Meet Ellie Tembras, Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer, Zippen

Ellie Tembras

In this piece, we talk to Ellie Tembras, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Zippen.

Ellie talks to us about social inequality, the challenges she has overcome in her career and shares advice to women looking to excel in the technology industry.

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

I’m all about the stand against social inequality. When I started my career in financial services almost 30 years ago, the link between Pensions and Inequality was present but largely ignored. It was in 2018 that I saw that the travesty that is those with “small” pension pots that cannot access financial advice was an issue that I knew financial technology could solve.

We initially developed Zippen in the FCA’s Innovation Sandbox, giving us confidence that we were doing something genuinely different.   I’m ludicrously proud of the product we have created today – bringing affordable, sound, impartial financial advice to the masses through an easy-to-use web app with a beautiful UX.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

When you hit a certain age, the ‘plan’ doesn’t seem as necessary, but rather committing to something you believe in is. When you have been beating the same drum repeatedly, you begin to see how you can improve a service; for the better. Plans are great for some people but not for me. That’s what I have realised –  rigidity doesn’t suit me. Hence why we joined the FCA’s Innovation Sandbox.

I never dreamed I would be part of a tech drive seeking to help the greater good, as Pensions and technology never seemed to go hand in hand. Nevertheless, I remained true to myself (and maybe a little outspoken at times), kept pedalling, and here we are.

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

Of course, but I don’t think I am alone. Sadly, and unsurprisingly, such challenges for working women seem to happen around maternity leave – returning to work is challenging. Having three children and working after each of them was always challenging for many reasons. First, there are the emotional aspects that women all over the world have to overcome that is not eased when you have to drop the children at childminders or nursery  – this can cause great angst. Then, there are additional costs to keep up with to pay for the care, and then there is the work-life balancing whereby you barely find any time for yourself.

I don’t think I am special in any way, but I was always honest about how challenging this time was and I believe that talking about it openly made it easier to deal with at the time. I discovered that I wasn’t alone and that many of my colleagues were dealing with the same issues and were in the same boat.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Zippen.  100% Zippen.  Without a doubt. To be making a real difference to the people that so badly need advice, and will potentially benefit most from it, is incredible.

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

Keep it real! Don’t underestimate anybody, don’t fear anybody, and treat everyone as you expect to be treated. I am lucky to work with and meet with an array of interesting, friendly, enthusiastic and energetic people. Embracing collaboration as it comes, and you never know, you might meet people with a similar sense of humour as yourself!

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

Be yourself, and don’t be afraid to shine. Technology, especially Fintech, can be seen as a little “dry”, to say the least. However, I have found it to be quite the opposite, meeting so many able and exciting people along the way. So bring your personality to the fore and embrace challenges. Put your head above the parapet and speak out when you see something isn’t right or injustice in an offering.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Let’s not limit this to tech! Until men and women stop being pigeonholed, when it comes to who is the primary caregiver, then we have a significant problem. This issue is amplified in industries such as tech and financial services where there is already a gender imbalance. In addition, ever-moving regulations and digital advancements mean that taking a year out for childcare can derail a career path altogether. I believe that to make the system work better for technology advancements, we’ve got to be more inclusive and look at better ways to balance this.

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

For starters, let’s pay better maternity leave and celebrate this precious time rather than make it feel like a guilty pleasure. Then, on returning to work, let’s make sure that there is always a program in place to ensure that it’s as easy a catch up as possible. Whoever provides maternity cover should continually diarise changes and basic decision processes to ensure a foundation of understanding. Let’s talk menopause too. The number of women shelving their careers in their 40s and 50s due to peri-menopause symptoms is genuinely shocking.

There are currently only 21 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Just one thing? Let’s go back to basics. We need to work harder to get girls into STEM at school. There are advances here, but it’s just not enough. Girls at primary age need to be encouraged to code and to embrace computer science – let’s use the kid’s beloved Roblox to instil a belief in their creative tech abilities. By the time STEM seems to hit the curriculum at secondary school, it’s too late.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Oooooh I love a podcast! Dive into “How I Built This” and “How to WOW” for real-life success stories and a real feel-good motivator to start your day.