2021 has been momentous for Jen Valdez, president of Americas, intelliflo. In January this year, the high-flying mother-of-two tragically lost her husband while navigating her way through one of the most challenging years in modern human history. With admirable strength and honesty, she tells us what inspires her, and her hopes for the future
Who was your childhood hero and why?
This would be my mother. One of the most important things I learned from her is to always have a positive attitude in life and try to lift people up around you. It is incredible how powerful a positive mindset can be! All my life, my mum has been my biggest cheerleader. To this day, my brother and I call our mother first when we have exciting news to share. And she is equally supportive when things don’t go our way.
Our family motto, and how I’ve chosen to raise my kids, is to celebrate success and provide positive encouragement and support in failure.
What's the best piece of advice you ever received?
In times of chaos, stress, and reorganisation, it is important to stay calm and focused on your work. In my career, I have been through many acquisitions, divestitures, and reorganisations.
Instead of worrying about what may or may not happen, I view these events as an opportunity to contribute in an impactful way and lead others through the change. Again, this is where having a positive mindset is key.
As an example, let’s not forget the massive amount of change that occurred in the last 18 months as we had to quickly pivot to a new way of working and staying connected to our customers.
Being a problem solver and managing others through the change created positive outcomes on many fronts.
What was the last book you read - and how long ago did you read it?
This is a tough one for me to answer as I haven’t read much since my husband passed away in January. In 2020, I read one book per month for pleasure and even joined a book club!
I greatly enjoyed reading as it created time before bed to put down the electronics and get lost in a fiction story. There is nothing better than a book you just can’t put down because you want to know what happens next. Nightingale by Kristin Hannah was one of those books for me.
Name one piece of technology you couldn’t live without and tell us why (excluding your mobile phone)
I love coffee so my espresso machine is a must-have for me. I even take it with me when I travel by car! And if you join me on a morning Zoom call, chances are that I will have a latte in hand.
While this doesn’t fall into the technology category, I also have a titanium French Press I carry when backpacking. I am serious about my coffee as it sets my mind right for the day ahead.
Who do you look up to in terms of leadership and mentorship?
One person I follow on social channels and am consistently inspired by is Sheryl Sandberg. Similar to me, she lost her husband unexpectedly and has been vocal about her journey through grief and how we, as a community, can support those who have experienced some form of tragedy.
She is a gifted writer of Option B which demonstrates her honesty and desire to help others. This resonated strongly with me. I am also a fan of her work with Lean In. I read her book years ago and it significantly impacted how I approached my role in the workplace. I am passionate about creating an inclusive environment and advocating for one another in the workplace.
Which activity are you most looking forward to doing when the pandemic is over?
I am most excited to see my colleagues and customers in person. We have done a really great job staying virtually connected during the pandemic, but I have definitely missed face-to-face human interactions.
Is there a personal achievement from the past 12 months of which you are particularly proud?
This is still a work in progress for me, but I am most proud of how I managed through the loss of my husband. I am proud of how I remained strong for my two young teenage sons and was able to get back to work when the time was right.
I work with a great team of colleagues and customers who have been incredibly supportive. How you show up for others in a time of crisis is something that is never forgotten. I am so grateful.
What inspires you in fintech today?
I am excited about how there is more focus on fintech than ever before. The pandemic has forever changed the way we work, and we are all relying more on technology and digital tools across all aspects of our lives.
This also rings true in the financial advice space where financial institutions and their advisors are implementing open, fully integrated, and cloud-based platforms to power the advisory experience.
Such an approach allows them to deliver stronger, more personalised advice and experience to their clients with greater confidence and ease, which makes all the difference. I am looking forward to participating in the ongoing, exciting digital transformation of financial advice.