Women in Business Q&A: Hui Wang, Director of Global Risk Sciences, PayPal

Hui Wang is Sr. Director of Global Risk Sciences for PayPal. Dr. Wang manages Global Risk Data Science/Modeling team that develops machine learning and data mining technologies for PayPal. Her team owns fraud and risk models that are backbones for PayPal's Risk Management. She is expert in many machine learning technologies. Additionally, she plays a designer role in architecting many next generation analytic products to enable modern machine learning for real time fraud systems. She holds B.S. in Computer Science from University of Science and Technology of China and Ph.D. in Statistics from University of California, Berkeley.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Being a mom of two boys is the most rewarding life experience for me. It also has the biggest impact in terms of shaping and evolving my professional life. Searching for the right things for my boys to do and have them buy in and do it right; motivating them to be their best; how to switch roles between a cheerleader or a partner depending on what they need on their journey; and how to set up checkpoints to make sure they are on the right path; etc. All these carry over to my professional life surprisingly well!

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at PayPal?
I used to work for a vendor as a consultant utilizing mostly more traditional technologies for the financial industry. On one hand, I learned how much technology can benefit business in a big way - and that is what we've proven in PayPal. On the other hand, because of the big impact, people are very risk averse in terms of adopting new technologies. They are afraid of something going wrong. And this is what I am particularly proud of working in PayPal - we continue to push the envelope staying on the front line in terms of benefiting from the latest and greatest in the technology world, while managing the risk part effectively.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at PayPal?
The highlights definitely come whenever we push a new model with the latest machine learning or data mining technology. When we immediately see one less good transaction being caught in our net and one more fraudster being stopped at our front door, we see our hard work paying off. The benefits go directly to our customers as well as the company's bottom line in decreasing loss and increasing profits.

Challenges are daunting: we are competing with fraudsters on the other side of the world. They look for loopholes day in and day out and our algorithms have to simultaneously get more and more sophisticated. As the amount of data we process becomes bigger and bigger; the bars on speed, scalability and accuracy for our decision system never stop increasing... the more challenging the more fun though!

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
Diversity is important in the technology industry where women are still under represented. I'd encourage my fellow women technologists to join force and change the status quo. One piece of advice I'd like to offer is to develop your network consciously, and leverage it. We are just as smart and capable. In PayPal's payment business where customers are in the core of our strategy, we are an important piece of the puzzle in connecting with them.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
Every decision is a trade-off among multiple choices. It's extremely important to know how to prioritize and focus on the most important ones.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
First of all, I am lucky to work for PayPal. The company puts so much effort in encouraging women to grow in their careers by providing training, networking, mentoring opportunities as well as flexibility.

To me, work life balance is about making trade-off decisions and consciously choosing what's more important, at that point in time. The fact that the company provides such choice and decision power to women is amazing.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Gender bias and perception. Way too many times we get feedback on women employees around being not assertive, too soft, etc. though the results and deliveries are there. It is important to provide education toall of our peers about different working styles.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship helps build your network. It is also an easier way to get women to leverage their networks. Sometimes simply having someone as a sounding board already makes me feel that I'm halfway towards my goals.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Grace Hopper is someone I will always extremely admire. How much she was able to achieve so long ago in a seemingly male dominated world is unbelievable. And the influence she still has around the world continues to amaze me.

What do you want PayPal to accomplish in the next year?
PayPal was the one to introduce the digital money concept 16 years ago into people's day-to-day lives. Now it is a concept everyone is talking about and everyone wants a share of. I am looking forward to seeing PayPal continue to be a pioneer in this field over the next year and beyond. One day, we won't need wallets anymore and I hope people will use PayPal for all their everyday needs.