Since joining Mastercard in 2016 as part of the Graduate Development Program, Sarah Carrion has worked across an array of business teams at Mastercard - including Compliance, Product Management and as part of the Customer Solutions Center - to help drive the development and commercialization of Mastercard products and services with large financial institutions and fintech partners. After focusing on US financial institutions, Sarah joined the Start Path program to launch the new Open Banking track. In her role, Sarah helps high-growth startups identify strategic partnership and co-innovation opportunities with Mastercard's product organization and global network. Her dedication to fostering synergistic alliances continues to propel innovation and growth, positioning Mastercard as a formidable force in the industry.
Mastercard’s purpose is to connect and power an inclusive digital economy that benefits everyone, everywhere by making transactions safe, simple, smart and accessible. Using secure data and networks, partnerships and passion, Mastercard's innovations and solutions help individuals, financial institutions, governments and businesses realize their greatest potential. Their decency quotient, or DQ, drives their culture inside and outside of the company. The company fosters an inclusive culture because diverse perspectives build stronger teams. While there are many differentiators, the key ones are their focus on inclusion and diversity, relentless emphasis on innovation and global footprint/brand.
Sarah leads the Open Banking track within Start Path, which is Mastercard's award-winning global startup engagement program. Leveraging Mastercard's technology, expertise and channels, the program helps innovative startups scale and connect to product and partnership opportunities across the globe. The Start Path Open Banking program welcomes applications from fintechs who build solutions that utilize open banking and open finance principles to power experiences that enable consumer choice and put consumers and small businesses at the center of where and how their financial data is used to further access services they want and need. Through the program, Sarah helps fintechs access strategic partnerships, co-innovation opportunities and engagement with Mastercard global network of partners.
While the Start Path program is specifically focused on Open Banking, Mastercard has a myriad of products and services that can serve the needs of our fintech partners. Sarah provides her startups with a holistic view of Mastercard’s enterprise strategy and the relevant assets for their business. Due to her product background, Sarah spends a lot of time thinking about the company's product strategy, the capabilities that their startups bring to the table, and fostering the right connections based on the information given.
Sarah is a lifelong learner who is open to different perspectives and approaches. Not only does she stay abreast of emerging trends and spaces where there could be synergies with Open Banking – such as embedded finance, Banking-as-a-Service and more – she brings different internal stakeholders with her throughout the journey and gets their perspective on the opportunities. Sarah is also incredibly collaborative and relationship-driven – a team player who enjoys giving back when she can, whether it is through mentorship, sharing best practices or connecting others to each other.
When it comes to exciting Fintech trends, from a Start Path perspective, the team is hyper-focused on startups in the SMEs, crypto & blockchain, digital health, acceptance, embedded finance, instant payments, financial inclusion and urban mobility spaces.
Sarah is excited about Open Banking, given the space she sits in:
"...the transformative powers of Open Banking technology to provide new financial products and services to consumers and small businesses. The ability to aggregate banking data, cleanse that data, and provide it to the consumer or small business in a secure, consented way can help them access new financial products, such as consumer or small business loans, credit cards, payment products, financial wellness offerings. The regulatory landscape is also evolving in different regions to make the experience consistent, and I think that regulation will continue to play a key role in the evolution of the technology."
Where you currently live: Brooklyn, NY
Living arrangement: I live with my husband
Hometown: Amherst, Massachusetts
Favorite hobby: Running (she ran the NYC Marathon last November)
Favorite show to binge: Modern Family
What is one piece of advice someone told you that resonated with you that can give to other women in FinTech?
I once was listening to a panel where a female leader referenced the sentiment “As you climb your ladder of success, reach down and pull others up along the way with you.” And it resonated with me – we rise and find purpose by lifting others throughout the process and I’ve found that advice is relevant to many areas in my life, both professional and personal. It brings me great joy to help others on their journey – whether it is a mentee, a family member, a colleague, a friend, or a startup founder. It’s a very rewarding and satisfying feeling to see someone you care about accomplish their goals.
What's the best job decision you ever made?
Taking on stretch projects/roles in new product areas where I am not an SME in the space but have the hard and soft skills required to succeed. Not only did it push me to educate myself on product innovations and customer needs but the opportunities have helped me develop a level of grit, curiosity and confidence that has shaped my career path.
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 one of my first product management roles, I was the operational lead for a relatively new product in market. I was the first product operations lead, which was one of the more quantitative and data-driven roles, which at the time, I was not sure if I would be as successful as I was. However, the leader at the time believed in my quantitative skills and had me develop executive-level product and financial dashboards. Since then, my ability to digest data and analytics and comfort with numbers has served me well throughout my career so far.
What is the most important lesson you have learned from a mistake you’ve made in the past?
Do your research and listen to your customers. Understanding your partner’s needs, priorities and challenges and where you can provide the greatest value is incredibly important.
Do you have any productivity hacks? What keeps you motivated? How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I will block off my calendar some days to get “focus” time in during my most productive hours. I make it a point to have a set of time where I have no distractions and only can focus on strategic projects that require a significant amount of brainpower.
Personally, I am motivated to learn about innovative Fintech companies and about the emerging trends in the financial services space. But most importantly, I am incredibly passionate about supporting founders on their path to scale. In a nutshell, I care. And the thing is, Mastercard cares about this as well.
6:30 - 7:00 AM: Rise & Shine
Check the news, work emails, social media
7:00 - 8:00 AM: Exercise
Quick warm up stretch
Go for a run or to pilates (Solidcore is my class of choice)
8:00– 8:30 AM: Get ready for work
Decide if I’m going into the office or working from home
8:30 – 9:00 AM: Morning Routine
If I’m working from the office, I’ll grab a chocolate croissant and latte at Devocion Coffee (highly recommend) during my commute.
9:00 AM - 12:00 PM: Professional Work
Catch up on emails, hop on calls, and/or attend meetings in-person – I work as part of a global team, with startups all over the world, so my meetings typically start at least by 9am, if not earlier.
Set aside a portion of time to work on high-priority strategic projects – morning focus time is important to me.
12:00 - 1:00 PM: Lunch Break
Go out outside and grab lunch with colleagues – our office is near Union Square, so there are great spots around us. My main go-to spots are Sweetgreen, Cava, Honeybrains or Pokeworks.
1:00 - 3:00 PM: Professional Work
Hop on more calls or in-person meetings
Continue working on my top projects
Catch up with colleagues
Review and update task lists and goals
Wrap up tasks from the morning
Begin planning for the next day
Address any outstanding issues or emails
5:00 - 9:00 PM: Personal Time
Make dinner, order out or on special nights, go out on a date night my husband
I love to socialize, so most nights you can also find me catching up with my family, friends and colleagues
9:00 - 10:00 PM: Relaxation & Bedtime Routine
Watch a TV show or read a book – I am super into Olympian runner memoirs at the moment.
Brush teeth and get ready for bed
Practice meditation techniques
Go to sleep