Ralitsa MitevaRalitsa Miteva is a Fraud Detection and Prevention Solutions Manager at OneSpan.

Ralitsa advises financial institutions and other organisations about the evolving fraud landscape and helps them overcome new prevention challenges during their digital transformation.

She has more than 12 years of experience in tech and anti-fraud, where she’s been focused on researching fraud patterns and new trends, managing fraud rules and policies and helping both the business and end-users.

Ralitsa is also immersed in machine learning and how it impacts fraud detection and analysis.

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

I studied for a Masters in Economics and Management of Information Communication Technologies, where the focus was mainly on Telecommunications, so it made sense to move into that sector once I graduated. I started my anti-fraud career, thirteen years ago by working in the fraud department of at a mobile operator, but I then discovered digital payment technologies and realised fraud is much more diverse when payments are involved. I worked with various financial institutions to learn about their pains and their problems, before working alongside them to find solutions.

The pandemic has seen my role and the role of technology grow in importance as banks look to digital technologies to enable remote banking and provide all services through digital channels. This move to digital has increased the need for robust fraud monitoring and many banks are looking to find a trusted partner to show them the way to a safe digital transformation.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? Are you creative or analytical? Did you know that you needed your career to be in one of those spheres. What degree do you have or experience that led to join a telco?

There is no doubt I have an analytical mind, as I’m fascinated by patterns and finding connections and insights in data. I always want to give my best for any customer project as seeing a happy customer makes me happy. I want them to see the human behind the corporation, to feel valued, to know I listen to them and I do everything I can to help them.

I continue to focus my career on developing my professional credentials, learning as much as I can and seeing clients benefit from the support and insights I bring to them. The fact that no day is ever the same for me is the icing on the cake. I love what I do and can’t imagine doing anything else.

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

I am from Bulgaria where women and men are on an equal footing and there are as many strong women working in technology as men. It is quite different in Western Europe, where women need to prove themselves as subject matter experts every day. It feels like we need to be sharper and work harder, because every mistake we make will be remembered for long time, so finding the right chain of sponsors becomes key to ongoing success.

In terms of challenges, the first was definitely leaving my home country and building a career in an international setting. Secondly, working as the vendor at a customer site to hone my softer skills. Working onsite helped me learn to prioritise, as well as put the time in to build my career and win their trust. I worked on that customer project for two years and made it success. This role led to one of my career highs where I identified a major fraud attack and stopped the client from losing millions. It gained national media coverage and I felt proud of the role I played in averting financial losses.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Achievements can have different dimensions. For example, knowing you spotted the fraudulent activity that was shown on national TV, to a  customer sending you a letter of thanks, or gaining internal feedback for your role in supporting a customer win.

I will never forget the first job I had where I was part of a team helping customers hit by a telephone scam, I took longer than I ought to supporting one lady who was so upset about the potential impact of the scam. She came to our office with a bouquet of flowers from her garden and a handmade card to say thanks. For me, these little acts of kindness make everything feel worthwhile.

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

My family. My focus is on my daughter seeing me as inspirational, the way I did with my Dad and Grandmother. My Grandmother lost her husband at 27 and was left alone with two small kids. Everything she did was to benefit my Dad and Aunt, who both had successful careers in Engineering and Finance. I think her ambition for her family has influenced me to be a role model for my daughter. If my daughter is as proud of me as I am of my family, I will have achieved everything I need to.

I don’t think I’ve fully succeeded yet. It is still a work in progress. I hope to one day be seen as an anti-fraud expert, rather than a female expert. Until then, I’ll continue to drive on, work hard and do the best job I can.

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

Find a good sponsor, who is willing to develop people around them. Look outside your area of knowledge to learn from a successful female who might see herself in you and to try to do accelerate your career with her experience and knowledge. A mentor in a different area gives you the insight to see things from a different perspective, or angle and to refine your approach and behaviours to grow and succeed. It is also worth looking to network where possible as there is so many options on offer to meet and chat with similar people.

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

The professional opportunities for women often stretch to middle management but very rarely as far as the C-level. Unfortunately, most women still need to choose between career and family. I personally know many women who chose to stay in lower positions focus on their family. But equally I’m lucky to know women who have succeeded while managing a family. I hope to see more of the latter in the future. Hopefully, as Covid has changed working practices, companies will continue to be much more open to the flexibility of teleworking that will allow better life balance for women looking to build a career. Since working from home, I personally save three hours commuting which enables me to give more time to my work and to my family.

I think it is easier for women in organizations where there are more females at every level, particularly in management. They set the example and define the tone. If you have enough strong female leaders, the overall attitude in the organization will be much more accepting and “female-friendly”. You should not hire and promote women just to improve the statistics, but hire and promote the best professionals to prove they can be female too.

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

Women need their voice to be heard and gain visibility of their contribution to company success. Successful organisations are set up to support every worker to excel. Organisations are starting to modify HR practices to allow greater flexibility to help women flourish. At OneSpan, we had women profiled as part of cybersecurity month and are building internal communications programs to champion women in the workplace. Having C-suite backing is a key to the success of these initiatives for every organisation – it has to come from the top down.

There are 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?

We need to break the stereotypes. We need to promote more female success stories. We need more women in security and especially more women leaders to inspire young women and to show them that women can be successful in the industry. But we have to focus on STEM careers earlier, it has to start in schools to show girls there is a future in technology for them. This is starting to happen, but there is a long way to go.

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