Jessie Mao, Customer Delivery Lead at First AML
From aspiring diplomat to catching bad guys, Jessie Mao is an excellent example of the fast career progression that can happen in a high-growth tech company. In a short space of time she has risen through the ranks at First AML to now be managing 27 Analysts. She shares some insight into her own career journey, why she is loving working at First AML and some tips for anyone thinking about getting into tech. Thanks for sharing your story, Jessie.
“I look after an amazing team of 27 people who help our customers to catch bad people.”
Firstly, how would you explain to a five-year-old what it is you do?
I look after an amazing team of 27 people who help our customers to catch bad people. These bad people are trying to make money that they got dishonestly, honest - making dirty money clean. Our team makes sure that our customers’ customers are who they say they are and not someone else.
And for the adults, what does a day-in-the-life of a Customer Delivery Lead at First AML look like?
Every day is different for me. In a typical day, I can be found doing some of the following:
- Managing analyst performance by holding training sessions, audits and figuring out new ways to simplify workflow and increase efficiency and productivity. This involves communicating with our Senior Analysts and Delivery Associate on how we can best achieve our team goals and how our current initiatives are tracking.
- Checking with the Customer Success and Implementation team to make sure the analyst team is delivering high-quality Customer Due Diligence (CDD) to our customers. There is a reactive part where I deal with client feedback and a proactive one where the delivery team will raise points for the Implementation and CS team.
- Monitoring new regulatory and policy changes from the various regulators from Australia and New Zealand. This might involve meeting with the regulators or discussing upcoming policy changes.
- Lastly, answering any questions from our team and customers on the tricky situations and how we should best apply and interpret the legislation.
“In a tech company, particularly a startup, you get the opportunity to wear multiple hats and exposure to how all the different teams operate.”
What are some of the common misconceptions about working in customer delivery and how working in this role for a tech company is different?
This is a tougher question to answer, as traditional SaaS companies don’t have a customer delivery team. The best way to describe customer delivery is that we are the people arm of our product.
In a tech company, particularly a startup, you get the opportunity to wear multiple hats and exposure to how all the different teams operate. It’s a constantly evolving role as our product and our service offering keep changing.
It’s a mix of people management and traditional customer service, along with the legislation side of the AML with a lot of collaboration between product and engineering on what future internal product features we need.
“I wanted to be a diplomat for the United Nations and negotiate treaties, trade agreements and resolve international disputes.”
Was working for a tech company something you dreamed about doing as a kid, if not what was?
No, definitely not. Growing up I always thought tech companies were for people who were scientists, engineers, mathematicians etc. I don’t think Anti-Money Laundering is anyone’s idea of fun as a child. I was interested in history, foreign policy and international politics as a child and studied this at university.
I wanted to be a diplomat for the United Nations and negotiate treaties, trade agreements and resolve international disputes. I also think I just wanted to travel around countries as a kid and I somehow found out most diplomats travel for free.
Tell us a little bit more about your career journey and ultimately about how you ended up working at First AML?
I worked as an event planner for my university, in HR and recruitment, then stumbled my way into investment banking and then interned as a research analyst at a venture capital firm. After I graduated I ended up working at a Japanese insurance firm and somehow saw an ad for an AML analyst.
I wanted a challenge and something about joining a young startup in a new industry appealed to me. Looking back now, this is probably the biggest risk I’ve ever taken.
“At my previous roles, the culture was often something the management paid lip-service to, new ideas were stifled under hierarchy or unspoken office rules..”
What is it specifically that you like about working at First AML relative to your past jobs?
I love the sense of agency and independence I get from working at First AML. I’m given the chance to try things that would rarely be possible for others my age. I like how I can freely communicate my suggestions and implement processes.
I’m given the flexibility to figure out to learn and develop my skills through trial and error. The people and the culture at First AML is also a big draw. We have such a positive and supportive team, open and communicative culture and a fun working environment.
At my previous roles, the culture was often something the management paid lip-service to, new ideas were stifled under hierarchy or unspoken office rules and everything was very much top-down, from major company goals to the times you could take breaks.
Do you have any advice for people considering tech as a career path and how they might get there quicker?
Something I learnt from this role is the importance of being proactive or taking initiative. I encourage people who are interested in tech to connect with individuals working in the industry and learn about how they got involved in tech.
There are always networking and Meetup events open to the public. Tech is so broad and there is no one prescriptive way of entering the industry. You might need to start off in a role that isn’t fully tech but most tech companies offer lateral moves and opportunities to learn from other departments.
Lastly, First AML continues to evolve. What kind of candidates do you think First AML is looking for in terms of experience, attitude and character?
We look for individuals that really embody our five values. The ideal candidate is someone who places the customer experience first, cares about security and protecting people’s private information, consistently challenges the status quo and the ‘accepted’ way of doing things, someone with drive and ambition and most importantly someone with a positive, can-do attitude.
Experience for the Analyst position, doesn’t really matter. We have a team from traditional finance and corporate backgrounds to former ski instructors.