(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 Hannah Kim, a product developer with a background in psychology and design thinking, and Co-Founder of Mexico-based Mifiel.

mifiel_company-logo


What makes you do what you do?

My primary motivation for doing what I do is to challenge the status quo and to push my own limits. There are lots of problems that need to be solved out there, and I’d like to play my part in bringing about a positive change to the world we live in. Part of the reason that I am in Mexico and creating services for Latin American markets is that despite there being more critical problems to solve in these countries, there are fewer startups actively solving them—in large part due to the lack of available funding. It encourages me to see a growing community of driven entrepreneurs in Mexico and my hope is that our startup can be a success story that can bring more investment interest from outside of Mexico to allow future startups to grow.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I first began my experience in the startup space founding Volabit, a digital wallet for the Mexican market, which we’ve scaled to over $10 million dollars of transactions in the last two years. Earlier this year, our team created an electronic signature platform called Mifiel, “pivoting” into a completely new space that involved us switching from the B2C fintech sector to the B2B legal sector. I believe that I, and my co-founders, were able to get to where we are today because we were willing to try and fail—consciously stepping out of our comfort zones as much as possible—all the while keeping a strong focus on our core vision and mission. Having said that, I wouldn’t say that I have “risen” in my industry quite yet—I know that I have a long way to go before making the kind of impact that I’d like to make in my 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’ve never really felt hesitant about taking on a leadership position due to my demographics. Yes, I have experienced a fair share of challenges as a female, non-technical, foreign founder, and yes, I admit that I’ve felt discouraged and angered by the inequalities in the business world before. But every time that I face such situations, I remind myself that everyone faces their own challenges and that it is completely up to me to decide whether these hurdles will weaken my spirits or strengthen my resolve to persevere and grow—and I always opt for the latter. I strongly believe that the challenges I’ve faced in my role have been opportunities for personal and professional growth, and it definitely gets easier with time to overcome the difficulties.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?

Most of my personal mentors at the moment are angel investors in our company, which has occurred naturally since we like to bring on investors that can provide our team strategic guidance in addition to capital. Aside from them, I haven’t found a mentor that I’ve developed a personal relationship with yet, but have found much wisdom and guidance in the writing of various industry thought leaders like Seth Godin, Julie Zhou, and Andreas Antonopolous.

How did you make a match if you did and how did you end up being mentored by him?

My mentorship experience with the investors came naturally from a desire to build a deeper relationship with our investors. We admire them as professionals in their respective industries and value their feedback, so we’ve never been shy about honestly sharing our concerns and challenges with them. Many of them have generously reciprocated by dedicating their time to giving us valuable input and insights. As for the thought leaders that I follow, I find them by actively seeking out sources of inspiration and reading insights from various sources, not only from within the startup world but also from completely unrelated fields and industries. I am always on the lookout for female leaders that I can look to for guidance, and hope to develop a personal relationship with one in the near future.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?

I tend to look for potential hires through recommendations of those I trust and respect. When I interview candidates, I focus less on specific skills or qualifications and more on core characteristics that are harder to develop. Some of these traits that I look for are creativity and critical thinking skills, ability to take initiative and act independently, good verbal and written communication skills, and a natural curiosity and desire to grow.

Once they become employees, we like to invest in their personal and professional growth by always seeking to find a balance between the company’s needs and the employee’s own goals. I am a big believer that frequent and honest feedback is essential to personal development, and try to be as transparent and open as possible. As a team, we try to make everyone feel empowered to make their own decisions, as we feel that autonomy is a crucial part to self-development.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

I do consciously support diversity in hiring, but not at the expense of finding a good fit for the company. I strongly believe that greater diversity leads to the proliferation of better ideas, more dynamic dialogue and improved social dynamics, which results in a more successful work environment for everyone. It also helps expose everyone in the team to different perspectives and walks of life—even those they may be uncomfortable with—an experience I find to be crucial in developing open-mindedness and tolerance in the workplace.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?

A great leader, first and foremost, leads by a good example. She is the moral compass of the company and sets the tone for what the company stands for—through every word and action. I believe that the best leaders are also great communicators that project a clear vision and direction for the company and are able to rally everyone behind them in unison. Finally, a personal goal of mine is to be a leader that empowers every employee to succeed and become the best versions of themselves that they can be.

Advice for others?

The most important lesson I’ve learned through the years is that our biggest fears are never as bad as they might seem. By learning to rationalize your fears and face them head on, you will dramatically expand your capacity to grow and succeed. I’m not suggesting that you should learn to not fear anything—that would be unrealistic. It’s a matter of first recognizing that we as humans are hard-wired to blow our fears and anxieties out of proportion (survival instincts), then sincerely believing in your own capacity to overcome hardships.

I’d also like to emphasize the importance of learning to honestly evaluate your strengths and weaknesses without letting ego or insecurities get in the way. Focus on your strengths and how you can magnify them, and don’t let the lack of any specific skills, qualifications, or backgrounds discourage you. And finally, find people with common goals and complementary skills that you can unite to help you accomplish your vision.


To learn more about Mifiel, please see https://www.mifiel.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 here.
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