June 24, 2020

Tips for Women on Becoming a CEO

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Read the journey of how Marieke Flament became the CEO of Mettle and her advice for aspiring female CEO’s.

Throughout Marieke Flament’s career, she’s spent time as an IT project manager, marketing director, strategy consultant and the MD of a bitcoin startup. It’s this mix of experience, which helps her to excel as the CEO of Mettle, a digital bank for SMEs, which sits under the umbrella of NatWest Ventures.

An appetite for learning

After leaving high school, Marieke immediately started and completed a computer science degree. But, after a couple of years working in IT in Asia, she decided to enrol at the London Business School to study an MBA degree. She wanted to do this, so she could understand more about the mechanics of business.

Marieke says of her degree: “The MBA was a good reset. It enabled me to take a step back and think about what I wanted to do going forward.”
With an appetite to learn, Marieke spent the next few years working hard to gain the experience she needed. Places she worked, included a global consulting firm in Paris and an online travel network in London, where she built her way up from looking after a small marketing team, to overseeing the company’s European, Middle Eastern and African regions. Then a new job challenge came along. She was asked to join the world of cryptocurrency and launch the European arm of a US-based bitcoin startup.

“It was quite a difficult decision to go from a safe place where I had been promoted every year for four years to the unknown of a startup. It sounded quite scary. But I started reading about blockchain and found it fascinating. I thought, ‘What a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’.”

For anyone who has a career opportunity but is unsure whether or not to take it, Marieke recommends seeking out people who can demystify it for you. She says, “It often looks trickier than it is, so trust yourself and have faith in your abilities.”

It was Marieke’s husband who gave her the reassurance to make the jump from working at a large corporate company and move instead to working with startups. “If I hadn’t had him help me understand what it took or say that it’s okay, you can do it, I probably wouldn’t have jumped.”
She’s thankful she did make the move.

“It is so rewarding to work in a startup. Everything you do is impactful, and seen or used by the customer. Once you have a taste of that, there is no going back.”

The sign of a good culture

In 2019, Marieke was approached about the CEO role for Mettle, but she was hesitant.
“Initially, I thought, ‘I’m not really a bank person, this isn’t for me’. But I took the opportunity to have the conversation, and I was really impressed with what NatWest and the venture hub was doing.”

Marieke was also hesitant because:

“I was seven months pregnant and wanted to take six months off once my son was born, so I thought surely they wouldn’t be interested. But not only was the company willing to interview me, they were also willing to wait for me. I thought that was such an important mark of trust and a good culture.”

She speaks highly of the culture within Mettle, mentioning that it’s customer-centric, non-hierarchical, agile and collaborative. She continues on to say, “That it is all enabled by the way NatWest Ventures has been building its digital businesses.”

7 tips for women wanting to become a CEO

Marieke encourages women to forge a career in leadership.

“We need more women, so absolutely do it!”

She offers the following advice:

  1. Surround yourself with cheerleaders – “Believing in yourself and having a network that supports you is super important.”
  2. Play to your strengths – “Early on in my career, I was always trying to work on the things I wasn’t so good at. The day I started focusing on my strengths, the whole world opened up. It’s okay not to be an expert at some things, you just need to surround yourself with people who are.”
  3. Find mentors and coaches – “A coach who is external and makes you think through your problems in a non-emotional way is so beneficial, as is having a mentor who can bring you a completely different view.”
  4. Know yourself and find your balance – “You need to know what makes you intrinsically happy. For me, that’s my family and sports [basketball, yoga, running, HIIT and swimming – Marieke competes in a swimming race with her Mum each year], so I make time for that, it’s what keeps me focused.”

  1. Find your fit – “Career fulfillment is all about workplace fit. Are you in sync with what’s happening around you? Can you be yourself and make an impact? It’s one of the reasons I joined NatWest Ventures – when I visited and talked to people, I felt in sync.”
  2. Assume positive intent – “A mentor once told me to always assume positive intent, and suddenly I started seeing things differently and having different conversations with people.”
  3. Enjoy the journey – ”Your career is a marathon, not a sprint. If you’re rushing to get to the end goal, you’re missing out because it is the journey that’s most enjoyable.”

Everyone is welcome in fintech

Financial technology is a fascinating and exciting space to work in, as Marieke says. “If you look at traditional banks and how processes are handled, there is so much friction. Technology can transform that and make it a better, faster and cheaper experience for customers. We’ve seen that occur in travel, retail and other industries, but there’s still so much work to be done in the financial sector, which is hugely exciting.”
You don’t have to be a tech whiz kid to succeed in fintech, explains Marieke. There are a number of cross-transferable skills that can be put to good use, such as analytics and design ability.
In fact, Mettle and NatWest Ventures have a huge focus on fostering a diverse team, by employing people with different skills and mindsets, who come from all kinds of backgrounds.

“If you have a non-diverse group of people building a tech product, then it won’t be designed and built for everyone. And financial products have to be for everyone, so whatever your background, you have something to offer.”

To learn more about NatWest Ventures flexible working policies and to set up a job alert for forthcoming vacancies, see NatWest Ventures.

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About the Author
WORK180 promotes organizational standards that raise the bar for women in the workplace. We only endorse employers that are committed to making real progress so that all women can expect better.

Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job.