I would love to see a push to bring more young people into STEM education — especially those who are underserved in our education system today. I’m a long-time advocate of getting more young people involved in these fields, particularly young women and minorities, as they are currently underrepresented in science and engineering in the US and UK specifically. This would open incredible opportunities for creative young people looking for a bright career path. It would also make the country more competitive and dynamic.
For my series on strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Monica Eaton-Cardone. An acclaimed entrepreneur, speaker and author, Monica Eaton-Cardone is widely recognized as a thought leader in the FinTech industry and a champion of women in technology. She graduated from high school at 16 and sold her first business at 19 while in college. When a subsequent e-commerce venture was plagued by chargebacks and fraud, Eaton-Cardone founded Chargebacks911, a global risk management, chargeback mitigation and fraud prevention company based in Tampa Bay. Today, her innovations are used by thousands of companies worldwide and she is recognized as one of the payment industry’s foremost experts. She also is an advocate for women in STEM and speaks frequently on the competitive and economic advantages women can bring to the technology workforce. Her nonprofit organization, Get Paid for Grades, invests in students to inspire a new generation of innovators.
Thank you so much for joining us Monica! Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
At a conference in 2015, Tim Hopkins, a senior business leader with Mastercard at the time, announced during his presentation that they were overhauling the Mastercard chargeback process. This was striking, because a lot of what they were planning was in line with changes I’d pushed for since 2010. It was incredibly motivating to see decision makers, especially someone I respect as much as Tim, get on board with what I’d been saying. How invigorating!
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Absolutely! We have big plans in the works at Chargebacks911. I can’t get into any firm details yet, but we’re developing new tools that will help make the dispute process much easier for merchants (especially global enterprises) at any capacity or stage of growth.
According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the U.S. workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?
I think it’s because many people have jobs they are not passionate about, which is a shame — so they lose focus on what they have and can accomplish.
On one hand, plenty of people follow careers they don’t love, or for which they’re not best suited, because it’s the only way to make ends meet. They make a calculated decision based on their available opportunities, and that’s just common sense. However, there is a segment of the workforce who could find work they have a genuine passion for, but who don’t realize that opportunity.
Loving what you do makes work worthwhile. We spend most of our lives working and the blur between friends and colleagues continues to dissipate. Strive to work with people you like and admire, and you’ll be amazed what you accomplish. Being productive is equality important and knowing you’re adding value to a company and team that aligns with your interests is a great way to boost happiness, and your paycheck: problem solved.
Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and well-being?
As the study points out, happy employees are up 20% more productive than unhappy ones. So, it’s well-known that a happier and more-fulfilled workforce will be more productive and, ultimately, more profitable.
Employees’ happiness impacts their well-being, which, in turn, has a either a positive or negative effect on the company as well.
Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?
1. Acknowledge Performance: At Chargebacks911, we ask employees to submit “kudos” for team members who go above and beyond. At the end of each week, we enter honorees in a prize drawing with gift cards, free lunches, and more.
2. Fun Activities: We’ve organized kickball games, picnics, and laser tag nights, just to name a few. It’s a great time for people to let their hair down and create stronger bonds among team members.
3. Provide Feedback: We conduct regular employee reviews. But, instead of subjecting employees to reviews by their superiors, we have everyone on a team provide detailed, constructive feedback, outlining everyone’s strengths, as well as where they could improve.
4. Encourage Experimentation: Don’t create an environment in which employees are afraid to deviate from the routine. Encourage them explore new ideas and try new processes. Over time, you can improve on your existing performance, and can even identify new opportunities.
5. Establish Purpose: We do a weekly “Charity Challenge.” Each week, we (the company) donate to a local nonprofit organization making a difference in peoples’ lives. This communicates a sense of purpose to our employees, reminding them that, by helping grow the company, they are giving back to their community in turn.
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we must “change the culture regarding work culture.” What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the U.S. workforce’s work culture?
It’s important that we don’t adhere to practices simply because they’re conventional. A workplace should be responsive to the people who work in it, and everyone should have a say in helping shape the culture.
Management should always be open to hearing feedback from employees and should take it into account when determining new internal policies and practices.
How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?
I think that it’s important to have both passion as a leader, as well as a genuine rapport with every member of your team. I try to develop personal relationships with my employees, and interface with them on that level. I want to make it clear that I’m not disconnected; rather, I’m right there in the trenches alongside them.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a person who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Yes, there is my first boss, Blair Rigby.
One thing I learned from him was to avoid punishing people for their mistakes. I made several mistakes on the job that, if I’d had the wrong boss, could have made me too afraid to take chances and try new ideas in the future. I didn’t get fired or yelled at, though; instead, a mistake could be used as a learning opportunity. I’ve tried to carry that over into my own business. I encourage experimentation and new ideas. If something doesn’t work out, we learn from it and move on rather than dwell on failure.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
One of my main projects is a nonprofit called Paid for Grades. The program uses financial incentives to encourage students to improve their reading ability. In the process, they also develop life management skills, build confidence, and realize abilities they didn’t know they possessed.
We launched Paid for Grades back in 2014. Since then, we’ve expanded the program to several area high schools, and provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in awards to students.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’ve always liked Muhammad Ali’s quote: “I hated every minute of training, but I said ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’” It reminds me to not give in, and to keep pushing ahead, even when it seems impossible to go on. But, even more important, you must put in the hard work, every day, if you want to achieve greatness.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would love to see a push to bring more young people into STEM education — especially those who are underserved in our education system today. I’m a long-time advocate of getting more young people involved in these fields, particularly young women and minorities, as they are currently underrepresented in science and engineering in the US and UK specifically.
This would open incredible opportunities for creative young people looking for a bright career path. It would also make the country more competitive and dynamic.
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