Embrace what makes you different. Working in a male-dominated industry and coming from a different background than the rest of my colleagues has taught me to think differently. I’ve learned to go with the flow but to also embrace what makes me different and use this to bring new perspectives to the company.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Nolvia Serrano. Nolvia is the CMO of Aave, a new FinTech company providing secure, efficient and easy-to-use solutions for the finance industry. Nolvia is a FinTech enthusiast and an active member of the Latin America blockchain community. She has a background in marketing and communications and previously worked with Citibank’s PR team, managing internal communications, as well as for an investment company headquartered in Panama. Nolvia has spoken at multiple events in Chile, Argentina, Spain, Switzerland and El Salvador about digital asset backed lending.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always been intrigued by finance, not just by the numbers and complex equations but by its influence on people’s lives — making payments, spending money, saving and preparing for the future. I used to work for Citibank, and while I loved my job and enjoyed my experience there, everything seemed pre-recorded and pre-planned.
I started researching blockchain technology and cryptocurrency, and while admittedly, it wasn’t exactly love at first sight, it filled me with all kinds of curiosities. As I began to learn more about the industry, I was captivated; the more I dove in, the more fascinated I became. I joined several groups to learn more about blockchain technology, which is where I met Stani Kulechov, the founder of Aave. He was putting together a team to change the financial world by adopting emerging technologies.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I’ve always found the power of an idea very fascinating. The beginning of this journey started with a small idea that has since developed into something far greater than what I had initially envisioned — an idea that lead to many others. When we first started developing Aave, we wanted to build a decentralized application where cryptocurrency investors could cash out without selling their digital assets. But as we continued researching the industry we realized we could offer so much more.
We saw an open door with endless possibilities and decided to take a leap. Now, we are challenging some of the biggest companies in our industry as we continue to develop an extensive line of products to serve consumers and businesses with programmable accounts, digital asset-backed lending, digital asset custody, payments services, cryptographic financial games, blockchain developer tools and more.
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 started working at Aave, our team was on a roadshow and visiting cities around Switzerland. During our first presentation, I was very nervous and kept saying that we were a very young team, which I now realize may have been understood as being unqualified and inexperienced. What I forgot to explain was that it was our youth that allowed us to think outside the box. We’ve been bringing a fresh and spontaneous element to the industry. Together, we’ve proposed new and innovative ways of doing things. After the presentation, our COO Jordan Lazaro Gustave, came to me and highlighted that being young wasn’t bad or good. It’s not about your age, but about what you are able to show through your achievements.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Aave is a very innovative company. We continue to propose new ways to provide financial services and we’re not afraid to challenge the big guys. We’re paving a new way for this industry, which allows us to aim high without any restrictions.
A few months ago, we had a call with our CEO and COO to discuss a new product. They wanted to discuss what they thought banking should look like, how it should work and the value it should bring to its customers. They were talking about Ambient Banking, a concept that’s now starting to be discussed. Little did I know then that we would be one of the first companies to start exploring this new innovation. That’s how Aave Pocket came to life. Big things are not only for the big guys.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Our goal is to continue to establish ourselves as a developer-first tech company and developing new products is at the core of this. We have big plans for the future of payments, some of which are already underway, such as Aave Pocket, an Ambient Accounts innovation developed to serve the gig economy and micropayments industry. This will allow users to bank where they shop — making it a seamless experience. Aave Pocket will bring enormous benefits since it will cut payment processing fees for online merchants and platforms, and significantly reduce costs for users. They can enjoy a much more personalized and improved experience. This is one of our most exciting projects we currently have under development and are planning on releasing next year.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Always strive to inspire others. Everyone on your team must understand the vision of what success looks like for them and for the business. It’s important to keep your work environment positive. Remember that you are working with human beings and each of them has their own emotions and aspirations. We must empower them and demonstrate how much you value them. Remember that everyone on the team is fighting their own battles. They will have ups and downs just like you and you have to be there to lift, not push. Negative work environments will kill motivation and creativity, and it will exhaust you.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Empower each of of your team members and make sure to create a positive environment. Your team will be comprised of many different personalities, so you have to make sure everyone feels heard and valued at the company.
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 will always be grateful for my husband. I still remember when I was looking over the available positions when Stani Kulechov, Founder of Aave, was recruiting. I loved the idea of impacting the financial world and was completely fascinated by blockchain and cryptocurrencies. I knew that I was a hard worker and that I would be able to take on the challenging responsibilities of this role, but I was still afraid of failing. My husband said: “You go for it” and that’s all it took, four simple words that meant a lot to me.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
By inspiring others. I think that inspiring others is a beautiful thing to do, as even the smallest act can mean a lot to someone. When you’re in a position of power or seen as a successful person, your words start to carry a lot of weight to others who are trying to follow in your steps. I love sharing my story because I beat the odds. I am not a typical CMO in this industry. I hope this encourages other women to feel confident and reach for their goals. We need to say “you can” more often.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- It’s not just about your resume, it’s about YOU: One of the worst things you can do when setting your professional goals is to put a limit on what you can achieve. When I was offered the Chief Marketing Officer position at Aave, the company did not just look at my resume — they looked at the person behind that piece of paper.
- Embrace what makes you different: Working in a male-dominated industry and coming from a different background than the rest of my colleagues has taught me to think differently. I’ve learned to go with the flow but to also embrace what makes me different and use this to bring new perspectives to the company.
- Don’t get lost in the details: The increasing number of responsibilities and tasks at a C-level position makes it very easy to get lost in the details. Always think about strategy and don’t lose sight of the big picture.
- Take Risks: The most successful companies got to where they are by taking risks. Remember to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone. I promise, amazing things will result.
- Enjoy what you do and inspire others to do the same: If you are happy with what you are doing, it will reflect in your work. Always put your happiness first. Success is not just what position you have; it’s also measured by your happiness.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Helping war victims, particularly children, is a cause that is dear to me. I was born and raised in El Salvador. In 1981, one of the bloodiest and longest lasting wars broke out leaving my country divided with thousands of innocent lives lost. Today, my country is fighting a war against gangs, who continue to terrorize the population. My father-in-law founded “Mi Casa Kids” a home for orphaned kids. If I could inspire a movement it would be in support of these kids. I’d really like to be able to provide them with more opportunities.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Be the energy you want to attract.” This is something that I learned from my mom. She radiates happiness and kindness, and taught me that this will always open doors. Just when you think that there’s something that cannot be done, my mom will do it with a smile on her face. I think this is an amazing quality to have. People are willing to give more to those who treat them with respect and kindness.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
On Medium @nolviaserrano
On Twitter: @nolviaserranov
Thank you so much for these inspiring insights!
Originally published at medium.com