The role of Project Manager requires someone who can wear a lot of different hats —especially in the FinTech game— and who has the ability to skillfully accomplish tasks, managing a team of talented people. Zoe Plasencia is one of these phenomenons who makes projects happen at Strands.
Zoe’s career started in IT Development at IBM, spanned to Technical Leadership and progressed to her current role in Project Management (PM) in the digital banking space.
Here, we share a little more about what PM looks like for her, what’s unique about her position at Strands, and what her preferred methodologies are in reaching company goals successfully.
What does Project Management look like for you?
In a nutshell, PM is challenging, fast, and rewarding.
"PM involves understanding business requirements and making sure that all resources are achieving their defined objectives and that the project is delivered on time and on budget."
But it also means finding opportunities to improve efficiency and effectiveness —which also involves working with a combination of engineering teams and other managers.
A couple of the most important traits of a good Project Manager are the ability to 1) work with people from different backgrounds and 2) get up to speed fast on a variety of technical subject matters.
So, for a Project Manager, collaboration with teams is a must. How do you make sure it works at Strands?
It’s important to be able to be self-reflective, self-aware and, above all, a good communicator.
Given that Strands is a tech company, employees with a background in engineering are highly valued as Project Managers because of their specific technical skill set.
We look for people with strong communication skills - Project Management can be a particularly customer-facing role, and as such it is our job to build relationships with important stakeholders in any given project.
"It’s all about getting people aligned on common goals."
Tell us about a project that you're most proud of.
I have many! But Davivienda and Interbank have been two of the most rewarding projects I have managed.
Davivienda is one of Colombia’s most pioneering banks that teamed up with Strands to develop their Personal Finance Management (PFM) solution, with a view to offering more transparency and a comprehensive perspective of their finances to their customers.
Interbank is another well-known bank in LatAm that is currently integrating Strands’ PFM to offer its customers a personalized digital banking tool that provides a clearer vision and easier management of finances.
Both Davivienda and Interbank rated our project management very highly. VP of Personal Banking Products at Davivienda, Margarita Henao, states in our interview with her: “Strands’ teams of professionals have resolved any doubts we had in an efficient and speedy manner, with a vision that complemented ours, culminating in a very high-quality result”.
Head of Operations Americas Zoe Plasencia, based in our Miami office.
Which methodologies and tools are used at Strands as part of the Project Management process?
At Strands we are not married to any particular Project Management procedure.
We aren’t thinking about methodology as much as we’re trying to figure out how to solve the problems.
"We decide what makes sense in the situation by defining what the project scope is and evaluating what the risks are."
That gives us some idea about the best combination of processes to apply in each case.
However, one of the most commonly-used methodologies in our PM teams is Agile. Essentially, it allows projects to evolve thanks to the collaborative effort of Strands’ cross-functional Technology and Projects teams.
When it comes to tools, our favorite application for issue tracking is Jira; and for team collaboration, Confluence —both powered by Atlassian.
Do you have any advice to share?
I’d say: Do not be afraid of sharing the failures that you might have had in your career. Those mistakes can be really big contributors to being a well-rounded Project Manager. Failure, or hurdles in the road only help you do things better next time around.
We’re always looking for passionate people with real-world experience —people who are persistent enough to learn key lessons and apply them on a daily basis to the new roles that they have.
And regarding the project delivery in the FinTech space, my advice would be:
"Make sure the customer is always happy and their expectations always met."
Go hand in hand with the bank when delivering added-value solutions —not only by just delivering the technical product they requested but also by offering growth options and even more value to the end user.
Head of Communications with focus on the FinTech and Personal Finance industries. Named on the "Women in FinTech Powerlist", Miriam Ballesteros is committed to promoting financial technologies that make managing money a lot easier so people can get more out of life.