Women in Technology: Lee Farabaugh
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 Core10’s Co-Founder and President Lee Farabaugh. The Franklin, Tenn.-based fintech provides turnkey solutions to community banks and credit unions, making it easier to implement cutting-edge technologies, including application programming interface (API) integration, software as a service (SaaS) implementation and lending products.
By W.B. King
After her father brought home the family’s first computer in the early 1980s, Lee Farabaugh was turned on to the child-friendly computing language, Logo, which was known for using “turtle” graphics — commands for movement and drawing would produce vector graphics on screen. Many tech historians feel Logo was among the first steps to artificial intelligence (AI) and computer-based developmental psychology.
“I would spend hours playing the video game Logo,” Farabaugh told Finopotamus. “I always loved creating designs on the computer, starting with the turtle in Logo and going on to use Photoshop and other graphic design apps.”
In 1999, during her senior year at Wake Forest University, where she would earn a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in studio art, Farabaugh turned her interest in technology into a business venture — freelance website design.
"I have been working in technology ever since then," she said. "Graphic design has always been an interest of mine."
Farabaugh's graphic design pursuits "inspired" her to earn a Master of Science in health informatics from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and then a Master of Science in human-computer interaction from Georgia Institute of Technology. These graduate degrees, she explained, helped her "to better understand how to design applications and ease user experience.”
The Importance of Interdisciplinary Programs
Prior to co-founding Core10 in 2016, Farabaugh held a number of jobs, including project manager at Toyota North America and usability engineer at Northrop Grumman Information Technology/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Over the last 20-plus years, her experience working with women in tech has changed for the better, she said, adding that more gains can and should be realized.
“When I studied at Georgia Tech in the late 1990s, my human-computer interaction (HCI) program was roughly 50% female, while the more traditional computer science program was only 10% female,” she recalled.
“I believe the broader education that HCI provided as an intersection of design, cognitive psychology and programming was more appealing to women,” she continued. “Though we were outnumbered, the dean of the College of Computing was a woman, and there were several strong female voices among the faculty. While there, I always felt very supported and at home.”
In recent years, she said, there has been a shift to more “interdisciplinary programs” that seem “more attractive” to women, while “opening the field to men interested in learning beyond the traditional aspects of computer science and application development.” She continued. “This generation wants a more comprehensive education beyond the conventional knowledge of coding and development.”
Explaining that in her own age group, the majority of her peers are men, Farabaugh said she hopes to see more women of “younger generations persist in their technology careers” opposed to her female contemporaries.
“I am strongly impressed by the young women I have the opportunity to work alongside,” she told Finopotamus. “They seem to be more confident, assertive and courageous than I felt at that age. They continuously inspire and teach me as well.”
Rising to the Occasion
While Farabaugh said she can point to handful of mentors that have helped to shape her career, she singled out two women: Cynthia Sarver and Roseann DeJohn. The former worked alongside her at Toyota as a web developer.
“She was older and more experienced than me, but she treated me as a peer and always expected me to rise to the occasion,” she said. “She led by example and taught me the importance of punctuality and integrity as a leader.”
When Farabaugh decided to leave Toyota, Sarver took her to lunch, expressing genuine excitement for her next chapter: graduate school.
“While others expressed their frustration that they had to replace me and take over my work, Cynthia taught me how to be sincerely happy for someone else’s next steps,” she shared. “As a leader, I have always tried to communicate to individuals who leave my team that while I will miss them; I am thrilled for them to advance in their careers and honored to have been part of their journey.”
Farabaugh also came across DeJohn while working at Toyota who taught her the importance of understanding contract language and related implications — inside and out.
“That advice has stuck with me and served me incredibly well,” she said, adding that her team at Core10 jokingly calls her “in-house counsel.” Farabaugh continued, “She did not have to give me that advice, as I was the vendor and she represented the customer. She showed me that she cared about me as a person, not just as a coworker. Roseann’s advice has stayed with me and saved me more times than I can count.”
These collective experiences help shape how Farabaugh interacts with the Core10’s 58 employees, 52 of who are tech-facing, as well as its 70-plus clients, five of which are credit unions and one of which is a credit union service organization (CUSO).
The Driving Force is People
Core10 is always researching and innovating, she noted. The latest offering is Mesh, a subscription-based integration layer as a service product that serves both credit union and fintechs.
“We continuously noticed this need in the market and parlayed our deep application programming interface (API) development knowledge into building the solution,” she explained. “It is incredibly rewarding to hear financial institutions tell us that Mesh streamlines and eases the process of core and fintech integration.”
In her view, APIs are “taking over the world.” To this end, she said credit unions are feeling an “unrelenting demand” from members for technology solutions that are best solved with integration. This approach, she said, procures the necessary data and improves functionality in a quick and cost-effective manner.
“Even in economic uncertainty, the demand for APIs is not going away,” she noted. “APIs enable credit unions to meet the rising demands for digital transformation and solve issues without reinventing the wheel or spending needlessly.”
Credit unions, she added, hold “a special place in my heart.” Why? Credit unions were the first financial institutions “to trust Core10 with mission-critical” technology projects.
“What I really love about credit unions is that they share. They work together to create buying power, and they partner to create solutions that benefit more institutions outside of their own,” she continued. “I also admire the focus and dedication that credit unions devote to their members, which distinguishes them from other financial institutions. We would all be wise to remember what matters most underneath all the bits, bytes, dollar signs, earnings and returns – the driving force is people.”