FinTech Female Fridays: Meet Lead Product Manager, Carolyn N. Spencer
The go-to funding marketplace for women-owned businesses IFundWomen is changing the narrative of the entrepreneurial world and minimizing the funding gap for women through access to capital, coaching, and connections specifically for women. With the ultimate goal of positively impacting her community, Carolyn Spencer is helping women reach their potential as the Product Lead driving this venture. Carolyn’s personal mission is to create scalable products and services for women entrepreneurs that help them explore and develop their business ideas, while working towards the organization's mission, to close the funding gap for women-owned businesses.
Full name: Carolyn N. Spencer
Current job title: Product Lead
Current company: IFundWomen
Current location: Seattle, WA
My mantra: ‘You are successful in your own right, and you should own that.’
Having always been inclined towards empowering others, Carolyn founded her own company in college which supported small businesses and entrepreneurs. She has held roles at both start-ups and corporate companies (such as Intuit and Amazon) in marketing, research, and product. IFundWomen Founder & CEO Karen Cahn refers to Carolyn as her “unicorn” because of Carolyn’s diverse industry experiences. These experiences eventually led Carolyn to her dream role of leading product at IFundWomen.
The lack of funding options for women is clearly reflected in the statistics. Last year, women received just 2.3% of the venture capital dollars deployed in the United States, and women of color received less than 1%. IFundWomen is working to eradicate this funding gap by providing a frictionless platform where women can both raise capital and get coached on how to launch and scale successful businesses. The platform offers immediate access to capital through a premium online fundraising experience, access to small business grants from corporate partners, expert business coaching on all the topics entrepreneurs need to know about, and a network of women business owners that sparks confidence, accelerates knowledge and ignites action.
Carolyn and her team are currently prioritizing feature improvements and service offerings to help women entrepreneurs receive funding, which means offering and creating services, products, and resources to set them up for success. Specifically, Carolyn is working with the IFundWomen team to ensure the first customer experience is educational and seamless.
Like any other successful leader, Carolyn suffers from imposter syndrome. “As a woman in tech having worked at a company like Amazon, I have learned that there are so many nuances to what impacts others' perception of you: your writing style, your age, your dress, your educational background, your ethnicity, and the list goes on. I am constantly wary of how I am perceived being a driven female leader with an opinion and coming to learn that it doesn’t always matter what other people think. My mantra: ‘You are successful in your own right, and you should own that.’”
Mentorship has been a crucial part of Carolyn's career success. Two mentors that she values most are her former RIT college professor, Victor Perotti, and her former Amazon colleague, Michelle Bayles-Simon. “I model much of my career ambition and interests after Vic, primarily my thinking about technology and entrepreneurship. We worked closely together as I explored different aspects of the tech and business world, and he guided me when I started a business in college. We stay in touch regularly and he remains one of my most treasured mentors.”
“Michelle has been what I considered my refinement mentor. I am a highly motivated and goal-oriented person, and Michelle brings me back down to earth in that she reminds me that not everyone is like me. Her advice and insights have helped me hone my management process and skill set.”
In the future, a greater volume of and more support for businesses that fund startups with diverse founders, particularly BIPOC women founders, is something that Carolyn is excited to see developing and growing.
More on Carolyn
Currently live: Seattle, WA
Hometown: Rochester, NY
Favorite hobby: Traveling
Favorite part of your day: Mornings
Productivity hack: Breaks throughout the day, and vacations. Over the past few years, I’ve allowed myself to take time out of my life if I no longer feel focused or productive (as opposed to forcing myself to work nonstop). I know now that allowing myself to get fresh air or switch tasks for 10+ minutes allows my brain the mental break it needs to get back to one-hundred percent. Sitting at my screen unable to focus is not a good use of time—for anyone.
5:30 am: I have a stand-up with my engineering and product team. Since I’m in Seattle, some of my meetings are optimized for the larger group (ET).
6:00 am: 1:1s and team meetings to scope and prioritize work for the week.
9:00 am: Walk my dog, Shai, and get my second cup of coffee.
9:30 am: Focus on our company mission of closing the funding gap for women entrepreneurs.
3:00 pm: Hike or play fetch with Shai.
4:30 pm: Brainstorm and prepare dinner. This usually involves exploring Pinterest for vegetarian and gluten-free inspiration for a bit, followed by Shai watching me cut vegetables. She likes to follow me around.
7:00 pm: Maybe watch a show, paint, or develop my personal website.
7:30 am: Wake up without an alarm clock.
8:00 am: Coffee and a dog walk. We may walk to Starbucks or explore a new coffee shop. If Shai is being well behaved, every so often she will get a puppuccino (can you tell she is a Princess, yet?).
8:30 am: Call my mom if I haven’t already during the week. We usually have a ‘coffee date’ twice/week, but maybe more depending on what is happening in our lives.
10:00 am: I usually get antsy around this time and need to do something outside. I may go for a run, meet up with a friend or explore a new hiking trail.
1:00 pm: Light a candle and make coffee at home. I use my mornings for outside, and afternoons for creative downtime. I may work on a blog post or catch up on tech/funding news.
3:00 pm: Video call my sister and other friends and family, or network with prospective mentees.
6:00 pm: Make a cocktail or pour a glass of wine. This isn’t a regular weekend activity, but I might have a drink, do my nails, and take a bath, depending on my mood.
Reach Out to Carolyn on LinkedIn.