Cook started her career in the payments industry as a sales agent nearly three decades ago. “I quickly realized how much I loved this industry,” says Cook, now chief executive officer of International CyberTrans Inc., an electronic transaction-servicing company with a broad range of merchant clients across the nation.

“I founded my first ISO in the very early stages of [the] electronic explosion and ‘grew up’ with the industry,” Cook says. “I have been very successful through hard work and a lot of luck.”

Indeed, she started IMA Payment Systems in the late 1980s and developed the business into a national player in the credit-card industry. After selling IMA in 1997, she started International CyberTrans — based in Brentwood, Tenn. — in early 2000.

Cook says that the most interesting thing happening in her segment of the industry is mobile payments and the rapid pace of technology advancements. The biggest challenge is unfair pricing practices fueled by the limited knowledge of the changes in payment solutions.

In five years, she predicts that the biggest change in how the payments business is conducted will be in the mobile arena, pointing to the success of Square. Square's mobile card reader has in its few short years on the market sparked many competitors, ranging from bank technology giants like Fiserv to outsiders like Groupon.

Ms. Cook was among the founders of the Electronic Transactions Association -- a national association for the electronic processing industry -- and served two years as president. “The best career decision I ever made was to take a chance on this industry,” she adds.

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