Want to Make an Impact in Business? Don't Be Afraid to Scare Yourself.

An approach to work -- and life -- for those who truly want to make a difference.
Want to Make an Impact in Business? Don't Be Afraid to Scare Yourself.
Image credit: Stijn Dijkstra | EyeEm | Getty Images

At key points in my career I’ve taken jobs that seemed risky and scary, but in fact, were about to be great opportunities.

I’ve run toward jobs where I could see the future impact they’d have. I went after the jobs that I could see created value, instead of chasing the bright shiny object. I sought out opportunities that could change a company, and potentially an industry. Scary at first, but good choices in the end.

These jobs were all in banking – first with Capital One, next Barclays, and now as CIO of GS Bank, which includes Marcus by Goldman Sachs.

Related: Entrepreneurship is a Game of Calculated Risk

Each gave me the opportunity to work at scale, utilize technology and solve wicked problems. Also, while it’s not exactly saving lives, banking helps people to buy a home, start a new business, or send a child to college, improving lives in countless ways.

If you’ve thought about sitting on this side of the startup world but aren’t sure if it is right for you, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you curious?
  • Are you constantly trying to figure out how to bend tech to your will?
  • Are you trying to do something different?

We can teach the skills, what we’re looking for is the right attitude. If you answered yes to those question, let’s go a little deeper.

  • What is the depth of your desire?
  • Are you driven to change an industry?
  • Do you wake up in the morning and tell yourself, "Today I’m going to change someone’s life"?

Related: 12 Top Fintech Companies to Watch

If your desire puts you on the job search, here are some tips to help you stand out when interviewing in Fintech or banking in general:

  • Know what your super power is and be truthful about it. Don’t try to manufacture a persona because you’re trying to fit a preconception about banking. Own who you are and what you are.
  • Show you’ve done your legwork. Join the right industry groups. Find ways to have coffee with the right people. If you’ve jumped in already, that means you’ll jump in with us, too.
  • Show you’re concerned, because you know our industry is going through major changes. Demonstrate that you’re not fearless but you have less fear, which allows you to attack real problems. You want to make a difference and you’ve chosen banking to do it.
  • Don’t follow-up with an email. Send me a handwritten note instead. Something that’s a genuine thank-you and not a protocol. This is a personal preference of mine and a strong one, though everyone may not share it.

Many of the young tech professionals who I interview see financial services in black and white. They separate banking from Fintech -- banks are staid and boring, Fintech is cool.

In fact, it’s a symbiotic relationship. Banks need the R&D and the disruptive thinking of Fintech, but Fintech alone can’t provide banking’s unique and powerful assets -- experience, scale, and the ability to impact millions of lives daily.

Related: How to Start a Business With (Almost) No Money

Many industries conjure the idea of making the world a better place, but very few of them help real people with real-life challenges. Banks today are becoming better, more accessible and more responsive than ever. 

We’re investing heavily in technology and in the people who can make technology bend in new ways and shapes.

At the end of the day, always make sure you’re looking for a problem that is worth solving and most importantly, don’t be afraid to scare yourself. The “scary” job is the risk worth taking.

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