Lea Sims is a Managing Director on the Digital Banking Solutions team based out of Austin, Texas. We caught up with her to learn more about her path to leadership in financial services and technology—industries where women have historically been underrepresented.
What do you do at Schwab?
I lead the Digital Payments and Money Movement team. It’s the experience that our clients use to move money into and out of Schwab via Schwab.com or the Schwab mobile app so they can begin trading and doing other things they wish.
How did you end up in financial services technology?
I went to an all-women’s college and needed a way to pay for part of my tuition. Part of my financial aid was participating in a work-study program. I was placed in a job at the computer lab, and it was my entry into technology.
After college, I was thinking about being a lawyer or going into civil service, but when I learned that I could get paid more as a technologist, I pivoted and became a technology consultant. I learned a great deal, and like most consultants, I went to work for one of our clients, running the network for a mutual funds company. This was my entry into the financial services industry.
Tell me about your path to leadership.
At one point I stepped back from the workforce to raise my children (I had three girls aged 3 and under). That gave me time to reflect on what I wanted. And when I was ready to go back to the workforce, I looked at it differently. I thought of it as an opportunity to round out my career and get experience doing lots of things that could lead me to a leadership position.
A lot of women that I’ve talked to have a similar story to mine in that it took us a while for us to feel like we could throw our names in the hat to be considered for leadership—and many of us waited too long. But at Schwab, there are many growth and development programs available. So now I tell other women to feel confident stepping up and taking on those leadership roles because the support is there for you. Put it into your IDP (individual development plan) and tell your boss that you would like to work your way to leadership.
What advice do you have for women who may be interested in careers in financial services or technology?
Have the confidence to speak up in meetings. As a woman your lens is a little different, and if you don’t share your point-of-view, others don’t get to learn from your perspective.
And there seems to be a misconception that technology only means coding. It does mean coding, but it’s also 50 other things too—like design which is an integral part of tech. So don’t think that you don’t belong just because you don’t code.
You’ve been at Schwab for three years now. What has kept you here?
In the digital space, there’s not usually many women – it’s the way the industry was built. But I see a lot more women in digital here. There’s an understanding and a respect for diversity that I’ve always felt here.
I had the opportunity to volunteer for a Latinas in Tech recruiting event this past September. I grew up in a Hispanic family, but I was also surrounded by Black and Polish communities in San Antonio. I credit the culture-sharing in my community with helping me learn how to navigate different personalities and learning how to appreciate the differences that everyone brings. You do your peers a disservice if you don’t share your point-of-view, and if I can help women feel like this is a place for them, then I want to do that. Schwab is really one of those places where the rubber hits the road.