To hear Archana "Archie" Puri tell it, the technology changing the payments market is every bit as dramatic as laser eye surgery is to someone with poor vision.
"One day you can't see without your glasses, and the next day you open your eyes, and everything falls into perspective," she said. "It's like 'The Matrix' … you suddenly start seeing the code!"
And once she saw the code, everything changed for Puri, who heads product management at PayPal's Braintree and is one of PaymentsSource's Most Influential Women in Payments for 2018.
By finding her voice and confidence, she said, "I stopped doing without thinking about the best way to accomplish a task. It was almost like a switch that gets turned on and then a moment of clarity."
Puri is in her second year of overseeing product management. Previously she worked three years at PayPal as a product leader for payments and card processing, and in that time she's seen impressive growth (PayPal purchased Braintree in 2013).
"The rapid rate of growth at Braintree and the payments industry overall was a wonderful surprise," she said. "At Braintree, we've had a great three-year stretch: In 2015, we crossed $50 billion in authorized payment volume on the Braintree platform only; in 2016 we grew 25 times year over year; and in 2017, we did 1 billion transactions per quarter. It's wonderful to see our industry grow and thrive."
With all this data coming in from the heightened payments volume, it's a good time for PayPal and Braintree to seek out partners, Puri suggested.
"We are at a point in the industry where more data sharing and partnerships will have to occur," she said. "At PayPal, and Braintree by extension, we have a very large network of consumer patterns and behaviors which power our own risk decisioning, but I also see that being extended to power deeper insights for our merchants."
The people at Braintree have adopted a culture where everyone can thrive, which means there is no room for unfairness, she added.
"While bias is as natural as being human, handling it right is important," she said. "One of my proudest moments was when the men on an interview panel turned away a candidate for how he spoke to a female interviewer."
Puri often reflects on her fascination with architectural planning and the "partnership" it generally has with landscape design.
"If I weren't in payments, I would have been in architecture," she said. "Buildings and structures, and more recently landscapes, fascinate me."
The possibilities are endless, she said.
"You can take a barren piece of land and convert it to a warm and cozy haven, a towering structure of power and strength, or a sacred zen space. The craft combines artistic ability with sound engineering principles that appeals to my inner product manager."
Before joining PayPal and Braintree, Puri worked for eight years at Yahoo as senior product manager and program manager, and spent several years in engineering and consulting in India.
She says she is in a good spot now.
"I believe Braintree is by far one of the most inclusive places to work at," she said. "Mahatma Gandhi said, 'Be the change you want to see in the world,' and I think that defines Braintree."
READ MORE: The Most Influential Women in Payments, 2018