Getting to Know: Kelsey Houghton, Chief Product Officer

Updated: Apr 11



Tell us about yourself.

I’m a product leader and a personal finance nerd, which means I finally get to marry my passion with my career!


How did you get started in your career?


My career path was far from linear. I majored in sociology because it absolutely fascinated me. Still, I had no idea how it would translate into a profession. After college, my first job was researching and implementing programs for a non-profit in Pike Place Market in Seattle. I quickly realized it was hard to live on a non-profit salary and started searching for private companies that positively impacted the world. I moved to Austin, TX, and discovered project management at a medical device consulting firm. While at that job, I earned my PMP and eventually started leading global projects with tech giants like Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon. That was the first time I got to see innovative technology break ground in a traditional industry like medicine.

I moved my focus to technology and took my next job at a tech company, where I worked on developing new software and hardware products for governments. That’s where I transitioned into product management and started leading product teams.

I had a personal obsession with learning about financial independence throughout all this. In early 2019 I was doing the dishes and heard Parker on a podcast talking about his startup to help people pay off their loans. I was inspired to reach out to him on LinkedIn. I offered to help build the company as a side hustle, hoping it would eventually become a full-time job when we secured funding. That’s how I ended up here!



Who has been your biggest inspiration?


Personal -


Since I was a kid, my biggest inspiration has been my dad. He’s an esteemed leader in his field who spent his career helping people, always with humility and a kind heart. He was successful in his career. He was also so loved and respected that Multnomah County (greater Portland area) officially proclaimed a holiday when he retired: “Dave Houghton Appreciation Day.” He inspires me to lead with love in my own career!




Finance -


Paula Pant of “Afford Anything” and Mindy Jensen of “Bigger Pockets” for being bad*ss women in business and personal finance - they taught me how to become financially independent in a matter of years (special mention to Scott Trench of Bigger Pockets, as well as Jonathan Mendonsa and Brad Barrett of “ChooseFI”).


I admire Jack Bogle of “The Vanguard Group” for inventing index funds that changed the game of investing and made the stock market accessible to everyday people. J.L. Collins of “The Simple Path to Wealth” for teaching the world how to use Bogle’s innovation to build wealth safely and efficiently.


Finally, all the incredibly smart people out there who are working on innovating the financial industry through FinTech and blockchain.


Product -


Melissa Perri is one of the savviest leaders and intelligent minds in product and for sharing her knowledge with others in the space. Another bad*ss woman in business.


What is the best part of your job?


Talking to users and getting to know their challenges, wants, and needs. I’ve been passionate about the power of personal finance for a long time, and I’ve always wished it was more accessible so that fewer people needed to worry about money.


By gamifying personal finance, automating financial decisions, and helping community financial institutions compete with big banks, I have a chance to spend my life building something that helps people on a large scale. That inspires me every day.



What are you passionate about?


All things active and outdoors. I live in a mountain town and explore the mountains constantly (snowboarding, nordic skiing, exploring the backcountry, avalanche training, and mountain biking). I also love coaching youth soccer, watching soccer, and playing soccer.


Fun fact - I played for the University of Cape Town in South Africa, where I competed in the USAA National Tournament (that’s the equivalent of NCAA in South Africa) and in Sasol, the women’s semi-pro league! My experience there was absolutely incredible. I made close friends from all over the world, traveled to multiple African countries (Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Swaziland, and Mozambique). I received a world-class education at the base of Table Mountain. We had hard conversations about race, class, and gender in post-Apartheid society.


When I wasn’t playing soccer, some of my favorite things to do included braaing with my friends (the South African version of having a BBQ), attending rugby games, dancing to Kwaito and African house music at Mzolis on Sunday afternoons (a popular grill in Gugulethu township), and hanging out at the white sand beaches on the weekend. One of my favorite memories was road tripping along the Garden Route and doing the largest bridge bungee jump in the world - Bloukrans Bridge!






What is the most challenging part of your job?


Bringing our solutions to life with such a small team - it’s a grind and doesn’t always move as quickly as we’d hoped.

How do you think we can improve positive work cultures in the fintech industry?


These often get overlooked in discussions about culture: communicate strategy and put good processes in place! This fosters autonomous teams who are empowered to make big decisions without asking permission all along the way - it allows for creativity and personal growth.


Other than that, we simply value our employees and make sure they are happy. We treat people with respect and understanding. Practice empathetic leadership, pay fairly, invite open communication and feedback, pay attention to social cues, set clear performance expectations, challenge people, and celebrate accountability.



What advice would you give someone who is starting their career in your field?


There are a million different paths to success, and most are not linear - don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to do or where you want to work! But, eventually, your passion will present itself if you keep learning and trying new things.


Ladies - don’t be afraid to speak your mind and make your voice heard. Share your ideas even if you are a minority in the room. Do not be afraid to speak to your managers about your path to a promotion or a raise. Research and negotiate salaries.


Finally, contribute to your employer-sponsored retirement plan and open a Roth and/or Traditional IRA! The power of tax advantages and compound interest is insane. When you get raises in your 20s or 30s, try to avoid lifestyle creep and INVEST the extra pay. Ignore the noise around meme stocks.


What resources would you recommend?

Product/Business Podcasts:


Product Thinking

The Product Podcast

Masters of Scale

How I Built This


Personal Finance Books:


Simple Path to Wealth by J.L Collins

Set for Life by Scott Trench

Financial Freedom by Grant Sabatier

Any Bigger Pockets book for real estate investing


Personal Finance Podcasts:


ChooseFI

AffordAnything

Bigger Pockets Money


Personal Finance Blogs:


MadFIentist

Mr. Money Mustache

Get Rich Slowly

Rich & Regular


What are some rules you live by?

Design the life you want.






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