The Myth of Meritocracy has been practiced since the early ages of civilization. Being rewarded for what one is worthy, without any discrimination, seems a legit and correct way to admire an individual’s competence. It can witnessed the world is filled with such exemplary individuals who attained successful statures. Meet one such individual with unique skill sets and ideologies, Victoria Shanks. With over 20 years of experience within Financial Services Technology, she serves as an Executive Director of First Derivatives & Global Head of Kx Services.
CIO LOOK admires such leaders and their exemplary contribution in evolving financial sectors. It takes pride to feature Victoria, an adherent leader in its special issue “Women in Tech, 2019.”
Here is her story
When she joined First Derivatives (FD), the company was only a small team of 5 people. Since then, the company has grown at an astounding pace and now has nearly 3,000 employees across the globe. She grew with the company and as a result, leadership and responsibility naturally evolved. Her role changes over the years, from office manager to financial engineer to Executive Director, which is where she is today. She has around 500 employees under practice areas she is directly responsible for, and having been an on-site consultant herself for several years, she has the knowledge and experience to lead her team to success.
FD’s key foundations have always been focused on understanding the business domain of financial services as well as the technology needs. It may sound simplistic, but that is still a key differentiator. Her company’s training and graduate program is second to none, which offers young employees a fast track on their career and develops their skill set. The core assets of any consulting organization are the knowledge and experience of its staff and they have invested in a program to ensure their clients are provided with consistent and optimum service.
She quotes and I highlight, “We know what we are good at—delivery!” At First Derivatives, she and her team focus on their sweet spots. If a competitor is better suited to the opportunity then they are honest and advised as such. Their best sales people are ex customers who have used their services and products in a suitable manner. She also quotes, “Never over promise”. She promotes what the company does best, which continues to lead to repeat business. They focus on their strengths and maintain excellent client relationships. She also states that every business woman out there must possess certain vital traits to grow—honesty, flexibility and the ability to listen.
Throughout the course of her career, Victoria faced many obstacles. Her biggest professional challenges came when the company was also facing challenges – there have been upturns and downturns in the wider business as the industry has changed over the years. As a company, they focused on their key strengths and worked within the changing environment to really develop the NearShore and Regulatory business, which allowed them to offer key skills in lower cost locations. The flexibility to adapt meant they actually had their biggest period of growth after the 2007-2008 crises. She thinks, in general, the key to overcoming challenges is flexibility and being able to adapt to the volatile changes.
As the technology landscape is constantly evolving, the new trends are emerging at an incredible rate. By observing the market and listening to what clients and industry peers are saying/doing, she tries to keep up with the major trends in the industry. Not only is this important for her personal career but for the business. It is also important to pass the knowledge of these trends on to the wider company and ensure people who work for the company are also up-to-date with new technology trends. At FD, the training program is flexible and they are able to adapt and step up the training to meet the needs of the environment.
Moreover, she fully believes in being rewarded for the ability. Well-trained talent with the right work ethic will naturally result in high-performance and impressive achievements. In today’s technical arena, if you have a natural capability you can rise up the ranks and be rewarded with key responsibilities and interesting work much faster than in a traditional work setting. At FD, she presents opportunities for her employees across the lines of business to succeed – “You have the support to orchestrate your own destiny, and if you have the ability, FD will recognize and reward.”
Victoria continues to see her objectives focused on supporting her team on the journey of growth. The expansion FD has made now into new business verticals is hugely exciting, but the core business will remain the focus; she says, “Keep your core strong and the branches will grow.” So it’s really more of the same but bigger, better and more varied.
She has also been playing a key role in driving the Cloud initiative within FD and Kx, her software division. Naturally, there is a strategic focus on the importance of Cloud and ensuring the team is delivering the best service, so she will continue to be heavily involved in this area as well.