FinTech Female Fridays: Meet Dina Ghobrial, Co-founder and CEO at Halo Ai
As a young first generation immigrant having moved from Egypt to Canada after pursuing a Computer Science & Economics degree from American University in Cairo, Dina started from scratch as a receptionist to make ends meet. A couple years later Dina landed a job as a business analyst at one of Canada’s largest banks where she worked hard to stand out and taught herself new skills such as new coding languages and graphic design. She achieved her first major breakthrough by spearheading the development of the bank’s first online securities trading platform and eventually went on to create and lead the Product Management department for the bank’s entire Global Wealth Management division covering products used by over 1 million external customers and thousands of internal users. Following her success, Dina served in various leadership roles including Head of Third-Party Risk Management and Head of IT Sourcing. Later, she moved to Coupa Software where she served as heir first Chief Procurement Officer and relocated to San Francisco. Her feat in her career thus far inspired her to move into entrepreneurship where she continued to learn and evolve.
As the daughter of an entrepreneur who made the bold decision to leave a highly lucrative CEO position and start his own venture, Dina was inspired to follow in his footsteps and finally decided to pursue her life-long dream of building technology that would have real-world impact. As the co-founder and CEO at Halo Ai, Dina has built an innovative platform where they have pioneered the concept of connected risk and compliance management. Leveraging real-time data and self-driving features, they are driving a fundamental transformation in how organizations, regardless of their size, handle counter-party risk and fulfill compliance.
Dina started Halo Ai as a way to combat risk and compliance issues, which is the second leading cause of FinTech failures. Halo Ai's focus on FinTech companies also leverages the background of the founding team. Half the team spent the better part of their careers as FinTech operators and the other half spent their careers in mainstream Financial Services. Given the interdependencies between FinTech, Banking, and others in the ecosystem, Dina realized they are most suited to help companies in that segment navigate of risk and compliance so not only can they free themselves up to focus on their core businesses, but so they can take calculated risks to use as a growth lever for their business.
Halo Ai is helping customers with three things:
Evaluate and continuously monitor counter-party risk (third-parties initially and later, customers) based on vast amounts of reputable data coupled with risk-sensing and quantification models that offer clarity and precision never before possible.
Improve operational efficiency from months to minutes by utilizing our self-driving workflows for completing due-diligence mitigation and supplier management activities.
Become and stay compliant through automated comparisons against key Information Security standards and global privacy and financial regulatory obligations to deliver “findings” requiring attention together with step-by-step guides to remedy.
Quoting “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible” by Walt Disney, Dina considers herself fortunate to create the culture she wants to be a part of. The team at Halo Ai is a group of true athletes, ready to lay it all down for the higher goal of affecting change. Dina is proud to anchor its core values in transparency, accountability, and communication. Emphasizing inclusivity, the team lends a keen ear to every voice in the room, starting with customers. "We constantly look back and celebrate small wins as we simultaneously learn from our mistakes, sometimes making fun of ourselves along the way, and we always make sure to have fun while doing it," says Dina.
More on Dina
Where you currently live: San Francisco Bay Area
Living arrangement: I live in a home in Marin County near lots of hiking trails
Family at home: I live with my husband and co-founder, Nagy Ghobrial, and our dog, Milo. My children and their beautiful spouses both live within relatively short driving distances from us.
Hometown: Toronto, Canada
Favorite hobby: Hiking along the shore, listening to my curated playlists, and, more recently, learning Spanish
Favorite part of your day: Daily team huddle
Favorite show to binge: Blue Planet II
Favorite book: The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown
What's the best job decision you ever made? What's the worst job decision you ever made?
Founding Halo Ai has been the best and most rewarding job decision I ever made. Nothing compares to working with the incredible team we have assembled and together building a product that’s changing the industry in which we operate. Despite the roller-coaster highs and lows, I’m loving every moment, training my resilience muscle, and learning about strengths I didn’t even know I had!
The worst job decision was when I turned down an opportunity for a promotion out of fear that I wouldn’t succeed. I’m grateful to the folks who later convinced me that not taking it was a bad decision, and even more grateful I was able to salvage the situation and get the promotion after all.
Can you tell us about a time someone encouraged you to try a task or take on a project you didn’t think that you would know how to do/or be good at?
I am forever grateful to my many bosses who over the years saw in me what I couldn’t see in myself and who encouraged me to keep learning and soldiering on, even through the failures. I’m particularly grateful to one boss who helped me penetrate the arena of strategic sourcing and supplier management at a global level, which was new both to me and to the company. While I had touched upon some aspects of this in prior roles, the shift to taking on a global leadership role in that area was rather daunting and I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. I took on the challenge anyway, and worked very long days to both learn and deliver simultaneously. With support from my team and the senior leaders that guided me, this ended up being one of the most successful highlights of my journey.
What is the most important lesson you have learned from a mistake you’ve made in the past?
I allowed a co-worker to bully me for years, not realizing I had the option to make it stop. But when I finally did, I learned that sunlight is the greatest purifier and that the first step to solving a problem is shining a light on it. That experience allowed me to find courage I thought wasn’t in me and continued to shape my life going forward.
Do you have any productivity hacks? What keeps you motivated? How do you maintain a work/life balance?
My biggest productivity hack is waking up at 5:00 am and NOT waking up anyone or anything else along with me – no phone, watch, email, Slack… not even my dog! That’s when I get the most difficult, deep-focus, work done, and by 7:00 am when our daily huddle starts, I’ve already gotten some big boulders out of the way and am ready to embrace my day.
I seek and find motivation in the hunt for every new idea, interesting data connection, meaningful partnership or product enhancement, and most motivating of all, a new prospective customer. I relish the look in customers’ eyes when I take them on their first tour of our platform and treasure listening to the "wow, you can help us do that?” comments. I’m equally motivated by nurturing the team, listening to their ideas, however counter to mine, debating voraciously, and finally achieving way better outcomes than would have come from any of us alone.
I like to think of work/life balance in terms of work/life harmony instead: flexibility around hours, remote work, unlimited PTO, and open travel optionality all enable my team and I to cultivate the harmony that works for each of us based on our individual circumstances. Once we find the harmonious notes that work for each of us, everything else clicks after that.
5:00-7:00 am: Snooze my alarm a few times, fill up on coffee and get to the most difficult deep-focus work I need done
7:00-7:30 am: Join our daily team meeting where I give and get updates and do my best to break down any barriers facing the team.
7:30am -12:00 pm: Take meetings, work on product features for the upcoming sprint, customer pipeline, sales calls, fundraising prep, and whatever else needs my attention.
12:00-12:20 pm: Stop and grab a quick sandwich or half a pita-size focaccia bread
12:20-12:30 pm: Make my afternoon coffee, and get out in the backyard for some fresh air and some quick play-time with my dog while the coffee brews
12:30-4:30 pm: This is typically an encore of my mid-morning routine – more meetings and other work, except for Fridays where I block off the afternoon for end-of the week wrap-up activities.
4:30-7:30 pm: Check calendar and prep for tomorrow. Take stock of what got accomplished and make a mental note relative to set goals/KPIs and then call it a day!
7:30-8:30 pm: Heat up pre-prepared healthy food from a delivery service (I’m a big fan of Cook Unity), eat dinner with my husband while watching TV (a big no no but we do it anyways)
8:30-9:00 pm: Have a chamomile tea with a biscotti as I wind down watching some TV – usually something requiring zero thinking, like AGT, the Voice or American Idol
9:00 pm: Bed time!
I set no alarms!
7:30 am / 8:30 am / or whenever: I’ll wake up at my leisure, cuddle up with my dog and a coffee and binge on some nature shows – ones narrated by David Attenborough are my absolute favorite!
Have no structure for the day other than one strict rule: No work
My husband and I will typically go for a hike and/or meet up with friends or one or both of our children for brunch or dinner as the time allows
Sometimes we’ll cook a home-made meal and have a fun social at our place
8:00 am – wake up, knowing I’ll have to work, but do at my own pace
9:00 am -12:00pm: finish any work that didn’t get done the week before and prep for the upcoming week
12:00-6:00 pm: Relax and maybe get out for a short walk if the weather is good
6:00-8:00 pm: Cook with my husband and enjoy a home-made meal together
8:00-10:00 pm: Watch a movie or one of our favorite episodes from a TV show
10:00 pm: Bedtime to start a new week!