Yasmin Johal

Inspirational Woman: Yasmin Johal | Associate, CMS

Meet Yasmin Johal, Associate at CMS

Yasmin Johal

Yasmin is an Associate in the Financial Services Regulatory team. She advises financial services firms, market participants and investors on a range of complex UK and EU regulatory issues, with a particular focus on FinTech. She works with banks, FinTech firms, investment managers and advisers, crypto firms, insurance intermediaries, market makers, payment institutions, pension fund clients, private equity firms and private investment groups. Yasmin has first-hand client experience and has worked within investment banking, corporate banking, private banking and fiduciary management teams in both the UK and US financial markets.

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

I am an Associate at CMS specialising in FinTech and I sit in the Financial Services Regulation team. I provide specialist advice and help shape developments in the FinTech and financial services industries internationally. I have worked within investment banking, corporate banking, private banking and fiduciary management teams across both the UK and US financial markets.

I am a thought leader in the FinTech space and a long-standing contributor to the Harrington Starr award-winning FinTech Magazine where I write provoking and innovative thought leadership on the FinTech industry. I am also a tech speaker, podcast host and an advocate for increasing female & BAME representation in fintech. I have authored industry thought leadership pieces on financial regulation, FinTech & innovation and D&I.

Throughout my career, I have received multiple awards for my work in FinTech and D&I, including:

1. Women in FinTech Powerlist awarded 2022 – Innovate Finance
2. Highly Commended, DE&I Champion 2021 – Harrington Starr’s FinTech Awards.
2. Standout 35 Star in the Women in FinTech Powerlist awarded 2021 – Innovate Finance.
3. #TechWomen100 2020 Award Winner – WeAreTechWomen.

 Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Growing up, like most children from a North Indian descent household, it was either becoming a doctor, an accountant or a lawyer. I hate blood and my maths is awful, so there really was only one option!

In hindsight, it was probably the best decision I made; some of the most successful politicians, CEOs and world leaders have trained as lawyers! The skills that you learn, in terms of analytical, communication and negotiation, are transferable skills to any aspect of work or personal life. I’ve also been fortunate enough to find a niche where I have combined my interests in finance, technology and law and specialised as a FinTech lawyer, something that I really enjoy.

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

The biggest challenge that I have faced is that of imposter syndrome. Am I good enough for this, should I really be here, are all thoughts that creep into my head even today. But I have found that having a strong support network, personally and professionally, and taking a step back and looking at how far I have come helps push these thoughts aside.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Being recognised as a multi-award winning lawyer at a relatively junior stage of my career. It is great to be recognised not only for my technical ability (as a FinTech lawyer) but also because of my passion and role in increasing more women and people from BAME backgrounds into FinTech careers.  

Level Up Summit 2022

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 

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

My champions and cheerleaders. My support network has taken me a long way. I have a great family, supporting friends, colleagues and mentors and if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be doing what I am today!

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

Connect, connect, connect! Find other women that are where you want to be, reach out to them, set up coffees and learn from them. The bigger your network the better! The best advice I have ever received is cast your net as widely as possible – people you work with now will be giving you instructions or helping leading initiatives in 10 years’ time. Widen your network and contact list, make sure this list has as many tech people as possible, they will be your friends, colleagues or clients at one point.

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

Indeed so. Some of the most significant barriers to increasing female representation in Tech include:

  • balancing childcare and family demands with work;
  • accessing funding – at every stage, female-led businesses receive less funding than male-led businesses;
  • access to professional networks in the industry; and
  • a lack of self-belief – 1 in 6 women believe they lack the necessary skills and knowledge.

Combatting these barriers to entry demands a multifaceted approach, one element of which is to encourage women and girls into tech and STEM fields and to promote the development of coding and data skills. Creating and building products that advance the way in which women contribute to and access financial services is also imperative to improving the gender disparity in Tech.  Finally, the importance of firm culture and inclusivity cannot be overstated. Diversity and inclusion should be on every Tech firm’s agenda and be afforded priority.

This can be achieved through the adoption of hybrid and flexible working, zero tolerance of sexual harassment and sexism, and inclusive recruitment practices. Role models, education, networking and showcasing talent are just a few things that can help encourage more women in tech. We need to amplify the profiles of successful women to encourage the next generation of women in Tech.

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?

Normalise the stay at home / part – time dad. Statistics show that more women give up working, or go part-time after having children. If we can shift this mind-set and encourage women to accelerate and excel their careers, after child-birth, and perhaps become the “bread-winner” then we will see an increase in women in tech, across all levels and hierarchies.

What is your call to action with regards to what more we should be doing for workplace inclusion?

Two things:

Organisational level – To get someone diverse into the room, you need affirmative action. Organisations need to be actively having programmes, training sessions, mentoring, role models and the likes of these brilliant things to get people from diverse backgrounds not only in the room but having a seat at the table and contributing to decision making.

Individual level – make sure that there at least another 2 people in that room that look like you, talking like you, come from a background that you did. If every person actively does this, and helps make the changes to ensure the room make up is like this, then the table will be diverse in itself.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Megatech – Technology in 2050 which is interesting book published by the economist. A collection of thought-provoking insights which imagine how big developments in technology might shape the future from farming, financial services, digital identity, AI and healthcare. It is very interesting read and you have collaborators such as Melinda Gates, Tim cross.

Harvard’s’ introduction into computer science courses – which can be completed for free on EDX platform – there are variations and one specifically for lawyers. It is a good insight into the basics of technology and programming, and a good foundation in understanding technological programmes.