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  • Elsie Russell

FinTech Female Fridays: Sabrina Tharani, Director of Partnerships MasterCard Start Path

Can you talk about your career path and what led you to become Director of Startup Partnerships at Mastercard Start Path?

I’ve been at Mastercard for over seven years in the digital product sector where I helped Mastercard build and commercialize new payment technologies, like Apple Pay. This has taught me the power of how partnerships can accelerate innovation.

The team behind Start Path (Mastercard’s engagement program for later-stage startups) recognized that partnership applies to companies of all sizes and by working with FinTechs, we can create a mutually beneficial commercial value. I wanted to bring my experience leveraging Mastercard’s infrastructure to scaling startup technology through partnerships.

I’m also passionate about advocating more females in Product, Venture & Tech, and took this role to focus on ensuring we work with female-founded FinTech startups globally.

As the Director of Partnerships at Mastercard, what have you seen as the latest innovation in FinTech companies and what type of trends do you see in the future?

Our team gets over 2,000 startup applications a year, from companies focused in a wide range of areas – from sophisticated cybersecurity platforms to credit scoring for farmers in Africa.

Last year was a banner year for FinTech, with record levels of investment and favorable regulatory tailwinds accelerating global scale. The 2018 narrative was largely around AI & Blockchain, and what application of those technologies can be leveraged by financial institutions. In 2019, we think that technology focused on SMBs is going to drive massive growth and we expect to see many new startups emerge in the space – from challenger banks to on-demand InsurTech.  

Who is the most influential person in your career and why?

I’ve been extremely fortunate to have true executive sponsors and mentors at Mastercard who have taken chances on me and unlocked opportunities that have influenced the trajectory and success of my career.

Sherri Haymond, who leads Digital Partnerships for Mastercard, has been a manager, friend and confidante who has shown me how hard work, dedication and passion pay off, both in your professional and personal life.

Jorn Lambert, Head of Digital Payments at Mastercard, hired me as his Chief of Staff when I was just 25. He trusted and supported me in the experience and what I learned from him has been invaluable to my career. 

What has been your greatest challenge so far in your career and why?

When I returned to Mastercard after business school, I was a Technical Product Manager on our new Payment Flows team. This role required deep and specific knowledge about Mastercard’s underlying network and I focused on how to scale a single product. Whereas on Start Path, I diligence hundreds of companies a year and have more of a bird’s-eye view into startups technology across a wide array of use cases. Transitioning between these two types of roles requires quite different skillsets and management styles, which is a challenge for me and something I continue to work on every day.

How do you balance work life and personal life?

In my perspective, the difference between professional and personal lives is becoming less relevant today. Today, the lines are increasingly blurred and I think people move more fluidly between their professional and personal selves.

I’m grateful that I work with people who motivate me, on problems that challenge me and at a company that supports flexibility when needed. There is no perfect work/life ratio, but it’s still really important to disconnect from work at times to re-energize and gain fresh perspective. Game of Thrones marathons and a glass of wine with my fiancé does wonders!

Reach out to Sabrina on LinkedIn.

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