“It is essential for leaders to be knowledgeable about new technologies and management models to lead their organisation to success.” - Norina Plank, Project Lead, Mercedes pay

20/10/2022 | Norina Plank

Both new technologies and the application of new management models are essential to the modern work environment. How you use them can make or break the customer journey, and subsequently, the company’s success.

Payment is just one example. Customers expect it to be seamless and this is where new technologies play an integral part. Fintech, for example, is meeting this customer demand and the needs of the organisation. This makes it necessary for incumbent players and traditional companies to adapt their technology - either as a first mover or in order to keep up with the competition.

Norina Plank is a finance professional from Germany who recognised it was vital to be in the know about new trends in fintech. Norina holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Mannheim in Germany and a double Master’s in Management and International Business from the University of Mannheim and Queen’s University in Canada.

As a Project Lead for payments in the automotive industry, it’s her job to make sure technology and business objectives work in synergy. To hone her skills, she enrolled in a previous call for Santander Open Academy Tech | Digital Business, offered by Banco Santander in collaboration with the University of Chicago. In this interview, she shares her experience.

“I really appreciated that I could extend my knowledge and sharpen my profile thanks to the Santander Scholarship. My experience of the fintech course at the University of Chicago was fantastic and my expectations were surpassed.”

Norina Plank

What were the difficulties you had to overcome to get to where you are today?

The payment world is complex and fast-moving, so understanding the technical side is essential to delivering high-quality work. 

Prior to my first position, I had never come across this area. Entering the field required a lot of self-study and shadowing before I could take on my own projects. In the beginning, it was important for me to stay humble, be thankful for everyone willing to teach me and listen a lot. 

However, the constant changes in payments mean that once I thought I had grasped the concepts, my knowledge was already outdated. I realised that I needed to dedicate time to keep informed on the latest developments.

In payments, you also need to be able to make a bridge between business and tech. I quickly learned that a big part of my role is educating the organisation about the topic in an easy-to-understand way. It was crucial for me to deep dive into a topic and then quickly zoom out to give a high-level explanation to the management.

Is it important for leaders to have knowledge of new technologies to adapt to the current environment of constant change?

In my view, it is essential. Having knowledge about new technologies is the first step toward leaving traditional paths and being open to innovation

Firstly, in today’s VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) world you need to be able to quickly grasp new concepts and technological developments. Leaders have a central role in managing and supporting this transformation. This is essential to identifying opportunities for change, choosing the right projects or finding suitable and profitable investment opportunities

Lastly, leaders need to be knowledgeable about new technologies to inspire and influence their teams. To drive transformation within the organisation, they will need to motivate the team and overcome resistance to change.

How did you know that you had the need to acquire some new digital skills?

After I started my career, I quickly realised that it is not enough to simply gain skills in project management or develop my soft skills. Instead, I needed to educate myself about new players using technology in novel ways

This is why I chose the programme on the fundamentals of fintech at the University of Chicago. What specifically drew me to the course was the focus on the transformative power of fintech; the programme allowed me to gain expert knowledge on the financial sector and the digital tools that are changing the field. I also got insights from the regulatory side, which allowed me to develop a good and comprehensive understanding of the industry.

How was your experience in this call of Santander Open Academy?

It was fantastic and my expectations have been surpassed. Santander Open Academy make high-quality courses easily accessible for ambitious minds. The portfolio of courses and classes offered at prestigious institutions all over the world is carefully selected and really inspiring - browsing the offering might even trigger new inspiration about what to learn next.

The whole organisation of Santander Open Academy is managed really professionally. Instructions are clear, processes are straightforward and deadlines are kept. As an applicant, you always know where you stand and what the next step is. 

Lastly, connecting with other students, discussing the content and getting different perspectives make it really enjoyable. In my course, for example, the students were really diverse; some had 20+ years of experience in the financial sector, others were doing their PHD and some were young professionals looking for a career change. 

Definitely, the course helped me improve my networking skills. At times, it can be difficult to connect with fellow professionals when you are not in the same location. However, the teachers really supported us to overcome this hurdle so that we could discuss course content and our careers in a productive manner.

What has been the most valuable thing you learned during the course?

One concept that really stood out to me is the Total Experience strategy. Instead of only looking at the customer experience during the transaction, this strategy aims to also include other additional areas, including the user experience, employee experience and multi-experience. True digital transformation can only be reached when all four areas are considered

Missing out employee experience, for example, would result in poor enablement. Meanwhile, neglecting user experience will likely lead to poor adoption of the product or service. It is important, however, to not consider these areas as silos but instead see them as interconnected. Companies that do this can gain a real competitive advantage – and this is what a lot of successful fintech do. It’s what helps them distinguish themselves from traditional players in the financial sector.

Norina Plank

How have you developed personally and professionally after your participation in the Santander Open Academy?

For me, the Santander Open Academy have led to positive changes both professionally and personally.

Professionally, it has allowed me to develop a better understanding of digital business and to grasp essential concepts that support the adoption of new technologies. With this, I am equipped to have better discussions with experts. The course also really sharpened my understanding of the type of organisation I want to work in: one that isn’t afraid to test new technologies.

Personally, the course allowed me to broaden my horizons and learn about subjects that I want to explore further. The assignments encouraged me to do my research and find out more about companies that are using innovative technologies, simply for my own personal interest.

And now what are your future plans and your next professional steps?

I want to tackle even bigger, more complex projects. Challenging and complex tasks are something that motivates me, so naturally, I am drawn to projects that do not follow a cookie-cutter approach.

Additionally, I want to gain more international experience as I am inspired by the value that is created in diverse environments, not only profiting from different professional backgrounds but also from different cultural backgrounds. I can definitely see myself taking on more international projects or even working abroad for some time.

I know I’ll have to be bold and trust in my abilities. I also want to keep an open mind and regularly take time for self-reflection so that I can assess my current position, and identify gaps in my skills and what I can do to close them.


Like Norina, do you want to train in the knowledge and use of new technologies and management models in a highly competitive professional environment? Banco Santander, together with the University of Chicago, a prestigious institution with over 125 years of history and alumni that include several Nobel prize-winners, is launching 1,000 Santander Open Academy | Digital Business 2022.

Access a 7-week online training programme in which you will explore the difference between traditional and digital marketing in the context of innovation. Additionally, you will create a successful Marketing Action Plan and analyse data for future strategies.  In line with your professional objectives, you can choose from one of the following three courses:

  • Building and Managing Resilient Teams: learn to create and manage high-performing teams, understanding the traits intrinsic to a resilient team, and effectively resolving conflicts.

  • FinTech: designed for financial analysts and professionals looking to learn the basics of FinTech and its disruptive power in the financial services sector.

  • Digital Marketing: this course aims to equip participants with the concepts, language, resources and strategic vision needed by professionals who want to focus on the world of digital marketing.

All of the courses are delivered by top-tier experts and are free to participants. And you don't need to have a degree or be a Banco Santander customer. They are also available in English, Spanish or Brazilian Portuguese.

On the course, all of the necessary knowledge can be acquired through tailored content, interaction between peers and virtual debates held in live sessions with mentors and learning facilitators. Upon completion, you will receive a certificate from the University of Chicago accrediting the learning achievements.

Want a unique training experience? Apply for the Santander Open Academy | Digital Business 2022 and, like Norina, gain the knowledge and tools needed to accomplish high impact initiatives. And remember, never stop learning!

(At the moment the Santander Open Academy Tech | Digital Business 2022 has reached its end, but we encourage you to take a look at the Santander Open Academy to find the training that best suits you and give a boost to your professional career. Seize the chance to develop your knowledge and skills!)

CTA  Post
Norina Plank

Norina Plank, Project Lead, Mercedes pay

More interesting posts to read...