The Marketing Rules Podcast in Words: Nadia Edwards-Dashti

The traditional view of technology roles is that they are only appealing to and filled by men, but this week’s guest is shining a spotlight on the women making waves in technology.

Nadia Edwards-Dashti is the Chief Customer Officer at Harrington Starr, podcaster, and now the author of ‘Women of Fintech, Walk the Talk’.

In this week’s episode of The Marketing Rules Podcast, Nadia talks to me about why she decided to write her book, what she learned from The Women of Fintech and the current ED&I landscape of Fintech.

The Episode Transcript:

So welcome back. Everybody to the marketing rules podcast and today we are joined by Nadia from Harrington Star who um, I’ve wanted to head on for a while because there’s a kind of a big announcement Nadia is gonna kind of share with us today. Oh although if you follow her on Linkedin It’s been It’s been It’s been well promoted. But um. Can now describe edta as ah as an author and today nette is going to talk to us a little bit about her book and everything that kind of inspired it and the kind of journey to get it. But for the rest of you the ones who haven’t we don’t follow you on Linkedin? um, maybe you could kind of give us a little bit about your journey. And really your kind of journey in in recruitment and kind of leading up to to the writing of the book.

Thank you and James thank you so much for having me on on your show. Um, it’s really exciting that you want me to be here and that I can hopefully add some value to the audience. But um, just so a little bit about me and who I am I’m I’m currently the chief customer officer of Harrington Star um we place technology and sales staff into the financial services sector um have been doing so since we founded the company in 2010? Um, I’ve been in recruitment long before that though, 2005 I started in recruitment. Bright eyed, bushy-tailed the the typical story I fell into recruitment. Um I’ve always placed technologists into financial services. Um, so I’ve had as any other recruiter will say I’ve had such vast visibility of the area that I’ve worked in I’ve got to see so much stuff that. Um, that that people don’t publish and I know all the recruiters listening to this will really relate to that because we do we see salaries. We you know people talk about the gender pay gap now we have seen that we’ve we’ve got examples of it. We’ve got evidence of it. We’ve seen it for years. We talk about the ethnicity pay gap we’ve seen that when people talk about wanting to address their. Board composition. Um, we’ve seen it all. We’ve been part of those conversations. We’ve witnessed things that haven’t been fair in the industry especially if we roll back to 2005? Um, but that’s where I started and I start my story saying I I was privy to. Ah, lots of things that weren’t fair and I still am um and this has been something that first wound me up. Ah second I found difficult to to remain within the industry knowing that this is how it was third I became empowered to try and change it and that’s essentially the journey of. How I got to the book. Um I worked really hard as a recruiter because in 2005 when um I could barely find a candidate for a role who was ever going to listen to me. Um, when I said that’s not fair. Um, so I I learnt the trade and I worked really really hard I’ve I’ve done my 15 hour days um I’ve done the. 12 meetings in a day and the big pictures to boards to get you know to get the clients on I’ve done the retained work I’ve done the exclusive for the next three years with different companies. Um, and you know what it’s allowed me to do is get get really really confident in my ability to solve. clients’ problems when it comes to talent and 1 thing that’s happened over the past ten years I’d say is that talent in financial services especially in the technology space is becoming so so hard to find because this area is growing at such an exponential rate.

But where are the people and if we keep on looking for the people in the same places we’ve already always looked like we’re just not if the the physical is physically impossible to be able to hit the the amount of growth that these companies want to hit so. Social justice part of what I do is paramount. Of course it’s what you know it’s what I get up for in the morning I’m super passionate about making that industry a better place. But also when I’m talking to ceos and people who are looking at numbers and profit margins and valuations of their businesses. Actually the inclusion journey that they’re on is becoming more and more important which is brilliant to talk about with people because companies and there’s many of them. You know have just just had series a funding. You know they come to me and they say well look when we’re going for series b we need to. Be able to answer the question. What are we doing on our de policies um is is practice actual procedure. You know is is it actually happening. What are the tangibles and you know a lot of people. Um, they need help like they want to. They want to build a more inclusive workforce but they don’t know how because. If you look at the history of financial services and you look at the history of technology. It’s ah been exclusive rather than inclusive. So. There’s so much change that needs to happen. But as I said from the start I’ve seen so much that wasn’t right? But I’ve also seen so much that is right. And so I feel now my responsibility is to share what those right steps are and I’ve had the absolute privilege of recording a podcast series myself since 2018 where I’ve interviewed over 300 senior leaders within the financial technology and fintech space. Talking about inclusion and how do you reach inclusion within your business and the book came out of me deciding these podcasts need to be everywhere. You know everyone needs to have the lessons from these podcasts and all these wonderful people that I had the privilege of speaking with I want to make sure their lessons are heard. Um, and people people still read books I know everything’s online but people actually still read books and you know I I received a handwritten note and I thought to myself. Well you know we’ve all forgotten how how we used to rely on handwritten notes. And it meant something to me and it made me think well look if we were to write this in a book. It could mean something to the right people so that’s where it all came from.

So I mean it’s It’s ah it’s an amazing story. Um, what’s interesting I’d like to kind of just kind of roll back a little bit to the podcast. Obviously as a podcaster obviously as ourselves. Um, why did you go down that route. You know why the podcast and why not.

Yeah, so um I’ve got really a quite nice story about this. So um, it was about 20017 I started going and speaking at events about the good things that I was seeing for diversity equity and inclusion within the industry. Um, and I was invited.

Something else at that point. So.

To Amsterdam to speak at the european women’s payment network their annual conference and I presented a presentation called step forward for gender equality and within it I celebrated 13 different companies in the London Financial Services scene who were doing great things for gender equality. One of the things i. Spoke about was raising awareness of the women within your industry letting people see those women. Ah ah, really addressing the visibility of it. Um, and someone asked me a question said what are you doing to do that and I answered the question but I remember thinking fool I haven’t answered that.


Like very comfortably. That’s a little bit outside my comfort zone and I thought well why is it outside my comfort zone. It’s because I’m not doing enough and as a recruiter as everyone listening will know you know we’ve been networking for years. We’ve got huge networks within the areas that we focus on. Actually what are we doing to leverage those networks and. I hadn’t really leveraged the network enough back then and I thought well I’m I’m going to and I’m going to bring the visibility and I thought right? What could I do okay never done a podcast before let’s give that a go and you know what? my first podcast didn’t have a clear introduction I didn’t have barely had a name for it. Ah had no no set questions I didn’t really know where the conversation was going but you know by by the end of it and by now you know I’m I’m really clear on what the purpose is but um, that’s the story of how I started podcasting.

You were kind of um oh I kind of a forced down that route to kind of to to to walk the walk.

Well exactly yes when we watch the point of talking if you can’t actually do the action and I thought you know I I have a great responsibility here and it was it was brilliant as well because again, um, you know recruitment. Let’s go back to 2005 how we. How we connecting with our with our audience how we connecting with our customers were cold calling what are the what are like the hit rates of cold calling. You could do a hundred dials in a morning and how many people would answer of those people that answer how many is actually going to turn into business. If you look at then me me having conversations with people on podcast so much more meaningful. We’re no longer talking about you need 7 points of contact to turn an introduction into a piece of business. It’s a whole different way of looking at the sales cycle and it’s a whole different way of looking at recruitment because. Yes I am a recruiter first and foremost. But now because I’m always having inclusion conversations I can add so much more value to a company I’m having so many more conversations across different avenues within that company that recruitment is. Of course what they’re going to be needing me for as well because I now can boast that yes I can identify female talent for you I can identify diverse talent and actually it’s because those individuals have listened to those podcasts. So. It’s kind of come full circle as well.

Yeah, yeah, well I mean it’s great. It’s a great story to hear about the kind of the power of the podcast and how that’s kind of how that’s worked out but ah what point during the kind of podcast series. Did you did you start to think this could be a different format. This could be something else that could be.

Um I think it was really early on actually um I was it took me a long time to feel comfortable recording the podcasts. Um I was when we first started doing them. It was obviously pre-pandemic right? So I did it? um.

Could be more within this.

Not just recording the audio but I did it in a room face to face with a camera on me and I try and look at the camera which really really stresss me out and I I definitely lost sight of actually what’s my purpose here and what am I trying to do um but once I got used to that I realized look.. There’s a., There’s There’s a ah focus. Um, and that focus is we’ve got to raise awareness of women within this industry because the podcast started purely as the women of fintech. It’s now much more in depth than that and covers all sorts of inclusion aspects but starts as the women of fintech and I did get my head around it. Ah, probably by about episode 20 of this isn’t about me. It’s about them. It’s about their journey you know and and actually no one’s really interested in what I’m saying they’re interested in the individual and how they’ve overcome the challenges that that they were challenged by what was their lived Experience. How have they handled the situations that they had at work and what’s made them better and stronger and what lessons you know, have they have they been able to share and once I got it really clear that. That’s what it’s about actually discussing recruitment became became part of that sort of whole package but the focus. Really just was away from me and all all about as I say the great and wonderful women of Fintech. That’s how I introduced the the book but but you know but now it’s the the men of of fintech. It’s um, it’s the non-binary of Fintech. It’s people that have the potential to join fintech. Um, and it’s about the environments within Fintech. So. The mission is a really big Mission. It’s a movement of change and I think that recruitment is a huge part of that change because ultimately every business that wants to become more inclusive they need. They need job seekers who are going to be included and I’ve positioned myself to be able to help them within that Journey. So. It became more about the mission and recruitment coming into that mission than anything else.

Yeah, um, and and explain to me a little bit more about the kind of process of of kind of writing the book is it is the book ah kind of or my transcripts of the podcast is it new interviews How how does it? How did you kind of bring it together.

So I mean it was a real journey like I mean anyone? Um, anyone thinking about writing a book with pal grave Mcmillan who’s my publisher like they are serious. Um, it’s ah you know a bit a business publisher. They’re very very focused on making sure that. Content is to a certain level. Um I had to go through a number of rounds of reviews and the people reviewing by my book. Proposal were anonymous so they literally could write whatever they wanted back to me and it was credibly like the the harshest criticism I’ve ever received in my life but also the most empowering because. Actually in my heart I was thinking wow they are taking me seriously about writing a book you know like so great that they’re giving me this. Um this really tough feedback but essentially the way that I went with the book was um to to tell a story around like what is what is fintech and financial services technology. What are the problems that we face in the industry. What are the good stuff that we’re doing because actually in fintech and financial technology. There’s a lot of really good stuff that’s happening for inclusion but there is a problem. We’re not reaching a tipping point of change and it’s because actually we’re trying to do a lot of really nice things. Without handling what the foundational problems are so the book essentially concludes around how you make those foundation changes and how everyone can be involved in that so rather than it being transcripts. What I did um, remember that Christmas that got canceled and we were all in lockdown. That Christmas I listened back to 120 of my podcasts. They’re each 20 minutes in length minimum. You can imagine the time that I put into this and I wrote out 3 or 4 standout quotes from each individual I then put each of those quotes into sort of themes. And then I I weaved in those themes into what I wanted my chap to layout to be like so the entire book is not me saying this is the landscape of fintech or financial technology instead. It’s um, it’s Joan, Ceo of global processing services says. This about fintech says this about her board members says this about her board experience or whatever it is um, this individual came from this background this other and individual came from that background so you know one of the the great people I interviewed was ah Billy Simmons founder um of a business called daylight. And I think she did her degree in tourism. So I was using her as an example of she’s Ceo of a digital bank and and 1 of the first digital banks aimed at the lgbtq plus community.

And she didn’t come from a stem background and that’s one of the biggest issues that we face in financial technology when anyone’s trying to be more inclusive they they really are wedded to stem backgrounds. Um, and I was trying to prove the point that there’s so many founders and ceos that don’t come from that background and Billy was 1 example. And I had probably 4 or 5 other founders that I quoted in that section as well. So um, it was it was yeah weaved together like that.

Yeah, um, and you’ve mentioned a couple of people who are kind of mentioned in the book I mean without spawning and I know this is gonna be like picking your favorite child but is there any kind of um, a couple of stories that and and quotes that you can kind of also kind of share with us some of your favorites.

Yeah, um so I won’t I won’t ruin the book. But um I would say that there is one that really really stands out um from and it stood out for me the minute that she said it in the podcast. Um, so I knew it was always something that I was going to use. Um, so her name is hennah ashraff and she’s the. Head of testing um at a fintech called cash plus and she said with all the challenges she faced as a woman in technology over her career that she always thought about this saying I can choose to be pitiful or powerful and I chose powerful. And I just loved when she said that because that was at the end of a podcast where she had really opened up to the challenges of of a woman over the past fifteen years in the technology world of getting to the point of being a head of testing the monetary challenges. The. Just people listening to her like how her how her opinion was heard in different meetings. How she was questioned how she was recognized how she was remembered and for her to say I chose powerful. Um, that was something that really that really stayed with me and again not wanting to ruin the book but actually my my final chapter is. Be powerful and I open it with um, just like hennah eshref said um and you know that’s actually what the book’s about us all choosing to be powerful to make change happen and one of the key things of the book is. I think when it comes to inclusion we all as human beings we all know it’s the right thing to do the social justice element. We get it but we also know that it’s really really hard and that can be overwhelming so it’s really easy to go oh. That’s an over there problem for somebody. Someone over there will fix it because that’s just easier for us to think that um and actually it’s not It’s an over here right now. All of us let’s get involved problem. Um, so so yeah just a couple of standout things.

And yeah I mean it’s amazing. Um, and you mentioned the kind of the the be be powerful thing that kind of quote that kind of really stood with you and was there anything else that you learn from writing the book that you can share with us and.

Um, I’d probably say that one of the early chapters is about and the power of networking and leveraging your network which I’ve mentioned slightly before um, but actually the book itself like wow it was just the journey of it because. If you can imagine I’ve quoted 118 people within this book from the first 118 podcasts that I recorded um to be able to quote them I had to call them all up to say this is what’s happening. This is the quote I’d like to use and also this is how I’m going to use your quote in. Ah, particular part the transcript all the while I’m trying to write this book every evening and every weekend while my first born is is is napping or asleep you know after a full day at work. So it was um it was really really like a challenge like a real challenge to do it. But I think um, what really stood out for me is how how I’ve really solidified my network um because by explaining what I’m doing. Um I really think that everyone everyone really felt like like how heartfelt I am about this um that this really is my mission. Um. And and a real important part of this which I haven’t mentioned is when I first approached pal Graveve Mcmillan about writing the book I had just had um my my first baby um a girl and I was really really um, impassioned about protecting her. And protecting like her future and if she wanted to join financial services or technology or fintech or whatever. The new tech will be called that she’s got a level playing field and that’s played a really huge part of the journey. But I think me. Kind of opening up that vulnerability and like my life that has really solidified this wonderful network I have and turned it into this new word that everyone’s using you know the tribe and I feel like this is my tribe now you know I’ve got I’ve got such. Ah, great connection with these men and it’s it’s men as well. Not just women. Um you know who who are working really hard to drive inclusion but wanting to partner with people that genuinely want to make a difference. So the biggest learning curve for me. There was. Having a network is 1 thing but having a tribe is another.

Yeah, um, and taken all that into consideration and aligned with the book. You know what’s the landscape for for d and I within kind of fintech today and what’s it kind of what’s a trajectory.

So um, on the social justice side of things look I think everyone understands that um, they’ve got to be considering this but also just for for the physicality of how are people going to grow their grow their businesses. How are they going to hit their targets. Their revenue. How they’re going to hit their valuations. How are their future investors going to going to and evaluate them. Especially when a lot of the questions now are around what what’s your dei strategy. What’s your policy. What are your metrics. Um, so I do think there is an appetite. Um, but there’s a couple of couple of very big barriers. Um. 1 is um, it’s really overwhelming like I’ve mentioned before like where do you start? you know because this is this is people and all and all different types of people. Um and and all their once needs motivations how to invest in them. How to support them to how to build psychological safety. It’s a plethora of. So many different things. It’s really overwhelming for people to think like where do I start? So the where do I start thing is a great question but the barrier to that question is when people freeze and they say where do I start actually look at this. We’ve got this product product that we need to complete all this project that needs to be. Finished or whatever it may be well that’s day-to-day work. Let me get that done and inclusion I’ll come to as a luxury. That’s one of the biggest barriers another barrier is that there are businesses still out there that just will not subscribe to this because they do not see it as valuable and they’re really really happy um to grow their business. By searching in the same places. They’ve always searched and by identifying people who look and remind them of them who will laugh at their jokes who will and think that they’re funny who who who they recognize from perhaps their school days and that is another thing I spoke about in the book in terms of group think. People feel safe in their group it when when the group thinks the same because you say something everyone gets it because you all think the same and you all come from the same background this I think will be like especially in fintech because fintech’s all about challenging the status quo and. And thinking up new new ideas for solutions. You didn’t even know we’re a problem you do need diversity of thought for that. So I do think that those types of business leaders will find themselves stuck but they are they are still out there and they still. Um, thinking that they can continue the way that they have done so those are just 2 of the big barriers. Um that we face There’s so many others? Um, but there is an appetite out there I know that there is because the amount of people that are coming to me.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, no I’ve we’ve we’ve had a couple of guests talking about similar kind of subjects. Um and just the fact that we’ve had more guests talking about these kind of subjects mean that there’s more and more interest in this in this minute. Um, and ah, what’s next for you. What’s ah is is there Another book. In in in the pipeline are you allowed to tell if it’s it’s tellative. There’s a there’s a Sequel. Ah.

And is soable I am already thinking of a sequel. But um I think I’m gonna wait until my 2 kids are at least both over one because um, yeah, like right right now and they’re both under 2 and it is yeah it’s it’s pretty um. Yeah, it’s pretty tough going in terms of my evenings but I’m I’m doing the podcasts day and day out I am like I write down stand out quotes all the time and I just think poof. This would be brilliant content for the next? Um, but the next thing on the agenda really for me is the book launch itself which is um. Being hosted on March the fifteenth in the schroeders building in London um, I’ve got panels speaking from 11 till 12 and then lunch afterwards and we still have a few registrations left so I will share that with you for anybody that would want to join us and we will also be opening that that out for a virtual attendees as well. So you can imagine I’m really focused on making sure that that book launch goes well and you know the the panelists are happy and they’re able to communicate everything they want to and also that I get to thank everybody that has contributed to the book from the podcasts. Um, but I think for for even further in the future. My podcast series aren’t only the women of fintech I have the humans of fintech the talent surgery and the maternity and paternity stories of fintech which are all really focused on different different avenues of different people’s lives. Um, there’s so much content there that that could be turned into books for sure.

Brilliant. Um, so before I let you go just remind us of the ah the name of the book and um and I assume this is going to be available on all good online retailers and things things like.

Fintech women walk the talk.

Yes, it is available now you can find it on Amazon um, waterstone smiths yeah, any any major bookstore.

Brilliant, amazing stuff. We will also include all of your details in our show notes. So if anybody wants to kind of contact you directly they can um will also include a link to podcasts and. And if we can find it if it’s up there. We’ll find it. We’ll have a link to the to the Amazon kind of store as well. So people can kind of pre-ordder if they want to um, but for now an edit has been absolute pleasure having you on the podcast. So thank you very much.

Thank you.


Listen to Nadia’s episode here.

Connect with James here.

Connect with Nadia here. 

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Support for this podcast comes from Staffing Future, and Liquid Palladium.




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