Unsurprisingly, the financial services and tech industries are grossly lacking when it comes to diversity. Yet, that didn’t stop Kahina Van Dyke from taking a unique career pathway to becoming one of the few Black women senior leaders in Silicon Valley.
Van Dyke spent the early part of her career holding global executive roles at MasterCard and Citibank. Her “20 years in traditional companies doing nontraditional things” led her to be recruited by Facebook to lead the Global Financial Services team and build the global payments partnerships team.
Now she is the SVP of Business and Corporate Development at Ripple, a platform that allows users to seamlessly send and receive money globally.
Being the only woman or Black employee in a room is nothing new for Van Dyke. As a senior executive who has worked in the finance industry and Silicon Valley, she’s seen first hand the racial and gender disparities that continue to be an issue.
“It’s my responsibility to help spread the word around women getting into tech and Black women getting into blockchain, which I believe is the future of tech,” shared Van Dyke.
Using her position to be visible, she hopes that sharing her story of what’s possible in this space will encourage other women to enter this world.
“We are at the forefront of a new technology, and if we want the pipeline of CEOs in 10 years and 15 years of the largest companies in the world, to look different than the ones of the [Internet-age] then we need people to be leaning into blockchain right now,” she explained.
Blockchain technology is being used by businesses to make the exchange of money and global payments more manageable, and it’s a technology that more tech companies are incorporating in their business financial models. At Ripple, Van Dyke oversees the strategic investments and partnerships with some of the largest companies and financial institutions and payment providers in the world and Ripple’s XRP markets and trading.
“[Blockchain] is a place where there’s going to be a lot of growth and a lot of building in the next couple of years. So the more diverse folks we can get around the table, the better the solutions will be,” she shared.
Van Dyke believes there’s room for more Black women to enter the fintech space and they don’t have to run to Silicon Valley to do it. Black women have the power now to turn their traditional finance roles into a nontraditional career, and Van Dyke decided early in her career to gain international experience in a traditional financial service role to differentiate herself.
Van Dyke’s knowledge of the challenges around big banking and global payments is what led Facebook to recruit her. “You can do cool and innovative things within traditional companies,” she explained. Van Dyke launched the first e-wallet for Citibank as well as virtual account numbers. “It’s just not about changing your company, but it is about leaning into the new, the tough and the hard, and the unknown and taking risks,” she explained.
Van Dyke also encourages Black women not to let the lack of diversity in fintech deter them from breaking barriers in the industry. Understanding that visibility matters, which is why Van Dyke does not mind getting her “brain picked over coffee,” when she once told a room of over 1,000 Black women founders and tech professionals that coffee conversations were optional for her.
“I have a responsibility to be visible and to give people the nudge, the inspiration, and the hope, that they can far exceed anything I’ve accomplished,” she shared. Seeing Black CEOs in magazines was the imagery that helped Van Dyke believe that she could be in the C-Suite too. She wants Black women to know that being a trailblazer is no easy thing, and to not “let the lack of imagination of others define your own ambition and dream.”