(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)
Here is my interview with Georgia Hanias, Head of Global Communications and Diversity Lead at Innovate Finance.
What makes you do what you do?
I am passionate about trying to make a positive change in this world and to make it a better place for future generations to come. By working in the media I’m able to write, research and develop stories that bring important issues to the public. In my role as the head of public relations for Innovate Finance, I work closely with journalists to spread the word about the incredible advancements that FinTech innovations are achieving in helping to democratize finance and provide better and more accessible financial services for consumers.
How did you rise in the industry you are in?
I took a leap of faith. I was working at a top PR agency in the City of London and started reading about the rise of FinTech. It sounded interesting and I started to network with people and organizations that were at the forefront of the movement. A very senior person told me about the launch of a new membership association – Innovate Finance – which aimed to represent the burgeoning FinTech community. They were building a team, I thought it sounded like a good idea and so I jumped ship and joined them. It was a total gamble, but I just liked the idea of helping to build something from the ground up. It appealed to me and I was surrounded by amazing entrepreneurs that had an energy and ambition to shake up the status quo and transform the world of finance. It was too exciting to ignore. Because I joined a new movement, I was able to make my mark by networking with the right people and using my skills with the media to raise their profile and ours as well. This helped to build my own reputation and profile and give me a level of credibility in the industry.
Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
I didn’t feel that I could learn anything from my previous jobs. They were hierarchical and had conscious biases towards who should be promoted and what role they should play. There was also deep-rooted anxieties about new ideas among senior management and rigid protocols that prevented me from taking risks and making changes. Innovate Finance sounded like the perfect opportunity to join a movement that was going to transform the future of financial services. It gave me access to a growing and exciting number of starts up as well as access to some of the most impressive and influential organizations. I wanted this challenge because I wanted to prove that I could do PR on a global level and to build a substantial network of contacts around the world that would help my organization to grow its influence internationally. In just two years we’ve managed to achieve this and more.
Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?
I didn’t have a mentor and nor did I look for one. I chose my role at Innovate Finance because it sounded like an exciting and interesting challenge. I am still here because the leadership is excellent and our CEO gives us a lot of autonomy to get things done and to make us feel that we can achieve anything.
Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
I look at candidates with an unusual background. I want people who are globally minded and have a unique perspective on things that we can harness in our communications to the global community. I need a team that works hard and enjoys the work- but also one that takes pleasure in writing and working on tight deadlines. Generally, the people I work with get things done with minimal intervention from myself. I just need to oversee and approve their work before it goes out to the community or the media. That makes them happy. In terms of developing talent, I’m a firm believer in giving people skills that will help them grow in their current and future roles, so things like media training and learning how to communicate in front of an audience is a good way of supporting talent.
Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I consciously support diversity because FinTech is meant to represent the future of finance – and we want tomorrow’s financial services sector – and the people that run it – to reflect the diverse society it’s meant to serve. We are proactively looking at FinTech companies that are closing the gender gap and creating diverse workplaces and praising them in public – and showcasing how successful they’ve become because of their diversity – in the hopes that other firms will take notice and do the same.
What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
Be bold and visionary in your outlook and support and praise your staff. Give them the opportunity to share their goals for their future career development and try to support them on their journey. Humour, flexible working and respect are also keys to keeping staff happy.
Advice for others?
Always be kind to others and don’t beat yourself up when you make mistakes. You learn more from failure and helps you grow as a person and hopefully makes you a better leader in the future and you have a better understanding of what it takes to make things work. Stick up for your colleagues and commend them when they’ve done good work. You can’t succeed in your role if you aren’t a team player and you won’t excel if you don’t support the team you’re in. Finally, If you don’t feel the work environment you are in is compatible with your goals and temperament and you don’t think you can change it, then move on. You won’t develop in a job that doesn’t inspire you.
To learn more about Innovate Finance, please see http://www.innovatefinance.com.
I am a huge fan and cheerleader of Women Leaders — If you know of an AMAZING Woman Founder, CEO, Leader in Tech or you are one yourself — Write me at [email protected].
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