Carey Kolaja, PayPal

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It's all about international expansion for PayPal's Carey Kolaja, who ushered the alternative payment provider into 15 new markets last year.

Kolaja, vice president of global product solutions at PayPal, has championed the eBay subsidiary's efforts outside the U.S., bringing more than 200 products and services to countries all over the world. She and her team are responsible for activities in 25 domestic markets and more than 193 cross-border trade markets.

For example, Kolaja moved PayPal Check In, a cloud-based payment app, to Mexico, Brazil, Australia, Japan and Germany.

Kolaja is most proud of products called Pay Upon Invoice and Pay Upon Delivery, which are particularly popular internationally. For instance, PayPal's Pay Upon Invoice is suited for Germany and other cash-centric countries.

She also played a key role in bringing PayPal to Russia, a territory that's been tricky for U.S. providers because of political and regulatory turmoil.

Overall, this international expansion has paid off. International revenue is growing 17% year over year, said Kolaja. In the fourth quarter of 2014, PayPal's international business generated $1.1 billion in revenue, she said.

Kolaja's group also shipped more new products—58—within the past 18 months than PayPal did in the past five years combined, said Kolaja.

The rapid increase in products keeps PayPal in line with the many nimble startups flooding the market with new payment innovations. Near Field Communication (NFC) is one such technology, and Kolaja predicts it will be the one to most change the industry and her role.

"In 2015, the infrastructure needed for NFC to be successful will start to scale more quickly," she said. "As an industry we will see more innovation in how companies integrate NFC for consumers and jumpstart digital payment adoption."

Apple's launch of an NFC mobile wallet, Apple Pay, has significantly increased awareness around the contactless payment method.

Cross-border trade and the regulatory environment surrounding it will also change significantly this year, Kolaja said. "With cross-border trade things like listing currencies, local languages and local payment preferences become increasingly important,” she said.

Regulatory requirements can be a big hurdle in moving funds internationally, especially in emerging markets.

More broadly, Kolaja expects to see the standardization of tokenization and the convergence of identity and mobile in 2015. 

These trends are especially relevant in light of the multiple high-profile data breaches that occurred over the past 18 months. Mobile technology can be used to enhance security.

"The 'device fingerprint' makes it possible to not authenticate people every time they make a purchase on a mobile device," she said. "This began with better developer tools that allowed individual apps to tokenize a person's details, so they can check out automatically each time. Today, we can leverage those same developer tools to validate identities across a network of mobile apps to deliver background payment without customers lifting or tapping a finger – and making it more secure."

Kolaja has held the global product position for a little over two years, and in total she's been with PayPal for about nine years. Before joining PayPal, she spent more than two years as eBay's director and senior manager of corporate information technology.

Both eBay and PayPal are among the more gender-diverse companies in the financial services and technology industry. However, there is a clear need for more progress. "Today's working women still face a number of challenges when advancing their career path," Kolaja said.

One major factor, she said, is a lack of female role models.

"Encouraging more and more women to join the technology industry is an ongoing effort," she said. "And, it is also important to mentor up-and-coming female leaders as well."

For three consecutive years as president of eBay's Women in Technology Organization, Kolaja expanded the group from 50 women in North America to more than 1,800 women globally. Under her leadership, the organization sponsored the first non-human resources employee mentoring program.

"Such efforts have helped eBay to more than double the number of women in leadership roles, as well as increase the share of leadership positions held by women in the last three years," Kolaja said.

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