Molly Levy, LiberisLiberis Group is expanding its global footprint, opening offices in the US and Nordics.

In 12 months, the organisation has transformed from a UK operation to opening new alternative funding offerings across the globe.

Molly runs product management at Liberis and is responsible for the core platform for partners and the end-to-end experience of customers. Her background is in building and scaling startups, with a focus on customer-driven innovation and automation. Most recently, she was VP of Operations at San Francisco based fintech, TrueAccord.

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

I’m currently Product Director at Liberis, a fintech on a mission to fund small businesses across the globe. We leverage partnerships, technology and data through our funding platform, to get small businesses the funding they need to thrive. My team looks after the products we offer, the customer and partner experiences, partner integrations, and the underlying platform. I manage a cross-functional team of product managers, analysts, and designers. Before I moved to London I worked in San Francisco in startups and tech companies, most recently as VP Operations at a fintech automating debt collection. I am passionate about customer-driven innovation and building products customers love.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I have, yes! But it never turns out like the pictures I draw! I’m naturally quite a reflective person and I like to plan, two qualities that suit me well in a product management career. I put a lot of thought into my career and aim to be deliberate about the choices I make but you can’t plan everything. Moving to London was not documented in any of my career planning but the opportunity arose and here I am. Figuring out what I’m good at and what environments I do well in has been the most valuable aspect of career planning for me as it has meant I can be flexible enough to stay open-minded while staying demanding about the important stuff.

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

Of course. Especially early in my career I took on everything I could possibly get my hands on. I wanted more responsibility, new challenges, and even more impactful roles. I often did this without delegating or letting go of any areas of responsibility, so while I was recognized as a delivery machine, I was often overwhelmed and built functions that couldn’t scale with the business. Silicon Valley has quite a competitive culture and that was certainly my experience, so I didn’t see a lot of examples of supportive and collaborative teams where leaders could show weakness, or even have too much on and ask for help.

This improved over time as my confidence increased but additionally, a great (female!) boss was instrumental in adjusting my perception on ownership and delivery. She helped me see I wasn’t a superstar if I wasn’t building a team of superstars around me.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

A single big career achievement doesn’t come to mind (maybe it’s coming!) but I’ve had lots of smaller achievements. Nearly all of them happened when I thought I couldn’t do something or felt out of my depth. Usually there were late nights involved, lots of stress, sometimes tears. Then not only did I make it through to the other end of the tunnel, but more often than not the positive feedback I received showed me that I am usually my own toughest critic. For me achievements come when I push myself far outside of where I’m comfortable and keep expectations really high. I tend to take this approach with my team as well – keep expectations high and occasionally give them more than they think they can handle. Doing this in a supportive environment makes sure we’re all growing.

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

Tough question, but I think it is probably internal motivation. I have had some great bosses but I’ve also had some work environments that were not inspiring or challenging. I figured out a way to make the best out of the situation and still get a lot out of the role.

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

Stay close to the customer. It doesn’t matter if you’re an engineer or in business development, connecting with the people using the product your business sells will make you better at your job.

Speak up! Have opinions and articulate them. Make giving and receiving feedback a core part of your skillset and practice it at every opportunity.

Explore & play around in the market. Download new apps, create test accounts with your competitors, and experience completely unrelated technology products. This will help you to stay close to what’s happening in the market and most likely spur ideas. A separate email account for your exploration is definitely necessary!

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

People often point to the lack of formal barriers and highlight successful women, people of colour, or other minorities as proof that everyone has an equal chance at success. The reality is the path to success is significantly easier for some people than for others and it’s a big frustration of mine that those with all the advantages in the world automatically assume because their path was easy, if only others would work hard they could have an easy path to success as well.

I tend to think about it from two perspectives. People from all walks of life need to be aware of their own advantages and privilege otherwise they’ll never understand the disadvantages others have. Companies can help push this agenda by leading from the top, making it an active conversation, encouraging bias training and diversity exercises. The other side is about empowering the diversity that already exists within the company to speak up and own their differences. Companies that actively promote individuality over conformity have the right idea.

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

More often than not, when we talk about women in tech, the default is white women in tech, which is exclusive and harmful. To start, there has to be a widespread acceptance that we are not just trying to solve for a male/female ratio. Not everyone identifies as one or the other and the forces of racism, sexism, and homophobia are so intricately intertwined with sexism it’s impossible to separate.

Companies can start by publicly stating their commitment to a diverse & inclusive workplace, sharing numbers on the status quo and setting clear targets. Even this simple first step is avoided by many companies that aim to support women. Like any business goal, if you don’t clearly set the objective and track progress against it, it won’t happen.

There is currently only 17 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?

A lot of people will probably be pleased that I don’t have a magic wand! For the sake of argument, I’d wave my magic wand and promote every single woman in tech to the next level. They’d have more hiring responsibility and be more likely to bring more women into the business, they’d get more experience acting at the next level and be more likely to further their career. Evidence suggests many women are working below their competence level so on aggregate, my magical action probably wouldn’t even result in less productive companies.

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

I don’t have a lot of recommendations here, it’s probably something I need to work on myself. I’d recommend the women in silicon roundabout conference. Personally, I get a daily Techcrunch newsletter that I skim to keep up with the big stories.I also listen to 100 PMs, a podcast that interviews product managers.