Mastercard’s Gracecard discusses his career journey, the skills he believes make a great leader, and his advice for budding technologists.
Grace Hayes is a senior vice-president and head of product delivery in Europe for Mastercard, having worked in various roles at the company’s Dublin base over the past six years.
Here, he reflects on the career journey that brought him to his current role, the support he received along with the things and the things he most enjoyed about his job.
He also talked about the importance of courage, a curious mindset and self-belief when it comes to working in the technology industry.
‘Active listening is critical for any leader to learn and understand from their teams’
– GRACE HAYES
What does an average day look like for you?
I lead teams of delivery specialists responsible for defining and implementing implementation models for new products in Europe. We are committed to new technology development, customer experience and market readiness.
Across Europe, we are seeing a rapid acceleration in the use of digital currencies and products, especially for initiatives such as open banking for example, and my team is helping to influence, design and push our business across region.
What led you to the role you have today?
Over the past six years at Mastercard I have held various roles across our operations and technology teams. Initially I focused on our product strategy, supporting our use of demand, financial and technical operational models and advancing global business cases for large commercial customers.
I then switched to our new payment platforms and deepened our development and deployment support. My current role allows me to focus on the delivery and scalability of our products, and the full product life experience.
What was the biggest surprise or challenge you encountered on your career path?
As many people will relate, this is not a highly major project or the next new opportunity, my greatest challenge over the years has been to build confidence in my own abilities. As Edmund Hillary said: “It is not the mountain we cover, but ourselves.”
Is there someone who particularly influences your developed career?
Within a year of joining Mastercard I started working for an incredible US-based manager. His direct and honest approach is what really inspired me to reach beyond my comfort.
He actively sought challenges where I could learn and develop and promptly taught and advocated to develop my potential over the years. He remained a trusted mentor and friend.
What do you enjoy about your job?
Every day is different. The wide range of products we support means there is always something new. The team is both geographically and culturally diverse, bringing great innovative thinking to all the challenges we face.
Mastercard gives me the opportunity to truly understand the needs of our customers and market. I work with industry-leading technologists to push the boundaries of the possible and look at advances in 5G, AI and machine learning to continually improve our customers ’experience.
What skills are needed to be a good leader?
Going back to my early studies, I remember a teacher saying you have two ears and only one mouth. I always smile to remember the importance of this statement. Active listening is critical for any leader to learn and understand from their teams, stakeholders and customers.
Giving a voice to others both empowers but also promotes diverse thinking and collaboration. It also makes you consider the power of your words to the listeners and the importance of clarity, honesty and empathy.
What aspects of your personality do you think suit your job?
I dream big and then focus to achieve that goal, often relying on my intuition. And when I feel something about something, I often go along with it. I always look back on experiences to find out, but really accept change and take calculated risks.
How has Mastercard supported you in your career path?
Mastercard always keeps track of the importance and development of its employees with meaningful career development discussions, enabling growth opportunities and encouraging everyone to own their career.
Having a supportive mindset, supporting the company that accepts collaboration, autonomy and the importance of employee well-being has never been more important than during this pandemic.
Our leadership team has excelled in their communication, decisive actions, altered agility and kept employee safety at the forefront throughout the season.
What advice would you give to those considering a career in technology?
In the past year, we have all had to quickly adapt to new ways of working, living and interacting with others. Using technology to alleviate some of the uncertainty and friction in people’s time is what gives me the purpose of my role. Specifically, fast reliable payments using Mastercard, enabling contactless payments, advanced cybersecurity products, digital identity solutions and supporting small businesses around the world.
Technology, whatever your chosen field, is changing at a rate where no one can accurately predict what the next 10 years will look like. And for that you will need courage, a curious mind and self -belief to give strength to change.
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