Empowered women empower women.Invest In Women, Accelerate Progress

Today, we are highlighting Ms. Damalie Sajjabi Elizabeth, who is the Head of Products and Operations at Interswitch East Africa. Damalie has an impressive career path that speaks to her dedication and leadership qualities. She started her journey with a marketing degree from Makerere University in Uganda and then moved on to the world of finance where she has worked in various roles such as e-banking operations, card management, and credit risk analysis.

Her varied experience has led her to her current position at Interswitch East Africa, where she leads both product development and operational excellence. Ms. Damalie is a strong advocate for emerging payment solutions, which are crucial for driving financial inclusion across the region. Her expertise in portfolio management ensures that these solutions cater to the evolving needs of East African businesses and consumers.

In addition to her impressive skill set, which includes business analysis and team leadership, Damalie is also an inspiration to aspiring female leaders. She proves that women can excel in the forefront of innovation in Fintech. 

In our exclusive interview, she shares her insights on navigating the dynamic world of Fintech, the importance of #InvestInWomen, and her vision for accelerating progress in East Africa's financial landscape. Get ready to be empowered as we dive into Damalie's story!

Celebrating Achievements and Impact:

What motivated you to pursue a career in fintech, a traditionally male-dominated field? 

I began my career in a market research firm that was headed by a lady, and I admired the way she would confidently express herself and get her message across. This helped me realize that I, too, can do it. So, I embarked on a journey to develop my skills in interviewing and moderating focus groups.

Leading conversations during interviews, developed my communication skills & Analytical skills, this enhanced my confidence, and helped me to express myself better.  Importantly this also meant that I could address any audience irrespective of my gender. I later joined banking as an officer and grew through the ranks to Product Manager, Card Payments, before joining Interswitch. 

Joining Fintech was my passion and I worked hard to gain the knowledge and developed my competence in payments because of the opportunities it presented to innovate and impact everyone’s daily life regardless of gender.

Share a defining moment in your career journey that solidified your passion for fintech.

One defining moment in my career was when I joined Interswitch in the products and Operations department and interfaced with customers a lot. A customer had been given a solution, but it was not solving their pain points end to end. We went through the customer journey to understand how the business is run and had to find a solution for each step in the value chain.

Innovation, Creativity, user experience and empathy are skills and values I had leverage as I delivered on this project. I witnessed, firsthand and learnt how digital money simplifies financial transaction movements and the impact of technology on people’s daily lives. This started my passion to continue learning and contributing to such innovations.


How do you navigate and overcome challenges unique to women in the fintech industry? 

1. Gender Bias in hiring, promotions, and salary negotiations. I personally overcome these challenges by intentionally being unbiased when hiring in the workplace and looking out for the best candidate and not a particular gender. I also know how hard I work and when negotiating salary, I present evidence of my achievements, and demonstrate what more I can bring to the table.

The second tactic is around competence, I ensure to remain up to date with all the latest changes in my line of work. When you know what you’re doing, and you remain teachable on this kind of journey, then gender bias can almost go unnoticed. This has allowed me to stand out, regardless of my gender.

2. Lack of representation in leadership positions to find mentors and role models. One of my goals is to mentor and support women in the Fintech space especially where I work, especially new hires. At my work place we have a separate WhatsApp group where we discuss and empower and encourage each other.

3. Work Life balance especially the pressures to conform to gender roles like managing a home and taking care of children needs. I did purpose to join a Fintech that would allow me to balance this as a woman and allow me to work from home some days of the week to keep in sync with what is happening in my household. 

4. Networking opportunities for women in a male dominated industry. I intentionally join communities for women whenever I have an opportunity. For example, FITSPA has a community for Women in Fintech where we share ideas and share information. Opportunities that come up are also shared and we get to collaborate as women with some fireside chats that I endeavor not to miss because they present learning and mentorship opportunities.

Over the years, I have built meaningful relationships in the tech & banking sector as well as Rotary. This means that I have a wide pool of people to bounce ideas off or seek ideas from among other forms of support. Having a strong support system within the works space, among peers in and outside the industry and in my family has also helped me navigate challenges that I might face as a woman. I have friends, colleagues, Rotarians and family that are just a call away.


Investment and Empowerment: 

What initiatives or policies do you believe are crucial to attract more investment in women-led fintech businesses?

One of the key things is a need for gender diversity in boardrooms and management teams. This gives room to hear and incorporate several and diverse perspectives, especially those affecting women. But before we get there, we must be deliberate about building the capacity of women who have potential to become leaders. And for those who are in leadership roles already, it is important to explore ways to ensure that the companies they lead are on a growth trajectory.  

Additionally Increasing visibility of successful women in fintech to inspire investment confidence in funding women led Fintechs. Visibility is great, for instance, FITSPA is taking a step in the right direction by profiling women in Fintech during this season. And there can be many other initiatives which can accelerate awareness about the work women in fintech and Tech are doing.

How can established players in the fintech space actively support and empower women entrepreneurs?

They can do this by providing mentorship to women entrepreneurs, especially the startups. FITSPA is already doing this with FITSPA Women, so I think acting as a catalyst in the ecosystem to foster conversations and collaboration among parties that might either need investment or be able to invest in Women entrepreneurs is essential. I believe that these kinds of partnerships are key in supporting women entrepreneurs.

Additionally, can they provide networking opportunities for women like FITSPA is already doing?

What advice would you give to aspiring women looking to break into the fintech industry?

My advice would be to remain curious and continuously seek opportunities to learn, be persistent and seek out collaboration and support networks that can provide guidance and support along the way.

Share your thoughts on the importance of mentorship and sponsorship for women in fintech.

This is very important in growing the number of women in fintech and I would like to first thank FITSPA for leading by example. Interswitch has a partnership with FITSPA to provide slots for women seeking internships and training and we have attained trainees from this partnership and absorbed some of the good, hardworking talents into our workforce.

Such initiatives go a long way in supporting young women attain the opportunities and training needed to thrive in this industry and it should be part and parcel of what we do as the Fintech community to foster diversity and inclusion.

Personal Inspiration and Vision:

What qualities do you believe are essential for success in the ever-evolving fintech landscape?

The ability to embrace change, think creatively, navigate uncertainties and a commitment to learning are essential for success in a Fintech. Many times I don’t have all the answers to solve problems but being flexible, collaborating with others and putting the customer first as we solution usually gives us the best results.

In the tech fast world we are in today, the customer evolves at an even faster pace. So, we are always on our feet and toes to make sure that we are innovating in a relevant manner but are also able to absorb the shocks that could throw us off course. Armed with these qualities, anyone should be able to thrive in Fintech. 

Describe your vision for the future of fintech and the role women will play in shaping it.

Women will continue to drive innovation, address the unmet needs and build a more inclusive, diverse and equitable fintech landscape. My personal projection is that every woman I encounter in the workplace and in life gives me an opportunity to contribute to this vision. I have learnt quite a lot over the years, and I am still learning. I aim to leave a meaningful and positive impact on each of these women’s lives through knowledge sharing, mentorship, and guidance as the opportunities for each are provided. 

What personal values or principles guide your work and decision-making processes?

Integrity in doing what is right and being fair, empathy in prioritizing the needs of others by listening and committing myself to deliver, open minded collaboration by respecting other people’s views and seeking or giving support so that I can make a positive impact.

Call to Action:

What message do you have for young girls and women considering a career in technology or finance?

My message is to dream big, believe in yourself, and embrace opportunities to learn and grow. Don't let barriers hold you back; instead, use them as fuel to propel yourself forward. 

Share a quote or piece of advice that inspires you and keeps you motivated on your journey.

"Empowered women empower women."

This quote reminds me of the collective strength and impact we have when we support and lift each other up. It motivates me to continue striving for excellence and advocating for gender equality in all aspects of my work and life.

That's a wrap! We'd like to express our sincere gratitude to Damalie Sajjabi for sharing her inspiring journey and insights. Her dedication to innovation and empowering women in Fintech is truly remarkable.

To our valued readers, thank you for joining us as we celebrate phenomenal female leaders in #Fintech! There are many more inspiring stories to come. Stay tuned and follow the hashtag #FITSPAWomenLeaders to discover the next powerhouse shaping the future of finance!