The rise of Practifi’s Chief Operating Officer Emily Wilcox is a case study of how a company is defying trends, expectations and traditional age and gender roles to forge their own path of success.
Emily, 27, has found her way into the higher ranks of the corporate world in defiance of the norms. From joining the company in 2013 with four employees based in Sydney, to taking the helm of Practifi’s US-based operations in Chicago, Emily’s career path has been anything but ordinary.
Practifi’s CEO Glenn Elliott was quick to praise Emily on the value she has added.
“Emily has fuelled Practifi’s growth since the beginning,” he said. “Not only does she create a positive and happy work culture, but she also oversees the company’s financial health, the success of our HR policies and procedures, our facilities and logistics, our contracts and legal matters, as well as our investor relations. The COO role is hugely important, and we know no one could do it better than Emily.”
But the exceptional nature of Emily’s scaling this particular corporate ladder is not one she thinks should remain in isolation… if the right trends are embraced by the rest of the corporate sector. Emily points to the fact that research has shown women are in fewer than a quarter of senior executive roles across the world.
“While the narrative many companies like to partake in is around an increase of women in leadership, the reality is that we have seen a 25% decline since 2017,” Emily says. It’s her contention that it’s imperative for her to not only lead the way for other women as they seek to make their way into upper management, but also to ensure age and gender exist as biases solely in the mind.
Her success is not born of tokenism or labels. Hers is a story built on the pursuit of knowledge and actual hard work, which are the most important skills she has utilised in her career. In fintech, the corporate culture is one of ever-evolving circumstances and changing requirements, and this requires an approach that is built on a strong curiosity for knowledge – one which she has in spades.
“I have committed to building my knowledge by reading trade publications, unpacking industry white papers and regularly being across both regulatory shifts in my industry as well as market trends,” she says. “My commitment to this knowledge has formed the confidence I needed to make the best decisions for my company, and to be ahead of possible barriers, bottlenecks or commercial risks.”
The lesson being, that you don’t necessarily need to have a tech background to succeed in the tech world, but this is not something that can be done by simply “winging it”. You need to do your homework.
Just as a significant number of years in an industry – or the workforce in general – does not necessarily equate to a better management style or broader depth of technical understanding, the same assumptions should be avoided when it comes to those relative newcomers to the industry or workforce. This is a notion that Emily is frequently made to contemplate.
“A gap in years doesn’t have to signal the difference between effective leadership and passionate but unbridled leadership.”
“Performing on par with others within your class of business will help instil confidence in both your C-suite, and the rest of the company.”
With Emily’s success, it’s possible not only for other women to be inspired, but to also know what can be achieved without the boundaries of gender or youth getting in the way. In this case, it’s also simply about getting the job done and adopting the right skills to get you there – and doing so in a way which hopefully, eventually, takes Emily’s story from being the exception, to being the norm.