How to Get a Job in Fintech: A Q&A with the VP of People at Tala

To learn about how people interested in fintech could secure a job in the space, The Org spoke with Lisa Fernandez, the VP of People at Tala, a company that offers digital financial services for underbanked customers.

CEO & Founder of Tala Shivani Siroya speaks onstage at the 2018 Forbes Women's Summit at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers on June 19, 2018, in New York City. Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images.
By Bessie Liu
5 minute read

As the digital economy continues to evolve, fintech startups have gained a lot of interest from investors, attracting billions of dollars into the space and many fintech companies are always looking for new talent to grow their product offerings.

To learn about how people interested in fintech could secure a job in the space, The Org spoke with Lisa Fernandez, the VP of People at Tala, a company that offers digital financial services for underbanked customers.

Fernandez has over twenty years of experience working in human resources and talent acquisition across startups and staffing agencies. She joined Tala over two years ago and now oversees recruiting efforts in all five countries where Tala operates.

Q. Tell me a little bit about your own experiences landing a role in fintech.

Tala is my first experience in fintech. What interested me about Tala was its mission of financial inclusion. I was moved by Tala CEO & Founder Shivani Siroya’s TED Talk in which she spoke about the problems of the underbanked. About 3 billion people globally are considered financially underserved. She also spoke about how Tala is pioneering a new model for joining purpose with profit, aligning customer and business value to profit with customers — not from them. Tala makes it possible for customers who are currently excluded from traditional financial services to use, protect, and grow their money like “the rest of us” in the banking-accessible world — and has continued to evolve its product offering based on the needs of those who are underbanked in developing countries.

I found this to be a meaningful cause and an opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives, which made Tala different from other opportunities I was considering in the fintech sector.

Q. What kind of experience do job seekers need to get positions in fintech?

While prior fintech experience is helpful, it's not absolutely necessary! For a company like Tala that is trying something that’s never been done before, we actually value adjacent experiences from different sectors. If you are looking for a role on our tech team, you should have experience in building a scalable, reliable, performant microservices platform. If you are looking to be a data scientist, you should be a multiplier — someone who has owned modeling cycles through scoping, development, and deployment with a keen focus on business outcomes and stakeholder management. For a role in product, you should have experience in developing and executing product roadmaps that reduce friction and deliver the best-in-class customer experience for rapid growth.

Q. How are you currently looking for candidates for your open positions?

We source candidates through all the usual methods including posting open positions on our company website and on social and job recruiting platforms. Another creative way that we source candidates is through our employee referral program. Because our employees believe so strongly in Tala’s mission, they are motivated to find candidates who they think will also be driven by the challenge of financial inclusion. Referrals have been one of our most effective recruiting strategies.

Q. What advice do you have for job seekers right now?

While the pandemic has been difficult, it has also created so many opportunities to work from different locations and in different capacities. I would advise job seekers to take advantage of this moment and try something that is new and growing, like the fintech space.

Secondly, be prepared for a remote-first work culture — from interviewing to onboarding. Many companies are now holding interviews over video, which adds a new set of technical challenges and can take away the opportunity to feel the energy and body language that comes from sitting across the room from someone, so make sure you are mentally prepared. Then, once you get the job, it may be a long time before you meet your new colleagues in person. This can make it more challenging at first to build camaraderie and become acquainted with the company’s culture and working norms. Fortunately, companies like Tala are developing creative ways to build connections in this new normal.

Thirdly, companies like Tala are looking for people who can demonstrate a collaborative and humble work relationship with their colleagues. So do highlight that in your next interview.

Q. What do you think the future of fintech will look like?

Fintech as an industry is in its nascent stages and the opportunity is huge, especially in emerging markets. Nearly 3 billion people globally are considered financially underserved, that’s nearly 40% of the world. There is a vast unmet need (almost $2.1 trillion) for credit in developing countries. Tala is helping to meet this need by providing financial services via a highly sophisticated underwriting and payments platform, to many for the first time ever. But a lot more needs to be done. There is so much room for growth, innovation and potential in this area that it is an exciting space to be in right now and to be a part of the journey.

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