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Meet… the incredible women from across Bitpanda #IWD2023


By Bitpanda


To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, we sat down with 5 exceptional women from across our den to hear their stories, journeys and experiences in fintech and share their advice.

Meet Elif…

Elif Alp-Marent is our Senior Content Designer, Engagement at Bitpanda and also initiated the company’s Women in Tech mentoring program. 

“Seeing your work go live and be implemented? It’s so rewarding.”

What did you dream of doing when you were a little girl?

So embarrassing: I wanted to be a dolphin trainer. So badly. Now that I think back on that, I can see some similarities between what I imagine goes into that job and why I love mine. 

First, teamwork. The dolphin trainer is nothing without the adorable, friendly dolphins zipping around in the water. A UX designer’s work lives through the work of others, so if there weren’t any developers or product managers (to name a few), none of what I do would matter.

Second, hard work! I recently took my son to a dolphin show at the aquarium, and those dolphins jumped high! As a kid, I never thought about it, but now I understand the hours of practice that go into a show like that. Similarly, giving investors a simple-to-use investing experience is so much hard work. 

Third, at least for the dolphin trainer, it’s fun. I can’t speak for the dolphins, but at least the trainers all have smiles on their faces when they see the dolphins land their tricks and make those big splashes. The kids in the audience obviously love it. The mood is just great. And that’s something I cherish about the work I do. Seeing your work go live and be implemented? It’s so rewarding.

Share a women’s empowerment moment that inspired you.

I grew up in the US, in a suburb outside of Chicago, in the 1990s. I say this to say that Michael Jordan was king at this time. Being a Bulls fan was the default, and I obviously loved basketball. When the USA women’s team won the 1996 Olympics, I was 11 - and I was floored. I’d seen men play all my (short) life. And I played basketball with other girls in an after-school league. But I had no idea that women could play basketball the way men do: on TV, in big stadiums, with fans (who weren’t limited to family and friends). It was massive.

What main change would you like to see for young girls in the next generation?

Stories matter. As the parent of a young child, the toys kids want fascinate me. While gender barriers are being broken down in other fields (men wearing nail polish, not an uncommon sight anymore, see Harry Styles!), children are still playing with toys that are branded merchandise from the movies and shows they watch. And when it comes to girl characters, these stories are still mostly about princesses. Ice queens. Elsas. Not only, of course. But mostly. I would love to see more different stories featuring young girls that go beyond princesses. More characters like Fei Fei in Over the Moon (she builds a rocket ship that takes her to the moon!).

What energises you about work?

THE PEOPLE. There are many brilliant people at Bitpanda, and learning from them is so energising. (I swear, I wasn’t paid to say this!)

What would be your crypto coin of wisdom to women looking to make their mark in fintech?

Don’t let anything stop you! The field is so exciting, there is so much opportunity to make an impact, there is so much work to do! So just get on in here.

Meet Kate…

Kate Parnell-Cook is the Legal Programme Excellence Manager at Bitpanda and is managing our market expansions programme.

“My one tip would be to embrace new challenges, don’t be afraid to take on something new, and be flexible with where your career might take you!”

What did you dream of doing when you were a little girl?

I had such a passion for animals when I was little that I thought I’d end up as a vet. I could always be found either with our family dog, Opal or down at the local stables looking after the horses. 

Why did you choose to work in the fintech industry?

A mix between interest and luck! 

My passion for fintech started with an initial love of Economics at A-level and University which gave me the drive and desire to understand how markets worked and why micro and macro events have such an impact on the world stage. When I was in my final year at university and looking at the spectrum of industries, fintech stood out to me as an industry that was trying to change how people managed their finances, giving people the skills and tools to live the life they want to live, and positivity disrupting the historic financial system. I found that idea incredibly exciting and was keen to build my career in an industry that fundamentally supported people to have financial freedom and that is constantly trying to challenge the status quo.  

I joined a fintech FTSE 250 back in 2013 where I was fortunate to get a tonne of experience in a whole bunch of different roles, working across Tech, Operations, Marketing, Change Management and the C-Suite office. 

My one tip would be to embrace new challenges, don’t be afraid to take on something new, and be flexible with where your career might take you!

How can women and/or allies show support in the workplace?

Lead by example. I felt it important to disclose during my interview with Bitpanda that I was pregnant with my second child. It was important for me to work in an organisation that embraced the idea that “life happens” and that my second pregnancy didn’t diminish the progress I’d made in my career. When I shared my news, the response from the Bitpanda team was incredibly supportive and empowering. This gave me the confidence I was making the right decision by joining Bitpanda on its exciting journey. 

I’m a working mum, and with that comes a huge love for my job and building my career, whilst also a huge desire to spend quality time with my children who mean the world to me. I believe it's crucial for me to lead by example and ensure others feel they can have a balance between home and work and know they’re not alone in trying to thrive in both! 

It’s vital we champion and empower each other as much as we possibly can, to allow each other the safe space we deserve to be our fullest. I’m a full believer of building each other up, creating an environment that is supportive, safe and nurturing for all, allowing us all to thrive, and bringing with it the diversity of thought that’s so important for any successful workplace. 

It’s critical we are massive advocates of each other, and we celebrate each other’s successes, however big or small. I’m a massive fan of the IWD 2023 theme #EmbraceEquity, if we want to provide a better world not only for ourselves but also for our children and future generations, we must embrace the diversity across our society, and provide the environment and tools that allow women to have true equity, above and beyond equality.

What’s one surprising fact about you that people wouldn’t expect?

I’m pretty good at sailing. If you need a knot tying or a sail winching, I’m your woman! 

What would be your crypto coin of wisdom to women looking to make their mark in fintech?

Don’t be afraid to be you, and always share your ideas. The more inquisitive, the better! Find your superpower and use it to be the best “you” you can be and work somewhere where you can bring your full self to work. Be assertive, be confident and believe in yourself to the fullest!

Meet Stefana…

Stefana Iosub is our Test Engineering Specialist at Bitpanda, who has an interesting journey to share. 

“Even if it is sad to admit, women in engineering still need to fight harder to make themselves heard.”

What did you dream of doing when you were a little girl?

As much as my closest ones insisted this was not a job, I wanted to be an all-time guest, what a lovely life that would have been! :D Jokes aside, I wanted to be a leader, even though not necessarily in the field of engineering but in the opera music industry (yes, I wanted to be a lead opera singer!), but I can gladly say I found my place where I can use my creativity and logical skills with the same excitement as in any other field.

You are what is affectionately known as a "dinosaur" in Bitpanda terms. Tell us about your Bitpanda career journey.

Oh wow, what a journey it was! Starting with an internship right after my last semester of my master’s in engineering, I felt a bit overwhelmed at the beginning with all the highly professional people around me, but from whom I developed and grew personally and professionally and followed by two amazing years in this company! I would describe my journey as a roller coaster of emotions, but the best part is the people I have the chance to work with! I see my team as my working family, always such a loving environment to spend your working hours, full of support, professionalism and good vibes! Adding up the challenging features we get the opportunity to work on, this just feels like the right place to be for me! 

Why did you choose to become an engineer? 

This is a tough one! It may sound weird, but I’ve always enjoyed exact sciences, even music, which I am still passionate about, needs this quality in order to progress. I needed that precision provided in my life, but I also needed an environment where I could develop my creativity! My mom was the key to this riddle as being a doctoral graduate in engineering herself, she proved to me without even talking that engineering can be fun and challenging!  Hence there I was choosing applied sciences and starting my journey in computer science studies. 

Do you think there’s a stereotype attached to female engineers? Why?

Even if it is sad to admit, women in engineering still need to fight harder to make themselves heard. Women often receive unsuitable comments and behaviours  and they still have to focus on the main goals despite these. It might sound silly, but empathy and emotional involvement are usually misinterpreted as weaknesses or are not taken seriously. While actually, these make part of some soft skills they own and is where the creativity and the willpower come from.

What would be your crypto coin of wisdom to women looking to make their mark in fintech?

Be brave, be bold, don’t live up to others' opinions but be passionate as this is our best quality and we gotta make the most out of it!

Meet Mercedes…

Mercedes Sánchez De Rojas is our VP of Operations at Bitpanda and originally joined us as Global Operations Team Lead.

“The industry is growing rapidly and offers a world of opportunities for innovation and disruption.”

What did you dream of doing when you were a little girl?

When I was a little girl, I was always drawn to activities that gave me an adrenaline rush, and I found the circus to be extremely exciting. Watching those acrobats, Aerialists, tightrope walkers, and other performers push the limits fascinated me. It wasn't just about the thrill of the performance, I admired the discipline and hard work put into mastering these skills.

While I never ended up working in the circus, that desire to seek out new experiences and take on new challenges has stayed with me throughout my life giving me the opportunity to live in different countries and engage in stimulating roles, such as my current journey at Bitpanda.

In your opinion, what qualities do women specifically add to our industry?

As a woman in the industry, I've seen how we bring valuable qualities to the different roles. Women are very often collaborative and emotionally intelligent, enabling them to build strong relationships and meaningful connections which will ultimately lead to better business outcomes. These are also often accompanied by resilience, providing the ability to overcome challenges and obstacles encountered in a fast-paced environment.

What do you think the future holds regarding women and the fintech/crypto industry? Do you think more women are going to get involved, or will it always be heavily male-dominated?

While there's still much to be done, progress is being made and will continue towards diversity. 

The fintech/crypto industry recognises the value of a diverse workforce and promotes more and more equity and inclusion from the hiring stages. We are also seeing a higher number of women-led fintech startups that serve as role models for other women, and that often consider equity a main pillar of their culture. Also, younger generations have been more exposed to fintech and related education, this will naturally enlarge the pool of qualified female talent encouraged to pursue their career in this exciting field.

What would be your crypto coin of wisdom to women looking to make their mark in fintech?

The industry is growing rapidly and offers a world of opportunities for innovation and disruption. Your unique perspective and skills are valuable assets that can leave a considerable mark. Stay persistent and curious, and don't be afraid to challenge the status quo and drive change.

Also… Meet Lindsay, our CHRO

As a woman leader in our executive management team and head of our People function, we sat down with Lindsay to chat about #EmbraceEquity and why this is so important for Bitpanda and the broader industry.

“The goal is to have folks who feel connected, empowered and motivated and who can bring their voice to the table”

What made you decide to enter what’s considered a male-dominated industry? 

I’ve never looked at a specific industry through a gender lens but instead wanted to go into a space that was about speed, growth and innovation — somewhere where you can really see the impact you make. In fintech/crypto, this is the pinnacle of just that, and I genuinely love it. 

And what’s more is that I’m surrounded by incredibly talented folks from all different everything — backgrounds, cultures, perspectives, passions, and life journeys. And when we specifically zoom in on our women Pandas, getting to work and and build this company with talent like what you’ve read above, what else could you possibly want? It’s because of them that we get to reshape the world of finance. 

What’s a leadership lesson that you’ve learnt that’s unique to being a female leader in the Fintech/Crypto industry? 

I don’t believe it’s about gender specifically when it comes to leading — it’s about individuals. Everyone is different and everyone’s life circumstances are different. This also means their strengths, needs and ways of working are different.  

So as a leader in such a full-on industry, a core component of the job is to create a safe space where folks feel comfortable to be their authentic selves, have a voice and are able to make an impact (because our industry is all about speed and delivery). To do this effectively, we need to truly understand all these differences, leverage them, and do everything to recognise and mitigate our own biases. The goal is to have folks who feel connected, empowered and motivated and who can bring their voice to the table — this leads to both our products and organisation only becoming stronger!

What would be your crypto coin of wisdom to women looking to make their mark in fintech?

I’m stealing from Nike here but really: just do it. Make the jump. This is an industry that was created to break barriers and disrupt the status quo because the world of finance was always run with strict rules dictated by an old-school mindset. A closed society of selected individuals guarding the doors, making sure wealth remains exclusive. 

At Bitpanda, we’re challenging the system with revolutionary products, and we’re building the infrastructure that empowers investing and simplifies wealth creation for all. That means we’re here to reinvent a whole industry, and to do this successfully, we need you — to dream it, to challenge it and to build it. Welcome to inclusive. 

Want to join them?

Being part of Team Bitpanda means we will never hold you back or close the door to your ideas. Instead, we’ll give you a chance to create a real impact — right from day one! So if you like what you’ve read and are someone who thinks big and moves fast, check out our open positions here!