Editor’s note: This Q&A with Tanya Menendez, who is half Nicaragüense and half Salvadoran, is the second of a series where we aim to shed light on the day-to-day work experience of women in various walks of life. Menendez, a tech entrepreneur based in San Francisco, is the CEO and co-founder of Snowball Wealth, an online platform that helps millennials understand and pay off student debt.
What does your day look like before you begin work?
I definitely have a full morning. I will get up and go on a walk or run with my dog, tidy up my apartment. And then I will get ready for work. It depends on the day. I usually head to work around 7:30 am, sometimes 8:30 am or 9 am, it depends on how long I stayed up the night before.
On a traditional work day, what is usually the biggest obstacle you find yourself faced with?
Not getting bogged down by the small things. I think that I constantly have to, as a founder, especially at this early stage, you have to wear a lot of different hats. As part of that, I could be writing an investor update and then the next hour, dealing with someone reaching out—not getting bogged down by the small things. I think, in a business, there will always be things, whether that’s preparing for taxes—whether that is thinking about the next hire—whether that’s a family incident for one of our teams members in which they had to take some time off and figuring out how to fill in those gaps while they’re gone. And so, I think there are a lot of smaller things that I have to triage but at the same time, I also still have to poke my head up and think what are the big moves we are making and how are we tracking towards getting there.
So I think that focusing on the big wins, like what is going to really, really move the needle for us and our community members versus getting beat down by smaller things. I think that is my main obstacle, focussing on the big picture and big moves while still taking care of everything that needs to happen day-to-day.
Where do you find meaning in your work?
To run this business, I’ve had to sacrifice a lot. I am grounded in the fact that a lot of my work is meaningful in the sense that we are impacting hundreds and sometimes thousands of people’s lives, producing content, and giving them insights that they wouldn’t have concerning their finances and helping them make progress. I think the most concrete example is when I hear people talking about how this business has changed their life, or being able to pay down credit card debt or I started investing for the first time because of you. That is, for me, the ultimate fulfillment and makes all of the sacrifices worthwhile.
There are always ways we can improve too and we are constantly improving, when we are integrating a new product and as we are expanding, but along the way, it’s been really awesome to see that we have helped people’s financial lives to improve and that’s been really really grounding for me. Like, that’s kind of the anchor that I go back to when I go back to finding myself in difficult situations or having a challenge in front of me. I think remembering your ‘why’ is incredibly important in those moments.
How has your gender influenced your work?
I think that gender and your identity and the situation that you’re born with will impact most of your opportunities and obstacles and everything. I think for me, what I try to focus on, is how I can leverage our unique perspective to create a product that is missing in the market. And I think that is how I’ve approached it, and of course, on the one hand, I am glad that we are in a position to begin to take action on this and create something that resonates with an audience that has been overlooked by the financial service industry. And I feel super grateful for that. And on the other hand, recognizing the data that at this point is beyond dispute, the bias around women getting funding; there is bias around opportunities that are given to women because of what they look like or sound like and not necessarily the work that they do. I think that is, of course, the reality that I live in but, I think that it’s important to not let that bring me down and focus more on how I can use this to my advantage to move the narrative forward, not just for the company but for future generations that are, future women that are also attempting to start businesses.
The way that I see it is like—if I am going through an obstacle, hopefully this will make it easier, our representation, as an all-women co-founding team, which is pretty unique and makes it much more difficult, based on the data, to get funding and so I think for us, increasing the representation is important so that we can move that narrative forward. I’m super proud of our team and what we have been able to do so far.
What day does your day look like after you leave the workplace, when work is “finished” for the day?
I work from home nowadays. But, after work, I love hanging out with friends. A lot of what I do is connecting with other female founders, for dinner or sometimes for brunch on weekends. Usually what I do is leave my office set up and then I’ll continue to check emails throughout the evening on my phone. But, that is kind of my way of disconnecting, leaving my desk space. I like having an active social life; I feel like that’s really important to me. I’ll also call family and friends and catch up with them while taking a long walk.
Usually, I’ll end the day with reading before bed; I try to switch off between fiction and nonfiction. I think that’s usually how I end my day. I’ll usually also cook something; I love cooking. I’m trying to be plant-based so cooking something plant-based and then going to sleep and starting it all over again.