Inspirational Woman: Carolina Paradas | Head of Growth, Swapi

Carolina ParadasCarolina is the Head of Growth at Swapi, new loyalty fintech. Currently responsible for strategic partnerships, product adoption and international expansion.

Having been in the partnerships space for +8 years, Carolina has a great variety of experience, from network side (Awin) to advertiser global roles at Harvey Nichols. Having been responsible for multi-million-pound budgets and global expansion strategies, Carolina now is breaching the gap between fintech and performance marketing.

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

Of course! I’m currently the Head of Growth at ‘Swapi’ which is the latest evolution of the British consumers’ loyalty app. I’m responsible for strategic partnerships, product adoption and international expansion. Having been in the partnerships space for over 8 years, I’ve had a variety of experience, from agency side, to previously working on advertiser global roles at Harvey Nichols. Having been responsible for multi-million-pound budgets and global expansion strategies, it is now my aim at Swapi to breach the gap between fintech and performance marketing.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I wouldn’t say I purposely planned my career or the path I am on now, however I have been setting milestones since I can remember, which I think is key. I went to Uni and really explored different areas and subjects, which helped to filter down where I wanted to go. I then started in partnerships where I think I really did find my ‘click/calling’. As I found something I’m really passionate about, I have focused my career moves around partnerships and growth strategies, in any space.

I do have a very vivid memory from my school days, where we had to do a ‘life project’ in year 6. We had to come up with a life plan for our career and personal life… although one of the things I had planned was to marry David Beckham (and sadly I was too late!), my career ‘plan’ was to work in a big city and in a creative job, so I guess, in a way I did plan to be here today.

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

The difference of responsibilities from a big and established brand like Harvey Nichols compared to Swapi, who are in the process of defining their own established path in the market and trying to achieve goals that no one else in the space is currently trying to do, is always going to be challenging, but equally rewarding. However, the biggest challenge I would say I’ve had and managed to overcome would be working through the pandemic with reduced team and shifting the business strategy from brick and mortar to online only.

Moving all efforts online during the pandemic and adjusting quarterly budgets was also a challenge on top of mass recruitment of new partners in a short period of time too. I overcame these challenges in several ways, the most obvious (and cliché I know, but true!) was through time management. When you work in a global role, you need to be organised with your time and priorities and setting realistic expectations helped massively with these challenges too.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I’ve had some pretty rewarding moments in my career so far, however I can narrow it down to two specific ones, the first one would be winning entrepreneur of the year in 2020 at the DCA awards. This award reflected all the hard work at my previous role, which included launching a global partnership programme, from 20 partners to 500 in total, and launching the first ever card-linked programme for my organisation.

Secondly, I think launching Swapi to market back in December felt extremely special. I had only been in the business for 4 months but to deliver the app to market and to have so many incredible partners on board felt like a huge career achievement. Combined with the response that we’ve seen since launch, has been truly rewarding.

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

I have to say having the right people by my side is a huge factor. I’ve been so lucky to have so many great mentors and peers that have given me great opportunities and helped me through any challenges. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked super hard to be given those opportunities but having the right people cheering you on definitely helps!

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

I would say to choose a route that focuses on your natural strengths and from here see what options may be available for you in the world of tech. For example, if you love to be more creative and artistic and this is where your strengths lie, the path of a UI/UX designer may be for you.

Another great way to excel your career in technology is identifying problems and bringing forward possible solutions – a great and vital skill for any industry. In a tech career identifying problems that you can solve will make all the difference. Is there a problem that’s been brought to your attention? Complicated Algorithms? Boring websites? Knowledge gaps? Once you begin addressing the problems around you, you’ll start to see your technology career accelerate.

That’s been one of the most enjoyable parts for me working at Swapi, helping to redefine the way that British, and soon to be more, consumers engage with their retailers and how those businesses reward their customers loyalty has been a truly eye-opening experience.

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

While the barriers for women working in tech being successful are thankfully being broken down, there are still huge challenges that need to be overcome, in my opinion. Like many others, self-doubt is a big player in determining women’s success in technology roles, more so than men.

One of the ways to overcome this challenge is to voice concerns and request feedback often. Having that open communication within your company helps us grow as professionals and calms the doubts that, industry (or us!) imposes on ourselves. I think it’s also important to surround yourself with the right people, those people that want to take you forward and make you feel listened to. Not only within your organisation but take networking seriously and get yourself key peers in the industry which can relate to your challenges and work together to bring the industry forward.

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

I think one way that companies can really support the progression of their female employees in technology is by providing opportunities within their organisation that aim to really support and empower them.

This could be anything from implementing mentorship programmes, specific workshops, to leadership training to support women and progress their development within their technology role. As well as this is, I’d say companies need to be open to new ideas, your employees might come up with ways to bring progress to your organisation that you haven’t thought about!

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?

First things first I’d like to see the stigma removed from the industry by educating both the sector as well as the young people involved in it. This could be addressing universities and industry wide events to share how the industry is evolving, sharing success stories from women in the industry and much more.

From an actionable point of view, the tech industry should look to provide greater opportunities for young women to experience tech companies i.e., internships, a day in the life of, etc. There isn’t enough right now to tantalise and engage those who might be unsure about their futures and turn their head towards tech!

Share, share, share! Utilising social media tools to talk about interesting trends, success stories and generally being vocal about the topics that you care about can be an extremely useful way to get your name out there and start making a difference, this is something I’d always encourage.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Networking, networking, and more networking!

Having a support community allows you to bounce off one another and is likely to not only strike inspiration but also allows you to trade knowledge, career lessons and solutions for your companies, especially when it comes to companies being more inclusive to women. There are already plenty of groups positively pushing to bring tech women together, join them!

I would also recommend industry events and resources such as podcasts too! These don’t just have to be technology focused, either, they could be entrepreneurial podcasts, for example. Partnerships are important too, Martech alliance and Digital Commerce Alliance are a great starting point for this.