Buy-in matters. Take the time to let others shoot holes through your idea. Let them add to it, critique it and even if your boss approves it you will need support.
As a part of our series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christine Loredo, VP at Fintech Evangelism. As Vice President, FinTech Evangelism, Christine is responsible for creating more value and innovation for FinTech start-ups via Yodlee’s data platform enabling disruptive solutions. She founded and established Yodlee’s award winning global incubator & built partnerships with accelerators & influencers across the global financial technology arena. She launched both Yodlee’s API and data businesses which ultimately led to a successful IPO and acquisition by Envestnet.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I started my career at AOL in marketing and then headed over to Yahoo! During my time in the marketing divisions at these large consumer technology companies, I was trained by ex-CPG (consumer packaged goods) marketing professionals which gave me a great understanding of the end user. Since then, I’ve continued to take roles that allow me to add enduring value to that end user. I eventually pivoted away from the CPG space and worked with a few mobile companies and eventually made my way to the mobile payments industry. During my tenure with mobile payment platforms, I uncovered my passion for helping people recognize the value of using their mobile phones as a viable payment method. My role in the fintech industry continued to grow from that point on and I was able to focus on so much more then end user payment and dive deep into the relationship with developers, mentor start-ups that are building cool solutions, and of course, still focusing on end users.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I was so fortunate to be the founder and launch Yodlee’s incubator. It was launched on a whim based on our relationships in the ecosystem. The entire premise of the Incubator is to help startups and their founders truly make a difference and add value that improve the financial lives of the end user. It was a risk — we didn’t know if it would work or if any companies would apply. But they did. We now have an award-winning incubator and have graduated five classes that many exceptional companies like Roostify, Domuso, Voatz, Golden and Rocket Dollar.
For me, the most interesting part of this process is seeing how much the Incubator has grown and how well so many companies are now doing because of it.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Not sure if it’s funny, but I hired a cultural misfit because she was wicked smart and knowledgeable. It was the best lesson because it was a true reminder to think out-of-the-box when hiring and that sometimes you need to give the underdog a chance. It also serves as a great reminder to think of the company culture when hiring and look at recruitment from many different angles.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. What is it about the position of CEO or executive that most attracted you to it?
Being able to affect outcomes and align teams to do it. I saw so much opportunity at Yodlee with the incredible breadth and depth of financial data and the relationships the team had built in the ecosystem. And fintech in general — just the need for tech to improve financial outcomes.
Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what an executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
Not only do you have to lead your team to achieve the set goals, but you also have to lead across other teams and work together to align at the larger goals. Sometimes this means putting your idea or project on the back burner to go after a higher priority and make sure teams are bought in and aligned. This includes partners and extensions of the corporation too.
What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being an executive?
Always learning and growing by working across teams, both internally and externally. I enjoy the different functions and being involved in many aspects of the business.
What are the downsides of being an executive?
It can be tough to get everyone to agree. Sometimes we have to give up our egos and personal beliefs to do what is best for the company.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being an executive. Can you explain what you mean?
I think a lot of people assume that if you are the CEO or a top executive that you have the final word around specific decision making. While that might ultimately be true in some instances, a strong leader needs to evaluate the needs of the team and often time make decisions that best align with the current team structure. It’s important that morale is high and that employees believe in the company and that can and should frequently affect decision making.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
I think women have to prove themselves more. Trust doesn’t come as naturally for them as it does for men. I can’t stand it but, it is the truth. So it’s important for us to support each other and encourage teamwork. This is more critical for the junior women on the team who need to see this type of leadership to feel comfortable standing out — it is crazy to observe how afraid some women are to speak up.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I was extremely fortunate that I was able to create the Incubator and build it from the ground up so there weren’t any surprises waiting for me.
Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive?
To be successful as an executive at Yodlee, you have to work well with different types of people. We have a diverse global culture and work with so many different companies and audiences, which requires excellent communication and people skills. A founder of a new start up is so different than a product leader at a leading global company.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
I’d lead with three pillars: transparency, encouragement and communication
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My Senior Vice President at AOL. If something was done really well, he stopped by your desk to tell you. If you screwed up, he did too, but in both cases he told you why, so you could learn and grow. He encouraged testing and refining, and that failing was part of winning eventually. Now I use that in our incubator to help founders build a winning culture.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I mentor young women and founders in tech. Definitely want them to learn from my mistakes and growth experiences.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Life is a marathon not a sprint. I like to get things done and add value which sometimes causes too much action vs. time testing and refining.
- Buy in matters. Take the time to let others shoot holes through your idea. Let them add to it, critique it and even if your boss approves it you will need support.
- Don’t be afraid to mess up! We learn our best from failure, so learn from it and then move on. Be honest about it with your peers.
- Get comfortable asking for help. You don’t have to do it all! Asking for help doesn’t make you weak and it can be extremely freeing. It also offers the opportunity for someone else to invest in your vision.
- When in doubt choose to over communicate. Making sure your team and those across it understand the concept or idea and have a chance to debate and add value.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Financial education and solid financial habits for girls and women across the globe.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.” It’s really a message of resilience. Being resilient is very important to me, as my father grew up in Poland from 1942 to 1965. They had so much change, so much loss, so much pain but they did the best they could and both he and his sister excelled enormously in the United States They key was this phrase and moving forward. I use this to help the founders in the incubator and other groups I mentor.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
Lindsey Vonn: because she is resilient athlete. She doesn’t give up and is very graceful along the way. Especially her last race- all battered and bruised and recovery still from injuries she took 3rd, a bronze at 34 years old.
I love skiing and my daughter is a ski competitor- it is so tough and Vonn was so impressive- all the way through it!