In what is a recurring feature, Finopotamus spotlights innovative women who are positively impacting technology applications in the credit union industry, and beyond.
For this issue, we spent time with Andrea DiGiacomo. She is the chief operating officer for the Baltimore, Md.-based Think|Stack, an innovative co-managed cybersecurity and cloud company serving the credit union industry.
By W.B. King
Over the course of her career, Andrea DiGiacomo has held a few important roles, including coordinator of third-party events for the Kennedy Krieger Institute. The internationally recognized institution is dedicated to improving the lives of children and young adults with pediatric developmental disabilities and disorders. It was during her nearly four-year tenure there that she began to look at technology capabilities and limitations in a different light.
“I saw first-hand both the great power of technology to bring about innovation and enhancements to treatment, and the struggle in other areas, for example: not having a modern, flexible technology infrastructure,” she recalled.
Through mutual friends, DiGiacomo learned not only about interesting projects that Think|Stack was undertaking, but what she determined was the company’s winning business philosophy.
“The culture is built upon four core values: Entrepreneurial Spirit, Passionate Rebels, Family Trust and Human Centered Design,” she explained. “Human Centered Design was one that really stuck out to me, in that technology wasn’t just a product, it could also be a solution focused on the people who use the technology to help their organizations transform and grow.”
In short order, DiGiacomo made a career change and accepted the position of director of project management at Think|Stack in early 2016. “I was able to see the unlimited opportunities of working at a technology company,” she said.
Encourage, Educate and Empower
During her time at Think|Stack, DiGiacomo, who was promoted to COO in 2018, said she is encouraged to see more women in technology roles within the financial services industry.
“There are more women working in tech today, but still not nearly enough! In the last few years there has been more awareness and education brought to women at a younger age regarding the opportunities within technology,” she said. “Continuing to expose women and girls at a younger age through mentorship programs, STEM programs, internships, and the like will only enable more women to see what is possible for them.”
In total, Think|Stack employs 32 staff members with 21 being in the technology department. DiGiacomo explained the demographic breakdown for the latter is 15 millennials and six Gen Xers, and of that subset two are female.
“We have more women in service delivery and operational roles versus in our technical roles. This is an area we are actively working to change,” she noted, adding that she has benefited from strong female mentorship and intends to pass on the “encouragement and wisdom” that has been given to her. “We are working with local organizations and nonprofits to continue providing more education and awareness of opportunities available to young women.”
Innovation Milestones and Next Steps
Over the last several years, DiGiacomo said the Think|Stack team has been working with its clients to modernize respective infrastructures. The goal, she added, is for these organizations to be resilient, redundant and secure. These measures, especially in advance of the pandemic, proved critical.
“We were built for situations like this  to help those who weren’t. With many of our clients having to shift to a mostly remote workforce in a very short time, it was a great feeling to see them thrive,” she said. “Because they were prepared, most of them didn’t skip a beat and were able to continue serving their members the whole time without any downtime.”
And while there have been many positive lessons learned from adjusting to new business operations resulting from COVID-19, Think|Stack, like countless organizations, is in the process of learning how to navigate an industry that has long been hands-on.
“One of the things we have always loved is getting onsite and in-person to visit our clients. This really allowed us to build relationships, journey map and to get to know various team members. With COVID, we have not traveled since January,” said DiGiacomo.
“This put a challenge in front of us to look at how we can re-imagine that onsite experience. We’ve been able to successfully find new virtual ways to connect,” she continued. “We’ve even made some aspects of this experience better, such as getting groups of clients together for lunch and learn-style sessions with our engineers! I am sure many of these new experiences will continue post-COVID as well.”
When asked how she thinks the credit union industry has handled the pandemic, DiGiacomo said credit unions are leveraging technology “more than ever” in order to “transform their organization and serve membership” in more competitive ways.
“We’ve seen credit unions taking the last few months as an opportunity to really take a step back to see how they can innovate and adapt to make banking easier and more accessible for their members,” she said. “I am excited to see how they continue to evolve in the future.”