Every employee is going to think differently and be motivated differently — and that’s okay! Take time to understand each person’s unique work style and motivators, then adjust your management style accordingly. As I’ve mentioned, I believe that building relationships is key to success. I always take the time to check in with my team on a regular basis and adjust my management accordingly.
As a part of our series about powerful women, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rebecca Weizenecker. Rebecca is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing of FundThrough, leading the sales and marketing team there since 2018. In the past decade, she has built several scalable revenue-generating departments at various startups. She’s driven to help others and believes that being a good listener, possessing a sense of humor, and using a no-nonsense approach to problem solving are the keys to building successful teams. When she isn’t working, she enjoys traveling, walking and scootering down the Atlanta Beltline, and snuggling her dog. Pet peeves include “mansplaining” and long, wordy emails.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Rebecca! Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I have always been fascinated with the finance industry, so it was only natural for me to pursue a career in this field. Money is something we all have in common, and understanding the logistics behind the financial side of life helps me gain a better understanding of human behavior. Additionally, working in this industry plays to my strengths and gives me opportunities to make positive change in the world. I’m passionate about supporting and encouraging small businesses and entrepreneurs, and my position at FundThrough lets me do just that.
What is it about the position of CEO or executive that most attracted you to it?
I was recently promoted to the Vice President of Sales and Marketing of FundThrough. I’ve worked really hard in my career and it was rewarding to see my efforts pay off. This role was appealing because it was the next natural step in my career — plus I get to help small-business owners on a daily basis! I think that may be my favorite part of my job.
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?
An executive role can look very different depending on the company. For me, being an executive means focusing on the big picture and developing a business strategy. In my opinion, other leaders are typically responsible for the execution of the strategy rather than developing it.
What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being an executive?
One of the things I love most about being an executive is leading my team. I really enjoy helping my team do their best work and achieve their goals. It’s very rewarding to see my team trying new things, speak up when they have an idea and keep our company moving forward.
What are the downsides of being an executive?
At the end of the day, if something goes wrong, it’s your fault. I believe that great leaders are accountable for anything that goes wrong on their team. It is a lot of responsibility to take on and is not for the faint of heart. It’s important to consider the positive and negative aspects before accepting an executive position. Yes, if your company does well, you look good, but the opposite is true as well.
With that much pressure, many executives often get sucked a bit too far into their job. It’s obviously a good thing to be invested in the success of your company but establishing a healthy work-life balance is vital for overall success and happiness. That can be challenging! Fortunately, FundThrough has programs in place that help employees to establish a good balance by encouraging company bonding and leisure time.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
One of the biggest myths is that executives don’t have bosses. The vast majority of the time, executives have to manage board members’ and investors’ expectations and are held accountable for their performance, just like any other employee.
Another myth is that executives don’t know what happens on the front lines. I suppose this may be true at some companies, but it is certainly not the case at FundThrough. Our founders and leadership teams sit directly with employees. We regularly shadow them throughout the day as well — we are very involved! I personally like to do something with my team I call “reverse shadowing.” I sit at their desk and they tell me what to do, and I do their work for them. You’d be amazed at what you can learn using this method. You can learn more in 30 minutes of sitting in an employee’s desk doing their work than you can in 10 hours of meetings with middle managers.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
In my industry, the biggest challenge faced by women is representation. It’s a bit hard to put into words, but historically, the financial and technology worlds have been very male-dominated. Employees, customers, investors — everyone — is used to executives looking a certain way. When I’m at a conference, it’s not uncommon that men will approach our table and immediately talk to my male colleague, assuming he is the manager. It’s little interactions like that, happening over and over again, that can be very disheartening.
Fortunately, that casual discrimination isn’t something I have to endure daily. At FundThrough, diversity is one of our core principles. In fact, at the management level, we have achieved an even 50/50 representation of males and females. I am always taken seriously, and I feel fortunate to work in a place with such an open-minded culture.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Since I’ve taken on my leadership position, a lot of interesting things have happened! Perhaps one of the most interesting events was when I was one of only three female presenters at a large conference I attended recently. It was eye-opening to see the unbalanced male-to-female ratio in the FinTech industry represented right in front of me.
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?
When I first moved into a leadership position, I would get worked upset over the little things. I was constantly stressed and wound up micromanaging people. I think I probably took myself too seriously and wasn’t as effective as a result.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I would say the most striking difference between my actual job and how I thought it would be is the amount of data analytics that is involved. I find that I do quite a bit of work with numbers daily. I was also surprised by how quickly sales and marketing trends change.
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?
There are a wide variety of traits that can lead to a successful career as an executive. However, in my experience, empathy is very important. If you are an empathetic person you will be able to connect with your employees on a deeper level. Tied in with that, I would say being a good listener is also very important.
Additionally, I think effective leaders and executives should always be trying to learn and improve. Everyone makes mistakes — even executives! It’s important to feel comfortable acknowledging those mistakes, as long as you learn from them. If you can’t take responsibility for missteps, an executive position may not be for you.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
My best advice is to be yourself! I think women leaders can be hesitant to be too expressive, talk about their personal lives, etc. If you are open and vulnerable with your team, they will be open and vulnerable with you. Creating an environment where people can be themselves and talk freely leads to better conversations and better work, and you need to lead by example!
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?
I am very grateful to FundThrough’s co-founders, Steven Uster and Deepak Ramachandran. They are phenomenal leaders and have worked hard to cultivate a work environment that is conducive to not only productivity, but positivity. They encourage everyone to speak up, express their opinions and contribute to the team. I actually accepted my position at FundThrough because of the open-mindedness of the executives. At my previous position, they decided not to hire someone because she was a new mother. That was my cue to seek a new place of employment. Once I met with the FundThrough team, I knew that type of discrimination wouldn’t be a problem.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
One of the best parts of my job is that I get to support entrepreneurs. Small business is so important, and I am thrilled to provide a useful service for those owners, helping them bridge cash flow gaps. I believe the very nature of our business helps to make the world a better place.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Find the right company for you! Remember when you are interviewing to ask about company culture, values and morale. For example, when I interviewed with FundThrough, I was specifically looking for a workplace that valued diversity. Fortunately, FundThrough fit the bill!
- Get to know your team — sincerely. I love being actual friends with the people I manage. Building an authentic relationship and encouraging your team to build relationships with each other creates a work environment that is more conducive to productivity and higher retention. I know I love working with my friends, and I think that’s true for most people as well.
- Every employee is going to think differently and be motivated differently — and that’s okay! Take time to understand each person’s unique work style and motivators, then adjust your management style accordingly. As I’ve mentioned, I believe that building relationships is key to success. I always take the time to check in with my team on a regular basis and adjust my management accordingly.
- Things will go wrong — and that’s okay, too! As an executive, your job is to solve problems, not just react to them. Some of the best advice I ever received was “Good leaders are like ducks; calm on the surface and paddling away underneath.” When you remain cool, calm and collected in the face of high-stress situations, your team will follow suit. Generally speaking, people need to keep their stress levels down in order to be productive and creative. The energy at the top level will waterfall down to the employees down below. I always try to keep that in mind when faced with a challenge.
- Finally, people need to hear something seven times before remembering it! I always try to find ways to reinforce an idea or message in different ways so that it really sticks with my team.
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.
I would really like to make improvements in the world of education. I believe we should pay teachers more and invest in providing quality, free public education. If I could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, it would likely be related to education.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favorite life lesson quotes is “Never, never, never give up,” by Winston Churchill. That has been relevant for me, especially in my professional life. I’ve worked hard, but I think perseverance has been key to my success.
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 U.S. 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.
I would love to have lunch with either Michelle Obama or Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I think both of these women have made a huge impact on the way the U.S. views women in leadership positions. They are great role models, and I would like to have a discussion with each of them regarding their careers and leadership philosophies. I think they have a lot of knowledge and wisdom to offer.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.