Building a Career in London’s Fintech Startup Scene

Winter 2018

Nicole Pitre

Schulich Leader at University of Waterloo

As a recent university graduate, I experienced the typical struggle of searching for my "dream" job. Before graduating from the University of Waterloo in April 2017, I knew I wanted to jumpstart my career in the tech industry. My goal was to start working immediately after graduation, so I was applying for jobs alongside my academic commitments. Applying for jobs and attending interviews was tiring, time-consuming and demotivating at times. Often I would face no response at all or, even worse, rejection. Finally, when I received three job offers (two in Waterloo, one in the UK), I was relieved and excited. Even though I had applied for jobs almost exclusively at tech companies in Canada, I decided to accept the offer to work as a Data Scientist at a fintech startup called Revolut in London, United Kingdom.

What exactly attracted me to working at this fintech startup in London? The first reason is simple: fintech is an exciting industry to join right now, especially for someone with both a STEM background and an interest in business/finance. London is truly the centre of the global fintech industry. The second reason is that two of the startup’s Data Scientists (Waterloo Actuarial Science grads with similar backgrounds to me) came back to the university to recruit another Data Scientist. I saw their posting on Waterloo’s employer database and was immediately interested in Revolut. After two in-person interviews and two Skype interviews, I received the job offer and could not turn it down.

I had always wanted to work at a startup so I could have the chance to lead a team and make significant decisions early on in my career (without the red tape of bureaucracy). My new role did not disappoint. I started at Revolut in July 2017, and from day one I was managing project teams and contributing to the company’s bottom line. I was not often working on data science; instead, I was finding key issues in the company and creating solutions/processes to address them. My keenness for problem solving and finding root causes allowed me to advance to a new position in the company within my first year. The leadership team noticed that people-related/HR processes were becoming more and more crucial as the company grew rapidly (a common growing pain at startups). After some discussion, it was decided that I would act as Interim Head of People and build/implement these processes. Even though this position is interim (temporary), it is an honour to be trusted by my company with this responsibility.

My experience working at a fintech startup has exceeded my expectations. I have learned more than I could ever have imagined about finance, operations, regulation, the payments industry, card schemes and app development. I remember thinking that I would pursue a Graduate degree in Statistics shortly after my undergraduate degree, but my desires have changed. I now plan to wait at least two years before pursuing a Graduate degree. If I go back to university, I would like to pursue an MBA or Management-related degree as opposed to a Statistics degree. It is interesting to see how industry experience can change your academic goals as you become more aware of your professional strengths/weaknesses.

Canada is known worldwide for its knowledge-based economy and its excellent tech companies. There are numerous Canadian tech companies which are well-known in the London fintech community. Wealthsimple is an example of a Canadian fintech company that is talked about all over the UK and the world. I would join one of these Canadian companies in a heartbeat if I were looking for a new opportunity. After all, I often miss the extreme kindness and stereotypical “eh’s” of my fellow Canadians!

Everything I have mentioned so far was made possible by the support I received from Seymour Schulich and the Schulich Foundation during my Mathematics degree at the University of Waterloo. If I hadn’t received the Schulich Leader Scholarship, I would not have felt the same level of confidence and motivation to take on big challenges during university (e.g. internships abroad, difficult but rewarding academic courses). These challenges are what shaped me into the person I am today, both personally and professionally. I would like to sincerely thank Seymour Schulich, David Goodman and the Schulich Foundation for the gifts they have given me over the years. Their support, both financial and social, has been instrumental in my development since I started university in 2012. I am immensely proud to be part of the Schulich Leader Graduate/Alumni Network. Thank you for reading! All the best in 2018.