Women in Digital: Rayissa Armata

Rayissa Armata, head of regulatory affairs at IDnow shares her career path, her biggest challenges, and from where she draws her inspiration

Posted 12 July 2021 by Christine Horton

Did you enjoy school?

Yes, I loved school from grammar school to graduate school. I enjoyed learning how to analyse information as well as connecting the dots between various topics such as history and politics or significant developments in science or technology with different countries.

What qualifications do you have?

I have a master’s degree in science and technology policy making from the University of Sussex and a minor in International Relations. This has allowed me to pursue a career with a global scope and one that revolves around the point where government and industry meet.

Has your career path been a smooth transition, a rocky road or combination of both?

My career path has been a combination of smooth transitions and changes, not particularly a rocky road. When I completed my master’s degree I wanted to pursue a career in the field of Anti Weapons proliferation. My thesis was on significant technological changes that affect international treaties like the Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions.

I went on to begin that path working for an International NGO called PUGWASH in Geneva, CH. As this was an unpaid internship, I had to start looking for work and applied for an opening at the International Telecommunications Union at the UN. 

Since I had a background in policy making, I was familiar with the functions of the ITU and able to work on international regulations in telecommunications between the UN and international telecommunication carriers. Through this experience, I was able to work more deeply in regulatory affairs in the telecommunication and satellite communications sector in Washington, DC.

The experience in private industry and regulatory affairs later allowed me to pursue the subject matter independently, as a consultant.  I operated in regulatory / government affairs for various industries, from the communications and airline industries to banking and finance, to name a few.

What’s the best career advice you can give to others?

My best career advice to others is to reach out and network. Whether it is for seeking advice or an expert opinion on a subject matter be it a market, or a development within a specialised field, there is nothing better than learning from other people. Research from the web will only get you so far. I have found that networking and building your network, especially as your career progresses, is valuable. While someone might be able to help you out at one point, there is great satisfaction being able to turn around and help that person or someone else as your network grows. I believe in paying it forward. It works.

If you had to pick one mentor who has had the biggest influence on you, who would it be?

I would say the most influential mentor I had was the head of the NGO I worked with at the beginning of my career. He had founded the NGO and was well past retirement age working to inspire new entrants into the work force like myself. He taught me to pace myself, to focus on the work at hand, and that the rest would follow. He led by example and showed me that there was a space for work and a space for personal growth both in and outside of work. He allowed me to grow and encouraged me. If both parts of one’s life, the personal and career paths are balanced, one can achieve so much more. It isn’t always an easy balance. He taught me to value my time and take the time to cultivate both.

From where do you draw inspiration?

I draw inspiration from my family, my husband and children foremost. I also draw inspiration from professionals who work in fields where the final result will be part of the bigger picture to our very existence. For example, the people and teams that worked together to successfully land the latest Rover on Mars, Perseverance. The name says it all.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced to date?

Career wise, the challenges are always developing, whether it is putting out small fires or bigger ones such as supporting stakeholders who are tasked with making decisions worth large sums of money, helping to guide and shape strategic decisions, or follow through on a project. These are all challenges and require our focus and concern.

The greatest challenges have come to me in my personal life, like caring for my mother, who suffered from terminal cancer, or uprooting my entire family to another country to care for my elderly father at the end of his life. These are the challenges that have taught me where I am going and who I am as a person, which ultimately leads me to take on better perspectives in my work life.

What qualities do you feel makes a good leader?

I like to think I am a good leader because of all that I have faced personally and professionally. I have learned how to handle stressful situations with perspective, manage smaller and larger scale projects more efficiently, and how to better organise goals with other people. It is important to include a team in the direction you want to go.

I think any team I work with knows from the start that my role is to support them so we can achieve our goals together. When you don’t focus on your ego, so much more can get accomplished and that is what a good leader can do, show one’s team that it isn’t about one person, rather the group. As the saying goes, “there is no I in team”.

What would you say are the biggest cybersecurity challenges we face today?

Cybersecurity is a huge topic and there are many different aspects about it. In our field, Anti Money Laundering and in particular our speciality – remote Know Your Customer identity verification – identity fraud is one of the biggest challenges. The statistics on what is spent to prevent fraud, the money spent on fraudulent activity, and the sophistication around identity fraud is staggering. Those are some of the biggest challenges we see and deal with. Our mission is to keep the connected world a safer place.

Give us a fact about you that most other people wouldn’t know.

A fact about me that most people wouldn’t know professionally – I started a career specialising in ways to uphold the Biological Weapons Convention and Anti weapons proliferation. It is a very specialised field.