It still surprises Debbie Gamble that a chance summer job she took at a bank turned into nearly a 30-year career leading to her current post influencing Canada’s payments technology at Interac Corp., the national debit system.
That first hitch at CIBC lasted seven years and put Gamble in charge of the operations team that backed Mondex, an early cryptocurrency. When Mondex expanded in Canada, Gamble became head of its North American operations.
"It was a turning point in my career, giving me insight into the requirements and structures necessary to roll out technology internationally and how big ideas in payments technology can come to life through collaboration and believing in ‘the art of the possible,’ which is now a fundamental element of how I approach work,” said Gamble, who is one of PaymentsSource’s Most Influential Women in Payments this year.
After Mondex, Gamble co-founded a startup. Zigzagging between startups and consulting at companies including Visa, she gained different perspectives on everything from evolving point-of-sale and e-commerce systems to digital currency and contactless payments.
Joining Interac's affiliate Acxsys in 2014, Gamble advanced to her present role at Interac in 2016, where she leads the debit network's efforts to digitize payments in stores, online and through mobile channels. (Interac Association and Acxsys Corp. combined to form Interac Corp. in February 2018.)
The potential for artificial intelligence to disrupt industries greatly interests Gamble, along with the various ways emerging payments technology is helping to improve the human condition.
“I’ve seen how the advancement and distribution of smartphones, biometric services and other technology can help lift people out of poverty,” she said, recalling a trip to Haiti last year with FINCA, which she serves as an advisory board member.
Closer to home, Gamble is a frequent visitor to Toronto’s tech hub, the MaRS Discovery District, where Interac is a strategic partner.
“We constantly see new technology and organizations committed to making the payments industry more accessible, more digital and more convenient. However, the length of time it takes to excite people about big ideas, and their practicality, is still challenging,” Gamble said.
Another area where change isn’t happening fast enough is the advancement of female executives in the payments industry, according to Gamble.
“It’s frustrating to attend conferences, listen to panels or hear from market and industry leaders comprised almost exclusively of men, with women and people of color excluded from the conversation,” she said. “Diversity is something to celebrate and demand on all levels, whether through gender, ethnicity, orientation, culture, ability, religion and more.”
Gender bias can take many forms, Gamble said.
“Throughout my career, I’ve seen heightened instances of gender bias the more you grow within an organization. Many women work in lower and middle management; however, the glass ceiling hinders further upward mobility,” she said.
Any woman who feels gender bias is blocking her path upward should look for should look for help from other professionals, Gamble advises.
“Find a mentor you trust and don’t be afraid to reach out to senior women in your organization—or other ones—and ask them for advice,” she said.
Networking with women has proved so helpful in accelerating Gamble’s career that she became a founding member of Verity, an organization focusing on women’s professional, physical, spiritual and personal growth.
Renah Persofsky, a serial entrepreneur and payments innovator, has been a key mentor for Gamble. In 2001 the pair co-founded Dexit, a micropayments company leveraging contactless technology, and three years later it went public, raising more than $40 million in funding.
“That entire journey taught me valuable lessons about perseverance and creating a successful business from nothing,” Gamble said, recalling how Persofsky continually demonstrated how to drive big ideas and overcome obstacles with a committed, creative mindset.
“Today if I face any reluctance while presenting a big idea, I channel Renah’s example of perseverance, hard work and patience,” she said.
READ MORE: The Most Influential Women in Payments, 2018