Women in FinTech: Julie Watts [Interview]

Julie Watts headshotWelcome to the first blog in a series on women leaders at Kurtosys, covering their experiences in the Financial Services and Technology industries. Today we meet with Julie Watts, Director of Business Operations. Having spent over 4 years here at Kurtosys, Julie has held a few positions within the company and is now an esteemed member of our management team, overseeing our global business operations from her base in New York. We asked her about her role here, as well as her passions outside of the workplace.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in FinTech. Why did you choose to join Kurtosys?

I joined Kurtosys more than four years ago as an Implementation Manager, moved on to a Project Manager role in our Technology team, and I am currently the Director of Business Operations. Prior to Kurtosys, I worked as a high school English teacher, at Merrill Lynch, and at Multex, Reuters and Thomson Reuters through a series of acquisitions and mergers. I chose to join Kurtosys as I wanted to work at a smaller company again, with the benefit of some hindsight and experience, as well as having the opportunity to work again with some colleagues. I have stayed at Kurtosys because of the people, the technology, and the opportunity to learn and do new things.

What hurdles have you overcome to get where you are today? Who helped you along the way?

In my early days at Multex, I had to prove myself to some of the developers by showing them when there were code or site issues. After gaining their trust and confidence in my skills, I no longer had to go to the server room, log on to the server, and demonstrate the issues. Of course this was in the late 90s, and we have made progress in both technology and women’s acceptance in the industry since then. Along the way I have been fortunate to have managers and colleagues who saw me as an equal member of the team and valued my contributions. I was also able to pay it forward at Thomson Reuters by giving a female team member an opportunity to take over my role while I was on maternity leave for 6 months. She ended up gaining the experience to get a promotion into a new role, and she was even my manager for a time!

How do you spend your time outside of Kurtosys?

Outside of Kurtosys I enjoy spending time with my family, cooking vegetarian food, and gardening. I also recently finished a two year term as a Vice President of the PTA at my daughter’s school, where I was able to put my organizational and technology skills to use in the community. It was an interesting contrast to work in a team comprised mostly of women, but trust and support were still key ingredients to the success of the organization. I have a feeling that I will continue to provide IT support to the PTA for the foreseeable future as well.

What recommendations would you make to other woman in FinTech to help them grow their career?

My recommendation is to ask questions, speak up, and challenge others and yourself. Yes, I have experienced mansplaining, I have been interrupted, and I have had to wait my turn to speak as others talked over each other. Find your own style, but always make sure you speak up confidently and get your point across. Find a network of people you trust and with whom you enjoy working as they often become an extended family. It’s a small industry, and some day you may need a favor, or be fortunate enough to return one.

If you could name three role models, who would they be and why?

My daughter, because she is strong and smart and far wiser than her 11 years. She reminds me each day of what is most important in so many ways, both personally and professionally. Some of my other role models are women who have been viewed as trailblazers in male dominated fields, such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth.

What single motto do you apply to your professional career?

Jack of all trades. I have had different roles over time in the companies for which I have worked. I like to learn new things, and work with a wide variety of groups. Also, having multiple perspectives helps me with decision making.

What technology could you not live without?

My iPhone. I stay connected to work, friends and family with it. Perhaps too much sometimes!
Thanks Julie! We’ll be back next week with another member of our Kurtosys team – Nikki Leske, our People Operations Manager – with more insights into her career as a woman within fintech. 
Be sure to check back soon for more interviews with our team!