There are moments in all of our lives where we come across someone who transfixes us; whose story and personality make us want to know them on a deeper level. Stephanie Foster was one of those individuals for me when Cheryl Nash, CEO of Tegra118 first mentioned Stephanie on her Episode #8:Advancing, Empowering, and Leading Diversity & Inclusion with Cheryl Nash, CEO of Tegra118. I then heard her speak at the FA Matches’ Quarantina event, with Tyrone Ross and Edward Dudley, hosted by Ryan Shanks. And that’s why I had to bring Stephanie into the In The Suite guest chair this week.
Stephanie started as an intern in FinTech nearly two decades ago and has worked her way up to Head of Regional Product Management for the Americas at Finastra, the third largest FinTech company in the world. Along the way, Stephanie has accrued multiple industry certifications – including a CSPO (Certified Scrum Product Owner) and PMC III (Pragmatic Marketing Certification) – and has become involved in a myriad of professional organizations. One of those being Women Driving Innovation in Atlanta – co-founded by Stephanie – an organization that aims to connect, inspire and showcase the next generation of female thought leaders in tech.
Stephanie has allowed both intentionality and flexibility to guide her career. She believes in having an ultimate goal or destination – for her it’s the C Suite – and then using that final destination to drive the decisions along the way. In addition, Stephanie has leaned on her network to help support her professionally.
In fact, Stephanie was introduced to the industry through INROADS, a non-profit organization dedicated to developing and placing minority talent into business. Forever taking her away from her other dream of working for Vogue with Anna Wintour, INROADS helped Stephanie land her first internship at a Fortune 500 FinTech organization, where she continued on for 17 years!
Along the way, Stephanie has amassed a great deal of knowledge and experiences, including what she now sees as skills that differentiate those who succeed in the field. Stephanie points to a person’s resiliency, innovation, upskilling nature and ability to network as key differentiators. And she is most obviously walking the talk. For instance, Stephanie doesn’t assume her employers will always foot the bill on the professional conferences and certifications she pursues. Instead, she tell us that continuous education must be each of our personal responsibility, and that’s why she has a line item on her budget dedicated to it.
While I think this advice and all of the gems Stephanie shared were brilliant – nothing enraptured me quite the same as the part of our conversation on Black Lives and the work that the industry should be doing to support people of color.
As I mentioned, I first heard Stephanie speak about her experience as a Black woman in FinTech at FA Match. That day will forever be lodged in my head as both her and Tyrone Ross, took the stage and recounted moments in which they were ostracized, disrespected, and both overtly and subtly made to feel “other.” And while I and other members in the audience felt our own feelings of discomfort –my next thought was, “I have to do better.”
In our discussion In The Suite, Stephanie shares both sobering and encouraging stats of the State of Black Women in FinTech, including how 75% of black women view themselves as very ambitious in their career. The stats shared ultimately illustrate why change is needed. But what’s more, Stephanie goes out of her way to share the ways White people in the industry can do more to support people of color – specifically Black women. While I usually leave you with my own takeaways after an episode – I believe that this week it’s only right that this list is what we should all focus on. And not just for the week ahead for the length of our lives.
- “See Us. Hear Us. Accept Us.” Move away from saying “I don’t see color” and understand that a person being Black is more than just about color but culture – a culture that POC want you to see, get to know, and respect.
- Speak Up. There is an emotional tax that people of color feel having to constantly navigate spaces in which they aren’t always seen, heard, accepted and respected. As such, Stephanie encourages us to speak up on behalf of Black women if we’re witnessing any microaggressions towards them in the workplace. The job of an ally doesn’t stop just because a Black person isn’t in the room; in fact, this is exactly when our work becomes more important.
- Mentor and Sponsor. As mentioned, the majority of Black women are hungry to climb the corporate ladder; unfortunately, many feel invisible and unrecognized. That’s why it’s so important that for those of us with seats at the table, we become intentional about lifting up black women or as Stephanie says, “lift as we climb.”
- Elevate Black Voices. Instagram has seen a new trend called #ShareTheMic, in which white women across industries have allowed Black women – someone who is in a similar industry and has rich experiences and an awesome platform – to take over their pages to give them visibility to white women’s typically larger audiences. In a similar vein, we can all find ways to help black women reach and be connected to more people. This is something I’m now committed to doing In The Suite.
- Continued Education. There are so many great books, documentaries and podcasts that have been shared recently and this continued education is so important to understand our own biases, along with the history of racism and oppression in our country. One that Stephanie mentioned is The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at The Table by Minda Heart. I’m gifting this to the first 10 women to email me requesting a copy!
Stephanie’s career is one of risk-taking, perseverance and continued learning. Her wealth of unique industry knowledge and perspectives that she brought forth in a conversation is one that I know will inspire and activate you. Take a listen to the episode and let me know what you think by emailing me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would also love any recommendations on other women of color in FinTech that you think should be interviewed In The Suite.
This week In The Suite welcomes Stephanie Foster into the guest chair. From starting as an intern in FinTech nearly two decades ago to working her way up to her current role as Head of Regional Product Management for the Americas at Finastra, the third largest FinTech company in the world – Stephanie’s career is one of risk-taking, perseverance and continued learning.
In addition to her role at Finastra, Stephanie is a member of multiple professional organizations, including Women Driving Innovation in Atlanta, which she co-founded, that aims to connect, inspire and showcase the next generation of female thought leaders in tech.
In this episode, we dive into Stephanie’s commitment to strengthening diversity and inclusion in FinTech, a predominately white and male industry. Throughout the conversation, Stephanie uses her love affair with statistics to present not only the case for continued D&I efforts, but also the tangible, research-informed ways in which we can all offer support to Black women in the industry.
Stephanie has a wealth of unique industry knowledge and perspectives that she brings forth in a conversation that I know will inspire and activate you.
Join the conversation to hear more about:
- The powerful industry event that Stephanie nearly didn’t attend that led to this conversation In The Suite (6:09)
- Stephanie’s untraditional career path from intern to now managing more than $50 million in revenue and over 1,000 agent locations in 13 territories (12:24)
- Stephanie’s helpful advice for anyone looking to ascend in their career (16:45)
- How product marketers can best glean insights to know what the market wants (18:40)
- The four skills Stephanie points to recognizing that someone is meant to be in FinTech (22:52)
- Why this line item makes its way onto Stephanie’s personal budget (26:40)
- Which financial technology organizations we all should know and look to join (34:18)
- Stephanie’s timeless advice to young professionals on managing their career (44:50)
- The stats that illustrate the State of Black Women in Corporate America (49:17)
- Five ways you can support and elevate Women of Color in Corporate America (54:00)
- The tangible and intangible things that gives Stephanie superhero strength in the suite (61:45)