How I built female-dominated fintech startup Counto to shatter glass ceiling in tech

Counto

It is well established that the tech industry has traditionally been male-dominated. While this gender disparity has narrowed in recent years, the sector could do well with the diversity of more women.

When I started the fintech startup, I uncovered a pool of highly-skilled and passionate women in tech who desired to find their way back into the sector after taking breaks to focus on priorities brought about by life changes.

My personal experiences as a young woman in the industry do not quite fit into one of your underdog success stories. If anything, my overwhelmingly positive encounters as a fresh face in tech have influenced my outlook on the sector and shaped the culture I have built at my female-dominated fintech startup, Counto.

Here’s how I’m leveraging them to create a thriving environment for leadership in the industry.

Early years in the tech industry

Fresh out of university as an engineer by education, I began my career in the tech space from the get-go, after being campus picked and allowed to start my career at a software services firm. This was during the boom of the IT industry in India, where there were many great opportunities in the sector.

From there, I quickly realised my affinity and passion for the field. I worked my way up, progressing through firms including Morgan Stanley handling tech and IT, and Credit Suisse, where I held various roles in programme management, procurement, governance and control.

When asked about the challenges faced as a young woman in the industry, one concern that often follows, and understandably so, is whether I felt the additional pressure to prove myself worthy of a place in the industry compared to my male counterparts.

Also Read: A woman among women: 27 female-led startups in SEA that are going places

My answer to this may come as a surprise, but at each of the firms I have worked with, I was never intimidated by the gender disparity and was always well-supported and backed by my managers.

For instance, in a room full of people or even at a forum, I was always comfortable questioning discussion topics regardless of who was present openly. Undeniably as a newbie in the industry, though, mistakes were bound to happen.

However, when they did, my managers always stood up for me, allowing me to own my mistakes, nurturing and guiding me on how to overcome them. Additionally, when I was expecting, my managers and superiors were nothing short of understanding and accommodating.

The year that I conceived was also when I received a promotion, something I doubt any woman would usually expect.

Looking back, I firmly believe it is this culture of support and trust I received in my early years in the industry that set up a firm foundation for the values I now know are crucial for success. One of my main takeaways for anyone, but especially for a female in a male-dominated industry, would be to be resourceful and refuse to be intimidated by unfamiliarity.

Whether you are at a firm that trusts in your abilities or otherwise, harping on the preconceived notions others may have on you will only harm your confidence, in turn hindering your professional growth.

Conversely, recognising how as a manager, having a sense of understanding and empathy and allowing for flexibility at work can spur employees to stay driven, regardless of their circumstances.

Saba Khan, Co-Founder and COO of Counto

Shaping Counto’s work culture to champion women in fintech

At present, 70 per cent of staff at my automated accounting fintech startup, Counto, are female.

Interestingly, my co-founder, Ishi, and I did not start with the intention of becoming a women-dominated fintech company.

In March 2020, at the height of the pandemic when we launched and realised there was an untapped pool of highly qualified, capable women in fintech. Our hiring process found that many of them were looking to forge their career paths to achieve independence, on top of managing other priorities in life such as motherhood.

Also Read: 3 leadership lessons for women in tech

As many of them desire to pursue their own goals, independent of family obligations and possess the necessary skill sets to thrive in the industry, we then took it upon ourselves to champion these women and their aspirations.

As a mother of two daughters myself, I can empathise with the various challenges women face, whether that be feelings of inadequacy, juggling pregnancy, motherhood or other significant transitional stages in life.

From my experiences, I value the importance of building a flexible and accommodating work culture, recognising how a little compassion and consideration can go a long way.

At Counto, our culture is built based on recognising the needs and priorities of each employee, allowing them to structure their workday however they wish. To illustrate this, all internal communications are done via messaging as opposed to email.

This takes away the formalities of emails and allows employees to set up impromptu calls to discuss matters or share lighter or frustrating moments over memes and emojis. Our internal calls are off video, so employees are not pressured to dress up or look right for calls.

We encourage and have regular video-on casual calls where families (including dogs) are welcome to say hello and meet the team. We also do not own a physical office and are proud to be remote-first. This has opened the doors to hiring incredible talent.

On top of the fact that we started during the circuit breaker in Singapore in March 2020, I believe there is no magic in having structured working hours. Instead, good work can be done anywhere, and this can vary significantly from person to person, depending on their habits and personal circumstances.

Not to mention that the viability of such a work culture is, of course, enabled by the acceleration of technology and pace of digitisation in today’s landscape of work. As a fintech startup, we only need to leverage these developments to maximise productivity while offering employees flexibility.

Setting new industry standards

By showing our employees, especially women, that they are valued and that their unique circumstances are recognised, we can build a motivated and truly productive team beyond the false sense of productivity behind rigid work structures.

In doing so, we also aim to give our women a safe space to work and grow, setting them up for success and leadership, whatever stage of life they may be in.

Also Read: How women in tech can navigate the 2021 business landscape

Whether you’re a woman in the tech sector or any other industry, there is always bound to be a human failure. The critical takeaway is to learn how to bounce back from setbacks. Be humble and own up to your mistakes, but maintain dignity and always take things in your stride.

As someone who has walked the talk, my goal is to impart these values and habits to the women at Counto and positively impact the overall working culture.

Work and productivity are essential, but it is also imperative that accommodating and flexible work culture is fostered. Recognising the needs and priorities of each employee will show that they are valued, which helps build a motivated, resilient and truly productive team.

Editor’s note: e27 aims to foster thought leadership by publishing views from the community. Share your opinion by submitting an article, video, podcast, or infographic.

Join our e27 Telegram group, FB community, or like the e27 Facebook page

Image credit: pitinan

The post How I built female-dominated fintech startup Counto to shatter glass ceiling in tech appeared first on e27.

,
Counto

It is well established that the tech industry has traditionally been male-dominated. While this gender disparity has narrowed in recent years, the sector could do well with the diversity of more women.

When I started the fintech startup, I uncovered a pool of highly-skilled and passionate women in tech who desired to find their way back into the sector after taking breaks to focus on priorities brought about by life changes.

My personal experiences as a young woman in the industry do not quite fit into one of your underdog success stories. If anything, my overwhelmingly positive encounters as a fresh face in tech have influenced my outlook on the sector and shaped the culture I have built at my female-dominated fintech startup, Counto.

Here’s how I’m leveraging them to create a thriving environment for leadership in the industry.

Early years in the tech industry

Fresh out of university as an engineer by education, I began my career in the tech space from the get-go, after being campus picked and allowed to start my career at a software services firm. This was during the boom of the IT industry in India, where there were many great opportunities in the sector.

From there, I quickly realised my affinity and passion for the field. I worked my way up, progressing through firms including Morgan Stanley handling tech and IT, and Credit Suisse, where I held various roles in programme management, procurement, governance and control.

When asked about the challenges faced as a young woman in the industry, one concern that often follows, and understandably so, is whether I felt the additional pressure to prove myself worthy of a place in the industry compared to my male counterparts.

Also Read: A woman among women: 27 female-led startups in SEA that are going places

My answer to this may come as a surprise, but at each of the firms I have worked with, I was never intimidated by the gender disparity and was always well-supported and backed by my managers.

For instance, in a room full of people or even at a forum, I was always comfortable questioning discussion topics regardless of who was present openly. Undeniably as a newbie in the industry, though, mistakes were bound to happen.

However, when they did, my managers always stood up for me, allowing me to own my mistakes, nurturing and guiding me on how to overcome them. Additionally, when I was expecting, my managers and superiors were nothing short of understanding and accommodating.

The year that I conceived was also when I received a promotion, something I doubt any woman would usually expect.

Looking back, I firmly believe it is this culture of support and trust I received in my early years in the industry that set up a firm foundation for the values I now know are crucial for success. One of my main takeaways for anyone, but especially for a female in a male-dominated industry, would be to be resourceful and refuse to be intimidated by unfamiliarity.

Whether you are at a firm that trusts in your abilities or otherwise, harping on the preconceived notions others may have on you will only harm your confidence, in turn hindering your professional growth.

Conversely, recognising how as a manager, having a sense of understanding and empathy and allowing for flexibility at work can spur employees to stay driven, regardless of their circumstances.

Saba Khan, Co-Founder and COO of Counto

Shaping Counto’s work culture to champion women in fintech

At present, 70 per cent of staff at my automated accounting fintech startup, Counto, are female.

Interestingly, my co-founder, Ishi, and I did not start with the intention of becoming a women-dominated fintech company.

In March 2020, at the height of the pandemic when we launched and realised there was an untapped pool of highly qualified, capable women in fintech. Our hiring process found that many of them were looking to forge their career paths to achieve independence, on top of managing other priorities in life such as motherhood.

Also Read: 3 leadership lessons for women in tech

As many of them desire to pursue their own goals, independent of family obligations and possess the necessary skill sets to thrive in the industry, we then took it upon ourselves to champion these women and their aspirations.

As a mother of two daughters myself, I can empathise with the various challenges women face, whether that be feelings of inadequacy, juggling pregnancy, motherhood or other significant transitional stages in life.

From my experiences, I value the importance of building a flexible and accommodating work culture, recognising how a little compassion and consideration can go a long way.

At Counto, our culture is built based on recognising the needs and priorities of each employee, allowing them to structure their workday however they wish. To illustrate this, all internal communications are done via messaging as opposed to email.

This takes away the formalities of emails and allows employees to set up impromptu calls to discuss matters or share lighter or frustrating moments over memes and emojis. Our internal calls are off video, so employees are not pressured to dress up or look right for calls.

We encourage and have regular video-on casual calls where families (including dogs) are welcome to say hello and meet the team. We also do not own a physical office and are proud to be remote-first. This has opened the doors to hiring incredible talent.

On top of the fact that we started during the circuit breaker in Singapore in March 2020, I believe there is no magic in having structured working hours. Instead, good work can be done anywhere, and this can vary significantly from person to person, depending on their habits and personal circumstances.

Not to mention that the viability of such a work culture is, of course, enabled by the acceleration of technology and pace of digitisation in today’s landscape of work. As a fintech startup, we only need to leverage these developments to maximise productivity while offering employees flexibility.

Setting new industry standards

By showing our employees, especially women, that they are valued and that their unique circumstances are recognised, we can build a motivated and truly productive team beyond the false sense of productivity behind rigid work structures.

In doing so, we also aim to give our women a safe space to work and grow, setting them up for success and leadership, whatever stage of life they may be in.

Also Read: How women in tech can navigate the 2021 business landscape

Whether you’re a woman in the tech sector or any other industry, there is always bound to be a human failure. The critical takeaway is to learn how to bounce back from setbacks. Be humble and own up to your mistakes, but maintain dignity and always take things in your stride.

As someone who has walked the talk, my goal is to impart these values and habits to the women at Counto and positively impact the overall working culture.

Work and productivity are essential, but it is also imperative that accommodating and flexible work culture is fostered. Recognising the needs and priorities of each employee will show that they are valued, which helps build a motivated, resilient and truly productive team.

Editor’s note: e27 aims to foster thought leadership by publishing views from the community. Share your opinion by submitting an article, video, podcast, or infographic.

Join our e27 Telegram group, FB community, or like the e27 Facebook page

Image credit: pitinan

The post How I built female-dominated fintech startup Counto to shatter glass ceiling in tech appeared first on e27.

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