“Women, I hear you. And I revere you.
As a woman, and especially as a female CEO, I cherish the dynamic women whose counsel and support have inspired me to persevere throughout my career. And I cherish our own Amy Yoder, who has partnered with me to tell their stories – stories of how women overcame formidable challenges to rise to the top of their respective fields. For this new Copytalk initiative, Amy will focus her incredible talents on interviewing these woman and writing their stories, which we will publish as an ongoing series. Why are we doing this? Because I’m confident that these amazing stories – extraordinary women all – have something of great value to offer you, as well.”
– Maree Moscati, CEO, Copytalk
Marla Sofer is the VP of Strategic Partnerships at Jemstep, a B2B2C digital advice platform focused on helping Americans invest to achieve their financial goals. Before diving into Fintech in 2015, Marla led institutional partnerships at BlackRock and J.P. Morgan quantified in billions of dollars. She has been a champion of gender diversity, founded two employee women’s networks, and served as a non-profit leader dedicated to social justice.
Amy:Tell us something about yourself that most people aren’t aware of.
Marla: I lived in Israel for 2 years doing a master’s program, studying conflict resolution. I focused on negotiation and mediation, and spent time with Israeli, Palestinian, and Egyptian government officials and non-governmental organizations. I’ve found that the interpersonal communication and empathy skills required to support peace talks in the Middle East replicate those required to resolve conflict and build bridges between corporations.
Later, I launched my career in financial services in a role at Bank Leumi, supporting Latin American clients. I was offered the role because I am fluent in Hebrew and Spanish. I learned Spanish growing up in El Paso, Texas, and Hebrew during the period that I lived in Israel.
Amy:Share how your career path positioned you to be where you are today.
Marla: As a result of a relatively poor job market in Israel at the time, I moved back to the US to start a career here. After a few years working in the New York area, I learned how hard I could push myself. I was working full time at Bank Leumi in mid-town and putting myself through business school at Rutgers in Newark in the evenings. I left my house before 6 each morning and only got home after 11 most nights. During most of my last year of balancing work and school, I was also pregnant with my first child. I look back on those days and appreciate how much I was able to squeeze into one 24-hour period.
I worked in a wide variety of different positions in banking and asset management for over a decade. There was a key moment at a company golf event where I was surrounded by ecosystem partners and industry leaders who were brilliant and wonderfully credentialed, but I felt that they were not adopting technology quickly enough to meet the needs of consumers. I knew fintech was a muscle I wanted to develop, and I knew that technology was already disrupting every part of the industry. At the end of 2015, I very deliberately jumped into fintech to be a part of what I knew was happening in software, APIs, and better user experiences.
Amy: What can you share with women just entering the business world?
Marla: First, women need to be very opportunistic in their quest for leadership. Your next step might not necessarily be a vertical rung on the ladder, but it could be something strategic and creative. Learn as much as you can about as much as you can, even if it’s not within your particular bucket of expertise.
I also believe it’s important to be very, very focused on building and maintaining relationships. The network that you develop has magical power to help you. If networking doesn’t come easily, or if you’re in a career cycle that requires more network activation, try creating goals, such as a number of meetings to aim for per week, or events in a month, or new nonprofit opportunities to get involved in.
Also, take every opportunity to help people – give those who ask for your support your time, share your story, and listen intently to their stories so that they may leverage your experience to guide their own path to leadership. When diverse leaders share their stories authentically, including the parts that expose vulnerability, they provide an example to future leaders, empowering them to take risks, make mistakes, and own their journeys rather than going along for the ride. It’s amazing how karma drives careers.