Alyssa Furtado, Ratehub.ca: How motherhood transformed my approach to leadership
Alyssa Furtado is a passionate entrepreneur, financial expert, digital marketer and educator. She is the co-founder of Ratehub Inc. and CEO of Ratehub.ca, the leading Canadian financial comparison site for mortgage rates, credit card deals, deposit rates and insurance.
As a tech CEO and mother to an energetic 2-year-old, I’m often asked how being a business leader has shaped my approach to motherhood. Co-founding and running a business has certainly taught me a lot: how to embrace the unknown, be comfortable with risks, and be patient when things don’t go as planned. However, being a mom has also shaped the way I approach leading my business.
I’ve rounded up the top three lessons I’ve learned from being a mother that I’ve applied to my style of leadership.
Lesson 1: Don’t be afraid to prioritize
Motherhood has taught me how to give priority to what’s most important, both in my personal life and in within the business. As a mother of a toddler (my son, Elliot) I’ve learned that my time is a finite resource and it’s impossible to tackle everything on my to-do list with equal energy and focus. So, instead, I take a step back every day to prioritize. Prioritizing allows me to put what’s most important to my family first and make the most out of my day.
I’ve applied the same principle of prioritization to how I make decisions as the CEO of Ratehub.ca, the company I co-founded in 2010. In 2017 Ratehub raised $12-million in Series A venture funding, which has allowed us to pursue our business goals more aggressively. Instead of investing equally in all of our business units, we decided to hone in on the two areas which we believe can lead Ratehub into the future. We were excited by the work being done by our team to digitize the mortgage application process, so we invested in the development of our proprietary Online Mortgage Platform. We also saw that insurance represented a big opportunity for growth and are investing in a new suite of tools which will allow Canadians to compare home, life and car insurance quotes online.
Learning how to prioritize my time as a mother is similar to prioritizing how time and resources are spent at Ratehub. Instead of trying to boil the ocean, I focus my time and energy on the things that mean the most to me.
Lesson 2: Your company’s operations should reflect real experiences
An important way that tech leaders can commit to moving the dial for women and girls in STEM is to make sure their company’s culture and operations reflect the lived experiences of working women. We have always had a flexible work-from-home policy at Ratehub. However, my experience with maternity leave and motherhood motivated me to formalize processes that allow our employees to work remotely, effectively.
We’ve also developed a system to help employees on maternity leave integrate back into their roles seamlessly. After my maternity leave, I found that slowly ramping up my hours of work helped me manage being a business leader and new mom. Where possible, we offer a similar work policy to employees returning from maternity leave where they can begin with part-time hours and eventually ramp up to their full-time role.
These are just some of the ways that motherhood has impacted how operations are managed at Ratehub. I believe all tech leaders can move the dial for women in STEM by acknowledging the different schedules of mom’s and parents, and provide them with the tools and flexibility to do their best work.
Lesson 3: Bring in help when you need it
In motherhood, as in business, sometimes things can get overwhelming. Since becoming a mother I’ve learned not to be afraid to ask for help when I need it. My personal support system includes my husband, mother, mother-in-law and nanny who were all there for me during the early months of maternity leave, and still to this day. I think it’s important to own your limitations and seek out help from those around you when it’s needed.
Similarly, my 3-month maternity leave helped me gain perspective on the way Ratehub.ca was being run without me in the office. My absence from the office was eye-opening as it amplified the general chaos of startup life. Ultimately, it helped me recognize that we needed to grow our senior leadership team. Over the past 24 months we’ve made it a priority to hire more senior talent who can bring previous experience working at bigger, later stage companies to Ratehub. Senior leadership hires have also allowed us to put valuable mentorship and processes in place.
Both of these experiences have taught me that sometimes the solution to challenges lies in bringing in an extra set of helping hands, or people with more expertise. It takes a village to raise a child and it certainly takes a solid team to build a successful company.