Meet Our SoFi-ety: Data Scientist, Nathan Wilder

Nathan Wilder has been in the industry for four years...which is a lifetime in a sector that is experiencing such rapid growth and transformative change. In Nathan’s four years at SoFi, he’s held four roles. He’s joining us today to share his excitement for where the space is going and his advice for others looking to build an impactful career in Fintech. 

Before we get into your career journey, what are your passions outside of work?

Nathan: There are a few things that I really enjoy doing in my free time:

  1. First, I enjoy exercise.  Maybe it’s the endorphins or the small signs of progress toward a goal.  
  2. I love learning.  This is probably a big part of why I’m in my current field.  I feel like there is always something to learn.  I’ve just found a way to get paid doing it!  
  3. Playing or watching sports is a big passion of mine.
  4. I love to laugh!  My go to genre in TV or movies is generally comedy, and if I’m with a group of people, I’m generally trying to get a laugh out of somebody.

Tell us about your background and how you ultimately landed at SoFi.

Nathan: I have always been passionate about personal finance.  I had a small stint in the financial industry early in my career, and after working in Real Estate for several years, I was looking for an opportunity to get back in.  I first heard about SoFi when listening to a few of my favorite financial podcasts.  Then in 2017, I learned that SoFi had opened offices in the Salt Lake City Area and applied for a Mortgage Loan Assistant job shortly after. 

What first attracted you to SoFi, and why did you decide to accept the offer?

Nathan: You could call it intuition, but I followed my gut.  At the point of my joining, prior to Anthony joining as CEO, SoFi still had the opportunity to solidify their vision and establish a strong culture.  However, I saw value in the potential that both SoFi and I had to grow together — I haven’t been disappointed.  

You’re a Data Scientist now - sounds fancy. Tell us what you do and how your work supports our mission.

Nathan: At its highest level, my role is to act as a data ambassador.  It’s my job to make the proper use and understanding of data commonplace at SoFi.  At times that might mean creating interactive reporting that permits leadership to keep their finger on the pulse of the business and uncover their own insights through self-service solutions.  Other times, this includes diving into technically advanced projects to identify exciting new insights that better the business.

Considering one of our core values is “get to the truth and make principle-based decisions”, sounds like you have the right idea! Can you share any insight into a project you’re working on right now? 

Nathan: I’m focused on growing several referral channels where people can learn about SoFi and our offering to improve their financial lives.  Much of this work is foundational in discovering our baseline.  Once the foundational work is complete, there are many exciting directions we can go to learn about how to best cater our outreach to our customers.

You’ve had four roles in four years with the company. Tell us more about your growth here. How has SoFi supported your growth?

Nathan: SoFi has helped me start on the path to my lifelong career.  My previous roles have primarily been operational, member-facing positions.  I started working with SoFi in home loan originations, hoping to one day be in a data and analytics-centric role.  My biggest hurdle was not having technical experience on my resume.  After working hard to build a good reputation and develop relationships, I asked our People team for the opportunity to take on a couple extra hours each day to work with the data analytics team, and my request was approved! Everyone involved was extremely supportive and the experience was incredible.  

As a result of this quasi-internship, I was offered a job with the business operations analytics team.  I was given the opportunity to support many operational product teams — with the majority of my time spent supporting our Money and Invest products.  I was consistently surrounded by great teammates and incredible leadership.  Many leaders took a real interest in my personal life and career goals.  They gave freely of their time to provide critical feedback on my work and to coach me.  Also, when it mattered most, leadership spoke up on my behalf and acted as my advocate.  This has resulted in continuous opportunity, advancement and recognition.  

After three years working in Operations at SoFi and nearing completion of my higher education, I decided my next step was to become a data scientist full-time.  I leaned on the relationships I’ve built and the advocates I had to start networking within the Data Science organization.  Not too long after, a role opened and I got the job. I can’t say enough about how much I’ve appreciated SoFi’s leadership for believing in me.  I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I’ve had without them.

From your perspective, what hard and soft skills are required to be successful in Fintech? 

Nathan: Personally, I think the necessary hard skills will differ from role to role. That said, here are four soft skills I’d recommend for anyone looking to grow in their career:

  1. Start with understanding of the company’s core values. At SoFi, our 11 core values define us and are at the center of how we think about serving our members, building our company, and most importantly, how we work together. We’re looking to hire people who believe in, and live, these values. 
  2. Be proactive!  It takes practice to be accountable, go above and beyond in your day-to-day, and to have a vision for the future. Leadership will notice employees who take the initiative to think one or two steps ahead. 
  3. Be diligent.  It’s through careful and persistent work that someone fights through challenges to achieve their personal goals and the team’s vision. 
  4. Effective communication is also critical to success at any company.  It’s through effective communication that you can create lasting relationships and are able to use language (verbal or written) to persuade others. 
  5. Lastly, I believe gratitude and humility are critical to success in that it results in a positive outlook to get through challenging situations and sometimes challenging personalities. 

Any tips you can share for others who are looking to grow within their company but may not know where to start?

Nathan: Set goals for yourself.  I strongly believe that everyone should have the goal to invest in themselves.  That can mean many things, but in the simplest terms, this means making time to focus on your own personal growth.  The first 30-60 minutes of my workday consist of studying about my industry and learning new skills.  From there, you need to work hard to build a strong brand on your team. To me, this includes not only performing well in your work, but being a supportive teammate - taking care of people and helping them grow.  I try to find 15 minutes every couple of weeks during the workday to have a conversation with someone and get to know them better.  It’s important in work and personal relationships to bring others up, rather than focusing on yourself 100% of the time.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you need to communicate your aspirations to leadership.  This could be your manager, director, People Business Partner, or someone on the team you want to work on.  The most important thing is to let people know that you would like to learn.  You’d be amazed by how many people are willing to help you when you’ve done your part in creating a good reputation on the team.

You’ve been in Fintech a while now...what advice do you have for others trying to break into the industry?

Nathan: Things move fast in this industry, and we are constantly iterating.  You have to be okay with change.  It’s going to be helpful if you enjoy learning.  You need to seriously evaluate whether your personality works well in that type of environment.  If you want to get your foot in the door, you need to know your own unique skill set and be able to communicate your value.  If you can envision yourself helping the company further their mission, you can probably communicate why you’re a good fit.

What most excites you about where SoFi is going?

Nathan: I think it’s exciting to be part of a winning team.  When a team is winning, you can feel the difference in the atmosphere around you.  There are more opportunities for growth at the team and individual level.  It’s exciting to see the passion behind a lot of the work being done right now.  Naturally, we are attracting a lot of talented people to help take us to new places.  It’s a great opportunity to learn from some inspiring individuals. 

Thanks for joining us today to share your Fintech career journey with us, Nathan!

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The individual featured is a SoFi employee. Their personal experiences, obviously, do not take into account your own specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. Results will vary.

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Kari Scheidt, Talent Brand @ SoFi