Igor Kamenetsky at Borrowell

Igor Kamenetsky, Director of Engineering at Borrowell
MALE ALLY IN FINTECH nominated by Stephanie Overholt

What's your story? What drew you to FinTech?

I earned my degree in computer engineering but transitioned into software engineering very early on in my career. I worked at a number of software and tech companies including start-ups, multinational and national corporations, and financial institutions. Most recently prior to joining Borrowell, I worked at a tech consultancy in Toronto and was exposed to various different industries, including FinTech. I was drawn to FinTech because I felt that the industry presented an opportunity to impact people’s lives in measurable and positive way. Connecting with Borrowell sealed the deal on my transition into the space. Aside from getting to work with truly some of the best people, I strongly identified with the company’s mission, which is about educating Canadians and helping them make better decisions about their credit. So, I guess you could say that Fintech is an all-around good match for my technical interests and personal values. I am really enjoying it so far!

What do you think are some of the most exciting FinTech trends likely to influence the Financial Services industry?

The biggest influence that I think we’ve been seeing is the general democratization of financial services that technology has enabled. It used to be that you had to be wealthy to get access to great financial advice and credit options. Now, using technology, we can deliver equivalent or even better financial services to the broader population and not just high net worth individuals. Examples include services like Borrowell, which aims to help consumers understand how to improve their credit score and their financial situations.

What percentage of your team is women? And what percentage of your team is made up of women of colour?

Borrowell as a company is 45% female and I’m proud to say that 40% of our developers are female. 15% of the Engineering team is made up of women of colour.

What advice would you give to other men trying to build inclusive teams?

I think it’s important for hiring managers to openly acknowledge that inclusion can feel quite uncomfortable. It’s in human nature to want to have people who are similar to ourselves in our close circles, and this extends to the workplace where we spend such a significant portion of our time. However, more often than not, discomfort is actually a good thing and it is directly correlated to promoting the growth of both individual members of the team, and the team as a whole. The long term improvement is definitely worth any temporary discomfort. On a practical level, I would encourage managers to prioritize creating an environment of psychological safety in the workplace, and to insist on maintaining such an environment in practice. Cultivate a space where diverse team members can have respectful discussions and disagree comfortably with one another, or with you, without fear of damaging the overall working relationship.

Finally, to build inclusive teams, I think it is important to anticipate other people’s needs, especially when those needs may be different from your own. I’ve found that the best way to do this is through open communication. Ask the people on your team what they need to have in place to maximize their success, and follow up regularly, since these needs tend to change and evolve over time.

What advice would you give to women who are trying to break into FinTech?

On a general level, my advice to women would be the same advice I would give to any candidate. Learn more about the FinTech space and get a sense of the aspects of the industry that catch our interest. Are you more excited about the “Fin“ or the “Tech”, or both? Research the companies that are out there and the technologies they use, and envision how your unique skill set can add value to those companies. If you find there may be a gap between your interests and current skill level, try to take on projects or courses, or even engage in some self-study, to bridge the gap. Also, do not shy away from networking! Borrowell has a startup open house, and we participate in a number of events and meetups where you can learn more about FinTech.

On a specific level, I would encourage women to look at their gender as an asset and not a liability. Gender inequality is still a real issue in our and many other industries, but there are also many companies, like Borrowell, that recognize the importance of a gender-balanced workplace and actively seek out stellar female candidates. Try not to be discouraged if you encounter companies that do not see it the same way. I would also encourage women to reach out to other women in the space and leverage their knowledge and experience. At Borrowell, Larissa Holmes (VP of Talent), Eva Wong (Co-founder and COO) and Stephanie Overholt (Director of Lending) routinely network with women who are interested in joining our industry.

Why is Male Allyship important? And what do you consider are the responsibilities of being a Male Ally?

Male allyship is important to me on a personal level be