Meet Our SoFi-ety: VP Lending Operations, Jessica Adams

Vice President of Lending Operations at SoFi, Jessica Adams, is a powerhouse -  she is constantly pushing to do more, achieve more, and support those around her MORE. Read on to learn what brought Jessica to SoFi, how she supports the growth of her team, and the advice she has for women looking to build an impactful career in Fintech. 

Before we jump into your background, we’re dying to know...what’s your guilty pleasure? 

Jessica: Ugh. Reality TV. 

Noted. We have quite a community of reality TV aficionados at SoFi! 

Before joining SoFi, you spent more than a decade working for more traditional banking institutions. What inspired you to join SoFi? 

Jessica: SoFi’s mission to help people get their money right is something that is easy to get behind.  Many of us are left as adults with very little personal finance education.  Working for an organization that is here to help our Members, all while building a financial services business that is helping to transform an industry, was very compelling, something I wanted to experience, and something I thought I could help with.  

What first attracted you to SoFi and why did you accept the job? 

Jessica: A prior leader at my previous company had left to work for SoFi.  I had enjoyed working for him immensely and had hoped for the opportunity to work with him again.  When he reached out about a potential job, the timing was good for me -  both personally and professionally.  During the interview process, I was struck by how different SoFi was from other financial institutions that I had worked with.  The pace was much quicker, the employees believed so strongly in what the company was doing and the mission they were on, and they weren’t afraid to fail and iterate.  For someone like me, who has spent much of their career focused on continuous improvement, it felt like a match.   

Can you give us a brief overview of what your team does and how their work supports our mission? 

I lead the Member Service Team, including our Investment Specialists and our Escalations teams, as well as partner with our Invest Business Unit.  SoFi is working hard every day to build seamless technology and processes that make managing your money easy, but occasionally Members still need to reach out.  We’re here to help when our Members need it.  I also think of us as stewards of the Member experience.  We try to be their voice in discussions with the rest of SoFi.

There are very few women in Fintech, and this is especially true in lending. How do you think we can attract more women to want to be a part of this industry? 

Jessica: I have worked with many talented women at SoFi and other places that are hungry to do more, to grow more, and to have a seat at the proverbial table, but who are just a little uncertain about how to make it happen.  As women and our allies, we have the opportunity to mentor each other.  To help each other navigate concerns and challenges, to help find and build confidence in our strengths, so that we can leverage them to develop our opportunities.  We also need to be each other’s cheerleaders.  The pace in Fintech is fast.  It can be intense, and some days it can be exhausting.  But what a thrill to be able to do all that, surrounded by people cheering you on. 

What advice do you have for other women who want to break into Fintech and become a leader like you? 

Jessica: Find someone you know at a Fintech company and reach out to them.  Fintechs that are growing like crazy are also hiring like crazy.  We’re always looking for great talent.  Don’t let a job description that doesn’t sound perfect stop you from applying.  In the meantime, look for opportunities to broaden your skill set.  Ask your leader if you can help with something specific (not just, “Hey, if something comes around that could use some extra help, let me know,” but, “I know there is an effort around X and I want to participate.”).  Each of those opportunities adds to your toolkit, and broadens your perspective as a leader.

How do you support the growth and development of your team members?  

Jessica: Knowing what people want to do and what their career goals are is the first step.  Just because someone is great at something doesn’t mean that they want to grow their career in that space, but if you know where they want to take their career, you can help identify opportunities that will leverage that thing they're good at, to learn a new skill.  I also love and value “side projects” or temporary assignments.  I have never worked somewhere where there wasn’t more to do than people to do them.  Taking some of those extra projects and breaking them up into bite sized chunks gives people opportunities to stretch themselves beyond their current job.  It’s not only a great way to develop your skills, but it’s an amazing way to network.  I’ve seen many people grow into new roles / career paths (myself included) through these side projects.

How do you balance the pressures of managing a household and being an executive at such a rapidly growing company? 

Jessica: Yep, it’s hard.  I’m very lucky to have a supportive husband, with a very flexible schedule due to the nature of his small business.  But even with that, the mom-guilt can be real.  I have spent many years working on being present in the thing that I’m doing.  If I’m on a call, I try not to multitask.  If I’m with my children or my husband, I’m listening to their stories about their day and what’s going on with them.  The reality for me is that when my children were very young, that didn’t leave much time for me.  It was a conscious choice that I made to be okay with that, but it would only be temporary.  My kids are now 7 and 10 and heartbreakingly want to spend a bit less time with me, so I’m reclaiming some of that time for myself.  Life ebbs and flows.  Things that seem permanent will have their season.  Keeping your eye on the big picture helps to smooth out the peaks and valleys along the way.

Life is full of peaks and valleys! Can you tell us about a time you overcame an obstacle in your professional life and what you learned from it? 

Jessica: I was working in financial services during the 2008 financial crisis.  Just a few months before the economy tanked, our business was put up for sale, and was quickly acquired.  When the crisis hit, it was scary.  I hadn’t weathered anything like that as an adult and had no idea what to expect.  The sale of our business left all of us on shaky ground.  And to make matters worse for me personally, my husband also worked at the same company, so all of our eggs were in a single basket, and it felt like the bottom was dropping out of it.  It was stressful.  Our new company made some assurances to us, but the news was so constant and terrible, that it was hard to put a lot of trust in that.  

Rather than put all of my energy into wondering what terrible thing was going to happen, I decided that the acquisition was going to create some opportunity, and I was going to bet on myself.  I walked into our CEO’s office and told him that we were going to need a transition leader to manage the client movement to our new company.  It was going to be challenging because of some legal and regulatory requirements, not to mention the cross functional management that would be necessary both with our current organization and our new one.  And that I was the person that could deliver it.  I figured it would be an opportunity for me to show my value, and if it didn’t pan out, I wouldn’t end up with a job at the new company, which was possible in my current position as well.  He thanked me for my time and said he would think about it.  A month or so later he gave me the job.  We had less than a year to make it happen and we delivered, all while the economy continued to crumble around us.  

When it came time for me to map my role over to the new company, I was offered a lateral role, as an account manager for our largest client.  I’ll admit that I was disappointed.  Being an account manager was way outside my comfort zone.  I called my Grandfather for some advice, and he was very clear, “In this economy, you take the job.”  I took the job.  I never loved the job, but I got to work with some great people and I learned some things that I still use today.  Here’s what I learned: I bet on myself in order to achieve something that didn’t happen, however the journey was invaluable.  I’m so proud of the work that I did on that acquisition.  And you can do all the right things, and the world may have different plans (*ahem* pandemic).  Be flexible, be confident, and pivot.

Chills. You are truly an inspiration, Jessica! So who do you look up to? 

Jessica: My parents.  They married when they were 19 and were together until my Dad passed away.  They were entrepreneurs so they also worked together most of their lives.  My Dad was all charisma and ideas and my Mom was the organization and brains.  They were a perfect complementary pair who failed at business over and over again until their last venture, which was quite successful.  I love how different they are, and how they made that work for them.  They also taught me the importance of hard work, of being tenacious and of valuing the people around you.

You’re getting us really fired up about where SoFi and the Fintech industry is going. What excites you the most about the future?

Jessica: I love that the Fintech industry is making what has traditionally been considered financial services for the elite, more accessible to everyone.  I love that SoFi is on the front lines, and that I get the opportunity to work with creative and smart people to help pave that road.  I also love how flexible and agile SoFi is.  If we see an opportunity, we go after it.  We don’t let the bureaucracy or the “we tried this once and it didn’t work” get in the way.  And there is value in iterating, which means we get to improve over and over again, to create more and more value for our Members.  It’s a win for our Members and for our employees.

SoFi is lucky to have leaders like you who truly care. Thank you for sharing your perspective with us! 

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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