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Here are five lessons I’ve learned in moving from big corporates to a fintech startup


It’s becoming widely recognised in the corporate world that employing people from similar backgrounds with similar experience drives the same, narrow style of thinking, so savvier businesses now actively look for individuals with different perspectives, life experiences and skills sets.

I began my career as an engineer on the shopfloor at the Ford Motor Company in Dagenham where I helped develop the Ford Puma – literally and metaphorically a world away from my current role as Chief Marketing Officer of SocietyOne, one of the first fintech start-ups in Australia and the largest marketplace lender in the country.

So, in terms of unconventional paths to marketing leadership, my journey may be one of the most unorthodox.

Yet I’ve been fortunate to have had many different life experiences before arriving in a world where tech and marketing have collided, so much so that my unconventional experience has become sought after. Each of my varied roles – at Ford, Virigin, Optus, AMP and OFX – has taught me valuable lessons which I draw upon each day to both mine and my team’s benefit.

1. Strengths vs. skills

As a leader, it’s important to assess your own strengths, as well as the strengths of those around you, so you can create a balanced and high performing team and embrace different ways of thinking. Sometimes, you may find yourself unable to think of new solutions and approaches, so it is critically important to build a team with diverse skills, knowledge and experience.

We have all been told that we should focus on our strengths, but knowing the difference between strengths and skills can be critical. Sometimes you just need time, training or a good mentor to become good at something, so don’t write things off as weaknesses too soon. In a fintech you often have to try your hand at many things, and explore unchartered territory, so problem solving as a core strength is vital.

2. Be clear on your values

After Ford I moved to the Virgin Group and was lucky enough to work closely with Richard Branson. Richard makes his success look easy with his charm and maverick ways, but he works incredibly hard in a job that, to him, does not feel like work. Virgin’s values are his values, which taught me the importance of considering the priorities of a company.

Much like a company’s values, your personal values are there to guide your behaviour and choice. Fintechs looking to expand their team need to ensure their core values align across the workforce – getting them right can be the difference between a team with a clear direction and one which is constantly wondering about its purpose.

3. Define success on your terms

Other people’s success should not be a measure of your own. Redefine success in terms of your values – recognition from your peers, gaining a promotion, starting your own profitable business or even making a social contribution. Fintechs that are constantly comparing themselves to other organisations are setting themselves up for unhappiness and inconsistency. For me, success is about making a difference and developing others, so I enjoy team leadership and working in the agile environment which comes with working in a fintech.

4. Embrace the unknown and take some risks

In today’s competitive and fast changing workplace, we can never hope to achieve success unless we’re willing to embrace change and risk the discomfort of failure. In short, you must get comfortable with taking risks at the same time as working out how far we can go in risking the business and the wellbeing of your team.

These risks can be as simple as engaging in conversations which challenge us or taking our project to the next level. Like Richard Branson, not everything you do will work out but it’s only by willing to make mistakes and try something new that you can accomplish more than you thought possible.

5. Have fun!

This is potentially one of the most important tips – as Confucius said: Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day.

Maria Loyez is the Chief Marketing Officer of SocietyOne.

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