"Stand up and be heard," says Jennifer Holton, Vice President of Product management at Q2 Holdings, Inc. to the next generation of female FinTech leaders. Having worked on one of the first online banking solutions in the industry, her 20 years of experience in FinTech makes her one of our celebrated Women in FinTech.
How did you start your career?
I graduated from Georgia Tech with an interdisciplinary degree called Science, Technology & Culture (STC), which focused on how science and technology intersects with people’s lives. My technology emphasis was in computing, and I began working as a technical writer at a small software company in Atlanta, which provided FinTech (although it wasn’t called "FinTech" in the 1990s) services to financial institutions. We created one of the first online banking solutions in the industry; it ran on the Windows platform, and banks had to send a box of 3.5” floppy disks to each business, where the software was manually installed on each desktop in the finance department. I’ve remained in this industry for the past 20 years, moving from technical writing into business analysis and finally into product management.
What sparked your interest in FinTech?
I’ve remained in FinTech over the years because of the pace of change. Electronic banking has seen tremendous change in the past 20 years, and every day we are finding ways to solve new problems. We used to believe that if we could capture enough electronic data, we could make great decisions. But now we know that we have too much data. And it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality and our ability to analyze and draw rational conclusions from the massive amount of data we have. Data solves some problems and creates others, which need solutions, and the pace of change continues.
What was your lightbulb moment?
I haven’t had just one lightbulb moment, because FinTech is all about finding creative ways to help consumers and businesses accomplish everyday financial tasks efficiently, effectively and easily. The lightbulb moment is when multi-functional teams of intelligent individuals combine their unique skills to uncover creative solutions to hard problems. This is exactly the intersection of technology and real life that I studied 20 years ago and that I get to experience regularly today.
What inspires you?
I am currently creating solutions for a generation of financial consumers and finance professionals for problems that didn’t exist 10 years ago. FinTech has revolutionized how individuals and businesses maintain their financial health, and I continue to be inspired by how technology can change the way we act. It’s one thing to observe that millennials don’t write cheques, but those of us in FinTech are the reason millennials don’t write cheques. We created better, faster, cheaper, easier ways for consumers to move money, and have disintermediated the cheque. Without FinTech, solutions to banking problems, electronic payments, real-time money movement and same-day cross-border transactions would not exist.
Why is the #WomenInTech movement important?
Fintech, like all technology fields, continues to be male-dominated, but women have a tremendous amount to offer. As I mentioned earlier, the best solutions come from multi-dimensional teams, teams made up of men and women, from various cities and countries around the world, people who have grown up in different cultures and who look at problems in different ways. Those are the innovative teams; those are the teams who will continue to revolutionize the world. And those teams don’t exist without women to participate, to lead, and to demand their place at the table.
What piece of advice would you give women starting their careers in FinTech?
Stand up and be heard. You have a right and an obligation to express a strong point of view. You will not always be popular, you will not always be right, and even if you are right, your point of view will not always be accepted, but stand up and be heard anyway.
Jennifer Holton has been working in FinTech since before it was FinTech. She began her career with a small financial services software company in Norcross, Georgia, and has spent the past 20 years interacting with financial institutions that are committed to providing unique user experiences for consumers and businesses of all sizes. She’s worked at small and large companies in support of financial institutions in the U.S. and around the globe. She’s had incredible opportunities to help drive solutions in electronic payments, business intelligence and digital banking. Jennifer is the vice president of product management at Q2 Holdings, Inc. and resides in Atlanta, GA.