International Finance
Fintech Magazine September - October 2018

Breaking the glass ceiling, one code at a time

Breaking the glass ceiling, one code at a time
UK’s leading fintech Market Invoice has appointed Rija Javed as its CTO – her personal journey clearly dispels myths about women in STEM, software engineers today and how technology can make finance functions less complex and more interesting

Market Invoice, one of London’s leading fintech startups, appointed Rija Javed as its Chief Technology Officer earlier this year, making her one of the first female fintech CTOs in London.

Given that finance and technology are generally male-dominated industries, the appointment of Javed in such a critical function for a startup like Market Invoice is deeply meaningful and reflects winds of change for gender diversity at the workplace.

Javed’s career trajectory has been anything but conventional – she pursued electrical and computer engineering at the University of Toronto in Canada. She worked for Research in Motion (RIM) and IBM as a software developer and software tester. Eventually, the coveted Silicon Valley beckoned her as she joined gaming company Zynga as a software engineer. Javed recalls, “I was one of the handful of female employees in Zynga and the only female engineer on the team.” She observed that even within engineering, women tend to take up roles that are focused on clients rather than developing infrastructure. “I went to high school with some talented and bright young women, who were skilled in math and science, but refrained from pursuing them professionally. There is a lot of unconscious bias as well as preconceived notions about women pursuing STEM-centric fields,” she says.

Javed believes there is immense talent and potential across the spectrum, but not enough is being done to promote women pursuing careers in STEM fields. She hopes that her appointment as one of the few female fintech CTOs in London will pave the way for more women to enter the tech and finance workforce in leadership positions. “I still think that senior leadership positions are male-dominated and there isn’t enough thought given to ensuring diversity across the workforce. A conscious effort has to be made to ensure there is diversity – not just in favour of women, but all kinds of employees.”

Breaking the glass ceiling, one code at a timeThe quest for diversity isn’t just another corporate mandate to fulfill, but serves the greater need to harness the right kind of talent to solve complex challenges in business. This is where technology can play a pivotal role. As businesses adopt digital transformation faster than ever, technology has evolved over time and become more advanced, nuanced and intuitive. The role of a software engineer has never been more crucial than now, believes Javed. Their role is not just to develop reams of code and remain in the sidelines of organisations as “trusted technology support”- some of the best startups today are being led by immensely talented tech geeks, who have also mastered the art of running operations, training personnel, cracking marketing strategies and even dabble in a company’s balance sheets. “A combination of technical knowledge and hands-on experience running a company can broaden the scope of growth for a software engineer,” says Javed.

Her own experience is testimony to the same. After working in Zynga, Javed chose to work for Wealthfront, an investment services platform, where she took the lead on one of their biggest infrastructure project – to build their new brokerage and banking platform. This was after Javed built Wealthfront’s first mobile app. In her four-year stint with Wealthfront, she helped scale the business significantly. “Technology is all about solving problems and make a client’s experience smoother. The combination of technology and financial services is making client interface much smoother, sharper and edgier.

This is what she hopes to bring to MarketInvoice as well. Until now, Market Invoice has funded business loans and 90,000 invoices worth more than $3.2bn. The company plans to enhance its technology offerings in the future, and Javed will play a critical role in ensuring this. She will be responsible for enhancing MarketInvoice’s engineering, data science, product and design teams. “As people are the most important aspect of any venture, we’re looking to expand the team, especially in engineering.”

Javed’s journey in technology and finance is a reflection of changing times, paves the way for more workplace diversity and scope for complex business challenges to be solved with innovation.

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