It was an unlikely inspiration that spurred LenderClose’s new Chief Technology Officer, Martina Schubert, onto her career path.
As a high school student in Newton, Iowa, Martina took a class in computer programming. She wasn’t an overachieving student at the time, having discovered she could get by with average grades without much effort. The teacher, after seeing she’d signed up for the next, more advanced programming class, sat her down.
“Marty,” he said, using her childhood nickname, “I don’t think you should take the advanced class. I don’t think you can do it.”
Without realizing it, that teacher sparked a chain-reaction still playing out to this very day. Martina decided right then she would take the advanced class – and get an “A” this time. What began as a defiant response grew into a genuine love for technology – long before the idea of a technology career was promising or popular, especially for a woman.
“My parents, who were factory workers at the Maytag plant, didn’t understand why I’d even want to go to college,” said Martina. “They worked extremely hard, but made a good living without needing an advanced education.”
But, Martina’s mother also gave her valuable advice that ultimately defined her career path and other important life decisions.
“My mom told me that I should simply do what I like. She told me to never start doing things that I wouldn’t want to do for the rest of my life. She was very wise in understanding the way our choices become the substance of our lives.”
The Only Woman in the Room
Starting a technology career in the 1980s meant accepting there would be few female peers – and no female executives for role models or mentorship. Martina got used to being the only woman in the room.
For almost her entire career, it was an unspoken norm that that she needed to “be one of the guys.” As Martina worked her way through ranks of IT leadership, she developed a reputation as a no-nonsense leader who knew her stuff and got things done. But, she never felt like the tough exterior was her true self.
Almost 30 years into her career, Martina entered an IT leadership position where she reported to a female CEO for the first time ever. The experience was life-changing.
“She showed me a completely different way to lead than what I’d seen my entire career. She considered the human impact of every decision. She created a diverse management team and a positive, caring culture. People rarely left the company, and often came back when they did. And for the first time, I felt empowered to be myself.”
The experience gave Martina greater clarity about the kind of leader she wanted to be when approached about the opportunity to become LenderClose’s first Chief Technology Officer.
Embracing the Power of Female Leadership, and Lessons Learned
After meeting Omar and Ben for coffee to discuss becoming part of the LenderClose executive team, Martina couldn’t ignore the feeling of excitement.
“I was invigorated at the opportunity to build something new and help facilitate and shape the direction of the company. This is an incredible time of digital transformation in financial services, and I wanted to step out of the boardroom and get closer to the technology again.”
She couldn’t help but reflect on her mother’s advice to pursue what would make her happy. It was becoming more clear that LenderClose would be a great fit.
“When Omar sent me an article about the impact and effectiveness of female leadership during the pandemic, I knew I was going to be respected and appreciated here.”
For other women looking to make their mark in the technology field, Martina offers a few insights from her own experiences.
Take a seat at the table. Metaphorically, this means having the confidence to go for leadership roles and having confidence in your point of view. In the literal sense, Martina has seen women shy away from sitting at the head of the table or near senior leaders. Now, she literally invites them to sit at the table.
Understand your value, no matter what level you’re at. When she started her career, there was a prevalent attitude among women in tech that you had to accept whatever salary you were offered, and just feel grateful that someone wanted you. Until she was in a hiring position herself, Martina never realized negotiating salary was an option. Then, she saw firsthand that the men she hired rarely accepted the first offer, but the women almost always did. Today she encourages women to understand the value of their position, and feel empowered to ask for it.
Find trusted mentors and consult them regularly. In her younger days, Martina worried that asking for advice would be seen as a weakness. Today, she knows that no one person will ever have all the answers. She values getting other perspectives and ideas.
Cultivate confidence. She encourages women to give themselves the permission to not be perfect or know everything, yet still feel confident and capable. The skill of exuding confidence seems to come more naturally to some men – but it is one that women can cultivate with support and practice.