Sometimes a career is a simple, straightforward path. Other times, though, it meanders. What seems like wanderlust or the idle wanderings of youth become, in retrospect, qualifications that can land you your dream role — or help you to carve out the contours of your own original position.
This is the case with Kristi Romain, program manager at Remitly. In February of 2022, Romain kick-started Remitly’s customer empathy program. Her role is to develop and drive programs that elevate the voice of Remitly’s customers and ensure those voices are included in the company’s business, product, design and process decisions.
And while the role fits her like a glove, her path to getting there has been anything but linear. That said, it’s not completely out of the blue.
“I always had the desire to discover where my professional skills compliment my passions and seek out career opportunities where using that combination will deliver a meaningful impact,” Romain said.
In previous chapters of her life, Romain worked as an apparel merchandiser and a program manager in the nonprofit sector. She also spent a decade working as a professional photographer and small business owner.
“Each of these roles prepared me for my journey with Remitly,” Romain said.
At Remitly, Romain has had the opportunity to carve out her own unique position according to the strengths and skills she developed. And, Romain said, when it comes to making an impact on Remitly and the lives of families across the globe, she’s just getting started.
What Remitly Does
Remitly is a digital financial services provider for immigrants and their families in over 170 countries. The company’s cross-border remittance app eliminates long wait times, complexities and fees typical of traditional remittance processes.
How does working for Remitly help you make progress toward your career goals?
I started as an executive assistant in 2016. I knew getting the role could be a long shot, as my resume did not reflect what you would expect to see from a typical applicant. Remitly would need to risk looking beyond the “typical” candidate. They rose to the challenge, invited me to interview and ultimately offered me the job.
Remitly has provided me with opportunities to identify gaps and take action with autonomy, explore projects and roles of interest, lead big and small initiatives and determine how my skills and passions would provide the biggest impact to the company and our customers. Conversations with my manager and a mentor pinpointed the next role I wanted. It wasn’t available yet, but we drafted a business proposal and began campaigning. For more than a year, I prepared through mentorship, targeted projects, coaching and performance feedback. The customer empathy program manager role was approved in early 2022, and I interviewed along with internal and external candidates. I was offered the role and gladly accepted.
“Remitly challenges me to expect the best from myself and to grow outside my comfort zone.”
What makes Remitly a unique place to work from a professional development perspective?
Remitly was open to a career development path that moved me into a job family I was not originally hired for. They considered my lived experiences when evaluating me for various prospects. They have provided opportunities for me to lead projects, events and initiatives outside my previous role.
Mentorship programs are not unique to Remitly, however I have found the number of employees willing to provide informal mentorship and coaching to be extraordinarily high. These mentorship opportunities have provided me with the path and confidence needed to continue pushing to new heights.
How have you grown professionally at Remitly? What skills have you learned?
I have a new and very extensive vocabulary of finance and technology terms I did not know prior to joining Remitly. It’s funny how handy these are when navigating various social and professional circles in Seattle.
I have learned how to efficiently utilize the glorious web of Google Suite Apps, when to utilize Kanban versus Scrum, how to assess impact through metrics and how to conduct a wisdom council thinking round.
I’ve learned the value of a well-written document; the importance of asking and receiving hard questions; and how imperative information discovery and information equity are to healthy collaboration and fast onboarding. I’ve learned the need for team building events and employee morale — especially in this post-pandemic, hybrid culture; how clear communication is an act of kindness; and the difference between acting on requests that are urgent and important and reacting to requests dressed up as urgent and important. I’ve also learned the consequences of poor prioritization and the value of truly listening to customer feedback and acting on it.
What professional development tools and resources, informal or formal, have you employed?
I have been a member of the Elevate Affinity Group, which brings together Remitlians who support the professional development, advancement and inclusion in the workplace of those who identify as women, and celebrates the identities that intersect with those experiences. This group has provided space and opportunity for me to learn and grow from my peers and allies.
I am now a co-lead for the group and am passionate about continuing my learning journey and helping others gain the access that I have been privileged to enjoy.
How has joining the company positively impacted your professional and personal journey?
Professionally, I love the way Remitly challenges me to learn. The remittance and, more broadly, financial services industry and our products are incredibly complex. I am energized by trying to understand how it all comes together and what we can do to continue improving the experience for our customers and their families. Not once have I been bored at Remitly.
“Not once have I been bored at Remitly.”
Personally, I am learning how my deep love of storytelling and the human condition combines with my passion for serving the underserved — in a role that is fulfilling beyond what I could have imagined. I develop programs for employees to engage with our customers, products and customer support associates and serve as the “megaphone” for customer feedback. I push for action on their behalf and celebrate with the teams when we make changes we know the customers will love. I love my job, and I’m grateful to Remitly for believing in me.