What is your background briefly?
I have both a JD and an MBA and, after short stints at the SEC and CFTC, I was offered a position on the trading desk structuring derivatives at Merrill. I was in awe of the markets, the complexity of how and why products were put together — it was truly invigorating. From the desk, I was lured to Schulte Roth, a law firm, and I started the Structured Products & Derivatives group. I continued to create equity and debt products of all types until the credit crash of 2008. That was an eerie time. The markets were silent. I dusted myself off because I knew I had to reinvent myself. Giving my full commitment to reinvention, I became a regulatory and hedge fund lawyer, where I met bitcoin in 2012 through my innovative hedge fund clients. Bitcoin was interesting then, but it wasn’t moving fast enough. I yearned for the business innovation that influenced and invigorated my earlier career. I took a leap of faith from my warm spot at Schulte and went to Guggenheim with the desire of being closer to the business. From Guggenheim, I left to start a business that didn’t take off. This is when the Bitcoin market was really growing, and I realized the regulatory and product development aspects fit so well into my background. After extensive research, I found AlphaPoint and AlphaPoint asked me to join them as their Chief Legal Officer.
Does it seem like a logical background to what you do now?
Given my love of innovation, this is exactly where I want to be. I spent several years at Schulte structuring products and providing legal advice to money transmitters and hedge funds about the regulatory framework of bitcoin, so the crypto/blockchain world is not new to me. However, with my structuring background, my understanding of regulations and the pace in which the market is moving, there are so many different aspects of my skill set that are being utilized. For example, everyone is wildly trying to create new token offerings and I can tap into my understanding of the regulations, structuring possibilities and work closely with my dev team. We are incredibly busy trying to meet demand. We are in a technological revolution and there are so many opportunities for people in this market. I love this industry.
1 min pitch for what you are doing now?
Currently, I am the Chief Legal Officer and on the Executive Committee at AlphaPoint — a leading blockchain technology infrastructure provider that enables the digitization of illiquid assets and trading. I am involved in the strategy of the company, product innovation, and deal negotiations. I feel like I am watching innovation from the best seat in the industry. Because we are a technology company, we are able to work with hundreds of different entrepreneurs, whether they are large institutions or the pure start-ups.
What does WIND do, 12 years on what have been the big wins?
I founded WIND, Women in Derivatives, in 2006 to educate and develop female leaders in the financial, and now, technology industries. We have rich educational content, recently having educational events about artificial intelligence, data, machine learning, emerging technologies, market structure, the death of LIBOR, among many others. We have members and programs globally, including in London, New York, Boston, Washington DC, Miami, and Los Angeles. We are regularly asked to provide our programs more broadly. There are long waitlists to get into our educational and leadership programs. We have thousands of members and are growing at an incredible speed. We are engaged with several organizations for potential partnerships in order to scale. I’m very excited about WIND’s future. Given the merger of technology and finance, I think there is a lot of opportunity for WIND to continue its work educating and developing women leaders across industries.
Anything you would have done differently?
Of course. Hindsight is 20/20. At my first job at Merrill, the most senior MD on the desk asked me what I wanted to do — he was going to support me in any career decision I made (and he still does). I REALLY wanted to be a derivatives trader — but there were no other women on the desk — and the men seemed so confident. I felt I didn’t know enough to try. The one lesson that I’ve learned is that failing is good. Maybe I would have failed as a derivatives trader, but I wish I would have taken the chance. Every person should be proud to be a risk taker, even if you fail, you learn.
We are big supporters of female-driven initiatives – how do you counter the challenge that in many coding/dev/tech areas the ratio of women to men is often 1: 7 or less – ie that there are often less women wanting to work in these areas?
It is inaccurate to say that “fewer women want to work in these areas”. I bet they do want to work in these areas — just like I wanted to be a derivatives trader. JP Morgan has a current program that encourages people with non-traditional technical backgrounds to learn to code. I am personally learning python. I think when businesses realize that a “fresh perspective” — i.e., diversity in the workforce — is the new “alternative data” — the edge to success — we will finally start breaking down the gender barriers. Diversity is one of the most important secret sauces.
What does ‘good’ look like 5 years from now?
When I was a little girl about 6 years old, my mother gave me a book that said “Women can be anything — they can be doctors and airline pilots.” I recall telling my mother that the book was ridiculous because, I recall saying, of course women can be doctors and airline pilots. Why is there a book about it?
I never thought that there was discrimination until it happened to me. My guidance counselor in high-school told my father that I was not college material and that I should consider beauty school. On the first day at Schulte, I was mistaken for the paralegal.
Maybe change will happen in 5 years. ‘Good’ will be when people understand that diversity of thought is the secret sauce and that homogeneity can be a trap. It will require that leaders understand that true input from a variety of sources is critical for success.
Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked?
I want every girl to think that reading a book about how girls can be whatever they want to be when they grow up – I want them to think that the book is ridiculous– because of course they can grow up to be whatever they want to be. But then, I not only want them to think it, I want it to be true.
I want each girl to know that she should take risks and that she should be fearless.
Thank you for asking for my thoughts. It’s inspiring that you are committed to this topic. I thank you and all others that want there to be change.