Meet Jane Thomason, Co-Founder, and Chief Inspiration Officer Fintech.TV, a thought leader in the applications of blockchain technology to solve social problems, and advocate for the education and empowerment of women generally and #WomeninBlockchain and is part of the founding team for the #worldblockchainacademyforgirls. Global Ambassador and Advisory Board member of the British Blockchain Association.
Who is Jane Thomason? define yourself
I have always wanted to change the world! I am a digital nomad now. I believe that you can define yourself and live the life you chose. I believe that magic can happen if you let it. I believe that shit happens, but that the most valuable skill you can develop is to reframe and move on. I try to live each day as if it were the last and to appreciate blessings and find joy in small things. I like to set bold goals and have a go.
I have always had two important things in my life, my children and my work. I have devoted my energy to being the best I can at both. My approach to work has always been trying to find where I can make the most impact, depending on my life stage and circumstances. Some of the biggest decisions I have made in my life have been to create a balance between motherhood and career choices. There is no doubt that life is a series of compromises. My decision to return to Australia after 15 years overseas, for example, was absolutely about where I wanted to raise my children. My life choices would have been totally different without children. But children are the greatest gift that you will ever have, and the time they need you is short, so savor it!
How were you as a kid?
I was not a successful kid! I was precocious, a bit overweight and my mum dressed me in terrible clothes and gave me a basin cut for my primary school years!! I must have been annoying to the teachers, because I was always making wise cracks. I was not very popular with other kids, because I was interested in big ideas and busy being smarter than everyone. I was always pushing boundaries. I had little in common with the cohort I went to school with. I have been a much more successful and happier adult.
“To empower a woman is to empower a nation. A woman will invest in her family and her community. Educated women are more likely to contribute to economic growth”
You hold a B.S.W. Community Development at The University of Queensland, Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) at the University of Sydney and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) at The University of Queensland, why did you choose those courses of study?
I started with social work and community development because I had been inspired by an Australian Volunteer social worker I met in Central Java, Indonesia. Her name was Mary Johnston, and she had been working with poor communities in Central Java for 14 years. I saw the work she was doing and was inspired to follow in her footsteps. When I graduated, I went straight to Indonesia as an Australian Volunteer Abroad. I learned during that experience that to work in developing countries, I would need skills and should take some advanced study. So, on return from Indonesia, I worked for a year to save enough money to do a Master’s Degree. I applied for many Masters’ programs and was accepted into the University of Sydney Masters in Public Health. That was a turning point because I had found my “tribe” and a sector that has kept me engaged and interested for decades, and it is one where impact is at the center. My PhD was also in Public Health. I took a job as an academic, and I was able to complete it while working in Papua New Guinea, and wrote it up while my son was a baby. The perfect time to do a thesis! I took my son and a nanny to work each day - it was lovely!
You are the Co-Founder of Fintech.TV, former CEO of Fintech Worldwide. Frontier Technology and Social Impact Thought Leader, recognized in Forbes Magazine as Blockchain’s Leading Social Development Evangelist, and The Introducer as a Blockchain Woman Leader. But in the past, you held Board and CEO roles in tertiary hospitals and the health care sector in Australia and globally. How did you jump from the health sector to Fintech?
Great Question! The majority of my working life was spent in senior roles in the health sector, mainly in developing countries, often in highly remote and inaccessible areas. Through this, I had firsthand knowledge of the hardships, that the poor and disadvantaged in developing countries, face. I also understood the many challenges we had encountered in trying to deliver programs to remote and isolated communities.
In 2016, my son told me to learn about Blockchain – he said it would change everything. As I started to understand it, I realized how transformative it could be for the bottom billion. I realized that Blockchain if deployed and scaled could help solve some of the global problems of our time.
I am continually inspired by the benefits that Blockchain can bring to the bottom billion “invisible” people on this planet. Think of a poor woman who does not have electricity, a bank account, or an ID and lives in a remote location. If she wants to get money (sent from a relative) – she has to walk or take public transport to the nearest town (which costs money), Western Union takes 15%, and there is a bus ride home. The reality of the situation could be that she has been sent $200 and has to spend $120 on transport and $25 for Western Union and has spent 3 or 4 days to access only $65.
Think of the promise of technology – with only a 2G mobile phone – poor women can have access to: money, identity, micro grid solar power, direct access to sell produce and handicrafts globally, crowd funding money for projects, information on antenatal care visits, access to subsidies from government and a democracy platform to improve citizen engagement with the government. That is inspiring! To empower a woman is to empower a nation. A woman will invest in her family and her community. Educated women are more likely to contribute to economic growth.
“The biggest challenge is fear - fear of failure, fear of not fitting in, fear of not being good enough, fear of working in a male dominated industry. We all have fears. But we can overcome them”
I want to be a driving force to collaborate and make the promise of technology real for poor women and girls around the world. The potential for technology to improve the lives of women and girls is immense. So, my focus for the past three years has been on trying to demystify the technology and explain the many ways that it can help us solve problems we have grappled with for decades. I resigned my job as CEO of an international development company, and set about to carve a new career in inspiring people about the transformative impact of technology. I shut my eyes and I literally jumped!
Can you explain in simple words, what is Fintech.TV and what services does it provide?
Fintech.TV was launched to deliver the latest news and emerging trends covering the exponential changes occurring in business, finance, digital assets, technology and sustainable investments. FINTECH.TV offers two dedicated channels – the Digital Asset Report and The IMPACT. FINTECH.TV brings integrity, trust and expertise to industries that are disruptors – in every aspect of life ...the story of tomorrow. As Chief Inspiration Officer, I work at all levels from global to local to get traction and motivate governments, corporations and international agencies to lean in and help shape technological transformation at scale. At a global level I speak, write and advocate, getting ideas and information out there. I am very excited about working to build FINTECH.TV as a leading platform for high quality, curated knowledge about frontier technologies and social impact.
You were awarded Top 10 Digital Frontier Women and UN Decade of Women Quantum Impact Champion. You are a regular hackathon judge and mentor including London Blockchain Week, London Fintech Week, Consensys and EOS Global Hackathons. What's the recipe for your success?
Passion, hunger to learn and to be of service. I believe that technology can transform the world for the better, and I want to empower that change. If my voice can help people understand the potential, if my wisdom can help start-ups do better, if my energy can inspire others - I will be happy.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in STEM? What would you suggest to address this?
I say to young women – “embrace technology, it is your future.” The biggest challenge is fear - fear of failure, fear of not fitting in, fear of not being good enough, fear of working in a male dominated industry. We all have fears. But we can overcome them.
We have to create the enabling environment for women to work in blockchain and technology. I think that tech generally is an ideal area for women – because it allows them flexible working hours and arrangements. Frontier technologies are rapidly emerging with new use cases emerging on a weekly basis – that means opportunity! We need to help women and girls across the world to create their own future. If we think less about what others think and more about what we can do, individually and collectively – we will succeed. The next generation of women will be better off because technology will enable flexible working conditions and even transform childcare (self-driving cars and robots will be extremely helpful to mums!).
We need to drive technology education and make coding ubiquitous; a language that all children learn from the start of their education. Schools should integrate analytical thinking, digital technologies, and coding into their curricula from the first day all children (boys and girls) start school. This will help overcome gender biases, as it is part of the core curriculum- ensuring that all girls learn it.
We should also create new, awesome #womeninblockchain role models. We need to create new stereotypes for women in tech who are smart and managing both tech and motherhood. Perhaps something a bit more edgy than “Amy” from the “Big Bang Theory” – we need a female “Sheldon!” We need to find female tech entrepreneurs across the globe and profile them. Successful women need to give time to mentor younger women and help them succeed. To all young women who want to work in tech - go to a meet up, get yourself a mentor and get going!
“If we think less about what others think and more about what we can do, individually and collectively – we will succeed”
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a woman in STEM or Fintech?
- “It's a man’s world” only because we were late to the table. Let’s elbow our way in and get going!
- “Women are not welcome” this has not been my experience, it's just that we are in smaller numbers. It can be intimidating to go to a big tech conference, so start with a smaller meetup where you can meet and network with people in the industry. Consider joining a woman in blockchain or women in tech meet up. Join LinkedIn groups on topics of interest, and start getting into the industry.
- “You need to be an engineer or mathematician to work in tech” You will need these skills on a team, but you will also need strategy, business, finance, communications, sales and human resources. There are plenty of opportunities for people with other skills.
What does a normal workday look like for you?
I don’t separate work and leisure. I believe work life balance is an outdated concept - what we need now is work life integration. We are always online. I generally wake at 4 am and check emails, then I go for a 1-hour morning walk, to center myself for the day. I start my US calls at 6 am. I spend several hours working at the office. In the afternoons, I usually visit my elderly dad, or look after my 2-year-old granddaughter. At 5 pm my UK calls start and when they end, my work day ends. I mostly follow that pattern 7 days a week. I always switch my phone off when I sleep.
Do you have any particular philosophy that guides your career decisions?
There is no perfect job and no perfect time. If an opportunity comes up that you would like to take, don’t procrastinate. Take the chance, at worst you will learn something, at best it could be amazing and lead to other opportunities. Always do your best, people will notice and other things will come your way.
What do you love most about your job? & what is the most difficult part?
I love the opportunity to try and inspire others. I believe that many cannot imagine the transformations that are possible if we harness technological innovation for the benefit of society. If I can share my vision and help them see what is possible, that is a worthy goal. The most difficult part right now is not being able to travel and meet people and see stories and projects face to face.
“Take the chance, at worst you will learn something, at best it could be amazing and lead to other opportunities. Always do your best, people will notice and other things will come your way”
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned over the years?
Be very clear on your ethics and values and live by them. If you have a business, ensure that everyone knows your expectations in terms of ethical expectations and the values of the business and ensure that anyone joining the business understands and adopts that framework.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Reframe. If you have a setback or failure, don’t dwell on it. Learn from it and reframe. Be constantly scanning the horizon and be ready to reset plans and expectations.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Do a great job and understand what the clients need and want.
What situation marked your life in a way that prompted you to be who you are today?
I worked for a year in a hematology/oncology unit as a social worker, where I spent a lot of time with people close to death, and their families. It really taught me what was important in life. Spending time with loved ones, taking opportunities when they come, healing old rifts, finding joy in small things. I vowed I would live my life as if each day may be my last. I took every opportunity when it presented, appreciated the gifts I have been given, loved my family and had marvelous adventures. When my time is up, I want to have no regrets.
Many authors say women can and must strive to have everything – a shining career, a blossoming family life and a perfectly balanced lifestyle all at once, others point out that– then women are placing unrealistic expectations on themselves if they believe they can have it all, I don´t know if you are married and have kids so according to your experience, what do you think about these statements?
Like everything life is full of choices. I chose to aim for a successful career and to be a good mum for my two children. I did not have much social life, nor hobbies (unless it was around the children's needs). It was a juggle at times, and there was no doubt I made some compromise career choices, that were better for the children. On balance, I would not change anything. Motherhood is the most wonderful experience and I would not have missed it for the world. I feel super blessed.
“We need to create new stereotypes for women in tech who are smart and managing both tech and motherhood”
What are your plans for the future?
Figure out how to continue to inspire virtually, and expand my reach and impact.
There is still the glass ceiling for women in the world: Fewer opportunities, jobs underpaid just for that fact of being a woman, etc. Have you experimented with the glass ceiling? if yes, what are the biggest challenges you have faced and how have you overcome them?
If you look for a glass ceiling, you will find it. If you look for the blue ocean, you will find it. I never looked for the glass ceiling and I never found it.
What tips can you give to young girls who want to become an entrepreneur like you?
Just do it! Don’t be afraid to fail – get out there and go hard. I am self-motivated and I am on a mission to change the world. You have one life and it passes fast – don’t waste it - find your passion and follow it - you alone can find your pathway. Live each day as if it could be your last - make every day count.
I think in your position, many people may have the wrong idea of who you are (personally), and what do you (professionally), with this idea in mind, what is being Jane, and what's not?
I am a devoted mother, passionate social entrepreneur, occasional fun lover, and I believe that you can define yourself and live the life you chose. I am open and honest and have never been motivated by money. I have about $1.60 in bitcoin, have lost my wallet password and that amuses me. I genuinely care about humanity and I love to feel I am helping in some small way to build a better world.
Who is the woman you admire the most and why?
Mother Teresa, who is one of the greatest humanitarians of our time and dedicated her life to helping the poor. From her humble start in the Calcutta slums to help the unwanted, the unloved, the uncared for. She started the Order of the Missionaries of Charity, which grew by 2020 to 5,167 religious’ sisters in several countries vowing to give wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor. In quiet humility, she is one of the most inspiring women I know of.
Name: Jane Thomason