Last month, we spoke with Sheena Allen, a serial entrepreneur. Our latest installment of Women in Tech features Liesl Bebb-McKay, the head of RMB FOUNDeRY — Rand Merchant Bank’s (RMB) digital innovation hub.
A chartered accountant, Liesl’s career began in the finance and consulting industry before she discovered an interest in banking and innovation at Credit Suisse in London. Prior to joining the FOUNDeRY, she focused on strategy for RMB’s Global Markets and has been involved in change initiatives across the full spectrum of the business.
Keen to learn more about Liesl, we quizzed her on a range of topics — from her foray into banking, to the best piece of advice she’s ever received to RMB’s gender movement — Athena.
Trulioo: You’re an authoritative voice on banking, finance and innovation. Had you always known that you would be involved in this sector? What excites you about this space?
Liesl: Not at all. I really stumbled into banking and fell in love with it. I love making things better — innovation is all about that. I also have a kind of personal mantra that if I don’t like the way something works — I only get to complain about it if I am prepared to do something to fix it. So, innovation almost became an inevitable path. I love challenging assumptions and just having a go at trying to build something new — whether that be a new mindset, a new way of approaching things or fully creating a new product.
Trulioo: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received in relation to your career?
Liesl: Nothing is personal. It really is never personal. Once you get that into your frame of understanding, it’s much easier to be strategic in your thinking.
Trulioo: Can you tell us a little about the Money20/20 Rise Up Leadership Program? How did you become involved and what does it entail?
Liesl: Rise Up is an incredible opportunity for like-minded women to find a space to learn from each other, to share ideas, to create business opportunities and most importantly to find a tribe of your own.
Trulioo: Clearly, you’re very passionate about empowering women — can you also tell us about RMB’s gender movement Athena?
Liesl: I’m not sure it’s passion, I think it’s a mild obsession. Athena is an incredible program that aims to change the face of leadership in financial services with an attitude of respect and love. Centered around making investment banking more attractive to women, it came from a realization that something needed to change. We decided to get a number of top women together to discuss their experiences in banking and really gauge how they were feeling — following that we made the decision to make a real effort to get more women in leadership roles in banking. The name was born from the goddess Athena, she was born from man and represented mathematics, community and peace, but she was also the goddess of war so she had power — that really resonated with us. There was also significant overlap in what she stood for, and what RMB stood for, so that’s how it all came about.
Trulioo: What is the biggest challenge that women are currently facing within the technology industry?
Liesl: The way it works and more importantly the perceptions of how it is in there. The industry, set up by men, absolutely runs the way men love things to run. Women don’t work in that same way. We need to rewrite the technology book of work. And we need to stop telling stories about techies being tattooed slobs in hoodies working in deep dark holes of humanity — it’s not like that in real life. Men are not better techies, even if that belief exists — women are just as good at math and problem solving and building things and the natural empathy in women is absolutely essential for client centered design.
Trulioo: What’s your personal mission or current goal?
Liesl: I want to “rewrite” the book of work as it is. The way we believe that work is, the way it’s been for the last century simply doesn’t work for all of us. I want women to KNOW that they can be authentic in their career — that they can be girly and emotional and strong and brave and courageous in a totally feminine way at work, and that it’s totally ok — it’s totally essential that they bring their authentic selves to the workplace.
Trulioo: Finally, if you gave a Ted Talk about tech/innovation or disruption, what would the title be?
Liesl: Innovation begins with authenticity OR pathfinding your way to the future — your way.
To learn more about Liesl and keep up-to-date with what’s she doing, follow her on Twitter. If there’s a female trailblazer that you’d like to see featured in our Women in Tech blog series, please send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out our previous posts here and stay tuned for the next installment!