Malaika Paquiot is a Master Product Manager in International Markets at nCino, the worldwide leader in cloud banking.
She brings a breadth of technology expertise and experience to nCino as an early team member, former Tech Support Manager, Software Development Manager and Developer. As Master Product Manager for International Markets, she leads the globalisation and localisation of the nCino Bank Operating System. During her 15 years in software, she’s served as Product Manager of the InfoSphere Data Replication suite of products at IBM, won the US National Women of Colour Technology Award, and lent her technical expertise as a judge for Triangle Start-up Weekend and as a digital strategist for ARRAY film collective. Committed to serving her local community, she sits on the boards of Working Films and Cucalorus Connect.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I grew up in Jamaica, West Indies, and later moved to the United States for University, where I earned my undergraduate degree in electrical and computer engineering and my graduate degree in computer and information systems engineering from Tennessee State University. When I completed my studies, I went to work for IBM in their mainframe division as a software developer, eventually moving into a management role. Eager to expand my skills, I seized an opportunity to become a Product Manager in their Information Integration group and have been in love with product management ever since.
I joined nCino in 2015 as a Product Manager focusing on the Document Manager solution. I grew within that role, eventually supervising the product managers of nCino’s platform portfolio. Today, I am charged with helping scale the nCino Bank Operating System internationally.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky to have many mentors of all colours and stripes who supported and inspired me in many ways, from giving me advice to recommending me for leadership opportunities.
When I first started as a software developer, I was determined to become a development team lead. However, as I gained more experience, I cast a wider net so as not to limit myself. I’d see what someone else was doing and say, ‘Oh, that looks really interesting. I want to learn how to do that too.’
If there was a skill I wanted to further develop or a challenge I wanted to overcome, that would often lead me to a new role. For example, one of the management roles I held in the past was Technical Support Manager. I pursued this opportunity because my mentor told me it would help me develop a tough skin and learn to work under pressure. He was right; I learned how to accept critical feedback and work with a sense of urgency. While it was a challenging role, it helped me develop leadership skills and focus on the things I am passionate about.
What do you think could be done to encourage more girls into STEM?
I believe we are all responsible for making sure that we see more women and girls in STEM, and here are five ways we can make that happen:
- Parents can encourage curiosity about how the world works. Nothing beats this.
- Media can augment out-of-school learning and empower children to engage in STEM activities and careers. A great step forward would be, for example, to televise awards like the Women of Color in STEM Awards.
- Governments can reward companies who have diverse boards and leadership teams, and should help formalise educational initiatives that support the notion that all students have access to high-quality learning opportunities in STEM subjects.
- Educational institutions can work better to link STEM subjects to everyday life by giving children more outside time. Research has shown the benefits of allowing children more time to investigate, play and explore the outside world can encourage an interest in STEM subjects.
- Hiring managers can focus on hiring a more diverse workforce. By breaking up workplace homogeneity, people become more aware of ingrained ways of thinking that can lead to errors and bias in decision-making processes.
What skills and knowledge do you think are vital for a career in STEM?
Practical skills will certainly depend on the particular career, but there are a few traits that are transferable to almost any subject. First, having curiosity about how things work and why they work, and the drive to explore that curiosity will lead to the development of analytical, problem solving and critical thinking skills. Second, having the ability to articulate an idea in a clear, bold and compelling way. If you have the “next big thing” but are not capable of communicating it, then it will fall mute. Finally, having confidence in yourself and knowing your worth are critical to ensuring career longevity at a sustainable pace.
Do you have any advice or tips for women looking to get into STEM?
While STEM fields are currently male-dominated, it’s important to realize you can and should be yourself and that will lead to the most success.
Some tangible advice is to look for and take on weekend projects to deepen your skills and build a portfolio of work. The more hands-on practice you can get, the better. Don’t be afraid to tell your network about your interest in a STEM job. You never know who they may know.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
My next challenge is to leverage the knowledge I’ve gained in managing products at large and small organizations to help nCino with its international expansion.