Not long ago, executives at Visa and MasterCard viewed the entrepreneurs at independent sales organizations as sketchy, shady, fly-by-night con artists. Linda Perry, a former Visa executive, did a lot to change that perception.

In her role at Visa, she literally brought the card network's top managers into the same room with people from leading ISOs for the first time. At the initial meeting, Visa's leadership began to see how ISOs were becoming a valuable link in the payments chain.

Perry continued to champion the cause of ISOs at Visa, and she rose to become senior vice president and head of acquirer and processor sales before retiring in 2009 after 17 years with the company.

But even though she retired from Visa, she never left the industry.

Instead, Perry formed a consulting company that's kept her an active participant in two of the most important trends of today's acquiring business—globalization and accepting new entrants to the industry.

She's spent time in California's Silicon Valley teaching young entrepreneurs about payments. Digital startups want to enter the payments industry to collect data to use for other purposes, but the business is more nuanced than it first appears to outsiders, she counsels.

Meanwhile, Perry is a prominent figure at regional acquiring shows, where she shares what she's learned about tech startups. The newcomers to the payments scene are willing to provide services at cost just to capture the accompanying data, she warns the industry's established players.

At the same time she's taken a leadership role in making American-style acquiring a global enterprise. To that end, she helped stage the first International Acquiring Forum last fall in London. She was also featured in PaymentsSource's 2013 Most Influential Women in Payments.

And as one of the four founders of Women Networking in Electronic Transactions, or W.net, she maintains an active role in the organization in the hope of helping younger women earn senior positions in the industry.

"I think we have made some progress," Perry says of women's status in the industry, "but I am sure many women are still struggling with career challenges. Growth industries like payments provide excellent opportunities for women to seek more responsibility in their current companies or to become entrepreneurs."

She's in a position to know. Perry started as a bank teller and, except for four years she spent teaching and working with a professional theater company, has devoted her working life to banking and payments.  She served as a vice president at New York's Citigroup Inc. and also worked for Michigan National Bank.

The qualities that have helped Perry's own career matter just as much to other women.

"Learn and absorb all the information you can, especially about the new technologies" Perry advises. "Network and stay in touch with your network friends. If you want to keep advancing in your career, don't be afraid to take on projects outside of your comfort zone."

See the full list of honorees for this year's Most Influential Women in Payments.

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