Dulce Ruelas is a proud first-generation Mexican-American. “I was born in beautiful Sahuayo, Michoacan and when I was eight months my family immigrated to the U.S.,” she explains. “My parents always kept our Hispanic culture alive at home by imbuing us with the importance of cherishing family, working hard, and dreaming big.”
As the fourth out of five children, she’s been able to count on her family for support and encouragement in all aspects of her life. “My siblings always took care of me. They’re the first ones I go to for advice or help,” explains Dulce. Which is why she prioritizes recreating that sense of support and collaboration at work as a Development Manager at lending technology solutions provider CU Direct.
We sat down with Dulce to hear more about her background and career journey, as well as her best advice for women who may want to start a career in FinTech.
Getting Her Start in Engineering
Dulce was first introduced to the world of tech by her older siblings. “My brother saved all his money and spent it on parts to build his own computer,” she explains. While he was more into the hardware side of computers, Dulce was mostly interested in them for personal use. It wasn’t until her older sister encouraged her to take a newly offered computer science course at their local community college that Dulce really considered programming. “It was a C++ course and I thought it was really interesting. But something immediately stuck with me – I was the only girl.”
Undeterred by the lack of representation in her class, she completed the course and enjoyed it so much that she decided to study computer science as a major in college. “The first courses in college were tough. I failed a couple of courses and I started questioning, ‘Do I really want to stick this out?’” She turned to her now husband for advice, and he encouraged her to keep going. “Knowing that he believed in me, I started believing I could do it, too. Then it just clicked,” she says. “And then it became more fun. Everything was falling into place. It was still tough, don’t get me wrong. But it was more enjoyable after that.”
As she got further into her degree, she noticed a growing gender gap in her courses. “It was very lonely,” she explains. “There weren’t many other girls and there were fewer and fewer each semester.” That lack of representation fueled her fear that entering (and thriving) in the workforce might be difficult for someone like her. “I had heard so many stories about [women] in the industry, maybe being dismissed or just not taken seriously,” she elaborates.
So when it came time to look for a job post graduation, she knew she wanted to work for a place where people like her were thriving. “I was at a career fair and I saw a Hispanic woman who was the HR Director for CU Direct,” says Dulce. That woman encouraged her to apply to the company. “My sister and husband helped me with interview skills and [encouraged me through] the whole application process,” she explains. “I got an internship and became full-time after six months. And I've been here ever since!”
Dulce’s Journey at CU Direct
CU Direct aims to create an environment where employees can achieve their highest potential and career growth. And that’s exactly what Dulce has done over the past eight years. “I've been able to be promoted almost every other year,” she explains. “I actually just got promoted to Development Manager this last week!” She’s moved all the way from intern, to Software Developer I, II, and III, to Principal Software Engineer (PSE), to Development Manager.
This new role requires Dulce to take a broader approach to planning and strategizing her team’s projects. “I’m in charge of delivering quality software solutions to our clients. I’m looked to as a point of reference to give input based on my experience,” Dulce explains. Her team is currently working on a lift and shift effort, which involves moving software from on-site storage to the cloud. “There are so many components and it's not an easy effort. It's not something that we can just do in a day, so there has been a lot of planning and collaboration with other teammates.”
That collaboration and support from her team is what keeps Dulce coming to work every day. “At CU Direct, all of our projects are interdependent in some form or another,” she explains. “There are a lot of different perspectives, and everyone’s so passionate about what they do. It makes work that much better to come in and see what we can build together.” Collaborating and hearing other peoples’ perspectives also happens to be one of the most important aspects of working in tech, according to Dulce, and she wants to encourage other women to join her in those efforts.
“There are so many women at CU Direct, which is one of the reasons I love it. There’s just so much diversity,” says Dulce. “In HR, Product, and Customer Care — teams I work with — it's very rare where there's not a [woman] on the team. There are certain niche pockets where there's not as much diversity. We don't have as many [women] on the technical side,” explains Dulce. But she’s excited to see that shift — and to be a part of catalyzing that change. “I've felt so supported and valued here. I’ve seen so many women here in positions of power, but I haven’t always had as many examples to look up to in technical leadership roles, so that’s why I’m hoping to keep growing towards [those leadership roles]!”
Advice for Upcoming Women Techies
Dulce wants more women to join her in the FinTech industry, especially on the technical side. Keep reading for her advice for women interested in exploring the industry.
1. Take a seat at the table — there’s room. Dulce knows first hand how hard it can be to take up space in an environment when you’re new or different from those around you. “I used to think things like, ‘I'm just an intern, I'm just a one, I'm just a two,’” says Dulce. That’s why she wants to encourage other women to use their voice and speak up. “There is always something you can bring to the table and there is space at the table,” she says. “There are all these reasons for why not to [speak up], but you only need one for why you should.”
2. Be proactive about opportunities. The world of FinTech is growing, which means the demand for new, fresh perspectives is high. “There's so much opportunity to bring the knowledge you have from the technical side into credit unions and banks,” says Dulce. She advises women in tech to be proactive and learn more about opportunities in the field, even if they don’t have previous experience. “There are so many places where people will take a chance on you and that's all you need, one chance.”
3. Keep learning. One of Dulce’s most important values is continual learning. “There's always something to learn,” she says. And it doesn’t have to be through certifications — you can also learn from those around you. “Be open to others, even if you have different viewpoints.”
Below is an article originally written by PowerToFly Partner Chainalysis, and published on October 23, 2018. Go to Chainalysis' page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
On October 22, 2018, CB Insights released their second annual Fintech 250 list, and named Chainalysis as part of the group of emerging private companies working on groundbreaking financial technology. The CB Insights research team selected the Fintech 250 companies based on several factors including data submitted by each company and their Mosaic Score. (You can read more about The Mosaic Score, based on CB Insights' algorithm).
In response to the exciting nomination, our Co-Founder and COO, Jonathan Levin noted:
Chainalysis's steadfast mission of building trust in blockchains has made us a trusted partner to the world's leading cryptocurrency businesses, financial institutions, and government agencies. We've always felt that bridging the gap between these three key groups allows the market to seize the nearly unlimited promise of cryptocurrencies, and are proud to be honored alongside other companies moving fintech forward.
In April, we secured $16M in Series A funding led by Benchmark to deploy Chainalysis KYT (Know Your Transaction) and expand our coverage of cryptocurrencies. We now serve over 150 of the world's leading cryptocurrency businesses, financial institutions, and government agencies and we look forward to continuing on that journey.
On November 14, 2018 American Express partnered with PowerToFly to present our third networking event together. After sold-out events in Florida and Arizona, it was amazing to host an evening at American Express' New York office and the night did not disappoint.
As our guests came in from the cold (there would be a huge snowstorm in NYC the next day), they were invited to receive a complimentary headshot photo (a must when looking for new opportunities) before helping themselves to an impressive buffet spread.
PowerToFly's CoFounder & CEO Milena Berry kicked off the night by officially welcoming everyone and introducing Katrina Roberts, SVP of Technology and Unit CIO at American Express. "This is my second family," explained Katrina, a twenty-seven year veteran of the company. "We work together to achieve amazing outcomes and it does feel like a true team. So that's one of the reasons I've stayed. The second is the challenges are endless. I never stop learning. I'm still learning all the time and I'm always given the opportunity to develop."
When Katrina wrapped her moving keynote address, the audience was treated to a pair of product demos highlighting innovative American Express technology. First up, Shek Lee, American Express Engineering Director spoke about the American Express Chat Bot and the role machine learning plays to help the company deliver customized customer experiences. As Shek explained, "the digital concierge learns your preferences over time and then provides personalized recommendations to help you book your travel."
The next product demo began with a hilarious television commercial starring Tina Fey and featuring Amex's "Pay It, Plan It" tool. American Express Vice President Anna Knizhnik broke down this great feature that allows Card Members to pay for small purchases right away, or make a plan to pay for larger purchases over time.. "People love Pay it, people love Plan it," Anna said. "They can manage their balances and manage their large purchases in a very responsible way. That is one example of the powerful backing of American Express."
Milena then brought back Katrina for a panel discussion where they were joined by American Express technology Vice Presidents John Ahn, Urvashi Tyagi and Divyangi Anchan. After Milena asked the panel some questions, we had a few minutes to open the floor to some very perceptive audience questions. Katrina, who serves as the Global Sponsor for American Express' employee network WIT (Women in Technology) shared how diversity and equality is part of Amex's DNA: "It's about creating safety, comfort, sharing common challenges and creating a sense that we can change things, not just from senior leadership down, but across the organization."
Once the panel wrapped up, our attendees still had plenty of time to network with the American Express team and to ask some more follow up questions. As our guests departed into the soon to be snowy air, they walked away with gift bags and memories of a great night.
American Express is hiring! Follow Amex on PowerToFly to learn more about open opportunities.
PowerToFly's CEO Milena Berry welcomed our attendees.
Katrina Roberts, a twenty-seven year veteran of American Express provided the evening's keynote address.
Shek Lee, American Express Engineering Director, lead a product demo about ChatBot
American Express Vice President Anna Knizhnik discussed the "Pay It, Plan It" feature.
Our panel discussion featuring from American Express: Katrina Roberts, Divyangi Anchan, Urvashi Tyagi and John Ahn.
Divyangi Anchan and Urvashi Tyagi
John Ahn and moderator Milena Berry
Katrina Roberts answers an audience member's question.
Our amazing panel.
Attendees had plenty of time to network.
Attendees had the chance to not only meet members of the American Express team but their peers as well.
If you are interested in attending this event, please email us at email@example.com to be considered for a reservation.
PowerToFly is kicking off this holiday season with a free evening of cocktails and conversation featuring women leaders from some of New York's fastest-growing startups. The night will include product demos, a panel discussion, an audience Q&A, and of course plenty of time to network with your peers over drinks and light food.
The event will take place on Monday December 17th from 6pm to 8pm at Rise New York, located at 43 W. 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010.
Featured startups include:
- Better Mortgage, a direct lender dedicated to providing a fast, transparent, and online mortgage experience backed by superior customer support. From their offices in New York City, they're using technology to change the way people finance their homes, for the better. Since their founding, Better Mortgage has funded $1.8 billion of loans
- Blockstack, a new internet for decentralized apps that you access through the Blockstack Browser. With Blockstack, there is a new world of apps that let you own your data and maintain your privacy, security and freedom. Blockstack is a rapidly growing open source community with over 15,584 developers globally. It was co-founded by Ryan Shea and Muneeb Ali in 2013 at Princeton and the core team is distributed across the United States and globally.
- Chainalysis, builds trust in blockchains between people, businesses and governments. Their Blockchain Intelligence Platform powers compliance and investigation software for the world's top institutions. Their cryptocurrency investigation software helps law enforcement and financial institutions identify and stop bad actors who are using cryptocurrencies for illicit activity such as fraud, extortion, and money laundering. With an intuitive graphical interface, Chainalysis Reactor enables users to easily conduct in-depth investigations into the source and provenance of cryptocurrency transactions.
- RapidSOS, a multi-million dollar technology company developing transformative technology that saves lives. Their emergency technology platform links life-saving data from connected devices to 9-1-1 and first responders. RapidSOS' technology helps predict emergencies before they occur while also providing accurate locations and data to first responders.
Agenda (Subject to Change)
- 6:00pm - Check-In & Networking over Cocktails & Light Food
- 6:30pm - Event Kickoff with Rise New York (The NYC chapter of a global network that brings together the best and brightest startups and experts to create the future of financial services)
- 6:35pm - Introductory Remarks by PowerToFly
- 6:40pm - Product Demos, a Panel Discussion and an Audience Q&A featuring women tech leaders from Better Mortgage, Blockstack, Chainalysis, and RapidSOS
- 7:20pm - Networking over Cocktails & Light Food
About our Events: All attendees who RSVP are welcome, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender identity, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, or age. If you require accommodation to fully participate in this event, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will contact you to discuss your specific needs.
Unfortunately, PowerToFly and its Partners cannot admit outside recruiters to this particular event. Please email email@example.com if you have any questions about this policy.