FinTech Female Fridays: Meet Senior Director of Customer Operations, Laura Lehr
Updated: Mar 31, 2021
From a start at one of the big four accounting firms to the fast-paced world of startups, Laura Lehr is an operations executive making investing and financial education more accessible to millions of Americans. Laura’s pivot into FinTech has landed her leading customer operations and developing a best in class user experience at a company she’s extremely passionate about. Recently becoming a new mom, Laura shares with us how she is maintaining a work-life-mom balance from home, advice from her incredible mentor who’s helped her in recent years, and how she’s effectively leading a customer operations department.
"Within a few short months, I was promoted and became a mother. Setting boundaries has been challenging… I think the whole ‘work smarter, not harder’ mantra is imperative here – and that’s what I’m working on embodying now."
Full name: Laura (Sobkowski) Lehr
Current job title: Senior Director, Customer Operations
Current location: Greenwich, CT
Works from: Home
Laura Lehr began her career in management consulting; working on Operational and Financial Risk projects for companies across the Financial Services sector as part of KPMG’s Advisory group. Quickly, Laura began craving a more fast-paced (maybe even hectic) career path, so she jumped headfirst into the world of startups. She joined an early stage Clean Energy startup as the first Operations team member and spent the next six plus years scaling the operations of the business, eventually leaving as the VP of Operations after the company was acquired.
“It was a transformative period of time for me, and one that really brought me from contributor to leader.”
Laura then made the pivot into FinTech and never looked back. She got her start in FinTech by joining a startup focused on small business lending, and then to Stash, where she has been for the last two years leading the Customer Operations team.
“I truly cannot wait to see through everything we are up to at Stash this year and beyond!”
Stash’s Customer Operations team has a few key goals that Laura continuously focuses on. Some of these including cross-collaborating with different teams to improve customer journeys and processes increasing their self-service rate while not compromising quality, and implementing the best possible tools and platforms to optimize on efficiency.
Stash is on a mission to help millions of Americans build wealth, grow their financial education, and have access to financial services such as investing, banking, and insurance products.
“We are well on our way to achieving our mission, and it’s extremely exciting to be a part of.”
Laura reflected on the experience of the recent historic weeks in the markets, highlighted by the GameStop short squeeze. “During this time period, the CX team reiterated the ‘Stash Way’ to our customers who reached out to us – The Stash Way promotes long term, diversified investing rather than day trading or trying to capitalize on short-term gains from a volatile market. Being a part of the CX team at Stash, particularly during that week, has truly shown me the impact of the work we are doing.”
The FinTech ‘trend’ Laura is most excited about is how FinTech is becoming less of a ‘trend’ and more of a norm. “As we’ve seen with other industries and companies (re: AirBnB, Uber), these alternative services are replacing, rather than augmenting, the existing architecture. Not every American has access to a bank account, to the stock market, to life insurance; Stash and companies like Stash are changing that in a big way, and I really don’t see why our platforms wouldn’t overtake the traditional ones that came before us.” Laura exclaimed how excited she is to continue watching this adoption evolve and unfold.
When asked about challenges throughout her career, Laura immediately reflected on being promoted at work and becoming a mother within a few short months of each other. Laura has always been a hard worker - one who will not leave the office until everything is done, and done well (...and then some.) Now that she has taken on more responsibility both at work and at home, she has accepted that this work ethic may not always be achievable. Sleeping as much as possible (sometimes this requires a bed time as early as 8 pm) and blocking off her calendar outside of work hours, are imperative to maintaining this balance.
“These new boundaries have been challenging, though I will say I’m starting to get the hang of it. I think the whole ‘work smarter, not harder’ mantra is imperative here – and that’s what I’m working on embodying now.”
Laura says that her current boss, Kimberley Meehan, Stash’s Chief Customer Officer, is one of the most amazing mentors that she has ever had. “She is consistently helping me navigate internally and externally, and teaching me lessons that will help me grow at Stash and throughout the rest of my career. Kim is passionate about advancing women professionally and it really shows – I think this is best demonstrated by the fact that I never had to ask Kim to ‘be my mentor’. She kind of took it upon herself to help me out, and I’m honestly not sure I would have ever even thought to ask her to mentor me. Sometimes the best mentor knows what you need, even if you don’t know it at the time! I’m very lucky to have her.”
After Laura’s decade-long stint in the greatest city in the world, she left New York City in April of last year and moved to Connecticut for a bit more space.
Favorite hobby: Painting, dancing, cooking, traveling and being with family and friends. I promise when this is all over, I will never cancel plans again!
Favorite part of your day: The early, early mornings that I have to myself. Sometimes it’s the only “me” time I get, even if I’m not doing anything particularly self-care related. And, of course, the time I get with my husband and the little guy.
Productivity hack: Turn off Slack notifications, even just for ½ hour, a few times a day. And create prioritized to-do lists… not everything has to get done today, just those 1-2 very important items.
5:00 am: My 4 month old, Jacob, is my never-to-fail alarm clock and starts to cry. I go into his room, give him a bottle, and put him back down. I get ready for the day while listening to a podcast on the news or politics, and clean up the house a little bit.
6:00 am: I’m sure I should use this time to do some light yoga or set my intentions for the day, but instead I hunch over my phone and catch up on Slack and email while scarfing down breakfast, watching the baby monitor and hoping Jacob gives me another few minutes.
7:00 am: He doesn’t! He’s up again and up for good this time, so I get him from his crib, get him ready for the day and spend the rest of this time playing with him on the floor with my husband, Joe, and our dog, Penny. This is my favorite part of the day!
8:30 am: Our amazing nanny arrives and I kiss Jacob goodbye for the day. I grab a snack and head upstairs to my office where I’ll spend the next few hours glued to my computer.
8:30 to 10:00 am: I look over my calendar for the week, prep for upcoming meetings, log in to ZenDesk and our Jira board to check out our queues, refresh a few reports. Answer emails, Slacks, ping various people on follow up items before the craziness of the week starts.
10:00 am: CX team standup
10:30 am: Bi-weekly meeting with certain Product Managers. We meet with each PM across the company every week or every other week to discuss what upcoming launches are rolling out and to provide data on customer feedback.
11:00 am: Meeting with our UK team to discuss internal tool builds for our customer support agents.
12:00 pm: Hour long ‘Call Listening’ session that the CX team hosts for the company. Each week we pick a new topic and pull customer calls with the goal of empathy building across the company, demonstrating pain points our customers have along their journey within our app.
1:00 pm: Meeting with Legal/Compliance to discuss a process change we will need to implement.
1:30 pm: Review and update documentation I’ve been putting together on how to operationally fix some processes regarding our billing/subscription fee collection methods.
2:00 pm: Stand up, go downstairs and say hi to Jacob for a few minutes. Make something quick to eat and head back upstairs. I do try to get in 5-10 minutes of stretching during this mid-day break if I can. Spend the rest of the hour answering Slacks I didn’t get to earlier in the day.
3:00 pm: External meeting with our BPO who is facilitating our implementation of a new phone system to go over technical due diligence questions.
4:00 to 5:30 pm: Work on a deck for a strategy project I’m putting together, on showing support options contextually throughout our product, helping our customers during key inflection points in their journey throughout our app.
5:30 to 7:30 pm: Hang out with my husband and Jacob; play time, bath time, then bed time. These afterwork hours just one year ago would have probably consisted of dinner & drinks with friends at a fancy NYC spot, or an NYC Fintech Women networking event ☺. I’m enjoying these quiet, routine nights while we still have them, before the world goes back to normal.
7:30 pm: Eat a quick dinner with Joe from whatever we have in the fridge, talk about our day.
8:00 to 9:30 pm: Sign back in to work to finish up.
9:30 pm: Relax for a little bit then swan dive into bed, to be ready for that 5 am little alarm clock!
Reach out to Laura on LinkedIn.
Disclosure: This information is for educational purposes only.