Deanna Fernandez is Head of Customer Insight at Marqeta. She is an experienced Payments Specialist with a diverse background in financial services including Lloyds Bank, Paysafe and public sector organisations.

Deanna is passionate about Fintech and committed to driving innovation in digital-first, client-centric companies with a strong focus on inclusion and diversity. She has a proven track record of navigating complex landscapes and achieving strategic goals.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your current role.

I am Head of Customer Insight at Marqeta, where I have been for 5 years now. I began my career in an accelerated management role for a bank, before moving into working in fintech and payments for both the public and private sectors.

In 2018, I was the third person to join Marqeta’s European team, and the first woman! The project I am most proud of during my time at Marqeta is the content I have helped to create for our website, which includes a great new resource called Demystifying Cards – an excellent free resource that helps to explain fintech concepts like digital cards and other tools.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

The short answer is no. I’ve had a very non-linear career path and I have always been one to let intuition shape my life and career rather than a long-term plan. This explains why I have moved between the public and private sectors and chosen to work for banks and fintechs.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these? 

All the time, as I think most people in my sector have! Fintech is such a fast-moving business with constant restructuring, meaning that jobs often change very quickly. As far as personal challenges go, I did suffer a spate of bullying at a previous job, but thankfully I was able to bring this to light and put a stop to it. 

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I am most proud of how I have been able to overcome imposter syndrome and keep striving to work outside my comfort zone. For example, throughout my career, I have spoken on panels, which used to make me incredibly nervous and self-conscious, but now this is exactly the kind of thing I love doing!

I am also really proud of my work developing websites and domains for Marqeta for their women in fintech events and streams. This includes Marqeta’s Female Breakthrough Forum Sessions which was a huge part of our effort to empower women at work which was timed to coincide with the United Nations #EmbraceEquity theme for IWD 2023.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Overall, I think my flexibility and drive have served me well. I have always been open to following new routes and taking things in my stride. It is crucial to remain positive and confident about your work, so even if you completely bomb, you are still able to regain it as a learning experience.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

First, I would remind them to remain upbeat. If you work hard and are passionate, doors will always open for you and don’t worry if you don’t get your dream job immediately.

But most of all, it is so important to be proactive. Seek out companies you want to work for and research them thoroughly, read any materials they have written and find them at networking events. And go and speak to them!

What barriers for women working in tech are still to be overcome?

A lot of good work has been done by organisations and individuals over the last few years, and we have many inspirational women and male advocates to thank for that. However, there remains more to be done.

The gender pay gap continues to be an obstacle, especially in tech, and the lack of female representation in the C-suite and on boards is also a work in progress. I also believe that the current attitude of referring to successful women only through their relationships with men is harmful to women’s representation in tech. I dislike hearing about women being described as someone’s wife or daughter, I want to see them named and credited in their own right!

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

The top one for me is flexible work. This includes working from home and flexible hours, a real lifeline for working mothers.

When my son was young, I relied on help from my father with logistics and childcare, and even then it was a struggle working the traditional office hours. Post-Covid flexibility has allowed many women to flourish in their careers as well as allowing them greater opportunities to spend time with their children.

Another important factor for female advancement is for companies to have internal initiatives to support and advocate for female employees. Marqeta is fantastic in this regard, as it encourages female collaboration, mentorship, and attendance at women in fintech events, with time and budget set aside to support these initiatives.

In an ideal world, how would you improve gender diversity in tech?

The effort to get more women into tech needs to begin in school, with girls feeling encouraged to pursue courses and careers in the tech sector despite the current gender disparity.

In the professional world, I believe that there needs to be some accountability at the leadership level for recruitment so that tech companies are incentivised to get women into male-dominated roles.

Of course, this should never be just a box-ticking exercise where women are hired simply to meet quotas, but an explicit effort needs to be made to hire great women who are a good fit for the role and the company.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, e.g. podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

I find networking events the most helpful for women like me, and I highly recommend the Women in Payments event by Kristy Duncan to any woman in the fintech sector.

A great book to read for all women in tech is Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, as it makes for an inspirational and eye-opening read. For those in my sector, I would also like to draw attention to Liz Lumley, who is the editor of The Banker and a huge advocate for women in fintech.

Read more from our inspirational women here.