Witad Awards 2020: Vendor partnership or alliance professional of the year—Mitra Roknabadi, OpenFin

OpenFin

At the beginning of the last decade, Mitra Roknabadi was not likely to become a highly influential person in the worlds of programming or financial markets technology. But one should also never underestimate drive and self-belief.

Roknabadi, who is fluent in English, German and Farsi, was born in Cologne, Germany, and moved to Los Angeles when she was 13. Today, she’s vice president and global head of marketing at OpenFin, which is arguably the leading vendor in the desktop application interoperability space, building an operating system environment that is used by the likes of Barclays, RBC, Citadel, JP Morgan and numerous vendors.

The truth is, she stumbled into OpenFin. In 2002, she started working at fashion giant Chanel. Roknabadi knew, though, that she wanted to be more involved in technology. She tried to convince retailers like Chanel and Lancôme that e-commerce was the future. Along with a friend, she even created a startup around beauty product e-commerce.

After moving to New York a decade ago, she began attending tech meet-ups on the advice of an old friend—Mazy Dar, whom she had known since 2001 and who was in the process of getting OpenFin off the ground and running along with cofounder Chuck Doerr. Roknabadi convinced Dar that she could help with the company’s website and build its marketing campaign as the company was ready to really start pulling in clients in 2013.

“OpenFin was completely the opposite end of the spectrum [from Chanel], but when you hear Chuck and Mazy talk about this, I’m convinced that we can take over the desktop,” she says.

OpenFin has found its footing because it has created a unique community in financial services, and Roknabadi has played a key role in that. In 2016, she launched FinJS, the company’s global flagship tech event. At that first meeting in 2016, 120 programmers, developers and engineers came together to discuss JavaScript and its React library. Today, these events draw more than 400 attendees.

Additionally, as that community has grown, it helped OpenFin to lead the Financial Desktop Connectivity and Collaboration Consortium (FDC3) initiative, which comprises banks, asset managers, and vendors in the capital markets aiming to bring universal connectivity and standards to desktop applications. Growing these communities has proven key to OpenFin’s plans for advancement.

“Interop is all about community,” Roknabadi says. “We keep [FinJS] neutral; it’s not an OpenFin-related event, [the discussions are] around how OpenFin uses best practices on the web to deliver a functional engine that you could use out of the box. It’s not about OpenFin—it’s about the web and the FDC3 community is exactly about that.”

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