What’s it like being a female CEO in a “boy’s club” industry?
For Pam Draper – President & CEO of Bitvo, a Canadian cryptocurrency trading platform – it’s all about how you look at it. We sat down with the finance guru to learn how she got into crypto, what exactly crypto is, and her top tips for women in male-dominated markets.
How did you first get interested in finance and tech?
Growing up, I was always drawn to math and sciences. When I looked at the real world for applications of this, finance seemed like what I would consider to be the most fun. I went to Western’s Richard Ivey School of Business and was hooked. From there, I joined CIBC and later BMO and loved working in banking. While most of my clients were in the natural resources space, I did have a few tech clients – one particular in the payments space. Those ended up being some of my most interesting and active clients at the time.
How would you explain cryptocurrency to someone who has no idea what it’s about?
“Money” can take on any form that we agree to. At one point it was seashells in certain regions of the world. Cryptocurrency can be thought of as a form of digital money that alleviates some key pain points of government-backed money. Pain points like the cost to transact, speed of transacting (particularly across borders), and – in the case of certain cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin – independence from manipulation by any centralized body. Bitcoin was born out of the last financial crisis in 2008, driven by the fear of governments’ willingness to print more money at a record pace, which (based on the laws of supply and demand) devalues the currency. Sound familiar to today? Bitcoin has a maximum supply of 21 million coins. There can never be more than that.
Tell me a bit more about Bitvo.
We believe that Bitvo is the most feature-rich crypto platform in the Canadian landscape. Established in 2018, Bitvo is a cryptocurrency exchange that facilitates buying, selling and trading cryptocurrencies. Through our website and mobile app, Bitvo offers eight different cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin, Ether, XRP, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, Dash, Ethereum Classic and QCAD – Canada’s first stable coin designed for the mass market.
How is Bitvo different from other crypto trading platforms?
We make transacting in cryptocurrencies easier than anyone else. We offer proprietary features such as our Bitvo Same Day Guarantee, the Bitvo Cash Card and technical analysis tools. Our Same Day Guarantee means instant account registration, deposits and withdrawals processed the same day as received and live customer support 24/7/365. The Visa® Bitvo Cash Card allows customers to spend directly from their Bitvo account anywhere Visa® is accepted or to take out cash at over 2 million ATMs globally. We also offer some of the lowest fees in the industry with free deposits on every method, zero trade fees, and a very low 1% withdrawal fee. And most importantly, we make security a top priority. Bitvo has never lost customer funds.
How has COVID-19 changed your business?
Fortunately, COVID hasn’t changed our business materially. Being a 24/7 online platform, the team is used to working remotely in order to avoid sleeping under our desks at the office. So we transitioned to a remote workforce very easily!
Finance – especially cryptocurrency – is known for being a bit of a “boy’s club”. What challenges have you faced as a female leader in this male-dominated space?
This is a subject talked about a lot, but I really think it’s what you make of it. For me personally, I don’t feel it’s impacted me negatively. My sister works in a similar field and we have always theorized from the beginning of our careers that it’s actually been good for us. You stand out because you’re different, which often means you’re noticed by senior team members early on. What you do when you stand out is what counts. I’ve always put my head down, avoided the politics best I could, and let my work speak for itself. If you’re producing solid work and doing good things for the firm while you’re standing out, that’s a great combination and has been good for my career trajectory.
All that said, it’s important to constantly push yourself out of your comfort zone to get ahead. I hate to generalize, but I think that’s something that tends to come more naturally for men than women.
What opportunities are there for you and other women to get involved in crypto, finance and tech?
I think there are many! I know so many great women leaders in the space. I’m on the board of an organization called the Canadian Blockchain Association for Women. We do have male representation on the board, but it’s dominated by some really impressive ladies who are truly pioneers in the blockchain sector in Canada. I’d encourage any woman looking for opportunities in the space to connect with us as we’d be happy to chat and assist in any way we can.
Other than that, I’d say any opportunity that is available for a man is fair game for a woman. Whether your passion is development, finance, or marketing, companies are growing and there are positions that need to be filled. Often this requires networking to find the right opportunity for you. Some organizations that might help with that are crypto meetups (like Bitcoin Bay), Women in Capital Markets (if you’re in or interested in the finance side), and the Canadian Blockchain Consortium.
What does ambition mean to you?
I think ambition has two components. First, it’s the ability to dream and generate ideas. It’s thinking about what you don’t have today and what you want to strive for. The second part is the execution of those ideas, which requires drive, determination, and guts. I think ambitious people have big dreams and a willingness to take risks. And then they don’t take no for an answer.
Tell me about why you love your job. What’s the coolest part about running Bitvo?
Being part of a team that built something from scratch and watching it grow has been more rewarding than I ever imagined when I left banking. The business succeeds and fails based on the team. We need to get up each day, figure out how to make the business better and put ideas into action items. I love watching the business grow and change based on decisions that we’ve made and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. You can really see the impact, especially at a startup.
Do you have any advice for women who want to launch a career in crypto or finance?
Figure out what you love, what you’re passionate about, what makes you want to come to work every day. Then chase that relentlessly. I used to hate the term networking and the concept of it. I later learned that it was essential and then eventually learned to like it. It is truly an important part of finding opportunities, especially early on in your career. Finding and maintaining good mentors has been really helpful to me.
Want to learn more about crypto and start trading on Bitvo? Check out their website or chat with their 24/7 support team! Plus, follow them on Instagram and Twitter to stay up-to-date on all things crypto.