Plaid People: Erica Martinez
Erica Martinez didn’t always know what she wanted to do with her life, but she knew she wanted it to have an impact. That goal took her from Texas to Yale in New Haven and from Madrid to San Francisco before landing her in New York City, where she currently serves as a Growth Manager at Plaid. In our latest installment of Plaid People, Erica describes the path of self-discovery that led her to where she is today and finding fulfillment in Plaid’s mission to democratize financial services.
What does it mean to be a Growth Manager?
I manage our East Coast mid-market Growth account managers. My team is responsible for helping customers launch, grow, and scale with Plaid. A big part of what I'm responsible for is recruiting and hiring the best people for the team. An even bigger part is making sure that my team has the direction, resources, and guidance they need to be successful and to make their customers successful.
What is your favorite part of the job?
I like that I'm working for a company that's dedicated to improving people's financial lives and making a huge impact and transforming an industry in the process. It’s really inspirational. I also love helping my team solve problems and develop—both professionally and personally. You always remember the manager who made a huge impression on your life. I hope to be that person for someone on my team one day.
What’s challenging about your job?
Plaid is growing very quickly. When I started, we were 170, and now we're close to 500. With that comes a lot of challenges, because it can be hard to keep up with how things are changing and evolving. But I think that's what makes it interesting. If everything was stagnant, then it wouldn't be as much fun.
What makes you well suited for your role?
I’m a big introvert. As an introvert, I process information internally and make sure to give things proper thought before speaking up. So, it works out really well that a large part of my role is taking the time to listen and understand people's pain points and motivations—what their goals are, how they want to grow—and working with them to develop plans to help them reach their goals.
What makes Plaid a great company to work for?
Honestly, it’s the people. I am surrounded by so many smart, ambitious people who are constantly challenging the way I think. Everyone has incredible backgrounds, and that’s humbling and motivating. People are also so nice. Everybody's willing to help you. No one's ever too busy.
What’s your favorite Plaid Principle?
Grow together. I love the fact that we have a people-focused culture and that we’re dedicated to helping those around us grow. I love that my success is built upon supporting others around me, and I find that I do my best work when I’m surrounded by people who challenge me.
What one word best describes Plaid?
Dedicated. As a company, Plaid is dedicated to improving people's financial lives, and everyone at Plaid is dedicated to make that vision a reality.
Who were your earliest influences?
I was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. My parents are both immigrants from Mexico. They dedicated their lives to making sure my brother and I had access to opportunities they never had. They taught us to be grateful for everything that comes our way and to not be entitled, and I think that has really shaped a lot of who I am today.
How did you find your way into tech?
From a young age, I wanted to be a doctor. And then when I was 12, I had heart surgery. That further inspired me and made me want to save lives the way someone had saved mine. So, I went pre-med at Yale. It wasn’t until I studied abroad in Madrid my junior year that things started to change. I wasn't able to take any science classes there, so I was forced to take some history, sociology, and literature classes in Spanish. I was surprised to learn I actually found those classes interesting—more interesting than the science classes I had been taking. It made me pause and wonder.
Did you change course?
I actually graduated with my pre-med degree, but I also added a major in Spanish language and literature. Then I took a year off to study for the MCATs and apply to med school, but I found the whole process a little bit dreadful. I wasn’t excited like my peers. I decided then that being a doctor was not what I wanted to do. I picked up and moved to San Francisco instead.
What was the plan in San Francisco?
I had no idea. I had spent my whole life studying science, and that's all I knew. My parents were small business owners, so I thought I should go somewhere with an entrepreneurial spirit and learn about business—a place that has opportunity. That’s what I had always heard about San Francisco, so I decided to go there without a job and without knowing anybody and just figure it out.
How did you land work?
I found a job on Craigslist. (Back then, you actually found jobs on Craigslist.) I was literally applying to anything. I didn't know what I wanted to get into; I just knew that I needed to diversify my skill set. I got a job as a sales development representative at a seven-person startup in the local-deal space. At the time, Groupon and its look-alikes were really big. I was there for a year to get my foot in the door.
After that, I joined the business development team of a 30-person startup in the health tech space. In my four years there, I saw the company grow to about 400 people. After that, I knew that I wanted to continue working in tech. I loved the fast-paced environment and the change and the chaos. I loved that everyone's so passionate about mission.
What was your next move?
After about five and a half years in San Francisco, I was ready to uproot my life again. Life wasn’t changing much, and I wanted to experience new things. I had spent quite a bit of time visiting a friend and family that lived in New York through the years, so I picked up and moved there.
How did you find your way to Plaid?
In New York, I worked in strategic partnerships at an online brand management company for five years. While I was there, the company went through an IPO and grew from 150 to more than a thousand employees. It was an incredible experience, seeing a company grow and scale over time. I loved being a part of it. So, I wasn't necessarily looking for a new job when the Plaid opportunity came my way. I knew, though, that wherever I went next, I wanted to make sure that I stood behind the mission and was helping people in some way.
When Plaid reached out, I had never heard of it. What got me to take the conversation was that, when I went to the website, I pretty quickly figured out the product and the problem they were trying to solve. And I thought that was really interesting, because a lot of times you go to companies’ websites, and you're digging around for a while, and you have no idea what they actually do.
What ultimately sold you on the job at Plaid?
Throughout the interview process, it was really clear that everyone loved being at Plaid and was passionate about the company and the mission. I could tell it was a great culture, and as I started to meet more people and learn more about the company and the opportunity I had to be one of the first team members in New York, I knew that I had to join.
How did your previous work experiences prepare you for Plaid?
They taught me to be really adaptable. In fast-growing startups, there's constant change, and you have to be ready to grow and be open to that change.
What keeps you busy outside of work?
Almost every morning, I go for a run outside—preferably along the water in Williamsburg or Greenpoint or across the bridge to Long Island City. I also enjoy cooking and hosting. I can be in the kitchen for hours, experimenting with different foods. I’ll riff on recipes I come across, or I’ll try to recreate restaurant dishes that I’ve had. The kitchen is where I can express my creativity the most.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
One of my former bosses told me, “Not everybody has to like you.” I think what that means is, it’s important to be your authentic self and know some people are going to respond really well to that and some aren't, and that's okay.
What are you looking forward to?
I’m not really a planner. I’m someone who looks forward to the unknown and the surprises that pop up along the way. There’s always something unexpected, and it can determine the direction you’re going to take in your life.
What makes you proud?
I'm really proud of the fact that I've listened to my intuition throughout the years. If I hadn’t, I probably would've gone to med school, and I wouldn't be where I am today. I've taken leaps, and that has shaped who I am.