‘We are in the most transformative period in the history of money’

21 Aug 2018

Laura Morgan Walsh. Image: PayPal

PayPal’s Laura Morgan Walsh talks to us about the importance of diversity and inclusion amid the ongoing fluctuations in finance.

Laura Morgan Walsh is senior director of global seller risk operations and site leader at PayPal’s Dundalk site.

She has been with PayPal for 12 years and has held a number of diverse roles across risk operations, talent acquisition and customer service. Prior to PayPal, she worked for Quinn Direct Insurance, Hertz and SAP.

Morgan Walsh is currently in her second year of a master’s in human resource strategies at Dublin City University and holds a bachelor of arts in French and German from University College Dublin.

‘Collaboration, inclusion, innovation and wellness are the core pillars of our culture’

Describe your role and what you do.

As the senior director of global seller risk operations, I work with sellers to ensure we balance fraud and risk assessment while enabling sales growth for their businesses. In other words, we make sure that they are able to maximise revenue and growth opportunities, without putting their businesses or customers at risk.

I am also site leader at PayPal’s European operations centre in Dundalk, where I get to work with wonderful and talented people every day on a wide variety of important initiatives. For instance, we recently launched our first Mental Health Awareness Week. This was the kick-off for our Mind Yourself programme, which helps to promote positive mental health in our teammates.

I also represent PayPal on external boards such as the Louth Economic Forum, which supports economic development in the area. I’m very proud of the contribution that PayPal has made to Dundalk and the surrounding areas, and I’m delighted to see that the region is creating opportunities for people living here.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

I am married with three young boys, so I have to be really organised. My husband and I work together to ensure that all of the priorities of the week are covered. We also try to keep the balance between family and work, which is easier said than done!

For the last 18 months, I have undertaken my master’s, which has taught me a lot about the importance of time discipline. Of course, I love every minute of it, but juggling and keeping all the balls in the air does require lots of planning and organisation – and, occasionally, you just have to accept some help from others, too.

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

Our industry is fast-paced, highly competitive and always changing. We’re living and working in the most transformative period in the history of money and financial services. While many of our competitors are finding it difficult to remain relevant in such a rapidly evolving landscape, PayPal is thriving because we make it easier for people to manage and move their money.

We’re also helping businesses to overcome the challenges of an increasingly global and mobile marketplace. We give them the tools they need to access, engage and grow customers and sales throughout the world. It truly is such an exciting industry with endless possibilities. Thankfully, we’re at the forefront of it!

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

The increasing prevalence of mobile devices such as smartphones has made online shopping much more popular and accessible. As people’s habits continue to evolve in terms of making purchases and transferring money, we enable them to buy where, when and how they want.

The PayPal mobile app, for example, makes sending and requesting money as seamless as possible. Recently, we scrapped our fees for euro transfers between family and friends in Ireland, which means that users can pay people back in a matter of seconds using just an email address.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

I studied languages at college because I have a keen interest in people and culture. I admire the values PayPal embodies, and the fact that we have such a diverse and multicultural workforce.

I joined PayPal as a supervisor 12 years ago and have had the support of some incredibly talented and supportive female leaders during this time. Those women, and all of the leaders and mentors I’ve had throughout my career, have played a significant part in helping me develop my skills and flourish.

My current role means that I am now leading a number of different teams based in North America, Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. While this has its challenges, it’s also hugely enjoyable and that keeps me motivated.

young woman with long brown hair in black top with arms folded leaning against wall with reflection in nearby window.

Laura Morgan Walsh. Image: PayPal

What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

I failed my exams during the first year of college. I had never failed an exam before and it was the toughest, but most valuable, lesson I ever learned. It wasn’t that I hadn’t put in the necessary hours for the exams, it was that I had studied all the wrong things. It goes without saying that working hard is necessary to succeed, but it’s easy to forget that it’s only one half of the equation – working smart is the other.

How do you get the best out of your team?

Getting the best out of your team means spending time getting to know them. Most people want to feel valued. It’s a leader’s responsibility to ensure this and it won’t be achieved by simply talking about it. Appreciation and confidence have to be shown by creating opportunities for your team.

Collaboration, inclusion, innovation and wellness are the core pillars of our culture and we try to demonstrate these through everyday actions. This creates an environment of trust and respect, which enables everyone to be our best selves.

STEM sectors receive a lot of criticism for a lack of diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity and other demographics. Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector? What are your thoughts on this and what’s needed to be more inclusive?

Inclusion and equality are central to everything we do at PayPal. I’m privileged to play a key role in this as I head up our diversity and inclusion committee in Dundalk. We have built an environment here where everyone is valued for who they are, and each teammate is given an equal chance to participate and progress. This fact was acknowledged by the latest PayPal Diversity Report, which showed that 45pc of the PayPal Inc board comprises women and underrepresented ethnic groups. In Ireland, our leadership team has a particularly high female representation. It shows how the company recognises the importance of female role models within the boardroom.

We’re also working very closely with local communities, colleges and schools to actively encourage participation for all. We offer local students the opportunity to gain a real insight into our industry. Last year, we partnered with Junior Achievement and hosted more than 400 local transition-year students in Dundalk for a series of workshops on career opportunities and financial training. I think a lot of people believe they need to move to Dublin for this kind of thing but, as site leader for Dundalk, I can vouch for the amazing prospects that are in the north-east region.

Who is your role model and why?

Like I said, I’m fascinated by people. There are many who inspire me across different facets of my life, be it as a mother, a citizen or a leader. Some of them you will be familiar with, such as Mary Robinson, Michelle Obama and Katie Taylor. These women are world-renowned for their strength, courage and determination against all odds.

Others are known only to me. They include the colleagues, past and present, who have picked me up, dusted me off and got me back on my feet on days that I thought would never end.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

I love sports autobiographies because it’s all about the human story behind the success. I’ve read the autobiographies of Brian O’Driscoll, Roy Keane and Kevin Pietersen – I can’t read enough of them. The thing I like most is that, while each of them have a different story to tell, all of them demonstrate the importance of hard work, determination and self-belief in achieving their full potential. It’s a great lesson for all of us.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

It differs from week to week. Of course, I turn to friends and family for guidance and advice. Endless cups of milky tea, regular bops around the kitchen to very loud music and an occasional glass of wine also help!

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