading desk. I got a feel for life in the startup space (granted, this was a “start up” at a 200+ year old company) and I was hooked.
After 9 years in financial services at the same company, I decided it was time for a change. I undertook a job search using the skills I had and skills I wanted to gain as guideposts, so that I wouldn’t inadvertently narrow my search or limit myself. This led me to Notarize and the customer success discipline, which was new to me and well-suited to my goal of finding a role that would give me the opportunity to manage my own book of business and learn a product inside and out. In April of 2020, I joined Notarize as a Senior Customer Success Manager on our Real Estate team. I partner with some of our most strategic enterprise lender and title customers to build digital mortgage programs and make the home buying and selling process simpler, faster and more secure for our customers and their signers.
I’ve encountered the types of challenges I imagine most women (unfortunately) have encountered throughout their careers: sexism, misogyny and ageism. But there was a glaring difference from my experience in the finance industry vs. when I came into the tech industry.
Early on in my career, there weren't many women in trader or sales trader positions on the SSGM trading floor. While that’s since changed, I did have some colleagues who seemed averse to change and didn’t know what to make of a young, female counterpart who wanted to pursue a career in trading. I once had a colleague stand up in the middle of a group of traders and tell me that the only reason I had my position was because I was a woman. I stood up, took a deep breath, and said that I earned my position as a result of my hard work and personal and professional accomplishments in both high school and college, and that my work to date (I had been at State Street for 7 months at that point) spoke for itself. He looked at me like a deer in headlights, sat down and never said anything like that again. That’s not to say that I didn’t encounter other obstacles throughout my time in financial services, but this experience reminded me that you’re your own best advocate and that you teach people how to treat you. You can’t control their reaction or what they do, but you can control how you respond.
While my experience in the tech industry is limited to Notarize, I remember early on being pleasantly surprised that my male colleagues put me on a level playing field. I still had to earn the respect of colleagues, both male and female, as one does in any new company or role, though it felt different this time, which was refreshing and encouraging.
I found that Notarize has afforded me more opportunities to effect change, like taking ownership (e.g. partnering with and supporting many innovative, interesting customers), and working cross-functionally with some wonderful colleagues, and that’s been exciting and rewarding.
To some extent, I think there has been a general shift in behavior towards women in the workplace. Over the past few years I’ve seen more women speak up and advocate for themselves, as well as women and men amplifying women’s voices. It’s anecdotal, but it does seem to be more of the norm now for women to be accepted and respected compared to what it was like at the beginning of my career.
While the financial services sector does live up to some stereotypes with regards to the way that women are treated in such a male-dominated industry, I feel privileged to have worked and developed strong relationships with many intelligent, driven, accomplished colleagues.
I’ve been fortunate to have some wonderful mentors, both male and female, throughout my career. They’ve been a sounding board for big decisions as well as the everyday, and over time I’m proud to say that they’ve become dear friends. I couldn’t be more appreciative of their time and guidance, which have played a part in who/where I am today.
One of my most impactful mentors is Jennifer Buonopane, who was State Street Global Markets’ Chief Operating Officer when I worked within her organization. She’s incredibly accomplished professionally, and is also a kind, compassionate human being. She always treats people with dignity and respect, even in the most challenging circumstances. She has shared many bits of wisdom over the years though I’ll narrow it down to my two favorites: (1) Don’t run away from a role (if you can help it) because you might rush in the wrong direction. Instead, pause and walk towards something that better suits your skills and passions. (2) Don’t be intimidated by a new role or team. If someone can’t explain what they do or a topic related to what they do in simple terms, they likely don’t fully understand it. This gave me a boost of confidence early on in my career to be myself on a trading floor full of men and to ask questions when I had them. I’ve carried it through to this day, and it’s advice I share with people to whom I’m a mentor. It helps to push away the nerves because let’s face it, we all have nerves at one time or another.
I’ve also found mentorship with some of my college professors, in both Wellesley’s Italian and Econ departments. They nurtured my love of learning (which led me to financial services and eventually, to the tech industry and Notarize) and they helped me find my voice. They also encouraged me to stand up for what I believe in and to maintain that viewpoint — respectfully — even if it differs from others around me.