Episode #53: When you spend over 20 years on anything, the work you put in becomes part of who you are. For Lisha Bell, that couldn’t be any truer. We want to truly appreciate her message by looking into where she came from and how she has used her passions to help others make their dreams a reality.
We start today by taking a quick look at where Lisha comes from and how it inspired her to lead such a fulfilling life.
Lisha was born in Los Angeles, California where she spent her childhood before moving to the San Francisco Bay area to pursue opportunities that arose from the tech.com movement. Her grandparents were originally from the south and later moved to the West Coast to work in the shipyards.
After just recently graduating as the internet started to get off its feet and run, Lisha had a spark ignited inside her when she took in the tech movement that was growing in the Oakland and Bay area. Being a business major, Lisha realized the potential in tech and decided to pursue her minor in information systems. That decision to get involved in the tech boom got her 20 years of experience and helped her drive her passion forward to this day.
When Lisha chose where to live, she knew Oakland would offer her a Black community where she could feel at home. Where she could get a sense of community at work, she could find it at home in her rooted community.
Before even considering Haas, Lisha worked for Wells Fargo where she joined the leadership development program to learn the inner workings of banking. As an information technology associate, she was able to learn her way around the company through various projects. Lisha went from being in an engineering role at the start of her career to facilitating communications between the business and technology side of banking.
As she built up the team at Wells Fargo over her 15 year employment, Lisha has faced experiences in digital banking and corporate mergers that would help her get interested in the business side of banking. With the financial collapse of 2009, Lisha decided it was time for her to get back to business school. As she saw those above her with MBA’s and decided it was time to rebrand herself, Lisha realized that an MBA would expose her to the information and spark she needed to make her mark.
After three persistent attempts of applying to Haas, Lisha finally got in. With the recession still fresh in the minds of many companies, Lisha was unfortunately laid off while in Haas. Retrospectively, it was this downside at the time that allowed her to fully pursue her degree as a full time student. At Haas, Lisha had the opportunity to travel the world with her classmates as she pursued her degree. It wasn’t easy pursuing difficult courses and a busy travel schedule, but it helped her find her calling.
After her graduation from Haas, Lisha funnily enough went back to Wells Fargo for a temporary project. When she finished up with being the head of credit, she moved into retail by working with Kohls. Those three years at Kohls where Lisha enjoyed her work helped her get involved with the startup Feedazi that focused on artificial intelligence.
Career in the Tech
With her experience with Feedazi bringing Lisha to Europe where she would travel around and establish strategies for fighting fraud, she began to get more involved with the tech industry. An opportunity came up at PayPal that Lisha is currently involved with as she helps establish commerce connections between PayPal and other businesses. Lisha is able to use her technology background and business experience to create connections that would never have been seen without her contribution.
The Weight of Identities
For Lisha Bell, being a black woman was far from the norm in the industries she works in. Being a first generation college student and coming from a different background already set Lisha apart from those she worked with. Just a glance at her before she even had the chance to share who she really is was all it took for some to dismiss her credibility. When working with mostly Indian male tech workers, it was hard for Lisha to let her true colors shine as she was often discounted outright.
In one instance, airport security took her aside because they couldn’t believe that she as a black woman was working for an AI fraud company. Despite going up against immense odds, Lisha has the skills and experience to show anyone what she could do. Instead of brushing off the injustices she dealt with, Lisha used her experience as a tool to educate and inform people about the danger of preconceived biases.
Lisha knew she would be going into environments where people were not used to black women, but she knew she had to put in the work to show others that she meant business. As she used her identity to spread a message, Lisha also realized she could help others in a similar situation to her.
Providing Access to Financing and Financial Services
It’s no secret that there are unjust and substantial gaps in America between marginalized groups and the wealthy. In Lisha’s pursuit to help underserved individuals, she notes that black women achieve a horrifying 0.006% of venture funding and only 1% of the wealth in Los Angeles is held by the Black and Latinx communities. Lisha sees these numbers and is able to recognize the connection to her banking knowledge where she knows she can help make a difference.
She shares that a major reason why there are such substantial economic caps among groups is the lack of access to assets like credit and education that are unevenly distributed. It is often not the merits of a startup that determines whether or not they get the funding, but the color and gender of who is walking into the bank. Lisha has a passion to create a fund for Black women who need help in getting their startups funded so that they can create a better life for them and their community.
So many in Los Angeles are just getting by with their payments and can’t leave as they have created communities that run deep through the city. With access to the funds needed to start their companies, Lisha knows that the motivated Black women she wants to work with can shake up the market and show they mean business.
At the height of the powerful Black Lives Matter movement, Lisha explains how black oppression has a direct link to economic suppression. She notes how George Floyd would be alive today if he didn’t have to fabricate the money that got him arrested and killed and that those who loot wouldn’t be forced to do so if they had a system that had their best interest in mind. There is no lack of marginalized groups trying to get out of their bad situations, but the economic inequality that they are dealing with makes it impossible for them to get out of their current situations.
Lisha wants people to realize that investing in those who want to succeed is the best way to help change things for the better. Supporting small businesses and giving scholarships to the kids who need it most gives hope and opportunity to those who need it most.
Words of Wisdom to the Children
With her message of helping those who need it most and not setting up biases before getting to know people, Lisha wants to help the future children get exposed to different cultures, languages, and people. She wants parents to raise their children to empathize with those who suffer and understand that everyone is coming from a different place.
If children are taught from a young age not to judge others by the way they look or where they come from, Lisha feels we would create a future for them to thrive in.
Lisha Bells comes from the humblest of beginnings and has shown that anyone can make it with the right attitude and drive. Lisha went from working in departments where she felt like an outcast to helping those she feels need it most to make their own story and impact in the world. You can hear a full podcast episode with Lisha Bell here to really get a feeling for what she wants you to take away from her story.
We hope you have learned something from Lisha and use her story as a way to inspire others to break down economic walls. Only together will we be able to inspire future generations to care for others and raise each other up in ways we are only just now starting to do.
Do you have an idea of ways we can help reduce economic inequalities? We’d love to hear your ideas and experiences to keep this conversation alive.