Angela Murphy, PhD Feature

Large Headshot of Angela Murphy

Angela believes that strategy and insight are the keys to driving innovation. After earning her Ph.D., Angela built a partner program at a Fortune 100 company from the ground up, leveraging her global experience and relationships across the fintech sector. She knows that the best transformations are not based in numbers but on the people. And, she knows that sometimes the best talent for your team are people you might have never imagined.

Angela gives talks to universities and corporate organizations looking to change the relationship between the private sector and academics. Recently, her work has been featured on Versatile Ph.D. She is also in the Centurions Leadership Program and working on her first academic publication.

Angela holds a Ph.D. in Rhetoric from the University of Kansas, a Master’s in English from Northwest Missouri State University, and a Bachelor of Creative Writing from the University of Missouri – Kansas City.

[Q U I C K   N O T E S]

Angela, can you start off by telling us about yourself and your life-long learning passion?

I have always an avid reader. Growing up in a county with a small library, I was there each week with my mother checking out 10 books at a time; I did the same at school. That love of reading carried me through multiple degree programs, and through books I understood how to think critically and how words have an immense impact on individual and global scales.

Can you tell us what drives you to be as active as you are in extracurricular learning and leadership activities?

I think we’re in an era where people roll their eyes at the idea of a “renaissance person;” we feel like you must be The Best at three or more things for them to be relevant passions in your life. From a young age, I competed in gymnastics, sang, played piano, and started a modeling career.

As I have gotten older, I recognize the value in doing things because I enjoy them, rather than needing to be the best at them. Painting with seniors at my local community center helps me develop patience (I am awful at painting) while also expressing myself. Learning choreography and harmony in a musical theater production sharpens my skills as a team player, whereas auditions hone my ability to perform under pressure.

There is nothing wrong with being an expert in 1-2 things, but having other interests diversifies your skill set while expanding your capacity to have fun.

Why did immerse yourself in the extra languages you speak?

I was born in Heidelberg, Germany. Though we moved back to the States when I was an infant, I always felt a connection to Germany and wanted to go back. I took German in college and loved my professors, which deepened my desire to visit/study abroad/whatever I could do to develop my language skills. With the advent of Duolingo and Rosetta Stone (free from your public library!), I get to practice as much as I would like.

Learning Wolof came from my dissertation research. I knew I would need to travel to Senegal, French was incredibly complicated and a colonizer language, and I wanted to respect the culture of the people I lived with and interviewed.

Immersing myself in other cultures and using a different language helps me be more empathetic, but it also helps me communicate better. While that may seem counterintuitive, as someone who “does words for a living,” filtering through to find the best words to convey my message is an invaluable skill.

I also have to say that there’s nothing like the feeling of getting part-way through an interaction in German and realizing that I’m not speaking English – it’s a special sense of accomplishment.

Angela Murphy in white dress looking out window and smiling

What do you like about your current professional role?

The people! I am lucky that I work for a company with multiple women in senior leadership roles, and a team that likes to have fun. Beyond that, I love that my work is relationship-based. I have some wonderful colleagues in the financial technology industry and they are always willing to have a coffee or lunch to talk through current trends or to problem solve for an gap in the industry. As a life-long learner, being in this industry is exciting because I am always learning something new.

What advice do you have for other up-and-coming leaders?

Do not be afraid to ask questions. Take on small challenges to grow your skills. You do not have to know 100% about a topic to be part of the conversation or project. Take every opportunity to meet new people in your industry and others.

Also, do not be afraid of significant challenges or projects! Several times in my career, I was handed what seemed like an impossible task with limited information. Reframing those situations as learning opportunities and a chance for my work ethic to shine helped me tackle situations I never would have chosen for myself.

In those scenarios, it’s like someone handing you a cupcake and asking you to recreate the recipe. How would you go about doing that?

  • Do some research on Pinterest, find a cookbook, etc.
  • Watch some videos or look for examples of other people baking cupcakes
  • Take a baking class (if possible)
  • Lean on previous baking knowledge
  • Gather your materials
  • Ask your closest cupcake expert to check your work as you go

Now, take this framework and apply it to a challenging project: Where can you go for additional information? Who can you ask for help? What other examples are available to you? Can you adapt something you already have? Revise, revise, revise… And eventually you will complete what you set out to do.

Will it be perfect? Probably not. Will you have gained some awesome skills to help with projects in the future? Absolutely.

Are you active on social media professionally?  If so, what platforms work best for engaging your followers?

I am most active on LinkedIn (and Instagram). LinkedIn is a great space for sharing my thoughts on the fintech industry and women in leadership. I also spend a lot of time talking about academics in the private sector and finding better ways to collaborate across industries.

What’s the major difference between Academia and the FinTech (financial tech) industries?

I think the biggest difference hinges on a similarity: deliverables. In both academia and the private sector, we all have projects to complete by certain deadlines. What I have noticed since moving out of university life is the difference in attitude about how work is completed. For the most part in academia, no one is looking over your shoulder to make sure you get your work done; outside of class and office hours, you’re not required to be on campus. You can complete papers, grading, and reading in a coffee shop, home office, library, or park, and if you complete them by the deadline, no one really cares where the work was done.

Since I started working in an office setting in the Midwest, I noticed that people care that you’re physically sitting at your desk, regardless of whether your tasks are completed. When I worked in South Korea, we called this behavior and concept “desk warming,” where people would sit at their desks even if they weren’t working on anything. I definitely think with the rise of work-from-home options we are moving toward better work-life balance, but the idea that anyone can sit somewhere for eight hours and work that whole time while maintaining a healthy lifestyle is bizarre.

Who was your biggest influencer?

I admire Sandra Day O’Conner and Arlan Hamilton for entirely different reasons, but my biggest influencers to date are probably my parents; they taught me how to work hard and stay grounded.

Angela Murphy posing for a picture on the ski slopes on a sunny dayWhat is the most challenging part of your work?

Visibility! As someone early in my career, it’s hard to create space in rooms and at tables with long-term industry professionals. I would love for more people to read my work and offer feedback; the open exchange of ideas and dialogue with industry professionals is something I am missing outside of conference settings.

With the ideas I am currently sharing, I would love more people to comment, collaborate, hop on a call/Zoom so we can talk about how to truly transform our work and industry.

What do you have your sights set on next?

I would love to be a published author, starting online and eventually moving onto a book. There are a few ideas flurrying about, so I am giving myself space to figure out which one is best to pursue over the next several months. In addition, I want to give a TedTalk!

What is a day in your life like?

I wake up, go to the gym, get ready for work, and have a cup of coffee. My health is incredibly important to me, especially as someone who gives 110% in my professional life.

My workday normally consists of a few meetings in the office, lots of email and planning across teams, and I have started incorporating my language lessons and writing time into my formal workday. I am also scheduling 1 – 3 meetings outside of the office per week with local professionals for lunch or coffee to brainstorm and problem solve (*this is currently on hold until social distancing and quarantine practices are lifted*).

In the evening I like to read, cook or bake, and spend time relaxing. Depending on the day, I will attend a Centurions event or some happy hour or philanthropic event in KC; I love being connected to my community.

Do you have any hobbies?

I love dancing, cooking or baking, and painting. If the weather is nice, I love sitting in the sunshine on a patio and reading a book.

Angela Murphy posing for a picture with the Kansas City Chiefs mascot

What makes you smile?

Thoughts of Dog on Twitter and Facebook. It simultaneously melts my heart and makes me happy. I read one each day!

What are you never without?

Layers! I am constantly cold, so I normally have some sort of jacket on or if I am at my desk, a fluffy blanket.

What scares you?

Failure. I think that’s why I chase new challenges. Even though I fear failure, I face the possibility head-on because I have learned it’s the only way I can grow. I tend to think that I have a 50/50 shot at anything; it will happen, or it won’t. Either way, I will learn something and move forward.

What’s your favorite vacation spot?

I absolutely love Italy. It was my favorite trip and I would go back in a heartbeat: Lake Como, Florence, and Positano are my favorite places.

List any other work, published articles, interviews or accomplishments:

Webinar with Versatile PhD (PhD to Private Sector):

~ Angela


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