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SheCanCode Spotlight Series: Dr Narisa Chauvidul-Aw, CEO & Founder, KogoPAY Group

Dr Narisa Chauvidul-Aw, CEO & Founder, KogoPAY Group

ARTICLE SUMMARY

In this piece, SheCanCode caught up with Narisa Chauvidul-Aw, KogoPay Group, about how she landed her current role, her role models, & her words of wisdom for other women in tech.

DR. NARISA IS CEO AND FOUNDER OF KOGOPAY GROUP, A SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS UK FINTECH COMPANY THAT HAS OFFICES IN LONDON, BANGKOK, VILNIUS AND DUBAI.

Narisa received her Ph.D. in 2003 from London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Previously she received a Master’s degree from Case Western Reserve University, USA and a Bachelor degree in Accounting and Auditing from Chulalongkorn University.

Narisa has many years’ experience working both in academia and business. She is a qualified auditor (ex PwC) and spent more than 20 years as a senior lecturer and Finance Director. Her accolades include the Women in Tech Global Award winner- Start up 2019; WinTrade Global Award winner 2021- Women in Banking & Finance and, Winner Go Global Award 2021 – Fintech. She is a mother of 2 teenagers. In her spare time Narisa volunteers, helping orphanage homes on a mountain near the border between Thailand and Myanmar and the homeless in Tokyo.

HOW DID YOU LAND YOUR CURRENT ROLE? WAS IT PLANNED? 

I am a serial entrepreneur with involvement in different industries including media, retail and payments.

In the past six years blockchain technology, mobile payment and digital banks have been a rapidly growing trend and with a surge in popularity. Wallet and QR code payments are quite common in Asia but not in Europe – this is a key reason why I want to be the first Fintech company to promote it here, especially the use of QR code payment. Hopefully one day we can use the KogoPAY wallet and QR payment everywhere around the globe.

I came to build KogoPAY with the vision that anyone should find sending money across the world as easy as sending an email. With KogoPAY, we have created an instant payment system for individuals and small businesses to make international transfers between Europe and Asia.

WHAT ARE THE KEY ROLES IN YOUR FIELD OF WORK, AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE YOUR CURRENT EXPERTISE? 

I’ve always been interested in new technology and keeping up with new trends. In 1999, during the dotcom boom, I created my first website in the UK about Thailand. You could search each area in Thailand and where to go, where to eat. Twenty-one years ago, this was a very new thing. The Tourism Authority of Thailand used our website for a few years, and I sold it to them. 

Fintech  is a tough business. We need lots of experience in compliance and finance. I believe God prepared me for this journey. I have a Ph.D. in compliance and information systems from the London School of Economics, and I started my first job almost 30 years ago in auditing at Coopers & Lybrand, now PwC. At that time, I was a full-time lecturer at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, and taught at LSE and King’s College, London, before becoming a finance director and, later, adviser in internal audit and compliance for global companies.

DID YOU (OR DO YOU) HAVE A ROLE MODEL IN TECH OR BUSINESS IN GENERAL?

The suffragettes inspired me from an early age because to me it was proof that sometimes we don’t need to be quiet as women. We can influence society, we can make change for the better and work towards the creation of a more equitable society. 

In terms of a specific role model, Sir Tim Berners-Lee is an absolute inspiration. He created the world wide web but remained selfless always. Sir Tim did not register a patent or charge any royalties whatsoever! He could have made as much money as Bill Gates, if not more. Imagine if we had to pay a subscription fee for browsing or using social media. He’s definitely someone worth modelling my own ethos on.

 WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR CAREER, SO FAR? 

One of my biggest honours was to be featured in Her Majesty the Queen’s Official Platinum Jubilee book. It was a privilege to be able to share my vision of “Pay it Forward” in this special book. Queen Elizabeth II was one of my role models; she lived her life selflessly.

The photo of her shaking hands with the new prime minister two days before she passed away was so profound it brought me to tears. If I can emulate even an ounce of her incredible service to the public good, I will consider my journey a success.

Aside from that, it was an honour to be invited to speak in various different forums and most recently at a Bloomberg Summit. I hope through these I can inspire more women to strive for greatness and to persevere when faced with challenges. I have been through and overcome many challenges over the years which gives me the confidence and know how to face a competitive world. It is only by overcoming challenges that we grow and are then able to help and inspire others to do the same.  

WHAT DOES AN AVERAGE WORK DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU? 

Meetings, meetings and more meetings! Not everyone realises a major part of the life of a CEO is taking calls and in-person chats with people for a variety of reasons. I need to oversee areas like compliance, the development of products (such as our new mobile app), speak with senior staff, meet investors, speak at conferences, network, and field interviews as a female role model in business. A recent Harvard Business Review study found that CEOs on average have 37 meetings a week! That certainly seems accurate to me.

ARE THERE ANY SPECIFIC SKILLS OR TRAITS THAT YOU NOTICE COMPANIES LOOK FOR WHEN YOU’RE SEARCHING FOR ROLES IN YOUR FIELD? 

In the fast-moving world of fintech, flexibility is absolutely key as is the ability to adapt quickly. This is particularly pronounced in SMEs. A standout performer keeps on top of new tech developments and can engage with a range of different colleagues with excellent communication skills both verbally and online. 

HAS ANYONE EVER TRIED TO STOP YOU FROM LEARNING AND DEVELOPING IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE, OR HAVE YOU FOUND THE TECH SECTOR SUPPORTIVE? 

I faced similar challenges to most women in tech. The reality is you are competing in a world dominated by men, mostly white men, and we need to work to break down barriers so others coming after us can succeed. Fintech is a tough space, but if I can do it, so can others.

Raising investment as an ethnic minority woman is a challenge, but I did it through perseverance. 

Speaking with other women in tech is really where I find the most support. We cannot view the space as personally vindictive when it comes to minority groups: it’s more of a systemic issue which can obviously be brutal. Hearing voices from people I can relate to, people who understand the trials and tribulations, has been incredibly helpful.

I’ve joined the Women in Tech Global Movement and Thai Women in Europe just to name a couple. It is only by coming together that we can create better, long lasting solutions to navigating difficult environments

HAVE YOU EVER FACED INSECURITIES AND ANXIETIES DURING YOUR CAREER, AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?

I understand my privilege in obtaining a good education and many years’ experience in the corporate world. This has helped give me the confidence to overcome any insecurities or anxieties. More to the point, I am committed to my faith and mission. There is nothing in this life which will divert me from this path to help create a better world for people from all walks of life, all around the world.

ENTERING THE WORLD OF WORK CAN BE DAUNTING. DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS OF ADVICE FOR ANYONE FEELING OVERWHELMED? 

Other people are your most valuable resource, so ask for help when needed! Work in teams and know your limitations. Never over promise and underdeliver. Remember that your contemporaries often appear more confident than they feel and you are definitely not alone in feeling overwhelmed at times. It’s also useful to have someone outside of the company to speak to, like a life coach for example. 

Always maintain good and regular contact with your line manager and be honest about areas of difficulty, so you can seek further training where necessary. The overriding aim should be to constantly seek to improve and make yourself a more well-rounded individual.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHER WOMEN WANTING TO REACH THEIR CAREER GOALS IN TECHNOLOGY?

Be prepared for many challenges: regulations, compliance, partners, funding, and many more. Be strong and courageous. Never give up. We have to find the purpose of our work. When we face big obstacles, our goal and mission should be something that is worth fighting for, so much so that we carry on. If you can focus on this, then you will be able to break the glass ceiling.

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