Amanda Estiverne-Colas has many accolades to her name, including mother, first-generation American, high-level corporate executive, and visionary leader leading the way to support more women in FinTech and payment spaces. Work so needed as these fields are still predominantly controlled by men. Her work and support of others is helping to build more equitable and worthy systems. She spoke at Money 2020 Europe this year, was a Fourty under 40 leader profiled by ETA, and is actively supporting people to excel but appreciate the process of growth.
Amanda Colas was born and raised in Stamford, CT to a pair of Haitian immigrants. The core of her upbringing was greatly informed by her experience as a first generation Haitian American. “Both my mother and my father, who came to this country with very little…I was raised with an expectation of excellence…You come to this country where,if you have an idea, if you have a voice or if you have a thought, you are supposed to execute it, and exercise that.”
Amanda recalls a pleasant childhood alongside her three siblings in a vibrant, multi-ethnic neighborhood of Stamford. Their home was filled with celebration of their Haitian heritage and traditions and a love of learning new cultures and languages. “I learned Creole before I learned English…having different cultures and traditions has been something that just has been ingrained in me…it’s just this acceptance of others was very early on in my childhood.”
Growing up, Amanda loved school; she was often the first to raise her hand and unafraid of being wrong. Math and science occupied her main interests, but she was also an avid reader and particularly enjoyed her high school’s extracurriculars in business. She ultimately thought she would follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a teacher; Amanda was keen to present in front of the class and share new knowledge in a digestible way.
When it came time to consider life after high school seriously, Amanda was less sure of her path forward. In her family, she did not have examples of the college-to-career trajectory. So, while there was no expectation to achieve a higher education, the value of learning had been deeply instilled in Amanda, and she felt the pressure to take advantage of the opportunity. But with endless options and vast interests, selecting a single direction of study to pursue was not an investment Amanda was prepared to make. So, instead, she took a gap year to consider her options and learn more about herself.
During that time, she worked at a music store and was promoted to manager. She enjoyed the ability to meet a variety of new people who came through the doors and to expand her knowledge and taste in music. It was an experience she cherished, but as she remained in her hometown, watching her classmates progress in their studies, she once again felt an internalized pressure to take that step as well.
A year out of high school, Amanda enrolled in her local community college, where she studied anthropology, a natural fit for her long-held interests in learning about people, cultures, and science. She transferred to Western Connecticut State University for her final two years of school. Here, she took her first economics course and the professor quickly identified her aptitude for the subject. With his support, Amanda decided to become an economics major.
During her junior year of college, a friend from Western Connecticut State University encouraged Amanda to build up her experience in the corporate world and referred her to a recruiting agency to pursue an internship. She landed a position at Allianz Global Investors as an accounting intern, whose office was conveniently located in Stamford. There was a learning curve for Amanda, and it was through this experience she gained her first professional mentor. “She really helped me think about things that I never even imagined…It was her pushing me because it was another nurturing, like that nurturing from another woman; it just hits differently. Because she’s like, ‘Amanda, I know you have potential. You have to organize your thoughts, organize what you need.’ That really resonated with me.”
As Amanda neared graduation and after two years of interning for Alliance, she was offered a full-time position at the company as a financial analyst. Her mentor recruited her to her department and supported her through the application process. The internal sponsorship certainly made the jump easier and removed a level of pressure for Amanda. “That was key; that’s what got me in the door without even breaking a sweat.”
The office had now moved to New York City. Amanda stayed in Stamford and commuted daily on the train. She and her then-boyfriend (and now husband) considered moving to the City but ultimately sacrificed the convenience of proximity in favor of saving money.
Amanda worked at Allianz as an analyst for three years and, during that time, got married. With that came a new set of pressures. The finance world demanded long days, and with a two-hour commute round-trip, her work-life balance was drastically impacted. Amanda considered either searching for a new job or moving closer to her current one. “Automatically, I was putting guilt on myself as a wife, like as a new wife, um, instead of thinking of myself.”
Ultimately, Amanda decided the stress of the industry and the commute were no longer worth it. She next landed at Nestlé Waters, which provided exactly what she needed at that moment: proximity to home and a break from the slog of finance and into the comparatively tempered world of consumer brand services.
Amanda entered Nestlé as an accountant, progressed to a senior financial analyst, then pivoted over to technology. She now had two children, and IT was the only department that permitted working from home at the time. Amanda was concerned that the move to tech would impede her future professional prospects, having so heavily built a foundation in finance. It was difficult for her to imagine the combined value and application of these skill sets. “I didn’t have a strong mentor who would’ve probably guided me to say, ‘Hey, that’s okay, there’s a combination of finance and technology that maybe you need to pay attention to. Which is what ended up happening to me.”
While she regained some work-life balance working from home, the competing priorities of her career and family took a toll on Amanda. She’d often have to decide between what could be beneficial for her professionally versus that for her family — a position her husband didn’t have to bear. “I did remember resenting him at that time when I felt like ‘it’s so easy for you.’ ‘You don’t even have to think twice.’ I had to kind of give up a little bit of my career trajectory to help take one for the team because I wanted to be home to take care of my kids…I was in a season of trying to grow my career and balance nurturing a family, which was the biggest struggle.”
Amanda often had to be her own advocate, as the corporate culture was apathetic and unaccommodating for women with families. She’d receive pushback every time she requested to leave work early to pick up her children despite keeping on top of her responsibilities and making up hours where needed. “I made a lot of sacrifices. I pushed a lot of buttons too…You were set up for failure. It’s like, if you were a mom and you weren’t single or anything, forget about your career…That’s not what I want. I want everything. I want to have all the hats.”
After five years at Nestlé, the final straws for Amanda were the combined lack of mobility and the company’s shifting business model and ethics. There was great internal resistance to abandoning the classic plastic water bottle despite the negative environmental impact, which didn’t sit well with Amanda. She had also lost out on several opportunities for promotion. “When it was time to go into the management positions, I was always overlooked. I do think that Nestlé Waters likes the same aesthetics that they would consider for management. So, it was really white men…I recall it was not only a minority thing, but it was also a gender thing, it was just always the same people getting the same roles.”
Amanda knew she needed to find a company that nurtured and supported its staff meaningfully. She found that in Synchrony Bank, whose office happened to be across the street from Nestlé. From the very first phone interview, she encountered a personable company culture that welcomed diverse talent and genuinely wanted to understand what her goals and interests were, and what motivated her.
At Synchrony, Amanda began as a finance operations manager. Here, she could dive into strategic budgetary initiatives alongside C-Suite-level colleagues. “It made me feel empowered, yet I was still pretty junior…I finally got the management role that I wanted at Nestlé, which Nestlé didn’t want to give me. But Synchrony gave me the role and said, ‘Yeah, we’re going to give you a chance to prove to us that you are at a management level.” Amanda felt free to voice her ideas amidst the higher ranks and often invited to travel for conferences. She was also permitted to work from home but loved the job so much that she often ventured to the office even when she wasn’t required to.
Amanda stayed with Synchrony for seven years, over the course of which she gained several significant mentors and advanced to a VP-level role. “I learned about the internal plumbings within the credit card industry.” Amanda prides herself on having mentors and sponsors who support her career. Amanda is a global mentor for Women in Payments. Her love of mentoring comes from the many individuals who have poured into her. So, she is set on building the same rigor in aiding other future leaders.
When one of her mentors from Synchrony left for another job at BPO organization, she recruited Amanda to join her new team there. Amanda hadn’t considered leaving Synchrony, but the prospect of working directly for her mentor was appealing. At this BPO organization, Amanda worked in account management as a global client solutions lead for two major networks.
But the switch was not what she expected. The dynamic between Amanda and her mentor shifted once she became her boss, and she encountered a different side of her personality as her direct report. “Synchrony was my college experience because I had so much support and I was so well nurtured. And then Teleperformance was like, okay, I’m out of college. This is the real world…Sometimes we have a job or a new experience; we’re not the same person that we were in our past role.”
This change was jarring and stressful, on top of long and odd hours, given the company held multiple partnerships across the globe. “The transition was tough and on top of being fully remote.. I felt stuck and not nurtured enough in the role. There were times when I would find myself crying because I was so stressed out and felt like I couldn’t get anything done.”
Amanda gave it a year before jumping ship to Endava, an IT consulting firm that recruited her for her current position. Her role now is similar to her role at the BPO organization, just on a much smaller, more manageable scale, downsizing from 400,000 to 12,000 employees company-wide.
She first connected with Endava through her affiliation as a global mentor for Women in Payments, a networking group for women in banking and payments. “They have a virtual meet up called the POM cafe, which is like a coffee hour where you meet other women in the financial services realm and discuss topics about crypto or professional and personal discussions like the dynamic of work-life balance.” Through this group, she was able to vet the culture at Endava to ensure a more successful matching than what she was coming from. At Endav, Amanda is responsible for the strategic direction, vision, growth, and performance of a variety of Retail Banking Clients in North America. Amanda has worked with clients on Zelle transformation, P2P enhancements, Immediate payment strategies, Fraud strategies, and Organizational Change management to effectively enhance payment delivery. This role entails leading project teams to deliver transformative work for our banking clients.
The connection with the Women in Payments group also provided a great deal of support during the beginning of the pandemic. Amanda also joined Women in Products along with Women in Payments. This provided an opportunity to connect with women in the industry behind a computer in the comfort of her home. “Attending some of these virtual events and talking to other women who were dealing with the same issues that I was dealing with was very healing. Like it kept me together a little bit, having that support…I found my network of women.” Amanda has volunteered to speak at virtual events with Women in Product and was a very active member by aiding in activities such as being part of the content committee. Little did she know tapping into these affiliations would open up the possibility of impacting the community of women leaders in the world of payment and products.
Amanda’s goal in her career and in life, is to keep learning and growing, and she eventually hopes to venture out of CT. “I love to travel, but I’ve always been planted in Connecticut, and I do want to venture out. Part of me is maybe a little nervous, maybe because it’s just my foundation is here.”
Amanda is proud of where she came from, of her heritage and the immigrant mentality she inherited from her parents, which has remained present through her personal and professional journeys. “I do tackle things with, you know, this lens of I want to try it, I want to wear this hat, I want to see this opportunity…this mentality has built the person that I am now.”
Amanda continues to speak at a variety of conferences on topics such as Leadership, Women empowerment, and building one’s brand. In 2022, Amanda was selected to be part of the Money 2020 Amplify Program. A program that focuses on aiding Minority executives in the world of Fintech. The program provided Amanda with the exposure she needed to be part of the Fintech community. In 2023, Amanda was selected to be part of ETA’s 2023 40 under 40 with ETA’s Transact, a payment organization. Amanda decided to utilize her voice and spoke at Women in Payments US Symposium “The great Tech layoff: Creating career transformation with career resiliency” with a program mate. Amanda has spoken at the Women in Payments LATAM symposium “The Power of Diverse Teams” with other COO’s and executives within the banking industry. Amanda has spoken with Paytech women organizations in discussions such as “Brand Building: The Art of Storytelling” and “The Intentional Journey of Empowering Women”. Amanda has also spoken at global events recently, speaking on the topic “Harnessing Exposure to Grow one’s Career”. Amanda’s purpose statement “I strive to leave an impact with everything I do, be it innovation or anyone I speak and interact with.. I want you to leave my presence feeling like I changed something in you for the positive”. Amanda is currently Money 2020 Amplify Alumni and will be hosting the Money 2020 “Do Better Together” Bangkok symposium in April. Her continued mission to empower women and marginalized groups is her overall objective within the Banking/Fintech community.
Amanda resides in Norwalk, CT, with her two children, Gavin and Nyla Colas.