Breaking from Professional Uniformity

A top position at the apex of finance and technology is not something you find—it is something you make.

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Amber Baldet interviewed for her job the day before she was due to deliver her son.

It was a job she was sure she wanted: a role on the emerging tech team at JPMorgan Chase, an opportunity to blend her love of technology (she started playing with computers at age five) and economics (an area that allows her “to understand why the world operates the way that it does.”) And she had heard that the hiring manager could sometimes be tough, so when the interview was scheduled the day before she was due to have her baby, she was hesitant to ask for a rain check.

“I knew I was going to be down for the count for a while if I didn't show up,” said Baldet. “[So] I said, ‘Fine. I'm leaning in.’”

As it turns out, the hiring manager had no idea she was pregnant until she arrived, and felt terrible about the timing. “He saw me and he went pale,” Baldet said. And all things considered, the interview went extremely well—she got the job.

Showing up for a high-stakes interview mere hours before one is scheduled to enter labor is an unusual sign of dedication. But such has been Baldet’s approach to much of her career in tech: she will go over and around any roadblocks as they appear.

 

So far, it’s paid off for her. She’s been the Blockchain Lead at JPMorgan Chase’s Corporate and Investment Bank for two and a half years, compiling a cutting-edge team of strategists and developers that looks more like a startup than a department inside a traditional corporation. Together, they are preparing the company for the next era of technology, a testament to the fact that JPMorgan Chase is a company that prioritizes innovation, and values technology at its very core.

On top of being bleeding-edge, high-stakes, and impressive, Baldet’s work within the company has allowed her to break major barriers in both the tech and finance worlds—two areas where women are infamously underrepresented. Despite the fact that 56 percentfootnote 1 of the American workforce is comprised of women, women hold just 26 percent of computing jobs. And just 6.3 percentfootnote 2 of S&P 500 Financial companies are run by women.

That, according to Baldet, is precisely the problem. On top of the social implications that come from of a lack of diversity, there are deeper, ethical issues with uniformity within an industry, especially when it comes to the tech world. Technologies are a product of human creation, after all, which means they often reflect the views and opinions of the people that make them. As such, inclusion impacts more than just basic user-friendliness; a lack of representation in Silicon Valley (or Alley, in Baldet’s case) can sometimes lead to situations where unconscious biases and flaws are programmed into the systems that we use day in and day out.

 

That’s something that the programming sector needs to become aware of, according to Baldet, especially as the world continues to be defined by the technology that it uses.

“If you’re surrounded by people like you, who agree with all your decisions and never question anything or think from a different perspective, that's a problem,” she said. “You need to have different people with skin in the game. You need diversity at every step of development. Because without it, you’re going to have blind spots, and that’s going to lead to weaker systems.”

Baldet seems to be the beginning of the end of uniformity in finance and technology, and is a good sign of things to come. But there’s still a lot of work left to be done before we achieve total diversity and inclusion across society and within the workforce, she said.

The good news: There are steps that can be taken right now to get things closer to where they ought to be, according to Baldet. Taking people’s names off of resumes to remove some chance of gender- or race-based discrimination is one, as is active recruitment of underrepresented groups, like what’s being done by Tech Connect, JPMorgan Chase’s training program for emerging female tech talent. Salary transparency is also crucial, according to Baldet, and would remove a major limitation for underrepresented groups, especially women.

“We tell women don't talk about money don't talk about your promotions. When you're good enough, someone will tap you on the shoulder and escort you to the next level. [But] that's just not going to happen,” Baldet said, insisting that women must be encouraged to stick their necks out from time to time, to advocate for themselves and to make themselves heard.

And show up to interviews one day before your due date, ready to go. That’s how she did it, at least.


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