Bridging two industries:

A Conversation with Angie Ruan, SVP Global Technology, Nasdaq

Nasdaq is a leading global provider of trading, clearing, technology, listing, information, and public company services. Through its diverse portfolio of solutions, Nasdaq enables customers to plan, optimize, and execute their business vision with confidence, using proven technologies that provide transparency and insight for navigating today’s global capital markets.

We connected with Angie Ruan, Senior Vice President of Global Technology at Nasdaq, to get her thoughts on the convergence of technology and financial services, and what she's learned from leading digital transformation for highly regulated industries.  

As an SVP in Nasdaq’s Global Technology group, Angie Ruan leads many of the digital transformation initiatives in a technology-driven financial organization that is among the most influential on the planet. This includes applying new technologies to public and private markets, leveraging data and advanced analytics across each of Nasdaq’s offerings, and overseeing the development of key market technology products and global infrastructure development and services.

Growing up in China, Angie excelled in math and aspired to be a mathematician, but her mother had other ideas. While most parents were encouraging their children to focus on traditional careers, Angie’s mom saw a place for her daughter in computer science, which, at the time, was becoming increasingly influential on daily life in China. Angie credits her mom for sparking her interest in the field, notably advising her to “forget math—do computer science so you can sit in an air-conditioned room!"

Today, having received her master’s degree in computer science from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and having developed the IT strategies of several of the world’s most notable technology and financial services companies, Angie recalls that advice fondly.

Honing her craft

Angie’s early career reads like a quintessential Silicon Valley adventure, spanning the pre- and post- dotcom eras. While at Netscape, AOL, eBay, and PayPal, she sharpened her skill set for developing enterprise applications and managed systems. In fact, in 2004, it was eBay that tapped her to build its first asynchronous messaging system, designed to process messages and payments. This diverse experience also gave Angie the opportunity to lead engineering for web, mobile, and product transformation initiatives.

It was her work on this project that taught Angie one of the most valuable lessons that she’s carried with her throughout her career: Work backward from the business case, and keep that at the forefront of your mission. That lesson was tested during the financial downturn in 2008 when everyone was cutting costs. Mobile, which was nascent in those days, was at risk of being dismantled at eBay.

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Supporting The Growth Of Women In Tech - 5 Critical Steps From Angie Ruan (Forbes)

Angie didn’t think this was a strategic move, so she went to eBay’s leadership team and requested “one person under the radar from each department, so when the downturn is over, we have something to show.” Leadership acquiesced, and her persistence paid off when, eventually, eBay made mobile a strategic priority. “If you really believe in a technology that can help the world,” she says, “speak up for it, and people will help you.”

Using technology to create new financial services experiences

Over the years, the two industries of Technology and Financial Services have become more connected than we might think, and Angie’s career certainly proves the linkage. Many Silicon Valley companies such as eBay and PayPal—while at first viewed as “tech”—are also financial institutions in and of themselves, processing a tremendous volume of transactions on a daily basis. When Angie made a move to PayPal, it was to bridge the gaps between transactions, technology, and people. There, she led the transformation to Agile and built user experiences that helped the company connect more efficiently and effectively with its customers.

With her success in this new realm, it’s no surprise that New York—one of the global epicenters of the financial services industry—came knocking on Angie’s door. American Express wanted the same thing the dotcoms wanted: to build systems and experiences to better connect with its customers. Recognizing the opportunity, she made the trek east.

In Manhattan, Amex provided one of Angie’s brightest moments: leading the digital transformation for its most important business unit—consumer and small business. “In particular, the Amex mobile app we created was huge for me, having to think about such a highly regulated industry.”

"If you really believe in a technology that can help the world,
 speak up for it, and people will help you."

Diversity: a path to bottom-line growth

Angie also has a long history of advocating for women. “A very small percentage of tech certifications are from diverse populations,” she notes, “and there is a very small percentage of women in cloud transformation, especially in data science.” The biggest challenges in cloud are not technology challenges; they’re people challenges. Angie sees a world that needs a diverse range of experience and expertise to solve those challenges. It’s a shift that needs to occur at all levels, starting with this generation of young professionals.

The biggest challenges in cloud are not technology challenges; they’re people challenges. Angie sees a world that needs a diverse range of experience and expertise to solve those challenges. It’s a shift that needs to occur at all levels, starting with this generation of young professionals.

When Angie taught a Girls Who Code class, she asked the young women to draw a picture of a future engineer. Eighty percent drew a picture of a man; the other 20 percent drew a picture of a girl wearing thick glasses. This reality hit home—literally—when Angie’s daughter asked, “Why haven’t you offered me the choice to take a coding class?” Angie assumed that because her daughter was so good at art and dance, she wouldn’t have an interest in coding. “I was biased even with my own kid,” she admits, “so my goal now is to try and be a role model at home with my family as much as in my career.” Angie did eventually enroll her daughter in those classes; now, she is double-majoring in arts and science.

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Angie Ruan on the psychology of diversity and bias (2:21)

Continuous learning in the cloud

While many IT decisions are made based solely on cost, Angie believes digital transformation starts with a desire to change and improve, which requires a shift in mindset. The old mindset was to cling to rigid models and process flows (e.g., engineering to QA to infrastructure to security, and so on). That required a lot of time and financial investment. The shift to a cloud mindset has enabled ecosystems within enterprises, so it’s easier to break boundaries, work across teams, and go to market faster. According to Angie, this move out of silos and toward more connected ecosystems makes practicing empathy, connecting with colleagues, and understanding their motives and agendas more important than ever.

In her own words: “My core value is to make a difference in the world we live in. I have a passion for connecting business, technology, and people, and for being a multiplier who can help people realize their best potential. I do not settle for the status quo. Learning from others, and giving back to help others thrive—that’s what inspires me every day.”

About our guest

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Angie Ruan
Senior Vice President, Global Technology, Nasdaq

Angie Ruan serves as Senior Vice President of Global Technology. In this role, Angie is responsible for overseeing the development of key market technology products, future Nasdaq Financial Framework product development, and global infrastructure development and services.

Prior to joining Nasdaq, she served as the Global Group Technology VP of consumer experiences and platform for American Express. She was responsible for the digital transformation of American Express web and mobile technology. Before then, she was the Unit CIO for U.S. Consumer and US Small Business.

She was also the Head of Engineering for Global PayPal Retail and Merchant product lines. She held various executive engineering leadership roles at eBay including building the eBay messaging system, creating the eBay mobile platform, and transforming the DevOps organization.

Angie holds a Master of Science in Computer Science from University of California, Santa Barbara, and studied undergraduate in Computer Science at Tsinghua University of China.

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