Laura Keturke

Laura Keturke is Head of Product at AAZZUR. She is passionate about product design and strategy with experience in banking, financial services and real estate.

Laura has worked in several companies in the financial industry, where she led digital product development and drove agile projects. She is strong believer in customer-centric and easy-to-use products and prides herself on being very hands-on throughout the whole development process.

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

My name is Laura Keturke, and I have a wealth of experience in leading cross-functional teams and driving product development in various industries, including tech, banking, financial services, and real estate. My background in philosophy and my diverse work experience have given me a unique perspective on product design and strategy. I excel in creating customer-centric and easy-to-use products by being hands-on throughout the entire development process. I pride myself on my strong communication skills and ability to adapt to new challenges.

Currently, I hold the position of Head of Product at AAZZUR, a start-up that is revolutionizing the way banks are built, the way banking data is used to increase satisfaction, retention, and monetization, and how fintechs work with banks. My main responsibility is overseeing the creation, development, and delivery of various financial products for our customers. My primary function is to ensure that the products meet the needs of their customers, but I am also a part of the sales team, responsible for partnership work and customer support.

My role is very varied, and we are all encouraged to work across teams and share learnings. It means that there is never a dull day and always something new to learn. I really enjoy working in the fintech industry.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I never did sit down and plan my career. A lot of things in my life happened by accident or I was offered a great opportunity I couldn’t miss. When I was finishing high school, I had my heart set on studying political science, but instead, I was accepted into philosophy studies. I accepted fully intending on transferring to my desired field the following year but ended up loving it and getting probably the best fundamental university degree. I had planned to do a Masters after one year of working and try different sectors, and I applied for a Masters in Marketing and HR, but didn’t get a spot and wasn’t comfortable paying for it, so I still didn’t get one.

After 9 months of working as an assistant, I got an offer for an entry-level position at a big corporation with huge growth opportunities. Within a few weeks, I was given a big project that I was fully responsible for. The main reason I was assigned to this task was that I was the youngest team member at the time and automatically knew more about technology. The project was a success and it led to more opportunities and growth. After 5 years, I was done with the corporate world and decided to change the country and joined a startup, which presented a totally new challenge for me. This worked for me, I was open to opportunities and wasn’t afraid of challenges.

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

Yes, I have several. The first one was when I first started working in tech. Due to having no previous experience or formal training/education, the learning curve had to be very steep. In a very short time, I had to learn a very specific technical language and the proper way to communicate. If you’ve ever worked with a tech team, you know that there is a protocol for how to provide requirements, how to write bugs, stories, etc. On one side, I had to learn how to communicate with the design and development team to achieve business goals. On the other side, I had to explain implications, constraints, limitations, or dependencies to the business team. It was a little bit like learning a new language and at the same time doing huge translation work. How did I overcome it? By reading as much as I could, asking questions, and discussing the topic with my peers. I was lucky enough to have a lot of tech-savvy people in my life who were able to give me a helping hand and their time to get me on board. I’m also very thankful to my colleagues and partners we worked with for this project; everyone was very helpful and supportive.

The second big challenge was when I moved to Germany, everything was new: a new country, new market, new project, new language, new responsibilities, new sector, and new work culture. I think the biggest challenge was working in the English language. Even though I know the language, it’s a big difference when you know the grammar rules and can read a book or watch a movie and use it every day for work and life. It takes time to build confidence and vocabulary to express your thoughts in the same way and level you are used to in your native language. I’m also suffering from dyslexia, so it added an additional level of difficulty. My way of overcoming this was practice, practice, and more practice. I started reading only in English, not only for work topics but for pleasure too. All the media (movies, songs, YouTube) was also in English.

Also, don’t be afraid of making mistakes. This is not something I struggled with personally, but I know a lot of people who are afraid to talk in a different language because they might make a mistake. Only grammar freaks care about this, the rest of the population is interested in hearing what you want to say, your opinion, and your thoughts.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest career achievement to date is successfully working in the tech sector with no formal education. When I first entered the industry, I had no prior experience or training in technology. Despite this, I was able to quickly learn the technical language and communication protocols necessary to succeed in my role.

In addition, another of my biggest career achievements is managing my current team and all the responsibilities that come with my role as the Head of Product. Leading a team is not an easy task, but I have managed to effectively communicate the goals and objectives of the company and motivate my team to work towards achieving them. I have been able to create a positive and productive working environment and foster a culture of collaboration, open communication, and mutual respect. This has resulted in the successful delivery of several projects and has contributed to the growth and success of the company.

Overall, I am proud of my ability to enter the tech sector without formal education and to successfully lead a team. These achievements have been challenging but also incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. I look forward to continuing to develop my skills and taking on new challenges in the future.

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

The one thing I believe has been a major factor in achieving my success is courage. The courage to step out of my comfort zone and explore new fields, take on new opportunities, and even speak my honest opinion and share my thoughts, even if it may be uncomfortable. Without courage, I would not have been able to take the risks and make the choices that have led to my successes.

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

Keep learning and stay up to date with the latest technologies and industry trends. For me, it’s not only about learning new things, but also refreshing your knowledge, and go again over best practices. You’ll be surprised how the same idea/practice you already know and maybe use, can resonate differently because it was described in different words/contexts or examples.

Also, seek out feedback from your colleagues or supervisors and use it to improve. This also demonstrates your commitment to professional development and increases your value to your employer.

Network and build relationships with other professionals in the industry. This can lead to new job opportunities, collaborations, and valuable connections. You should be a good communicator and team player. Being able to effectively communicate and collaborate with others is essential in any technology role.

Don’t limit yourself to a very niche sector, develop a diverse set of skills. Having a broad range of skills will make you more valuable and versatile in the workforce, it also helps in the constantly changing market to stay relevant.

Don’t forget in the majority of organisations, technology is used to achieve business goals. It’s important to understand the business value of technology. It’s not just about the technical skills, but also about understanding how technology can be used to drive business growth and solve business problems.

Take risks and be open to new opportunities. Embrace change and be willing to take on new challenges and roles that may be outside of your comfort zone.

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

 I think the barriers are not in the specific field or careers, but in society’s concepts and perceptions. It took a very long time for women to be treated as equals (and still today there are places in the world this is not the case) and should have the same rights and opportunities as men do. Even though, this is now changing (or has got better), society still has these crazy expectations for working women. You must work and contribute at least 50% of your household income, but on the other hand, you must take care of 80-100% of household chores, raise kids, prepare food, etc. If a woman doesn’t have an understanding and supportive partner to cooperate with in everyday life stuff, it is very difficult to hold a demanding position at work. I think society’s foundations must change, we need to stop raising our kids with predefined gender norms and old views. This, in my opinion, should significantly increase the number of women in tech or any other industry.

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

Companies should create a culture of inclusivity and diversity. Encourage open communication and actively work to eliminate biases and stereotypes. Also, provide equal pay and benefits to all the staff members. I think salary and benefits should be disclosed openly and depend on the position, performance, and goals of each employee. We would never know if we were being paid fairly if we keep salaries and benefits a top secret.

Have more internship spaces with actual real responsibilities and projects to deliver. It’s important to understand what you are getting into, not a marketing approach, but real stuff with all the meetings, problems, team dynamics, fun stuff, and everything in between.

Offer flexible work arrangements. In today’s market, it’s very important to allow for flexible schedules, remote work, and part-time work to accommodate the needs of working mothers and other caregivers.

Encourage participation in training and development programs. Provide opportunities for women to develop new skills and advance their careers. Regularly track and measure the progress made and reward for achievements or encourage growth.

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?

If I could wave a magic wand, I would eliminate unconscious bias and discrimination in the workplace. This would create a level playing field for all individuals, regardless of their gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or any other characteristic.

When everyone is judged based on their skills and abilities, rather than their demographics, it will open up more opportunities for women in the tech industry and create an environment where they can succeed and advance their careers. This would be a significant step towards achieving gender parity in the tech industry and would ultimately lead to a more diverse and innovative workforce.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I’m not good at keeping up with podcasts, one of my goals is to do better. If you want to get inspired by other women in tech or get some advice and tips to start your own journey “Women in Tech” and “CodeNewbie” are good places to start. For networking events, I strongly recommend checking your local meetup community and events in your area.

For professional development, I can recommend Coursera and LinkedIn Learning offer a wide range of online courses and tutorials to help you build and expand your technology skills. Social Media (Twitter, LinkedIn etc.) are great platforms to follow and connect with other women in tech and stay informed about the latest industry trends and opportunities.