Women's History Month Q&A: Careers, Mentors, and Navigating the Gender Gap


We're proud to introduce a new internal Q&A series brought to the blog in honor of Women's History Month. Throughout March, we will be publishing candid conversations with women at Citisoft. Our goal is to explore issues unique to women in our industry and showcase the trajectories and experiences that have brought these women to their careers in consulting. This week, we chatted with Citisoft Senior Consultants, Amanda Scarfo and Jennifer Monteiro.

Can you tell me a little about your background and how you found yourself in financial service technology and operations?

Jennifer: After I finished my MBA in finance, I had a company in our industry approach me looking for recruits from my school. I think it's more destiny that I ended up in this career as opposed to a conscious choice—I just wasn’t aware of this space before. Because I had the finance background, this company thought it would be a good fit. When I first joined, I started with software testing and then moved on to production support, business analysis, and my career moved steadily from one place to another.

I think that if I had to pick a career for myself, I wouldn't have been able to pick a better one because it just suits my personality so well. I am very analytical in the sense that I like to know the why and the how, and I like to deep dive into all of that. With consulting, you get that opportunity. It’s also not monotonous—every project that I've worked on has been so different, and that's something that I love.

Amanda: Similar to Jennifer, I feel like it was destiny for me as well. Although my trajectory was a little more roundabout in the sense that I majored in political science in college. I thought I might be a lawyer or something else that leveraged my degree, but I minored in accounting and business administration because I felt like it was a good fallback, so to speak. When I graduated college, a friend referred me to Brown Brothers Harriman (“BBH”), and I went for it without knowing much about the industry.

I started in fund accounting which was interesting for a time, and then once it became uninteresting, I moved to the vendor service side at Eagle Investment Systems. Eventually that is what brought me to consulting. The reason I ended up at Citisoft was because I worked with [Citisoft Managing Director] Colleen Devine on previous projects and I always looked up to her as a mentor. When Citisoft’s recruiting manager reached out, I was excited for the opportunity. Looking back, building and maintaining relationships has been a key part of my career progression.

Women are underrepresented in our industry—what do you think are contributing factors to this?

Jennifer: Women are definitely underrepresented—on the many teams that I've worked with, I’ve often been the only woman on the team with half a dozen or more men. I remember watching this TED Talk a while back where the presenter talked about how men go for jobs even if they fit only 50% - 60% of the job description, whereas women go for jobs if they fit 90% of the job description. I think this comes from a norm where men are taught to be brave while women are taught to be perfect.

As women, when we see job descriptions for a consulting role we might think, “oh no, I wouldn't be a good fit for this because I don't check all the boxes in the description.” And I think that's where I pushed my boundaries—I knew business analysis was something that I wanted to pursue and went for it. When given an interview for a BA role, the interviewer didn’t simply ask if I checked the boxes. There were other aspects of my personality and my experience that they saw and appreciated. You can always enhance your skills while at the job—as women, we should understand that we don't necessarily need to have it all while applying.

Amanda: I have heard that same statistic before too. I also think women in general have a harder time advocating for themselves. Because women are in the minority in the industry, that makes it even harder to self-advocate because we’re not advocating to peers, we’re advocating to men. It’s nerve-wracking and we often fall back on the habit of needing to tick all the boxes before we take on a new challenge or opportunity.

What attracted you to Citisoft?

Jennifer: This is a funny story. I go way back with one of Citisoft’s Senior Consultants and he reached out to me while I was working as an independent consultant to tell me all about how much he loved working at Citisoft. In the back of my mind, I thought, “is he trying to recruit me to a pyramid scheme?” He was just so enthusiastic!

I ended up interviewing and everyone I met with was down-to-earth and humble. It was an easy fit—I loved the culture from the first conversation. In the end, my friend wasn’t wrong—I’ve been here for almost a year and a half and joining Citisoft was a very good decision.

Amanda: Working with Citisoft on prior projects gave me a sense of my potential coworkers and I really enjoyed working with everyone I met. To echo Jennifer's comments, during the interview process, everyone was clearly very smart but not intimidating. I got the sense that this is a company that cares about its employees. And that extends throughout the company—everyone just wants to help each other. There is no competitive edge. If you do well, if you work hard, it will get noticed, and you will feel appreciated.

I’d always worked for huge companies previously and it was easy to feel like a number on an employee directory. At Citisoft, we all know each other, and even though we don't get to see each other all the time in person, we still have a sense of community.

How has Citisoft helped accelerate your career since joining?

Jennifer: When I was working as an independent consultant, I always felt like I either had to learn how to swim or I’d drown. Here, there’s a support system where I can always reach out to my colleagues to fill knowledge gaps or benefit from their experience. People are so generous with their time and insights and that has accelerated my career in domains I hadn’t worked on before.

Amanda: I feel like every project I've been on has helped given me more experience, more skills, more time with different clients, which just enhances my confidence in myself. As women, it can be hard to speak up on things when you're not exactly sure you're right. But as I’ve done more and more projects, I’ve realized it’s okay to say: “I’m not certain, but this is what I think.”

Have you had an important female mentors or role models in your career? What did you learn from them?

Jennifer: In a previous role, I reported to a woman who worked as a director, and she was really influential on my career path. She advocated that as women, we need to ask in order to get—no one is going to help us if we don't help ourselves. When she left that company, she recommended that I apply for the position that she was leaving. Even though I didn't get the job, it helped me boost my confidence that she saw me in that role. She showed me the way forward.

At Citisoft, working with [Managing Partner] Christine Knott has been a highlight of my project work. I have immense admiration for the respect she commands in the industry and the knowledge she possesses across all domains. Most importantly, I am awed by how even though she is swarmed with different projects, she still manages to stay on top of everything with her funny bone intact.

Amanda: In one of my previous roles, I was part of a formal mentor-mentee program. I would meet with my mentor monthly, and she gave me important perspective on the organization outside my team and helped me think big picture about my goals. She was my first important mentor and gave me the confidence to make my next career move.

Colleen was an unofficial mentor—I don't know if she knows that, but she will find out soon enough! She’s so successful at running projects and I appreciate the opportunities I’ve had to pick her brain and figure out how she works. She commands respect but she also isn’t afraid to roll up her sleeves. That’s the type of work ethic I admire. She’s a great role model and that has been a big part of my career development in an unofficial capacity.

Thank you to Amanda and Jennifer for their generosity in sharing their stories and insights. If you're interested in learning more about careers at Citisoft, please view our Opportunities here.