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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Betterment’s Women Leaders Share Their Best Career Advice

In the full year since COVID-19 fundamentally upended our realities forever, Betterment adapted and grew alongside a changing society, industry, and tumultuous economy.

That’s why this Women’s History Month, we’re taking a moment to learn from and appreciate the women who are leading Betterment into the future, by taking a look at their invaluable insights and experiences. We asked nine women at the helm of various departments across Betterment to talk about their work, leadership, and advice for the next generation.

What advice do you have for women who are just starting out in their careers?

Sarah Levy, CEO: Find something that you are passionate about. You will spend many hours of your life at work and it’s best to love what you do.

Katherine Kornas, VP of Product: Early in my career, I remember having a conversation with my dad, who worked at General Motors his entire career, about how I always felt like I was “getting it wrong” because I didn’t come up with the same solutions to problems that my colleagues did. “You know what, Kate?” he said. “You think differently than other people. That’s not a sign that you’re unqualified. It’s a sign that you’re an extremely valuable employee because you’re able to see things no one else sees.”

Susan Justus, Head of Talent Development: Allow yourself to be vulnerable: Vulnerability is not a sign of weakness and can be your greatest strength. Vulnerability can create a culture of trust and respect. Admitting our mistakes, seeking help, and acknowledging we don’t have all the answers are all expressions of vulnerability.

Pat Advaney, Senior Director, B4B Marketing: Don’t diminish the value of skills that come easily to you; something that may not be “rocket science” to you is likely something that others struggle with. Own your expertise!

Kim Rosenblum, CMO: Try things out; it’s hard to know what you will love (or hate!) without hands-on experience. Take time to find the intersection of “what you love” and “what you are good at.” Once you know that magic combo it will be easier to create a career path where you will be happy and successful!

Veronica Mendoza, Senior Director of Growth Marketing: Don’t be too hard on yourself! You can strive to be good without beating yourself up for not being perfect.

Can you tell us more about self-care, and how you accomplish it as a leader?

Kate Smith, Senior Director of People Strategy & Operations: This is a hard one. As a working mom of three young kids, I find I’m constantly focused on the care of others, and it’s only been recently that I’ve realized the need to carve out time for myself. Once a week my husband and I get the girls to bed, and then I’m off to play a sport I love for an hour, helping me both mentally and physically!

Johanna Richardson, Head of Product: Not going to lie: finding balance during the past year has been a constant struggle. Juggling work, normal parenting, and remote schooling all in the place where I live has seriously blurred the lines between all aspects of my life. My daughter has crashed many-a-meeting, but I try to remind myself how cool it is that she gets to see her mom at work up close. That said, carving out some time for myself every day to go for a run or just binge-watch some Netflix is a must. Also, I’ve really upped my skincare game.

Veronica Mendoza, Senior Director of Growth Marketing: I’m not much of a routines or rituals type of person when it comes to self care, but I do believe in Body’s Choice. Whether it’s a long walk, a night of mindless TV-watching, or just consistently taking a workday lunch break, I try to listen to what my mind or body is telling me it needs—before it starts yelling.

Sarah Levy, CEO: It’s important to turn off after hours. For me, spending time with family and friends, walking in the park with my husband and dog, and reading books keep me happy.

Kim Rosenblum, CMO: It’s personal. I try and exercise 5x a week. Even if it’s for a short amount of time. And when I exercise I keep a notebook handy because endorphins generate ideas! I also only take on volunteer or extracurricular projects if I have the time.

Katherine Kornas, VP of Product: Too much routine is often the source of burnout for me, so when I start to feel like I’m doing the same things, day after day, I’ll do something differently, even if it’s uncomfortable at first. Tweaking my schedule even just a tiny bit helps force my brain out of its groove, and I find that I’m able to look at problems and opportunities in new, insightful ways afterwards.

What’s your leadership style?

Lucy Babbage, SVP of People: I focus on building personal relationships and getting to know my colleagues’ personal goals in career and life, and doing what I can to support those goals in the context of what the company needs. I also like to bring some silliness and laughter to the table, so I hope my team thinks I am funny!

Susan Justus, Head of Talent Development: I am a people first leader. I lead with care and empathy. I engage my team by asking open-ended questions and creating space for their input and ideas and make myself available to support and guide the process along the way. I am a true believer that people grow when they are provided autonomy, respect and trust to contribute at their full potential.

Kate Smith, Senior Director of People Strategy & Operations: Player / coach. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get into the details, but can take that step back to be able to take a more strategic view. I want my team to feel empowered and accountable, but I’m here to support them every step of the way.

Kim Rosenblum, CMO: Over many years I’ve learned my strengths and weaknesses. When I’m at my best, I’m supporting people to do their best job—to maximize their talent and potential.

Veronica Mendoza, Senior Director of Growth Marketing: I like to think I have a supportive, consultative leadership style. Over time, I’ve also learned that not everyone responds to a single style in the same way, so I also believe it’s most important to be adaptable. Getting to know people individually makes it easier to find the sweet spots between disparate styles, leading to stronger relationships and, very often, better business outcomes.

Johanna Richardson, Head of Product: I try to lead with empathy and transparency. I want to make sure that everyone on my team has the space and autonomy to shine and feels supported in their careers.

What about your work at Betterment are you most proud of so far?

Sarah Levy, CEO: It’s pretty early in the journey for me. I’m really enjoying getting to know the team, the industry, and the amazing things that differentiate Betterment: performance, ease-of-use, transparency, and personalization.

Susan Justus, Head of Talent Development: Building the Talent Development function from the ground up over the last four years. Creating a core skill training curriculum, leadership development tracks, one-on-one coaching programs and various other tools/resources that support growth and development for employees.

Pat Advaney, Senior Director, B4B Marketing: Publishing lots of B4B content that has helped drive traffic to our site and helps educate our employer clients.

Kate Smith, Senior Director of People Strategy & Operations: I’m proud of the direct impact my work has on our people and culture. A lot of what we do is behind the scenes, but to see how that work has contributed to Betterment being a great place for our team members to grow and develop their careers, all while creating and supporting an amazing product for our customers—it’s very rewarding to say the least!

Kim Rosenblum, CMO: It’s been a fast first month! I’m learning so much, and I feel very welcomed. I appreciate that everyone here is helpful and a teacher. I’m excited to learn more about our existing and potential customers, building an emotional and resonant brand, and marketing incredible products that meet a vital need. Our mission is quite inspiring!

Lucy Babbage, SVP of People: I’m proud to have been part of an ever-evolving team that has made Betterment such a special place to work over the years and also that I finally got our new kitchen construction wrapped!

Johanna Richardson, Head of Product: I’m really proud of the team we’ve built. Truly a stellar crew.

Anything else on your mind that our readers should know about?

Katherine Kornas, VP of Product: I’m queer-identified and grew up in a conservative, religious Midwest suburb. I didn’t fit in. My experiences, while heartbreaking at times, helped instill a tenacity in me that I often call upon during my career, particularly when I’m faced with tough problems and ambiguity. I believe I’m a better leader because of it—and am proud of that.

Kate Smith, Senior Director of People Strategy & Operations: I’m a proud mom to three little girls, and I feel so grateful to work at a place like Betterment where I feel so supported as I try to juggle work and family priorities.

Sarah Levy, CEO: I love leading a business with such a positive mission—to empower customers to make the most of their money, so they can live Better!

Begin your investment journey

If you’re interested in joining our team, check out the Betterment careers page! We’re always looking for passionate candidates to join our company.

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