This week on #WinWithWomen we sat down with Krizelle Lazatin who is the territory sales manager for the Philippines market at Brankas, a FinTech company delivering open banking solutions in Southeast Asia. Krizelle has over 10 years of sales experience that includes a stint at Cebu Pacific Air, Shell, Kimberly Clark and CRIF. In this interview, Krizelle talks about her initial fears around pursuing a career in technology and how women can approach tough conversations at the workplace.
Hi Krizelle, thanks for your time today. Could you share with our readers what your career path has been?
After my first job as an Account Executive with an aviation company, I moved to a Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) company which became the starting point for my career in institutional sales. I realized that a sales role would provide exposure to a wide range of people and circumstances and I could immediately apply my learnings yet be challenged at the same time. Learning to manage the pressure of an intense and demanding role helped me to build confidence to be bold and brave to pursue new industries.
I am currently a Territory Sales Manager for the Philippines market at Brankas, the leading open banking enabler in Southeast Asia. I am in charge of client and territory sales growth with a focus on the enterprise sector. I am also responsible for partnerships with and the management of prospective Brankas partners. Further, I work with the Brankas leadership team to continuously improve the company’s go-to-market strategy and provide market feedback and insights to other teams.
What made you consider a career move from FMCG to technology?
I’ve always been curious about technology but was initially slightly intimidated by the thought of a career in it. As more technologies surfaced, it became evident that technology was going to be part of all aspects of daily life. I decided to explore the FinTech space because the finance industry is a traditional industry and I wanted to understand the role and the extent that technology could play in evolving it. In joining the FinTech space, I came to realise that technology would play a key role in financial inclusion, so this gave me a stronger social purpose to pursue, participate and contribute to an industry that is driven towards serving the underbanked and making financial services available to everyone.
It’s interesting to hear your perspective that you were initially intimidated by the idea of joining technology. What advice would you offer to young women who are interested in a career in technology but either lack a technology background or are intimidated by technology?
Go for it! As mentioned, I didn’t come from a technology background and had always been slightly intimidated by pursuing a career in the industry as I initially had the mindset that it requires technology expertise. However, I now believe that the tech industry is one that encourages a “blank slate” mindset and that there are opportunities to bring novel experiences from other industries to help drive innovation. While experience is helpful, entering with a blank slate can be equally favourable as the technology industry is an evolving sector where fresh perspectives are always welcome.
As with any industry, you must be willing to learn, research trends and familiarize yourself with what would be relevant to your target market. Sometimes, the demand for learning requires “unlearning” as well. My prior sales experience in the FMCG industry required me to understand what customers need, but this is not so straightforward in the technology industry. Clients might not know what is out there or what they need. Depending on the industry, some clients do not see technology as a “need to have” and so they tend to overlook opportunities unless a specific situation arises or forces them into it, such as the pandemic.
I think what’s most important in pursuing a career in technology is not just your background or your expertise but your purpose in joining the industry. If your heart is set towards contributing to society through technology solutions and you are willing to work at it, you’ll find a place in the industry.
Could you share your experience as a female leader in a FinTech company? What advice would you have for women aspiring for leadership roles?
I always try to be as authentic as I can be and embrace my femininity – who I am, my vulnerabilities, my capacity to be in touch with my emotions, to be intuitive and to be empathetic. I’ve had experiences where these traits have been challenged by internal and external stakeholders and seen as a weakness. Nonetheless, I believe that true leadership lies in one’s authenticity more than anything and my acceptance of who I am as a woman plays a key part in my journey towards authentic leadership.
My advice for fellow women in the industry is to hold steadfast in your journey and stay true to your principles. While the road towards female leadership is evolving and continues to be a steep path for many, there may be instances where your voice remains unheard no matter how empowered you are or how loud you speak just because you are a woman. Hold strong and speak up anyway. Stay true to yourself always because people will always be able to tell when you are genuine, and it is a key step in building trust within your team. Trust your instincts and believe in your capacity to lead; if you fail, your authenticity, vulnerability and humility will be critical in enabling you to pull yourself up and start over with the trust of your people.
Do you have a role model you look up to?
There are a lot of female leaders today that serve as an inspiration for the next generation of female leaders, but I also wanted to recognize how the average woman can also be an inspiration. A huge part of who I am today is influenced by women from my household, in school, and at my workplace; all of whom have contributed to who I am today.
I was fortunate enough to have my mother instil the value of being independent and the importance of a career, but also the mindset that there is no shame in being a stay-at-home mom and raising a family.
In my early career, I found myself in companies that had women in leadership positions so it was easy for me to believe that I could be a leader someday. I also had the privilege of having female mentors who helped me to build confidence such that by the time I was working under male leadership, I knew how to channel my voice and speak up. I believe that an ecosystem of women across all levels is necessary in building the next generation of female leaders and that it is important not to underestimate our capacity to inspire. This also acts as a strong motivator for me to be genuine and work in my own way so that perhaps even from a distance, someone would see me and be inspired to discover the person they want to be.
Research has shown that women sometimes find it difficult to speak up at work; for instance, to negotiate for salaries and promotions. Based on your experience in sales, what has worked for you?
I think the best thing is being able to show and justify how we as women can make things happen and deliver results despite being stereotyped as emotional, indecisive, weak etc. These stereotypes are not always true, and if they do occur on occasions, they are not barriers to success for women.
I always make sure that I have the facts and data to support my personal brand so that I’m confident enough to speak up and can encourage objective assessment. Further, I don’t position myself as someone who can “do what a man can do”, even if that may be true. I am a capable female professional in my own right and have gotten to where I am because of how I’ve done things as a woman and I use that to my benefit.
I believe that when facing tough conversations, one needs to be self-aware and to listen. Often, we already have an opinion about things and although we open the floor for conversation, we may already be fixated on our preconceived notions and just waiting for our turn to say our piece. I try to be as open as I can towards dialogue and feedback (regardless if I’m giving or receiving it) and I always ensure that this is always done with respect.
Tough conversations can be emotionally charged, and it is important to acknowledge these emotions and to be empathetic. It’s important not to invalidate emotions just because you may feel or think differently. Lastly, it’s important to remember the purpose of these tough conversations. It is not just meant to address a problem but to reach a resolution and I always aim to conclude the conversation with a solution-oriented approach. This way, both parties can come to an agreement on how to move forward and grow from the conversation.
What has been the largest influence in forming the principles that guide your professional life?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have grown up surrounded by the arts, and a lot of the principles and practices that I apply to my professional life are a result of it. Dance has always been a part of my life, so I’ve often relied on it to get inspiration for my professional life.
Like in dance, in my sales pitches I embrace storytelling because I believe that it resonates with customers the most. I think about how my solution can add to or impact the customers’ story, the steps I can take to keep them curious and the things I can do to excite them, in order to create such an unforgettable experience that they will choose to work with me both now and in the future. I focus on a visual experience, as I would in dance, so that I can retain my audience’s interest and imagination. By creating this storytelling experience, I relate better and deeper with my customers, as I would with an audience.
Another mindset that I apply to my professional life is understanding that everything is a process and that I must trust the process. In dance, you need to have faith that the different movements, despite the awkward steps, will yield a beautiful masterpiece. There’s a beginning and an end, but the in-between can be a roller coaster and there’s also a lot of trial and error involved. Because a sales career can be a cut-throat job that is measured quantitatively, it can often be discouraging and heart-breaking when you don’t meet your performance goals. Trusting the process and understanding that it will lead to a masterpiece is a great motivator for me as I dance my way through my sales career.
Finally, there’s a favourite dance quote that I like to live by in both dance and my professional life: “Practice like you’ve never won, perform like you’ve never lost”. Practice remains constant regardless of one’s years of experience or one’s achievements. With every performance, you must give it your all on the stage like you’ve never lost, failed, or stumbled while dancing. You cannot let your failures hold you back. To me, it strikes the perfect balance between humility and determination. I believe the same can be said for sales – you grow by constantly practicing and accepting the challenges that come your way regardless of how many years of experience you’ve had and take on each role like you’ve never failed so that you can push on towards success.
Lastly, is there someone or something that inspires you?
My family has always been my inspiration and a lot of who I am today is because of the support system they have provided. I am the youngest and only girl in my family and have two older brothers. I was raised to be independent and to be a quick thinker, which has allowed me to boldly pursue my interests despite the many obstacles that women still face today.
Through my father, I had a role model for what hard work and integrity looks like as I saw how he built his career in finance despite his humble beginnings. I also witnessed how he practiced integrity as a leader in the companies he worked for and how he was never too busy to help those in need. He was the first to encourage me to try things I was interested in despite facing the fears all fathers have for their daughters. His actions serve as a reminder for me to practice the same as I push forward in my career.
Through my mother, I grew up empowered to speak for myself and to be fearless in pursuing my dreams. As a young child, she taught me to be street smart, to think for myself and to seek answers on my own. She is the reason I was able to explore the different arts growing up and I attribute my ability to courageously pursue my dreams and challenges as a woman because of how she raised me.
Finally, my two older brothers treated me as equals and enabled me to understand the male perspective. Whether it was participating in contact sports growing up, or pursuing roles in male dominated industries, they never held me back from exploring and were there to share in my experiences.
Having this strong support system has enabled me to push through obstacles in my personal and professional career as a woman. They have also been an inspiration for me to pay it forward to other women who may not have had the same privilege of having a strong support system.