Eva Wong: From Management Consulting to Financial Tech
Republished with permission from Make Lemonade an Evio Community Partner
Eva Wong’s career might have started in management consulting but today, she’s at the forefront of the financial technology (fintech) sector in Toronto.
As the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Borrowell, she's on a mission to empower Canadians to improve their financial well-being and make great decisions about credit.
While we’re sure every day is a new adventure, there’s one thing that’s clearly consistent – her dedication. As one of the few fintech startups with a female co-Founder, Eva continues to encourage more women to pursue a career in tech. Borrowell is also actively working towards building a diverse, gender-balanced company.
In addition to being a highly coveted speaker, Eva has received some pretty impressive award recognition. She was named to the 2017 Women in FinTech Powerlist and was a finalist for "Fintech Woman of the Year" at LendIt, the world’s biggest show in lending & fintech. Eva was named one of 20 Canadian tech start-up founders to follow by Twitter Canada, was featured as one of "9 Canadian Women Changing The Game" by Elle Canada and on Flare's #HowIMadeIt list.
Read on to learn about Eva’s career beginnings, her advice on ‘letting go’ and why community is so important:
Tell us about a time that life handed you lemons. Did you make lemonade?
I was laid off from one of my first jobs, and at the time it felt really devastating. But as I look back at the choices I made coming out of that, and the opportunities that came out of it, they were life-changing. If I hadn't been laid off from that first job, I wouldn't have moved to Malawi, Africa for a year, I wouldn't have gone to Harvard for grad school - and I wouldn't have met my husband!
Describe your ideal work environment to get sh*t done.
I think it depends on what you mean by getting sh*t done. :) The work environment at Borrowell is very collaborative - we all sit in an open area so that we can overhear conversations and ask quick questions of our colleagues. We do also have quiet work areas and dedicated collaboration spaces in case people are having longer conversations. So it is collaborative for getting stuff done, but in terms of pure execution I probably do that in quieter moments outside regular work hours.
After that first year, how did you scale your business and continue to grow?
About a year in, Borrowell became the first company in Canada to offer credit scores for free, no strings attached. That was a big boost for us, and helped us really step change our growth.
How do you measure success in your career?
That's changed over time, but today I'd say I ask myself, "Am I proud of what we're accomplishing as a team? Am I learning? Am I developing people? Do I enjoy what I'm doing? Do I have a life outside work?" If I can answer yes to all those things in my current role (and I'm thankful I can!), I think I'll be in good shape for my career.
"I KNOW A LOT OF PEOPLE, AND MAYBE MORE WOMEN, ARE VERY HARD ON THEMSELVES. THEY WANT TO DO MORE AT WORK AND MORE AT HOME, AND NEVER FEEL LIKE IT'S ENOUGH. I DO WHAT I CAN DO."
How much of your success as an entrepreneur has come from taking risks versus playing it safe?
The stereotype is that entrepreneurs are out there taking crazy risks. I don't think we're like that - maybe because we're in financial services. We've definitely taken calculated risks, but for the most part we're more focused on setting stretch goals and working hard to achieve them.
You're 30 minutes away from walking into an important meeting. What do you do to get yourself in the right headspace?
I review key messages, make sure I know important key metrics, and then try to relax. If I'm feeling nervous I'll go for a walk and clear my head.
Was there ever a moment that you questioned your decision to become an entrepreneur? How did you overcome it?
I don't think I have! It's been such an exhilarating journey. There are definitely lots of ups and downs but I have no regrets.
What do you love most about yourself?
That I can let go of things. I know a lot of people, and maybe more women, are very hard on themselves. They want to do more at work and more at home, and never feel like it's enough. I do what I can do.
What is your best negotiation tip?
Ask. If you don't ask, you won't know. Just ask.
What is one thing you wish you knew before becoming your own boss?
How important the community is. You can't know all the answers, and you want to surround yourself with lots of smart, supportive people.