Maria is passionate about educating consumers on financial products and services whilst providing choice to help people achieve their personal financial goals without negative impact. A committed supporter of women in IT and technology she has spoken at a number of external events on these topics and is a champion of the many related KPMG networks.
She has been nominated for the 2020 Tech Star Award.
Can you tell us about your job role?
I have an amazing role at KPMG. I am working as Director of Innovation within the Advanced Analytics consulting team focusing on the financial services sector. I help clients draw valuable insights from external and internal data to unearth new business ideas. This can vary from simple solutions, to creating something completely new - for example, reimagining end-to-end commercial lending or setting up a new digital bank. We also actually build and run solutions ourselves. which is really exciting.
In association with Imperial College, I lead Data Sparks, utilising bright young minds from the university to work collaboratively on short, tangible client challenges.
I also am part of our Open Banking lab. It helps firms implement Open Banking standards, but more importantly discuss and build around the expansion of its standards to allow far broader use with the ultimate aim of helping more end consumers. I also lead another data driven proposition, our Global Signals Repository, which allows our clients to integrate external data with their in-house data to draw greater insights, including through the use of AI.
Lastly, I am also privileged to be a part of KPMG Lighthouse, our global centre of excellence for data & analytics and emerging technologies. I assist member firms across EMEA with setting up their lighthouses locally, coaching them through the best practises, process and types of resources needed to ensure alignment globally.
What achievement in your career are you most proud of?
If I am to reflect, I am particularly proud of the interesting people that I have been privileged to work with. However, my biggest pride is seeing numerous mentees reach their potential or land that dream job.
Growing up in the Soviet Union, I have always had big dreams and aspirations that most of my peers, or even teachers looked down on or laughed at. I am extremely proud of the opportunities that have come my way, and I am grateful to have made it this far.
You’re an active supporter of female talent in IT/Technology/Data, what have you been involved with?
In every organisation that I have been part of, I have either joined or in many cases created new networks to foster female talent in Data/Tech/IT domains. This is mainly because I have observed how successful my male colleagues were at using their networks, but I did not see the same happen among the women.
At S&P Global Market Intelligence, we had a great initiative, WINS (Women’s Initiative for Networking at Success) that I was involved in. At KPMG as well, we have numerous initiatives like IT’s Her Future, IT’s Not Just for Boys, Women on Boards as well as a small Advanced Analytics Ladies Luncheons that I have set up. In smaller organisations or outside of work, I spend a considerable amount of time networking and mentoring those who seek my guidance. Whilst I am very passionate about elevating female talent, it is especially rewarding as I never had such opportunities myself. I hope that I am helping the next generation, who in turn will likely do the same. It is always easier when we do something together.
What would you advise to someone who is considering becoming a mentor?
I would say do it! As simple as that. Sign up, and reap the benefits of the mentor/mentee relationships. Many feel that mentoring is a one-side transaction, whereas I have learned so much from my mentees that I am as thankful to them as they are to me.
I would however urge to have a pragmatic approach towards mentoring.
Be realistic with time commitment. Don’t take on too many mentees. Give them the required attention. Look for the right fit. Establish goals at the beginning what the mentee is looking for and whether it is a skill set that you are strong in and can share.
I am very transparent on elements that I am strong in and those that I am not. Also, it needs to be a good personality fit. Set goals and KPIs to assess whether mentor/mentee have been successful at what they were tasked to achieve. They don’t need to be complicated, but there needs to be a measure of success. Most importantly, have fun, enjoy the process, be human and open. It is far more rewarding being yourself than approaching it with a very formal process in mind.
Who are your tech heroines?
Neri Oxman is one of my modern life female superheroes who I absolutely admire and am in awe of. I find it absolutely fascinating to see how she uses technology, engineering, chemistry, architecture, biology and design to create. She is an Israeli designer and a professor at the MIT Media Lab, where she leads the Mediated Matter research group.
Lisa Heneghan, our chief digital officer, is probably my current KPMG heroine that I look up to. She leads our high-end technology capability focused on delivering best-in-class solutions across an extensive range of specialisations. I have so much admiration for her expertise, guidance and way of working.
Do you have a favourite book that you return to?
Too many to name! Oddly, I consciously try not to read too many industry specific books, but rather spend most of my time reading fiction as it helps me to expand my mind and think through how I would act in a situation.
If I were to highlight one, then I would recommend, Thank you for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations by Thomas L. Friedman. It is an absolute gem in terms of showcasing the tectonic movements that are reshaping the world today. It also explains how to get the most out of them and cushion their worst impacts.