Women in Technology: Flora Gershwin
Recently we sat down with Flora Gershwin, Director of Client Success, to discuss her journey as a woman in tech and her experience working at Trovata.
Flora has always had an eye for tech and innovation. As a student at the Stevens Institute of Technology, Flora studied Business and Technology. She then spent nearly a decade at JP Morgan using analytics to drive clients forward and develop bank and operations initiatives.
Can you explain how you found your role at Trovata?
I was in a treasury consulting role, helping a client think through their Treasury department transformation.
The prevailing question during these sessions was… “How do I get an accurate forecast?” and our response was “How accurate is the historical data that you are using to build the forecast?” The answer was “Not that accurate and not based on cash actuals.”
I immediately found Trovata very appealing, even in its early stage, and recognized the potential was immense. I decided to take a risk by emailing Trovata with my resume attached. I got on the phone with the Trovata leadership team and decided to parse out my future.
I came into my banking career thinking that I wanted to work on the “change bank” initiatives. Eleven years later, that is what we’re doing here at Trovata, which is very exciting.
What drew you to the tech industry?
I chose to go to a technical, more engineering-focused school for my undergraduate degree. I wanted to learn business fundamentals from a case study practical perspective. We didn’t call it “fintech” back then.
I watched the financial crisis from a classroom and then graduated in 2010. Many of the root cause problems were systemic and modeling became an increased focal point as the early Dodd-Frank guidelines were introduced. At that time, there was an understanding that technology, data, and financial modeling were the future.
What unique characteristics have made you successful in your career?
I am pretty empathetic and have a strong understanding of our clients’ pain points. My banking background and many hours commiserating with clients enabled me to truly understand the tedious nature of cash reporting, spreadsheets, and data management.
Listening and observing client activity allows me to problem find and plot a path on how our clients achieve their automated reporting goals.
All of these qualities enable me to continue to help drive our clients to succeed. My role centers on building strong relationships so that clients understand that we know what they’re going through and we are here to help.
Our product and Brett’s [Trovata Founder & CEO] mission were designed because of Brett’s own experience. While I was never a treasury analyst, I have done many, many projects on behalf of treasury teams.
Would you say that connection is your favorite part of your role or the piece you’re most passionate about?
Yes, absolutely! It’s that and taking the client feedback to help design the future state of Trovata. It is very rewarding to see positive reactions to our new features, every month we continue to get better.
What piece of advice would you give to young Flora?
Patience and stick to your convictions because things will happen in time. They’re not always going to happen exactly the way that you expect them to, so be open to every opportunity.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Each morning I log in and spend about 30 minutes on administrative tasks. Then, I’m pretty much on the phone with our clients or holding a stakeholder meeting regarding functionality enhancements/project managing new connections. It’s a mix of internal and external meetings, but I would say it’s 80% speaking to clients and 20% planning for them internally.
What challenges do you face as the Director of Client Success?
The biggest challenge is finding a happy medium between balancing workloads and prioritizing the key features customers want.
The keyword here is “balance.” We try to find the best strategic path forward.
You’ve worked in various male-dominated industries and positions. How has that experience shaped you as a business professional?
I’ve had many great managers, and I’ve had a lot of supportive team members that have enabled me to do and achieve what I wanted to achieve and have guided me on my path. I don’t think that being female has made any difference in terms of my career path and career trajectory.
Something I have learned to value through my career is the worth of the unique skill set that I bring to the table. Everyone relates to clients in their own ways. I have found that I relate to my clients through empathy. That empathy is something that has guided me forward and fueled the success I have had in my field. Sometimes, empathy is looked at negatively, almost like you’re too invested and you care too much, but I think it is important to say that it is okay to care. That’s what I am here for, and that’s the service that we provide, and I am proud of that.
As a woman in the tech industry, I will also say that there are sacrifices that everyone has to make for their career, whether they’re male or female. I find that many of my female colleagues have to make those sacrifices for, say, family versus career more often.
But it’s all about finding the right balance.
It looks like “balance” is the theme for today’s conversation.
Exactly! It is definitely challenging to find the right balance in your career.
When I was 25, I was working as the business manager of a group of financial advisors. Back then, 90% of that team was male. I served as the liaison between the team and the COOs of the International Private Banks. It was quite an interesting spot to be in at a very young age. It was imperative to find the right tone to effectively communicate, once again… balance.
Are there any resources or pieces of advice that you would give to women looking at roles in either fintech or the banking industries?
Be open to the roles that you care about and want. Reach out and network with the people that are currently in those positions.
I want the women in my network to feel empowered to reach out and ask questions of the women they know in the roles they are passionate about. Especially for women in the early stages of their careers, being curious and inquisitive can help them be better equipped for success and understand how they can land the big roles they really want. Leveraging your network can be as simple as asking questions like, “Hey, how are you? I know you through X and I’m interested in doing Y. Tell me something about it”.
That is my best advice for anyone. If you are interested in something and want to learn more, feel free to reach out to the people who are currently in those roles to get time on their calendar to walk through it.
It is crucial for women to be confident in their skillset and apply for the roles they are passionate about. I don’t want women to miss out on an opportunity because there isn’t a well worn path. When it comes to male-dominated fields and leadership roles there isn’t always a playbook for women to use. While that journey can be daunting, it is extremely empowering. Being the first woman to a position helps to create a path for the women who will follow you, especially when you stop to light torches along the way, and pass down what you learned.
In my career at JP Morgan, some of the most successful women I knew used their unique skills and perspective to ask great questions, establish strong connections and identify insights that regularly added value to their clients. In all of my business classes, the people that were engaged and driving value for their classmates were often women.
I have learned so much by asking specific questions of the women I admired at work. Even simple questions like, “How did you handle X?” or “How would you suggest I respond to Y?”, can help you develop your toolkit and identify areas where you can grow.
Do you have any experiences or anecdotes that stick out about your experience at Trovata?
At Trovata, everyone appreciates each other’s excellence and understands each other’s differences. Regardless of if you are a sports fan, a gamer of some sort, or a sneakerhead like me. We are fortunate at Trovata in that we’re able to be ourselves and do great work.
Trovata is very much a no-judgment zone, and I think that is unique at a growing company. There is no feeling of “you don’t know enough about this or enough about that.” It’s an overarching “I welcome your questioning, and I welcome your curiosity to help us build a better product for our clients.”