As the first girl in her family who was encouraged to go to university, Candice Pressinger is inspired by how far the world has come in terms of education, female role models, and new societal norms. These advancements are now reflected in her own daughter who is exposed to technology at a young age through STEM programs in school. In this edition of our podcast, Candice reflects on her career journey through a changing tech world but acknowledges that there is still a long way to go to achieve a workforce representative of equal opportunity and diversity in all its forms.
How did you get started in the technology or the payments space? What led you to that career choice?
Candice Pressinger: Actually, it's an interesting journey I've had. My background was in legal and corporate governance where I was a specialist in data protection. Before I joined Elavon, I worked for BT (British Telecom), a UK communications provider, where I delivered major global programs, one of which was BT's PCI DSS compliance program. With my legal hat on, I was absolutely fascinated with how merchants could discharge their regulatory data protection obligations to compliance with industry standards like PCI DSS. And, as I went through the journey, I ended up becoming more and more involved in the technical solutions. Then I became so fascinated, I qualified as a PCI Security Assessor, and I was able to build my understanding of security process and technology. So, that's how I came to it.
Have you had a role model in shaping your career path?
Candice Pressinger: Yes, I've had a couple, but the one that really sticks out to me was a former colleague at British Telecom. Her name is Sarah Nicholson. And, at the time I was at BT, she ran a team of 100 people, delivering security risk and policy compliance and running the PCI QSA team. The team was largely male, but it never fazed her. I admired her for being so competent in her field and for being hugely trusted to deliver. Her immense subject matter expertise and integrity as a woman leader was something I really aspire to emulate now in my role as a leader. I think knowing a subject, being true to your word, and having high integrity, are extremely important values for me and in general. She was one of those people who taught me how to navigate my way through politics and stakeholder management at a senior level, as well as inspiring me to become a PCI QSA. So, she had a lot to do with my journey to date.
What is your proudest accomplishment in your career to date?
Candice Pressinger: I think it has to be the delivery of BT’s PCI compliance program for BT group worldwide. It was an epic undertaking. It involved many people across numerous teams, 20 platforms, and 80 third-party service providers. I learned a huge amount about all aspects of payments security during my time at BT. And I also, on the back of that and having become so fascinated with the whole area, I proposed and led a special interest group for the PCI Security Standards Council focused on best practices for maintaining PCI compliance. This really allowed me to crystallize and share my experiences across the industry, for the greater good, because getting there was a massive achievement, but staying there was even greater.
So now we are going to get into some questions about women in technology, specifically. Do you notice a lack of women in technology and, if so, why do you think that is the case?
Candice Pressinger: I do notice that women are still underrepresented in the technology industry. There are a number of reasons. I think it's largely down to the fact that there are still a significant number of men from the Baby Boomer generation - so, between 54 and 72 - that are in senior leadership roles. This can bring, not all the time, but legacy thinking that could still represent ideologies, perceptions, and social norms from the '60s and '70s. At that time, education, expectations, or assumptions about the role of a man or a woman were quite different from now. I was the first girl in my family to be encouraged to go to university. And, it was very unusual in my family at the time. It certainly has started to become much more diverse over the past 10 years. It's really great to see this cycle change happening.
It's a gradual shift though. It's probably due to a combination of influences in terms of education. There are many more women role models, industry business initiatives, as well as a lot more younger people. Generation X is starting to come through between 40 and 53, and Millennials 24 to 38, who are coming into the technology and payment industry. These generations are bringing a completely fresh view of societal norms. And more girls, like my daughter, are now being exposed to technology as a great career option through STEM programs now that are being delivered in schools. There are also many more high profile, female scientists, and technologists in leadership positions. So, it's becoming much more normal to see women in these areas. Another prime example of this is the positive emergent change with Kamala Harris having been chosen as Vice President for the United States. She is the first female black and Asian-American Vice President and the highest-ranking female elected official in U.S. history. The next generation will start to see women in these roles as the norm going forward.
In your experience, does being a woman in your profession come with confidence challenges that you have to overcome, for instance, doubting your own ability - sometimes called imposter syndrome. And if so, how do you overcome it?
Candice Pressinger: I think we all have confidence challenges and it's not tied to gender in my personal opinion. It's about knowing who you are and that you have a voice and not being afraid to use it. For me, it comes down to truly understanding your character and learning how to maintain your confidence and resilience in difficult, challenging situations. For me, it's about self-awareness, knowing who I am as a woman, as a human being, understanding the best way to overcome my lack of confidence in a given situation. My personal tools and techniques include a combination of being well prepared, knowing my facts and knowing who I am dealing with. There is a lovely quote I try to remember in situations of self-doubt, "She remembered who she was, and the game changed."
Many women in the tech industry have felt that their gender has affected the way that they are perceived or treated. Have you ever been in a situation like that? And if so, how did you handle it?
Candice Pressinger: Earlier in my career, I have been in a situation where I felt I was treated slightly differently and inappropriately. At the time, I did turn a blind eye to it because I didn't have the confidence to raise it with the individual or my manager. It involved a senior male figure, but this shouldn't have mattered, but it did affect me. Things have changed significantly in recent years. I now understand, and I make it my personal ambition to use my voice and to know I have options with regards for how to handle situations, and understand and think through, am I okay with it? Do I want to tackle it directly or indirectly? It's my choice and I choose not to be intimidated. It's important to know what is and isn't acceptable for you personally as a woman and not to tolerate behaviors that won’t be expected towards a male in the same role. In such situations where I believe something now is inappropriate, there is one question I always ask myself, “What would a woman do who loved herself?” And that guides me significantly with my action.
What do you see, or hope to see, as the future for women in technology roles or in the payments industry specifically?
Candice Pressinger: I'd like to see the payment and technology industry be more reflective of the population in general, and not just male and female. By diversity in all its forms, we all have gifts differing, irrespective of race, creed, or gender. I would like to see education awareness in schools showcasing a career in technology or payments as a really great career option for everybody. And that there would be totally equal opportunity and recognition for talent, irrespective of gender.
Were you given any advice during your career that has stuck with you? As a result, do you have a personal mantra or a quote that you live by?
Candice Pressinger: Actually, yes, I've been given lots of advice during my career and a lot actually from my wonderful mother. And she always taught me, “What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.” For me, this is about doing what you fear most. And I know by facing difficult and challenging situations, they've really helped me grow, and I've used them to increase my personal resilience. I draw on hard times and how I've battled through them to come through them. And they helped me to move through the next challenge. I'm also a great believer in, “Don't look back. Only see how far you've come.” Failure is part of success, and taking learning from everything, however painful that experience may have been, is what makes us who we are in life. I personally like to focus on the positives and what's taking my learning. I don't dwell on the negative, as it impedes forward progress.
What advice would you impart to other women about how to succeed in the payments industry or in any technology-based field in general? Is there anything that you wish you had known?
Candice Pressinger: One of the key things, and something which really jet propelled my career in the payments space, was being put on the program at BT. I understood it was going to be very interesting and challenging, but I realized I didn't actually know an awful lot about it. So, I built my network of contacts and they have helped me to this day, and I still use them to soundboard anything that is challenging for me. The payment and technology industry is full of so many fantastic and skilled people. My greatest advice to other women would be to use our communication skills and build our personal networks. This has been invaluable to me in my career journey, whether that's specific payment networks through the PCI SSC community, or general business networks through LinkedIn. It's a chance to give and to get knowledge and to experience in equal measure. I personally try to support people as they learn and develop, as I know that I found this enormously valuable at that time and a network was so key. I love to give back, as people have to me in the past. Networks provide a fantastic opportunity with a wealth of experience to draw on.
Well, thank you so much, Candice.
Candice Pressinger: Thank you again. It is an honor and a privilege, so appreciate your time. Thank you.