FinTech Female Fridays: Meet Irene Zhou Brush, Transfers GTM Lead at Plaid
We conclude our celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) month with another feature of an inspiring woman in this week's Fintech Female Friday series.
Irene Zhou Brush is a Transfers GTM Lead at Plaid, and recently led the Canadian market expansion team. Starting as an account manager to handle everything customer-related post-sale and with a strong foundation of go-to-market skills, Irene has the unique opportunity to partner closely with Transfer's product team to set, execute, and deliver on successful strategies. In addition to owning specific revenue targets, her current priorities at Plaid include officially launching Transfer to GA while continuing to unlock new segments/use cases and identify product features to build.
Irene's career started far afield from fintech, with business development for Maximus, a healthcare government contractor during a fascinating time for the industry - two years after the Affordable Care Act and there was significant need from state and local governments to implement the new regulations. She was a founding member of a new team within Maximus focused on developing their strategies for winning new business and renewing existing relationships. While transitioning to Plaid to retain and grow the east coast portfolio, Irene says that "ramping on the fintech expertise was one of the most challenging things I have had to do in my career". It took probably 6+ months of complete immersion in the world of APIs and fintech, before she felt comfortable in her day-to-day.
Plaid is filled with some of the brightest and most thoughtful people, and the culture is very people-oriented emphasizing collaboration over siloed decision making. This has had a major influence over how Irene has grown as a leader. For example, for critical decisions she seeks inputs from all cross-functional stakeholders to build a viable consensus (rather than earlier in her career, she would have probably taken the “ask for forgiveness” route).
Plaid’s solutions have often been called the “plumbing” of fintech as they enable industry use cases by aggregating the financial data needed. With Irene's work on the Transfer product, she is helping Plaid expand from data aggregation into money movement and helping make instant bank payments a reality for the US.
More on Irene
Where you currently live: Upper East Side
Favorite part of your day: Mornings! The days I work from home!
Hometown: Greenville, SC
Favorite hobby: Cooking and eating… mostly eating ;)
Media inspiration: Love is Blind show, and Crime Junkie podcast. I absolutely love the Crime Junkie podcast and deeply admire how the founder took a passion project and built an empire from it.
What's the best job decision you ever made? What's the worst job decision you ever made?
The best job decision I ever made was to take the leap of faith into fintech! The worst was when I moved to NYC for my last company in a fully remote role. The rest of my team was still located in-person in DC and it was so difficult trying to stay connected. I am a fan of the hybrid work model nowadays but would not recommend it if your company is not set up for remote work!
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?
In all honesty, I was scared to take the Canada market lead role. I had worked with our largest Canadian accounts as an individual contributor and recognized the challenges of the market and the direction we needed to go, but I was not confident that I could fully own the revenue strategy. Luckily I had some encouraging leaders in my corner who identified my capabilities and pushed me to step into this leadership capacity.
What is the most important lesson you have learned from a mistake you’ve made in the past?
Earlier in my career, I had a position open for a pretty senior role on my team. I had been recruiting for this for 6+ months and was getting a little desperate to fill the headcount. I finally found a person I was excited about but let my excitement cloud my judgment in terms of the level I agreed to hire them in order to meet compensation expectations. Bringing them in at a level they were not quite qualified for meant they were constantly facing expectations that they were not quite ready to meet. I learned two valuable lessons from this mistake: 1. to have conviction in your instincts, and 2. to make sure your people are set up for success from the get-go, even if it means losing a potentially great hire.
Do you have any productivity hacks? What keeps you motivated? How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I like to block my mornings for focus time. Most of my team is on the west coast so it works out nicely that I can have 2-3 hours before they come online to get deep work done. My dog, Wallace, has been a great reminder to keep work-life balance. After all, it’s hard to keep working deep into the evening without a break when you have someone reminding you that it’s TIME FOR DINNER. ;)
7:15 am: Wake up and have a quick coffee before going on a run. It’s my husband’s day to take Wallace to the park.
8:15 am: Shower, get ready, pack my bag. I had forgotten over Covid how much of a process it is to get ready for work!
9:15 am: Embark on my commute. First stop: Midtown for a meeting with a Plaid partner.
10:00 am: Arrive for the meeting. It’s in a WeWork and I am experiencing some nostalgia as I remember Plaid NYC’s first days in a coworking space.
11:00 am: The meeting went well. Now it’s time to head into the Plaid office in Soho. I wore new shoes and my feet hurt, so I decide to Uber.
11:30 am: The office is quite crowded for a Wednesday! My usual seat is taken so I decide to sit with the Product team today. Lunch is soon - I can smell it.
12:45 pm: I had to shorten my 1:1 with a PM to 15 min as I did not have my usual deep work time this morning. Needed to crank out a deck for a meeting later in the day.
1:00 pm: Another quick 15 min meeting to align on deal strategy. I’m a big fan of 15 min meetings - really forces you to cut to the chase!
1:30 pm: A working meeting with BizOps. We work very, very closely together. This meeting is focused on competitive analysis.
2:30 pm: I decide to skip the Design check-in for our GA launch today in favor of getting some work done. Our PMM is wonderful and has it handled.
3:00 pm: Time for a Payments-wide pipeline check-in. We review pacing towards targets, key opportunities, and blockers.
3:30 pm: I have a 1:1 with a direct report. We’re both in the office today so we can meet in person. It’s definitely nice to get the face time!
4:00 pm: Cross-functional brainstorm/figjam session on H2 product plans. Had a cold brew to get my creative juices flowing.
5:00 pm: Another 1:1 with a direct report, albeit remotely this time.
5:30 pm: Planning session on sales enablement for the GA launch. Solid enablement of our internal teams will be critical to a successful launch.
6:00 pm: Time to wrap up emails/slacks for the day and make my to-do list for focus time in the morning.
6:30 pm: Head out for my commute home. It’ll be time to feed Wallace soon.