Tammy Hawkins, a smiling brunette woman with glasses standing in the Mastercard offices.
Tammy Hawkins, VP of security and decision solutions software engineering at Mastercard. Image: Glen Bollard

In tech, don’t underestimate the importance of strong connections

1 Aug 2018

Getting to a senior role within a tech company isn’t as simple as waiting around for promotions. You also have to build strong relationships.

It’s not uncommon to want to know what someone’s job looks like on a day-to-day basis. But have you ever wondered what a day in the life of someone in a senior role is like?

Tammy Hawkins is the vice-president of security and decision solutions software engineering at global payments giant Mastercard.

She told Siliconrepublic.com a little bit about what her job entails, including the best and hardest parts of her day, and the most important asset for someone working in tech.

What is your role within Mastercard?

I am vice-president of security and decision solutions software engineering in our Dublin tech hub. We develop globally scalable products focused on bettering the safety and intelligence of Mastercard’s network.

Through innovation and constant adaptation to the digital payments ecosystem, our work enables customers to make smarter authorisation and fraud-related decisions every day.

If there is such a thing, can you describe a typical day in the job?

We follow a fast-paced agile methodology with a customer-experience obsession. My day typically starts with reviewing design solutions, defined user journeys and story progression on our Kanban board during our daily scrums.

My role is to ensure we are designing solutions that will run at global scale for the long term and genuinely solve our customers’ needs.

What type of project do you work on?

There is no shortage of innovation and opportunity in the enterprise security space. We regularly run proof-of-concepts and investigate potential partnership and merger-and-acquisition opportunities for innovative security solutions. We were one of the first companies to introduce biometrics to payments with our innovative Identity Check product.

We work to fully integrate security and intelligence into the Mastercard transaction process. We develop merchant and consumer services, improve transaction validation services, integrate with digital payments products, and incorporate behavioural biometrics into existing layers of security.

What skills do you use on a daily basis?

Much of my job is ensuring my team can be as productive as possible each day. I help remove blockers, lead with a sense of urgency and integrity, and connect people in our tech hubs around the world to create best-in-class solutions.

We have very dynamic roles at Mastercard that allow people to bring their whole selves to work. In a vice-president role at Mastercard, you use networking, collaboration, prioritisation, agility, integrity, technical design skills, customer empathy … and a good sense of humour! At the end of the day, we work on amazing solutions and have a lot of fun in doing so.

What is the hardest part of your working day?

The absolute hardest part of the day is when we have disappointed a customer – honestly, nothing hurts more.

I take each instance of this back to the team as a learning opportunity so everyone can develop customer empathy and think about how we can better proactively serve our customers.

Do you have any productivity tips that help you through the working day?

I once read an article about ‘eating your frogs in the morning’ (inspired by a famous quote from Mark Twain) and it is a tactic that really works for me.

I arrive to work in the morning and dedicate between one and two hours each morning to my toughest task I need to accomplish that day. I find knocking the difficult tasks out in the morning frees my headspace to concentrate deeper on the rest of my tasks for that day.

My other personal life hack is regularly scheduling meetings with myself to allow for focused time to catch up with emails, spend a bit of time on my personal learning or deal with tasks that have built up through the day, so no one is waiting for more than one day on a response from me.

Mastercard provides two hours per week to every employee to spend on training themselves and I try to make sure to honour that commitment from Mastercard in my learning.

When you first started this job, what were you most surprised to learn was important in the role?

I’m an introvert by nature. I love sitting in a corner of a room and people-watching or reading a book quietly. However, when I started at Mastercard, it became obvious to me in a company this fast-paced and collaborative that I needed to forge strong connections across various global departments to accomplish work quickly and successfully.

So, I issued a challenge to myself: attend at least one work function per month and introduce yourself to two or three new people (you cannot leave the function until you do).

We have amazingly inclusive business resource groups, lots of tech talks, and a vibrant sports and social committee that regularly hold events. I started attending events, introducing myself, noting the names and departments of those I met, and often reaching out to those connections after meeting them at an event, to build a stronger connection.

By the end of the first year, I knew at least 30 new people; 10 years later, I know hundreds of people around the company in multiple geographies. I have a friend to call in every department to help expedite removing blockers, work to innovate comprehensive solutions, to help in an urgent customer situation and/or to celebrate success.

If you work in a technology role, I encourage you not to underestimate the importance of strong people connections.

How has this role changed as this sector has grown and evolved?

Now is a really fascinating time to work at Mastercard. We can expect more change in our industry in the next five years than we have seen in the last 50, and Mastercard is set for success.

As a truly cutting-edge technology company, we provide a powerful global network connection that not only processes payments, but adds levels of security and value to all of our customers using our network technology and big-data assets.

Mastercard is laser-focused upon innovating and leading the way with the new, exciting opportunities that digital payments, identity solutions and IoT offer.

Soon, potentially anything can be a payment device, and Mastercard will continue to ensure those payments are safe and secure.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

My favourite thing to do is to spend time face to face with my team members and other employees around Mastercard to discuss their career goals, and how we are working on the skills and connections needed for them to obtain their personal and professional goals.

I’m an active mentor to more than 20 individuals inside Mastercard and more than five individuals outside of Mastercard.

At this phase in my career, I take an extreme amount of joy celebrating the accomplishments of others who are obtaining their goals.

Mastercard is currently hiring in Dublin for a vice-president of enterprise security solutions and a vice-president of commercial. To find out more about the roles available at Mastercard, you can visit its careers site.

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