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Shaping the Future of TechFin: Women Leaders of Alkami Share Their Insights and Career Journeys

Emily Fagan, Content Manager

Alkami

The below amazing women leaders will each be featured in sessions and events at this year’s Alkami Co:lab

Drawing inspiration from the vibrant stories and insights shared by a sampling of the women leaders at Alkami, we craft a special blog post dedicated to Women in Tech. This piece aims to celebrate their achievements, share their wisdom, and encourage the next generation of women considering careers in technology and TechFin.

 
“If you are passionate about leveraging technology to make a positive impact and enjoy the thrill of continuous learning and problem solving, this career could be the perfect path for you.” 
 
– EAKTA PANDEY: VP ENGINEERING – QUALITY, PERFORMANCE & TOOL

In an industry that thrives on innovation and change, women leaders at Alkami are paving the way for future generations. From sales to engineering, HR to marketing, their journeys highlight the importance of curiosity, mentorship, and the pursuit of excellence. Their experiences help Alkami reach new heights of business success, and can offer valuable lessons for young women embarking on their careers in tech.

Anna Davis of Alkami says: Curiosity and resilience are the foundation for success

Emily: Anna, as a leader in your field, what advice would you give young women considering entering or just starting their careers in your focus area?

Anna: Sales, and specifically TechFin Sales, requires you to manage constant change both internally and externally. You can’t be afraid to ask questions when something is new and learn from those around you in every interaction. Curiosity and a strong work ethic can be a winning combination in any industry. Find a mentor, or group of mentors that can help you navigate your career. It’s invaluable to find someone that can push you, support you, and advise you as you progress your career. This is especially true if you are stepping into a new role or industry.

Emily: Why did you choose sales as a career, what in your life or personality made this the right path for you?Anna: I’ve been an athlete my entire life and finished my sports career after 4 years of college basketball. Once I graduated, I started in sales immediately. It continues to give me the competitive nature I crave and challenges me. It doesn’t hurt that I enjoy meeting new people and being in outgoing situations. The balance of the social and competitive aspects has been a great fit for me personally.

 

Molly Irelan of Alkami says: Try to align your work's mission to your personal values

Emily: Molly, why did you choose product marketing as a career?

Molly: Initially, I joined the financial technology space due to a company mission – empowering regional and community financial institutions with technology that enabled them to compete with megabanks and neobanks and keep money local. I come from a family of small business owners. I shop “Small Business Saturday” in my personal life; it was imperative that my personal values aligned with the career I chose. What I’ve heard and seen from clients along the way is that these financial institutions are dedicated to growing local economies and supporting their communities. As I learned more about the technology we delivered to financial institutions, I couldn’t help but feel compelled to ask more questions. How does it work? What value does it offer to the financial institution and the end user? What industry trends or challenges impact our customers that we are trying to solve? What is a best-in-class solution? Soon, my role quickly transitioned from an all-hats marketer to a product marketer. 

That was a pivotal moment in my career journey. It allowed me to spend more time asking questions (something I love to do), creating value-driven content, and building relationships across departments — product, sales, client success, and partnerships. Product marketing encourages you to explore your passions, research, and learn the product details to become a subject matter expert.

 

Courtney Mrsny of Alkami says: Take the leap

Emily: As a leader in your field, what advice would you give young women considering entering or just starting their careers?

Courtney: You don’t have to fulfill every qualification to apply for a job. Studies reveal that women frequently hold back from pursuing job opportunities if they believe they don’t meet every requirement. If a role interests you, don’t hesitate to pursue it. Take proactive steps beyond simply applying online to demonstrate your interest.

When I first approached Alkami, there wasn’t an open position that perfectly matched my skill set. However, I believed in Alkami’s values and vision, so I took the initiative to reach out directly to each executive team member. I titled my email “This is why you should hire me” and included a detailed business case outlining the value I could bring to the organization. Even though I didn’t possess every required skill, I outlined a strategic plan detailing how I could contribute to achieving Alkami’s talent acquisition goals.

Emily: Why did you choose your focus as a career, what in your life or personality made this the right path for you?When an exciting opportunity presents itself, it’s important to be ready to take a leap. Even though my background is in music education, I quickly realized during student teaching that it wasn’t the right fit for me. Luckily, I had a connection in IT recruiting, which led me to pivot my career towards helping local companies, including Alkami, find top IT talent. As someone passionate about diversity and inclusion, I jumped at the chance to develop inclusive recruiting strategies at Capital One. Bringing those skills to Alkami, I shifted into a leadership role in human resources.

During the pandemic, leading a team in the HR department gave me a chance to reflect on my career path. Being deeply involved in showcasing Alkami’s culture to candidates got me thinking about promoting Alkami’s products and services too. So when an opportunity came up in the client sales team, I knew I had to give it a shot. Now, I lead a team of client sales executives in the Central region, always eager to learn and grow. Being in an environment like Alkami, where I’m constantly challenged and supported, means a lot to me.

Understanding that your career journey doesn’t always follow a smooth upward trajectory is key. Sometimes, it’s necessary to embrace taking a step or two back to ultimately propel yourself forward.

 

Caitlin Lam of Alkami says: People want to understand, and be understood

Emily: Caitlin, why did you choose product marketing as a career?Caitlin: In college, I had studied communication and studio art, but I always had an interest in technology and software — so much so that I took an “Intro to Java” course in an attempt to get admitted into the computer science major. After giving an honest effort for a year, I was greatly humbled by the experience, and was left to re-evaluate my strengths, skills and passions. While I felt like a failure at the time, that is when I began to fully lean into my communication and art background — embracing my natural skill sets, while actively pursuing new ones that were outside my comfort zone.As I was exploring potential career paths, this saying has always stuck with me: “People want to understand, and be understood.” To me, communication is extremely powerful, and I wanted to dedicate my career to bringing knowledge, clarity and connection to people.

After spending several years in marketing roles for various SaaS products, I simultaneously developed a passion for personal finance and investing, and eventually teaching and empowering others to take greater control over their financial future.When I started my role as a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Alkami in 2022, it truly felt like my educational background, professional experience and personal interests were coming together in – you guessed it – perfect alchemy. I am grateful to be able to be a small part of helping build, differentiate and evangelize Alkami’s sales and service platform, TechFin vision and developer experience, that serve to provide limitless opportunities and growth for financial institutions across the country.

Emily: What advice would you give young women considering entering or just starting their careers in your focus area?

Caitlin: I would recommend this to anyone of any age: Explore your curiosities and keep learning about your industry or job function, in whatever channel or method that best works for you. Some people enjoy reading professional development books, while others prefer listening to podcasts from industry thought leaders, or even connecting live with a mentor. There are so many free and on-demand resources to tap into, so take advantage of them!Also, while it can be very intimidating to emerge in a new industry or job function, don’t be afraid to lean into your curiosity and ask questions. Asking questions is not a weakness. It is a valuable tool to learn, build meaningful connections, and empower others who may have the same questions.

 

Eakta Pandey of Alkami says: Mentorship is the compass for navigating tech careers

Emily: Eakta, as a leader in the field of technology and software engineering, what advice would you give young women considering entering or just starting their careers in your focus area?

Eakta: I understand the challenges and opportunities you may encounter, here are a few pieces of advice:

  • The technology space is ever evolving. Stay curious, keep learning and be adaptable to new tech, tools and methodologies. 
  • Believe in yourself and your capabilities. Your gender doesn’t define your potential in engineering or related fields. 
  • Try seeking mentorship and support connecting with experienced professionals who can provide guidance and advice as you navigate your career path. 
  • Remember, your unique perspective and contributions are invaluable to the field of technology. 
  • Stay determined, keep pushing boundaries, and pave the way for future generations.
Emily: Why did you choose developing technologies as a career, what in your life or personality made this the right path for you?

Eakta: As part of my personality, I enjoy tackling complex challenges and finding innovative solutions, a career in technology allowed me to continuously engage in problem solving. Technology has the power to shape the future and make a real difference in the world. As a technologist, I get an opportunity to contribute to meaningful projects that have a positive impact on society.

 

Allison Cerra of Alkami says: Never ignore your passions and natural talents

Emily: Allison, as a leader in the field of marketing, what advice would you give young women considering entering or just starting their careers?
Allison: I would tell them to tap into their natural talents to determine their field of interest. Not only is a career more enjoyable when one is naturally wired to do it, but chances are, those talents will shine brighter in a job where they are most needed. If someone is struggling to determine what natural talents they might possess, I’d encourage them to look to their childhood for evidence. What was the thing that you did as a child so effortlessly that others turned to you for that skill? For me, it was always writing. I would sit for hours journaling, which was definitely not the norm for my peers. As I got older, I realized that storytelling was something I really loved. I tapped into that talent to build a career in marketing, where I get the privilege of being a storyteller every day.
Emily: In your career you’ve been “in the room where it happens” to quote Hamilton, you’re face to face with board members…What impact can marketers truly have in positions of senior leadership?

Allison: I like to say that you can’t spell “marketing” without “market.” As marketers, our job is to reflect the needs of the market to our companies. That means we have an awesome responsibility to understand the motivations of our buyers and aspirations of our company—and connect the two by informing product requirements and go-to-market strategies. Marketers can be the tip of the spear for their companies by mirroring the market to influence strategy and/or execution.
Emily: What ways do you most enjoy impacting the careers of those on your team?

Allison: There is nothing more rewarding for me than to see the next crop of leaders take the mantle. I am privileged to mentor several extraordinary women and guide them in their careers, much as my mentors have done (and continue to do) for me. It takes a village to build a career and mentorship is a perennial pursuit. We are all simultaneously students and teachers of our crafts at all times.

 

Sharilyn Bowen of Alkami says: Innovation is driving change and shaping the future

Emily: Sharilyn, as a leader in technology and application engineering, what advice would you give young women considering entering or just starting their careers in your focus area?
Sharilyn: I would encourage women to focus less on specific titles and instead focus more on the type of impact you’d like to make and how your skillset can create value. You should remain open to advice, feedback and guidance and use this information to your advantage when making business decisions and building your career path.

Emily: Why did you choose developing technologies as a career, what in your life or personality made this the right path for you?Sharilyn: I am on the strategic operations side of technology and I like to jokingly say that it chose me. In all seriousness, if you asked me what I would be doing fifteen years ago, I would have told you I’d be a part-time university history professor while conducting research in support of documentaries and museum exhibitions.

During my Master’s degree (interdisciplinary and not at all tech-related), I realized that I did not want to go into academia and decided to discontinue my pursuit of a PhD. A former college classmate of mine made a recommendation that I should consider project management roles in technology because I have always had a desire to learn new things, am a strong communicator, have solid organization skills and I like to build relationships.

Consideration for this type of role was way out of my comfort zone but I was open to trying something new and dove in head-first at a hardware company and I’m glad I did. That role led me to pursue an Implementation Project Manager position at Alkami and throughout my almost eight years here, I’ve held five or six different roles. Ultimately, as I’ve traversed CXG, product strategy and now the technology division, I remained open to new experiences and I’ve never lost my passion for learning new things and building relationships. 

 

Julie Hoagland of Alkami says: Leadership is about authenticity and empowering others

Emily: As a leader in the field of human resources, what advice would you give young women considering entering or just starting their careers in this focus area?
Julie: During my career, I worked for a number of highly reputable organizations with missions closely aligned with my beliefs and values. In HR, it’s important that you align to and believe in the company’s values since values should be weaved into every aspect of the employee lifecycle; acquiring, assessing and developing talent. If you’re not personally aligned to values, it’s difficult to champion them.  I would also recommend to stay curious and learn as many areas of HR as possible. There are many avenues within HR to pursue and learning all facets of HR enabled me to be in the position that I am in today. 

Emily: Julie, what do you enjoy most about working in the technology industry? Julie: I love the continuous innovation and evolution of technology companies. It is fulfilling to know that our purpose is to make something easier and better for someone to use. In our case, we are striving to be the most desired digital banking provider in the industry and our product is improving banking capabilities for people that prefer to bank at smaller banks or credit unions. Working in an industry where things are constantly changing requires me to continue to build my capabilities and be on the top of my game, which motivates me to be the best version of myself.

 

Jennifer Cortez of Alkami says: Do not let imposter syndrome get in your way

Emily: As a leader in marketing, what advice would you give young women considering entering or just starting their careers?
Jen: Don’t ever doubt your qualifications to take on a new role or opportunity. I always found that I grew the most in my career in the moments where I took on the biggest challenges in front of me. It’s so important to not let imposter syndrome get in your way.

Emily: Why did you choose your focus as a career, what in your life or personality made this the right path for you?Jen: Marketing was a natural fit for me personally because I wanted to blend my love of being creative with a way to have a meaningful impact on the growth of a company. I love being collaborative (and social) and as a marketer you can’t effectively do your job without knowing how to problem solve and work cross-functionally across teams. It’s also a field that is constantly changing, so it’s really hard to ever get bored. 😉

 

Sarah Mealy of Alkami says: Be bold and passionate about your aspirations

Emily: As a leader in your field, what advice would you give young women considering entering or just starting their careers in client success?
Sarah: I encourage every woman to continue to be bold and passionate about your aspirations. Don’t allow yourself to get worn down by the number of times you might get relegated to a corner or told to stop being “argumentative” when sharing your professional opinion. If you have a thought – share it! Do it professionally and articulately and always provide evidence as to WHY you have the opinion you do.

Emily: Why did you choose your focus as a career, what in your life or personality made this the right path for you?Sarah: I really enjoy working with different kinds of individuals and helping them showcase their successes. Client Success has allowed me to do both of those things. I get to help build strategies and encourage clients to achieve the outcomes that will set them and their FI’s up for success!

 

Nola Sedlaczek of Alkami says: Dive in. Be curious. Be addicted to learning.

Emily: Nola, as a leader in your field, what advice would you give young women considering entering or just starting their careers?

Nola: Dive in, be curious, and ask questions to learn as much as you possibly can. Be addicted to learning. There’s a vast world of technology and so many aspects of banking to provide learning opportunities every step of the way in your career. Seizing those opportunities will be fundamental in building a strong foundation as well as putting you on a path to long term success. Build a network of people who drive you to thrive, are supportive of your endeavors and see your talents. That network should include a mentor at any given time. I have many mentors to thank for the support they’ve provided me in my career – through overcoming challenges, celebrating successes, and becoming incredible friends, a mentor will hold an invaluable place in your career and likely even your heart. Lastly, be bold, be passionate, be yourself, and strive to be 1% better every single day.

Emily: Why did you choose banking as a career, what in your life or personality made this the right path for you?Nola: Growing up, I always wanted to work at a financial institution. When my friend who worked at a local credit union referred me for a job there, I jumped at the opportunity. I started out as a teller, but wanted to learn more so I started progressing through various roles and departments at the credit union. I loved having the endless opportunity to learn something new each day. What I enjoyed most of all was knowing my work served a purpose in helping members achieve financial success. As I moved from the financial institution into the software side of the business, I’ve loved helping banks and credit unions find solutions that help them deliver a superior digital banking experience. Seeing the excitement in the team of an FI knowing they’re going to “Wow!” their users and grow their business with the platform I’m sharing with them energizes me. Finally, I’m certain there are not better people in the world to work with than in the bank and credit union industry! I am better at what I do and who I am because of the Alkamists, prospects and clients I work with on a daily basis.

 

Rachel O'Neill of Alkami says: Be yourself. Try new things. And always be a team player

Emily: Rachel, as a leader in your field, what advice would you give young women considering entering or just starting their careers?

Rachel: Be Yourself – No matter what room you’re in, be authentic to yourself. 

Try New Things – Raise your hand to try new things, pitch new ideas, and take on new projects, even if you don’t feel qualified. You’ll grow faster and go farther if you have a desire to learn and take calculated risks, especially when it feels uncomfortable.  

Be a Team Player – Growth is a team sport. Be inclusive and collaborative with everybody on your team but also across functions. Cheer people on and be open to new ideas. 

Emily: Why did you choose sales engineering at a TechFin company as a career, what in your life or personality made this the right path for you?Rachel: What I love about this industry, as opposed to others, is that I interact with banking every day in my personal life. Whether it’s swiping my credit card, redeeming points, checking my balance, receiving account alerts, transferring money, or experiencing bank marketing messages. The significance of financial services in our everyday lives cannot be overstated; it touches us all, whether we’re consciously aware of it or not.

In college, I double majored in Entrepreneurship and Marketing, with the goal to work for a fast-growing, innovative company upon graduation. Just two days after graduating, I began working at Segmint, a startup in Akron, Ohio, leading all marketing efforts. We offered a data-driven marketing platform to financial institutions. It gave me the perfect blend of entrepreneurship and marketing.

Since then, Segmint was acquired by Alkami, an organization that is highly innovative and leading the way in the industry. For me, contributing to a mission that empowers financial institutions to assist everyday people in their financial lives is immensely fulfilling. 

 

Joan Clark of Alkami says: Your career is an adventure

Emily: Joan, as a leader in your field, what advice would you give young women considering entering or just starting their careers?

Joan: Be flexible and always open to new opportunities. Your career is an adventure, a journey, and the path is unique to each individual. Continually challenge yourself, don’t be afraid of change and do what makes you happy and what you love to do.

Emily: Why did you choose technology and software products as a career, what in your life or personality made this the right path for you?Joan: My first job out of university was working for a software firm and I loved it. I truly enjoyed working with my colleagues and collaborating to solve problems for our clients. I loved all aspects of the business side of a software development firm, building client relationships, and client training and consulting. As my career progressed, product management was a natural fit for my experiences and personality. It was as if my whole career led up to this role. As the industry evolves, opportunities to learn and grow are always available which make this the right path for me.

 

 
“We are all simultaneously students and teachers of our crafts at all times.”
 
– ALLISON CERRA, CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER

 

As we celebrate these remarkable women in tech, and are proud of the benefits they (and so many other women) bring to Alkami and our clients, their stories serve as beacons of inspiration for young women aspiring to make their mark in the industry. 

Their journeys remind us that with time and through curiosity, mentorship, innovation, and authentic leadership, we can not only navigate the challenges of the tech world but also shape its future.

Let their wisdom guide you as you embark on your own tech journey, and remember, the possibilities are limitless!

 

Learn more about these tremendous women leaders at Alkami Co:lab’s Women in Banking session and in this blog where they discuss what excites them about the future of banking and tech.

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