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Inspiring our next generation of female sales leaders


Karen Farrar


March 27, 2023

Inspiring our next generation of female sales leaders

In this article, Senior Director, Commercial Karen Farrar reflects on this year's International Women's Day theme and how it resonates given her experiences as a Zipster.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme ‘Cracking the code: Innovation for a gender equal future’ gave me real pause for thought. It’s an important subject that really resonated with me as a female enterprise sales leader working in a fintech organisation.

In the last year we’ve introduced some highly strategic partners onto the Zip platform, including Qantas and Jetstar to expand our offering across travel, and we’re enabling customers to shop across the eBay Marketplace in addition to being the first BNPL provider activated across Uber Eats and Rides. We offer simple payment solutions for the everyday and considered purchases, and the impact of onboarding these marquee brands is creating great momentum and engagement across the Zip ecosystem.

Each deal we make with them looks very different, and our teams face new and exciting challenges and opportunities to come to the table each and every time. Whether that’s involving our Technology teams to support a merchant through a third party integration, or working with Product to translate problem statements into product enhancements, so many passionate Zipsters are involved in setting our partners up for success for the long-term. It’s one of the things that excites me most about my role here; the fact that our entire organisation gets behinds these deals, living our #StrongerTogether value to the full.

It feels like a real point of difference having worked in bigger, more traditional payments roles in a sales career spanning twenty years. How we’ve created an environment which enables our Zipsters of all genders, backgrounds and beliefs to fearlessly come together on equal terms to problem solve and innovate, making decisions with such agility in order to deliver incremental value for both customers and merchants alike.

Honing our superpowers as women

While we operate effectively in multi-disciplinary teams, our business wouldn’t be what it is without the tenacity and dedication of our commercial teams to land deals with such merchants. Starting with the sales process itself; the secret to success is getting under the hood and understanding how the 1 + 1 can equal 3, ensuring that the partnership delivers a mutual and amplified value. And this is where I think women can play such a crucial role.

For me, certainly in sales and partnerships, there's a real value-add to the amount of emotional intelligence and compassion that we can demonstrate and really dig deep into as female leaders that helps us to better connect with others. It helps us to understand how to motivate our team. It helps with understanding how our leaders operate. And absolutely when working with clients, it can help you to read the room and negotiate. In some ways I think it often helps us to outperform our male counterparts.

That said, as women we often feel like we need to act like men to be successful. I think back to an earlier time in my career joining a leadership team dominated by men, most with over a decade’s tenure. I walked in the door and I realised pretty quickly that while I was there with the intent to lead differently, to create change, the culture wasn't ready for it.

So I quickly had to make a decision to either conform and act like every other male leader that was around me, where it was a very hard and fast ‘let's focus on what we need to get done’ type of environment. Or, choose to stay true to myself and actually be an authentic leader and care about my team, our partnerships, and client relationships and how I actually went about things. I chose the latter, and it was quite hard at first. Often when you lead with empathy, you're perceived as being softer, and people might try to take advantage of you on things like deadlines. Actually what it meant, within less than a year, was that I had the strongest following from my team and had created a mini-culture where more women across the business were asking me to mentor and work with them.

I see success as giving women the confidence so we can be true to who we really are, so we feel comfortable to put our hand up when we know we can only do 80% of a role, and not feel the imposter syndrome that we may fear by not having the 100%. I truly believe that by taking that next step, we experience growth. And often we surprise ourselves in doing so.

Empowering women to grow their career

Organisations with a track record of pipelining women into leadership roles are often the ones who’ve got on the front foot in terms of structured mentoring programs, and I’m a big advocate for that. In fact, we are just about to launch Zip’s first ever mentoring program in ANZ, with the intake due to reflect our 40:40:20 gender equity targets.

But what I’ve found in my career to be the most effective form of mentoring is the incidental or more informal approach. Often, it's about going to grab a coffee and just listening about somebody's day, and how they might approach feedback or challenges that they're facing. During those chats I’m really leaning in, not just with people in my own team, but more broadly across the business where I can really help women develop their level of resilience or guide how they may tackle a conversation, or piece of work.

At Zip we are gifted with some very inspirational female leaders, and we pride ourselves on investing in succession planning to ensure growth and career development organisation wide. I’ve seen women navigate very successfully through the organisation, though in some ways the onus is on the individual. I think men will more often put their hands up for a promotion or take the next opportunity before they’re ready, whereas women will tend to hold back, say for example if we’re juggling raising families or taking time out.

Excitingly, while we move towards a more formal leadership development program, we’ve embarked on a piece of work within our team that brings the end-to-end account management and sales process together. That means there’s some ten job grades ranging from the more entry level operational roles to the top end of town enterprise sales roles, and our highly curated strategic account management function. It helps with better succession planning, and excitingly for Zipsters - our future leaders - it also enables more mentoring, shadowing and buddying opportunities. I see it as a game changer for building out our culture and spirit across the broader team.

Why Zip is the place to be in 2023

2022 for Zip was a time of consolidation, focusing on our core business and ensuring a path to profitability. We have a portfolio of extremely valuable merchant partners which we’re continuously growing and diversifying with a pipeline of exciting opportunities ahead.

We truly are a disruptor, and it’s a great time to be part of our inclusive team that’s ready to unlock some of these core verticals and drive the evolution of our business towards a gender equal future.

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