Prashanthi Ravanavarapu, PayPal
While a career in payments can allow a person to touch on many different aspects of payments services, PayPal's Prashanthi Ravanavarapu can say her focus has remained quite clear.
In her 12 years at PayPal, including her most recent role as director of product architecture for financial participation and health, Ravanavarapu can point to financial inclusion as her key motivator.
Through that lens, she has been involved in bringing together human-centered product design, lean product management and behavioral economics to drive PayPal's innovation.
"Throughout my career at PayPal, I've played a key role in the development of programs that all laddered up to one goal — democratizing financial services by helping teams around the world create product offerings for those financially underserved," said Ravanavarapu, one of PaymentsSource's Most Influential Women in Payments for 2019.
What seems so common to the general public when handling finances may stand as major obstacles for those not involved in life's basic money needs.
"For the financially underserved, basic needs such as access to simple, affordable financial services like saving, budgeting and planning are extreme pain points," Ravanavarapu said.
"That's why I am so passionate about helping to provide access to these necessary services, so customers can create a more stable future and develop healthy financial behaviors," she added.
Even though her focus is on the financially underserved, Ravanavarapu has been involved in various projects at PayPal that help businesses and individuals realize their full financial potential.
She worked on Opportunity Hack, a two-day hackathon in which local nonprofits connected with skilled computer engineers and business-savvy volunteers to address the agences' tech problems.
Ravanavarapu helped PayPal co-found the Small Business Challenge, a program in which PayPal employees spend roughly 10 percent of their working time with a local business to learn about their challenges — and then work to solve them.
"Both of those projects are why I love working in payments," Ravanavarapu said. "They allow me to bring together my passions for philanthropy and helping small businesses and entrepreneurs."
When those involved in these projects connect and work for the benefit of each other and the company they are trying to help, good things will happen, Ravanavarapu added.
Over the two days of the Opportunity Hack, PayPal teams had more than 400 participants solving problems for more than 40 nonprofit agencies and government organizations. As part of that process, more than two million lines of code were completed and open-sourced.
For inspiration in this field, Ravanavarapu has looked to Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank, a microcredit institution committed to providing working capital to the impoverished.
"He is somebody I admire and constantly look up to his approach to solving poverty issues in Bangladesh and beyond," Ravanavarapu said. "What I admire most is that he brought the social entrepreneurship and financial services spaces together in addressing the needs of people and communities."
Grameen Bank has loaned more than $6.5 billion to impoverished communities over the past two decades, she added. "This innovative approach to poverty alleviation has inspired a global microcredit movement that has benefited millions of underprivileged people from rural South Africa to the inner city of Chicago."
There is definitely a place at the table for women doing this type of work.
"Women can bring unique ideas to the fintech industry by tapping into traits that enable creating, thinking and driving results," Ravanavarapu said. "Such traits include a hyper focus on impact to customers, unwavering resilience, and a preference for collaboration."
Through those characteristics, women in payments "can be unstoppable forces with ideas that make an impact," she added.