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 visited with Catherine Gittelman, director of implementation services at Encapture. For 20 years, the Dallas -based company has been delivering intelligent automation services to financial institutions and lenders.
By W.B. King
While in the fifth grade, Catherine Gittelman became enamored with the computer technology of the time: MS-DOS. Her task: working on a library tracking system.
“I really enjoyed it,” she told Finopotamus. “Coming from a family where my father was a chief financial officer, I was always more mathematically inclined than I was with English, and I had planned on pursuing a career in accounting.”
Years later while studying economics at Carleton University in Canada, Gittelman learned a computer science class was required to graduate. It was at this point she said “things started to change.”
Not only did she excel in the computer class, with her professor asking her to be a project lead, but she was later tapped to become a teaching assistant.
“This led to a summer job doing database systems administration work for a company in Ottawa, Canada, and from there, I started working full-time for several different contracts while also attending school full-time,” she shared.
After graduation, her next stop was Dallas where, in 1998, she began a 13-year tenure with Dataplex (later bought by Affiliated Computer Services). Starting as a support analyst, she held a number of positions, including manager of computer utilities and a business analyst.
“Looking back, it’s interesting to think about the differences between IT and technology departments nowadays, where cloud hosting services are much more prevalent. Back then, at Dataplex, we offered on premise hosting services for our customers,” she continued. “At the time, there weren’t many women in IT, especially in the departments I worked in. It wasn’t the typical IT department where you’d be setting up networks or supporting desktops. It was more solution-oriented hosting with day-to-day maintenance and development.”
For the last 11 years, Gittelman has been with Encapture (formerly Imagine Solutions). She started as a senior project manager, and in January 2021 was promoted to director of implementation services.
She explained the company’s evolution includes morphing from a professional services company to a software company focusing implementing its Intelligent Document Processing platform called, well, Encapture.
“It’s been really exciting to see this change, and I truly believe that Imagine Solutions’ capture product is the best I’ve ever worked with,” she told Finopotamus. “Overall, my journey in technology has been exciting and fulfilling, and I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had along the way.”
Headed in the Right Direction
While Gittelman said there have always been women in tech departments throughout her 25-plus year career, it’s been a male-dominated field, including most management teams.
“I was fortunate enough to quickly transition from a database systems administrator to the manager of the application support group, only six weeks after I joined Dataplex,” she said. “I remember it being me and a group of guys on my team. It was certainly a different time, but it’s amazing to see how much things have changed since then.”
During her tenure at Encapture, she has noticed a steady uptick of women in tech roles, both support and senior positions, which she said is “fantastic” to witness as she enjoys sharing her professional journey with other women.
“My experience has been that I was quickly promoted into management roles, which I have enjoyed. I was often the only woman in those positions. But over time, we’ve hired more women, and I’ve had the opportunity to work with and learn from some incredibly talented women,” she continued. “I think we’re headed in the right direction, and I’m excited to see where we go from here. I’m happy to see more women joining the tech industry and taking on leadership roles.”
Noting that she never had a formal mentor, Gittelman has always observed and learned from coworkers. There have been certain people, however, like Encapture’s Chief Technology Officer Dave Davidson who stands out from the crowd.
“We bonded during a project and he became a great teacher and friend to me. In my role in project management and customer success, I observe my colleagues and learn from them to improve my skills,” she said. “I love learning, so I listen to audiobooks on the way to and from work, and select topics that I’m working on to gain a deeper understanding of them. I’m always looking for ways to improve and get better.”
In Gittelman’s view, the best part of working at Encapture is connecting with its 45 employees, all of whom she “deeply” cares about.
“I have one-on-ones with individuals who are not my direct reports but are consultants in the company, and I try to give them some guidance and direction. For me, my top priority is to always give my best and ensure that our customers are well taken care of,” she said. “I believe that our people are what make this company truly special.”
She conceded that being a woman in the tech industry is not without its challenges, such as balancing work and family responsibilities.
“I talk to others about managing time at work and at home to be able to focus on both effectively,” she said. “I’ve found that managing time well is crucial to avoid becoming overwhelmed and ultimately disappointing someone.”
Explaining that Encapture integrates with loan origination software solutions, which allows customers to manage loans from one convenient platform, Gittelman noted it is an out-of-the-box solution that can be “quickly deployed and configured” to meet individual needs and requirements.
Regarding regulatory oversight like the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), which requires many financial institutions to maintain reports and publicly disclose loan-level information about mortgages, she said it’s exciting to be a part of a company that has the ability to integrate with various loan origination systems (LOS).
“With so many different LOS options out there, it’s important for us to be able to provide seamless integration with whatever system our clients are using,” she explained. “Some of our customers use Encompass, while others have their own one-off solutions, and we’re able to integrate with all of them. I think our ability to offer flexible integration solutions is a major benefit to our clients and sets us apart in the industry.”
When asked what’s currently excites her in the tech space, Gittelman pointed to “intelligent document processing,” adding that she is seeing “low-code configuration platforms” leading to faster implementation timelines and quicker realization of return on investment.
“Our implementation teams are able to handle more customers per year, and the learning curve for customers who want to engage in the solution implementation is much lower,” she continued. “Additionally, with the advancements in optical character recognition (OCR) technology for both typewritten and handwritten documents, extracted data is now more accurate and requires less manual correction.”
Mutually Beneficial Partnerships
Noting that credit unions have “historically been slower than banks to adopt new technologies and automate their business processes,” Gittelman said credit unions, rather, tend to focus capital expenditures on essential technologies, such as core banking system platforms.
“We’re noticing that credit unions have more manual processes in place that could benefit from intelligent document processing,” she said. “Credit unions are realizing the benefits of investing in technology that can help augment their knowledge workers. By automating more of their manual processes, they can retain and hire employees more easily.”
Counting Redstone Federal Credit Union as a client, she said that Encapture understands that credit unions need a “cost-effective solution providing a quick return on investment” and feels fintechs partnerships can be mutually beneficial.
“Our goal is to help credit unions maintain their focus on providing the best possible customer service to their members, and we believe that offering affordable robust technology is a big part of that,” she said. “As technology advances, we’ve seen the cost of hardware decrease over time, making it more accessible for credit unions to implement the latest tools and features to serve their members better.”