Between tech startups and financial services, the percentage of women is notoriously small. In our world of “fintechs”, this band of women can be even narrower — at the intersection of the industries.
I’ve always been attracted to working in tough industries regardless of their makeup, but one thing I’ve noticed about all my workplaces is that the women around me have been monumentally important to my personal and career development.
I’ve enjoyed my life at Blend over the past two years for a lot of reasons, but a major one is the other women who are here with me. They have shaped my career, invested in my potential, and served as a group where I feel an instant sense of belonging.
Blend women are many things — product managers, lawyers, recruiters, engineers, writers, account managers, sales representatives, and people managers, just to name a few — but to me, the thing that strikes me the most about them are the common characteristics and shared values. I’ve found them to be energetic and organized, while also deeply thoughtful and warm. They possess a ferocious drive to build processes and products that scale, and they think long-term. I see them excel at their jobs and elevate those around them. For all those reasons, I love working among them.
But this isn’t intended to be the story of all women at the company. After all, I am just one piece of it. This is my story of how the Women at Blend ERG came to be, how I came to lead it last year, and the Blend women who shaped my career into what it is today.
The start of an ERG
Our ERG was the brainchild of our previous Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging leader, Ciara Trinidad. She helped drive the launch of our first five employee resource groups in early 2018. The first-ever meeting of the Women’s ERG was February 23, 2018, just one year and a few days ago.
In that initial grassroots group of women, we defined the mission of Women at Blend. We decided we would be “a safe space that connects and empowers women and their allies to advocate, educate, and drive positive change.” That mission remains the same today.
We elected a chair and decided that to operate as a group we would need monthly meetings. To start, we’d also host quarterly events for all women and allies at the company.
Last year, our events included everything from a movie screening of RBG to a negotiation workshop driven by an industry professional. Not only has Women at Blend become the company’s largest ERG, but we are also the fastest growing because we add several members each month.
When I think about all that we can accomplish as a group, I know that we’ve only scratched the surface. We have the right minds, the right energy, and enough time and resources to accomplish great things on top of limitless potential, so we are poised at an exciting point. Early this year we will set more goals for ourselves as a group and work to tackle the issues that are most important to us.
My journey to Blend
Blend found me a little over two and a half years ago. A short message from a recruiter on LinkedIn piqued my curiosity at just the right moment.
At the time, I had been working at the same corporate consulting job since I graduated from college, and at that point — four and a half years in — I was ready for something new.
I liked the idea of learning a new industry and starting a new job at the same time. On the outside, in the consulting world, I was getting tired of implementing someone else’s products rather than helping shape them in the first place. I enjoyed certain aspects of my job, but I saw Blend as an opportunity to flex my skills even more, learn, and grow in a new role.
I joined just a few weeks later.
Why I chose to lead
The Women’s ERG was started about a year and a half after I had been at Blend. The first chair, Nitya Subramanian, was someone I admired and loved being near. When she told me she was stepping down and was going to nominate me to be the next chair, I had a familiar feeling that this was something I needed to do for myself.
This opportunity to marry my interest in female empowerment with my work life felt like an easy decision. I had in my mind the exact type of work I wanted this group to do.
When I joined Blend, I was way too intimidated by other voices in the room — other, more technical and experienced voices. As I got more experience and expertise, I started feeling less intimidated and started participating. My journey to confidence in meetings was longer than I would have liked, and I wanted to shorten it for other women. The ERG leader role felt like it would help me do exactly that.
I enthusiastically took on my new elected role.
But my role as ERG chair is just one function I’ve worked in at Blend that the women around me have helped lift me into.
The women who have shaped my career at Blend
Women have shaped my career at Blend time and time again. I have also had a wonderful share of male mentors and allies support my career development, but several women at Blend come to mind as having gone out of their way to mentor me, teach me, correct me, invest in me, and lift me into roles and opportunities that have reshaped my career into a dream job I never imagined I’d hold.
My first role at Blend was as a Deployment Lead. That meant I was project managing the tailoring of our product and processes to our new customers’ environments so they could “turn on” Blend for their loan teams and borrowers. After six or eight months on the job, Irsal Alsanea, our Head of Technical Integrations, spotted my talents and shifted me into a program management role for her integrations engineering team. She saw my project management skills and knew they could be useful on her development team. I worked in that role for about six months.
At that point, one of my colleagues and mentors, Blair Martin, also noticed my work. Until then I had been the only one in my function as a Program Manager. Blair had a candid conversation with me; she told me that I was already doing the work of a product manager. She invited me to join her team officially as a product manager.
I firmly believe that the core reason I was able to evolve from a deployment manager to a product manager is because of the women I worked with.
They recognized my talents, listened to how I wanted to grow, and elevated me into roles they knew I would be good at. They boosted my self-confidence and invested in helping every step of the way.
I know that the opportunity to move both horizontally and upward are somewhat unique to startups — especially the pace at which they can happen — and I’m grateful to work at a company that is willing to let people take chances in new roles.
The future of women at Blend
It’s with mixed emotions that I am leaving my chair position on the ERG team this month to tackle some big new projects at Blend.
Though I am truly thrilled to pour my time into a new project that honestly feels like the opportunity of a lifetime, I know it will absorb a huge amount of my life. Knowing that I cannot give the Women at Blend ERG the amount of time it needs led me to a bittersweet choice.
But the choice to give someone else a chance to lead was not as difficult as I imagined. As others have done for me during my time here, it felt natural to help elevate another woman at Blend and give her the chance to flex her leadership skills. So, I’m incredibly excited to announce that Amanda Delaney will be the ERG’s newest chair. I know she will do amazing things, and I can’t wait to watch her help grow, inspire, and elevate the women around her.
If you’re looking for a new opportunity and thinking about a new industry, a new role, or just a new company, I highly encourage you to take a closer look at Blend. We’re hiring in San Francisco and New York and have opportunities open across all our teams.
Photo credit: Kaitlin Sullivan