At ACI, Natalia’s focus is to provide the ultimate customer experience, designing solutions for payments processing and fraud prevention. As a strong advocate for women in leadership roles, Natalia’s own story is an inspiration for women looking to take on the challenge and become leaders in the fintech industry. I spoke with her to find out more.
Nidhi Alberti: First of, congratulations on being selected for the 2019 Rise Up Academy!
Natalia Ruiz: Thank you! I’m really excited for this opportunity and it has motivated me to continue to work hard in my own career. I’m looking forward to getting a better understanding of how I might support other women in the industry as they move forward in their own careers.
NA: Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got started in the payments industry.
NR: Sixteen years ago, when I was starting college, I had many friends and family try to dissuade me from pursuing an engineering degree because it was a ‘tough career choice for a woman.’ Nevertheless, I turned a deaf ear and marched on into my future. It wasn’t until I entered my first class at college that what they were saying really hit me. I was among four women in a class of 60 students registered that year.
Having been raised by a working-class family, where nobody until my generation had completed a college education, I pushed on and finished my degree faster than the average engineering student.
I joined ACI in 2011 and after holding various responsibilities, I was offered a position in another country. I jumped at the opportunity immediately, even though it meant leaving my family and (temporarily) my fiancé behind. As I set myself up in a new country, learning a new language and finding my way around a new city took some time and I suffered panic attacks and anxiety during that time. I decided to build a support network to help get through the tough times and it soon paid off. My fiancé joined me after three months and started his own job search. While this took several months, we supported each other along this process and it all worked out.
Today, as a woman in the payments industry, I see the disparity in pay and job opportunities compared to men in the industry, but it doesn’t faze me. My background and upbringing have helped me see that there’s always light at the end of the tunnel if I work hard and never give up.
NA: That’s so inspiring to hear! What can the industry do to increase the number of women in payments?
NR: The figures speak for themselves. The market demands professionals in payments and technology, but the rate of students is too low to meet the market needs. Currently and for over 15 years, the list of enrolled students in technology careers have been dwindling and when we abstract those numbers to just the women in the field, the lack of females is shocking.
There are several reasons for this, lack of information, incentives and even the misconception about technical careers, which makes girls and teenagers abandon the idea of becoming part of the technology industry at an early age.
We also see women at some point in their lives taking on 2, 3 and up to 4 simultaneous jobs/roles: professionals, wives, mothers, homemakers; and that is the breaking point when women begin to doubt and assess which one of all those roles they want to devote 100 percent to. Twenty years ago, the industry was not ready to provide these women with the necessary conditions to fulfill both areas, personal and professional, but today it’s a different scenario.
I believe now is the time for change. I’m glad that organizations like Money 20/20 are shining a light on this subject and I’m excited to be part of the Academy next month and learn about things I can do to make a difference.
NA: That’s very informative! We’re excited for you to get the most out of Rise Up as well. Do you have any advice or parting words for women currently trying to make it in the payments industry?
NR: I’d say, never give up! The industry is changing, and women have the chance to do it all now more than ever before. Many times, we will need to challenge the status quo, and act upon our beliefs to grow both professionally and personally. It is hard and scary because it means getting out of your comfort zone, but if you think about this ‘comfort zone,’ it’s not always a personal choice, rather the acceptance of historical and social standards.
I have found that the best and most rewarding experiences were the ones that took me completely out of my comfort zone and added the highest value toward my progress; so, while tough to learn to deal with such experiences, it’s all totally worth it in the end.
Meet with ACI Worldwide’s team of payments experts at Money20/20 USA 2019 in Las Vegas, October 27-30 (Veronese 2502), where Natalia Ruiz has been elected to the 2019 Rise Up Academy.