A woman with long brown hair smiles at the camera with greenery in the background. She is Grace Hayes of Mastercard.
Grace Hayes. Image: Mastercard

‘My greatest challenge was building confidence in my own abilities’

28 May 2021

Mastercard’s Grace Hayes discusses her career journey, the skills that she believes make a good leader, and her advice for budding technologists.

Grace Hayes is a senior vice-president and head of product delivery in Europe for Mastercard, having worked in a variety of other roles at the company’s Dublin base over the past six years.

Here, she reflects on the career journey that brought her to her current role, the support she received along the way and the things she most enjoys about her job.

She also spoke about the importance of courage, a curious mind and self-belief when it comes to working in the technology industry.

‘Active listening is critical for any leader to learn and understand from their teams’

What does an average day look like for you?

I lead teams of delivery specialists accountable for defining and executing the implementation models for new products in Europe. We focus on new technology development, customer experience and market readiness.

Across Europe, we’re seeing a fast acceleration in usage of digital currencies and products, especially for initiatives like open banking for example, and my team help to influence, design and drive our commercialisation throughout the region.

What led you to the role you now have?

Over the past six years in Mastercard I held various roles across our operations and technology teams. Initially I focused on our product strategy, supporting our demand intake, financial and technical operating models and advancing global business cases for large commercial customers.

I then transitioned into our new payment platforms and deep-dived into our build and deployment support. My current role allows me to focus on the delivery and scalability of our products, and the full product lifecycle experience.

What were the biggest surprises or challenges you encountered on your career path?

Like many people will relate to, it wasn’t a high priority project or the next new opportunity, my greatest challenge over the years has been to build confidence in my own abilities. As Edmund Hillary said: “It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”

Was there any one person who was particularly influential as your career developed?

Within a year of joining Mastercard I started working for an incredible manager based in the US. His direct and honest approach was what really inspired me to reach beyond my comfort zone.

He actively sought out challenges where I could learn and develop and proactively coached and mentored to build my potential over many years. He remains a trusted adviser and friend.

What do you enjoy about your job?

Every day is different. The vast array of products we support means there is always something new. The team are both geographically and culturally diverse, which brings great innovative thinking to all the challenges we face.

Mastercard gives me the opportunity to truly understand our customers’ and markets’ needs. I get to work with industry-leading technologists to push the boundaries of the possible and look to advancements in 5G, AI and machine learning to continually improve our customers’ experience.

What skills are required to be a good leader?

Going back to my early school days, I remember a teacher saying that you have two ears and only one mouth. It always makes me smile to remember the importance of this statement. Active listening is critical for any leader to learn and understand from their teams, stakeholders and customers.

Giving others a voice is both empowering but also promotes diverse thinking and collaboration. It also makes you consider the power of your words on those who listen and the importance of clarity, sincerity and empathy.

What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to your job?

I dream big and then focus to achieve that goal, often relying on my intuition. And when I get a feeling about something, I usually go with it. I always look back at experiences to learn, but really embrace change and take calculated risks.

How did Mastercard support you on your career path?

Mastercard has always taken great care in the importance and development of its employees with meaningful career development discussions, enabling growth opportunities and encouraging everyone to own their career.

Having a forward-thinking, supportive company that embraces collaboration, autonomy and the importance of employee wellbeing was never more important than during this pandemic.

Our leadership team excelled in their communication, decisive actions, change agility and keeping employee safety at the forefront throughout.

What advice would you give to those considering a career in technology?

Over this past year, we have all had to quickly adapt to new ways of working, living and interacting with others. Using technology to alleviate some of the uncertainty and friction in people’s days is what gives me the purpose of my role. Specifically, in fast reliable payments with Mastercard, enabling contactless payments, advanced cybersecurity products, digital identity solutions and supporting small business across the world.

Technology, whatever your chosen field, is changing at a rate where no one can accurately predict what the next 10 years would look like. And for that you will need courage, a curious mind and self-belief to empower change.

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