Jenny spent an idyllic childhood in Singapore enjoying the tropical climate, before pulling her socks up and pursued a degree in maths and economics at the London School of Economics. She then entered the world of finance as a graduate trainee in Credit Suisse. In the last 20 years with Credit Suisse, she has done a variety of roles across Business and Technology. She has worked in client relationship management, application engineering, infrastructure, and program management, before landing in Big Data and Artificial Intelligence.
How does it feel to be nominated for our Tech Star Award?
When I joined Credit Suisse as a graduate trainee in their Technology program, I was the only person who had not done a hard-core computer science degree. I remember feeling utterly inadequate and weighed down by the “imposter syndrome”.
Now, 20 years later, to be recognised for my work in technology, and nominated for the Tech Star Award is indeed a great honour (and a great surprise!).
I hope this will inspire the younger generation, and demonstrate that you can still succeed even if you do not start out with all the right tools in your pocket. Life is a journey, the final destination is a result of opportunities you grasp along the way, and the grit and passion you put in. An important factor for success is also having a good support network around you at work – I have been incredibly fortunate to be mentored by great managers along the way, people who inspire and motivate you, people who give you good advice and opportunities to steer your career journey, and a collaborative partnership culture to work in.
Can you tell us about your career path leading to your current role?
Credit Suisse has a great internal mobility program, it is strongly encouraged and actively supported. That program has really helped me uplift in skills, experience different business areas, and expanded my network. In the last 20 years, I have done 8 roles across the firm.
I started in Equities Technology where I developed a good understanding of front office application development and infrastructure support. 2 years into my career, I was then given the opportunity to manage a team of developers. It was very much being thrown in at the deep end, and particularly challenging as I then had to outsource that service to a vendor and offshore location. I learnt so much about management and leadership from that experience, it also gave me the confidence to work outside my comfort zone (and survive at the end of it!).
After the outsourcing program was complete, I moved into project management and client relationship management. I got this role through a colleague who felt I had the right skills and temperament. Even though I had no formal project management qualifications at the time, he took a bet on me, giving me the environment and support to develop my skills. One of the advantages coming in fresh is that I wasn’t spouting project management jargon and weighed down by process. I learnt to bridge the gap between the Business and Technology teams. Everyone was “speaking a different language”, I acted as the conduit to bring everyone to a common understanding of requirements and deliverables. I was also the single point of contact for various lines of business regarding Technology, where I helped advise on IT strategy and budgets, and managed global technology programs.
During this time, I had two kids. When I returned from maternity my manager offered me flexible working. I did a job share and worked three days a week for about four years. At that time I felt I should be working more to make up for the maternity break and career advancement, but looking back, I am glad my manager made me value the bigger things in life. I am truly appreciative of that opportunity as it meant I didn’t miss out on my kids first steps, first words, first drawings, first day at school, etc. Those are times and experiences you can never rewind the clock on.
Three and a half years ago, I decided I wanted a new challenge and direction in my career, and embarked on a new role doing program management in Big Data. This exposed me to the latest technologies and world of start-ups. Technology in that space moves at such a fast pace. Every day is different. Every day you are faced with different issues and different solutions, you need a very innovative and agile mindset (plus stamina) to keep up. One of my projects was deploying an electronic communications surveillance platform, in response to regulatory requirements as a result of the FX/LIBOR scandal. This has since grown into a global strategic platform, where we develop behavioural analytics to detect potentially malicious or anomalous activity. Doing analytics on unstructured data and human context opened up avenues in deep learning. We developed inhouse natural language processing algorithms using neural networks to tackle false positive signals, emotional sentiment, and human behaviour.
You are a member of the Credit Suisse IT Women’s Champions and Modern Muse program, can you tell us more about that?
The IT Women’s Champions is an internal Credit Suisse network, bringing together a globally diverse set of voices working together to empower women across the organisation. It focuses on providing and facilitating opportunities for professional development; with the aim to attract, retain, and promote talent.
The Modern Muse program was launched to provide young women with inspirational role models in professional organisations. The Modern Muse objective is about inspiring and engaging the next generation of female talent through showcasing the talents and achievements of Credit Suisse women today, who are ambassadors and strong role models.
In both programs, we organise regular STEM education sessions. We invite school children into Credit Suisse for interactive workshops, providing them an insight into the functions within a financial organisation, and the potential of a career within this industry. We also visit schools and participate in their assemblies, classroom sessions, and workshops to get school children enthusiastic about STEM as a subject. We do try to bang the STEM-drum whenever and wherever possible!
How do you think men can best support women with regards to gender equality?
Having started in technology 20 years ago, I remember the days when it was normal for me to be the only woman in a team or the only woman in a meeting. Making your voice heard was difficult. I had to observe and learn how men operated, and find ways to stand out or get my opinions heard. At training courses early in my career, we were frequently told to be more assertive and to power dress to compete in the male-dominated world. It would be great if men also take the time and effort to understand how women operate and adapt or adjust their style to ensure equal collaboration. Women should not have to act like men to succeed.
Why do you think gendered awards are still so important?
Women are usually more reserved about their achievements. Self-promotion and pats on one’s back is not a natural instinct. Having a forum dedicated to recognise their work, to give them an avenue to showcase their achievements is a great boost to their public confidence. These awards also enable women to see that they are not alone on this journey. The nominations and shortlists themselves demonstrate that there are plenty of other women who have achieved great things, and we can all collectively recognise and celebrate their phenomenal contribution. These awards are more than just a competition, it is a platform for women to feel empowered and appreciated, and open up opportunities for collaborative partnership.
What job did you want to do as a child?
I wanted to be an Egyptologist. Ancient history and civilizations have always fascinated me. It is still a passion of mine and I hope that one day I can pursue a path in archaeology. There is still so much we can learn from the past.