Jasma Ghai, Discover Financial Services

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Jasma Ghai has a long list of achievements during her 19 years with Discover Financial Services, not the least of which is the past three years she spent as vice president of global products.

However, an achievement she points to with extreme pride is the ability to juggle an important career in payments with the needs of her family. It's a challenge many women face, no matter what responsibilities or time commitment their jobs demand.

Rather than let it take over her life, Ghai made it a priority to be in charge, a trait that has served her well and led to a spot amongst this year's honorees in PaymentsSource's Most Influential Women in Payments.

Read more: The Most Influential Women in Payments, 2020

The turning point came a few years ago when her then 5-year-old daughter asked her to attend the summer preschool luncheon for students and parents. Ghai had a conflict at work and explained she would not be able to attend the luncheon.

"That evening, I picked up a very heart-broken little girl from school," Ghai said. "I got defensive when she asked why I didn't show up by saying that I was sure that not all of the kids' parents made it."

When her daughter said she didn't care about the other kids' parents and that she wanted to have lunch with her mom, the signal was clear to Ghai. The work commitment could have been changed and she made the wrong choice this time.

Jasma Ghai, Vice President, Global Products, Discover Financial Services
Jasma Ghai, Vice President, Global Products, Discover Financial Services

"I promised myself that I would appreciate the smallest moments in my children's and my life and to take nothing for granted," Ghai said. In that way, Ghai said she now figures she has 24 hours in a day to balance work and life and everything isn't locked into an 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. work shift.

It's a life philosophy that has worked well for Ghai, who currently leads the core new products and delivery group at Discover. She and her team have fingerprints on much of the strategy, planning and design of new products and payments deployment initiatives.

She is also responsible for the international product strategy and previously led the innovation office for Discover Payments.

Ghai has more than 15 years of leadership experience, holding top positions in Discover Card and Discover Bank that called for digital product development, strategy and management, as well as customer experience, marketing and analytics.

"To be recognized for that first leadership role, the keys are to broaden your skills and experiences in varied roles, solving different problems and always being laser-focused on delivering results," Ghai said.

Anyone aspiring to a leadership role needs to "actively manage their career choices with the goals of constantly challenging yourself to grow and building your followership as well as your visibility to existing leadership," she added.

It also helps to work for different business areas and for different leaders.

"My work on the credit card and the network sides of Discover gives me a unique view into the many of our customer bases," Ghai said. "When designing a product that will impact cardholders and merchants alike, having a deep understanding of both customers is vital."

With Discover being based in Riverwoods, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, Ghai often reflects on something one of the city's greatest legends once said.

"The biggest risk, in my opinion, is taking no risk at all," Ghai said. "Michael Jordan put this best when saying, 'I can accept failure, but I can't accept not trying.'"

Carrying that view into the workplace has helped Ghai move up the career ladder in different roles at Discover.

"Several times in my career, I was proactively tapped for roles that did not seem like an obvious fit to me at first, but those are the roles I ended up growing and learning the most, and most quickly," she noted. "I can say with confidence I am glad I took those risks."

As a minority female leader, Ghai has great respect for all women who have progressed to become part of the corporate structure. But she knows much work has to be done to assure more women can reach those spots.

"Companies need to emphasize hiring diverse individuals up front and ensure that a diversity and inclusion-focused mindset remains when filling leadership positions," she said, adding that Discover has several programs and resources in place to help women find opportunities.

Her background and experiences have given her the confidence to be ready to tackle anything that comes along in the fast-changing world of payments. Ghai knows that the heightened customer expectations in the mobile era will be at the forefront of everything she does in the coming years.

Ultimately, Ghai's confidence manifests itself when the company needs her the most. "Personally, I have raised my hand to solve the most challenging problems that needed to be unpacked, all while holding my team and myself accountable to drive specific results on a specific timeline."

Best of all, she can do all of that while also raising her hand when one of her daughters has a special event unfolding at school.

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Women in Payments