Witad Awards 2021: Above and beyond award (vendor)—Mitra Roknabadi, OpenFin

OpenFin

The Covid-19 pandemic took away a lot—handshakes, out-of-office lunches, favorite neighborhood bars—but OpenFin vice president and global head of marketing Mitra Roknabadi would not let it take away her weekly tradition: Chinese takeout on Sundays. 

In the thick of last spring, she recalls, you could barely order delivery in New York. And in the thick of her pandemic-induced anxiety, she would shake, worried about whether the workers who had prepared and brought her food were perhaps sick themselves. So, like so many over the past year, she improvised. 

“Sticky rice and orange chicken I’d never made before,” says Roknabadi. “It was so fun discovering ingredients that we actually did a contest.”

Roknabadi, by then a budding chef and wanting her colleagues join in on the fun, began holding monthly competitions wherein OpenFin employees would gather their families in their kitchens and cook with one another virtually, bringing their best and favorite dishes to the table. Someone made elaborate Mediterranean food, someone else made a Thai dish, while another made roti, an Indian flatbread, from scratch. Roknabadi’s orange chicken performed well among the bunch, placing third.

She says cooking more elaborately helped her in more ways than one, offering a type of independence she didn’t realize she was missing—and she already had much of it. It’s that independent streak that has fueled her wherever she’s gone. In 2002, she worked for luxury fashion brand Chanel, specifically trying to push e-commerce initiatives, seeing that technology would soon be at the forefront of everything. Now, she’s a household name in Wall Street’s fintech circles.

In between all the cooking and wallpapering, and worrying she did in 2020, Roknabadi delivered 17 webinars and 23 podcasts, as well as published two industry white papers and three client case studies. She pivoted FinJS—OpenFin’s flagship event for technologists and business heads—to a virtual medium, personally recruiting, managing, and hosting 12 panel sessions, with speakers from the London Stock Exchange, Goldman Sachs, Google, and JP Morgan, among others.

In another life, Roknabadi says she might have gone into some form of hospitality, but one could argue that’s already what she does.

“Putting on a show is fun for me,” she says.

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