Nancy Langer was named chief executive at Transact Campus Inc. in July 2021 to lead, “our next phase of excellence,” as the 35-year veteran in financial technology put it. Transact was already a trusted technology solution for higher education, but with the potential to become even more integrated in the university ecosystem. I visited with Nancy recently to get to know her on a personal level. She is a transformative and growth-driven executive with more than 35 years of expertise in the financial technology arena. In 2018 and 2019, she was named a Top 50 Women of Influence by Housing Wire Magazine. And prior to that, was named a Woman Executive of the Year for corporations larger than 2,500 employees by the Stevie Awards in both 2015 and 2016. Keep reading to find out more on her leadership style, perspective on women in the workplace, and how she found balance.
Q: What advice do you have on balancing work and life?
A: I have found a good work-life balance now, but it took some learnings, and it is obviously much easier now that my husband and I are empty nesters. Looking back, there were times that my career made it tough. My advice to people who have young kids and a career, is to find a flexible work environment with support. I’ll add that work travel had the most impact on me and my family—not being home at dinner and bedtime. Take virtual meetings when you can, which luckily, is much more accepted now. There will be times your kids don’t understand why you must be away, but in my experience, it comes back around. When they grow up, they appreciate you and what you have accomplished. Be honest and listen to yourself when you feel you need more balance; don’t let those feelings linger and have the frank discussion with your boss when needed.
Q: What do you do when you’re not working?
A: I have always found running and working out to be therapeutic, so I try to do that at least four times a week. We moved to Arizona when I got this job, so I recently started to hike and picked back up playing golf and tennis. I watch TV to unwind; like many, I would consider Ted Lasso my favorite show right now. Can’t wait for season 3! And those who know me, know I love the reality music shows. I love live music and have very little talent in that regard. I have tremendous admiration for creative singer songwriters.
Q: What’s are the causes you’re passionate about?
A: I am really passionate about mental health. I think people recognize the importance of mental health more now, but there is still a stigma around it. In my first couple of months at Transact, we implemented a mobile feature that gives college students emergency hotline and suicide prevention information. This was a good first step, but we would still like to expand this feature. I’m thinking apps that focus on mental health, stress, meditation, etc., which really improve lives. Offering these resources to students is a priority of mine. Over 70% of campus administrators site mental health as a big concern and priority especially with the impact of COVID.
Transact also partners with the organization Swipe Out Hunger, which aims to help end student hunger. Higher education is expensive, and many students have limited money for food. The more I learn, the more passionate about the cause I become. Nationally, one in three college students faces food insecurity. Swipe Out Hunger helps students focus on class, stay enrolled, and overall feel healthy and a part of the campus community.
Q: What was the most important career advice you’ve been given? Do you have any mentors?
A: “Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.” I think I saw an interview with Marissa Mayer (former president, CEO of Yahoo and fellow Wisconsinite!) where she mentioned that quote. One of the most important things to know about yourself is that you may not always be the most intelligent person in the room. When I started at Transact, this was echoing in my head because this is my first CEO role, and I knew having a great team around me was vital. Luckily, I have the most talented team, that continues to amaze me every day.
I would have loved a female mentor at the beginning of my career, but frankly, around that time, there were very few women at the executive level. Despite that, I was fortunate to have some men as mentors; they helped me build connections and taught me what to do and what not to do to advance my career. I think of mentors as sounding boards, so not all mentors were necessarily my boss or a peer. My mentor relationships are informal and offer an outside perspective. Sometimes getting an outside perspective allows you to see things differently and think about the big picture more than someone who is in the trenches with you. We are in the process of launching a Women in Leadership program at Transact, because I think it is very important to play a role in helping other women advance their career. Similarly, I am also very passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion. I firmly believe in equal opportunity and the fact that a diverse and inclusive culture and team is critical to a company’s success. We just hired a DEI leader, someone I have worked with in the past, and she is going to do a phenomenal job leading us as well as engaging as a partner with our clients in this area.
Q: What is the most important thing you have learned throughout your career?
A: Wow, there are so many important things I’ve learned! For starters—like I said in my previous response—there historically weren’t many women in executive roles. I needed to learn how to be a woman in the workplace. I needed to learn the difference between aggressive and assertive communication, because unfortunately, rules were different for women. I needed to learn how to communicate assertively while remaining calm and factual to avoid being called “aggressive.” Also, far too often, women are called “emotional” when they are being passionate, whereas men are told they “have passion” or “assertiveness.” EQ is equally, if not more important than IQ. When hiring, I look for people who have emotional intelligence because work is about understanding people and what motivates them, collaborating and cooperating.
I’ve also learned it’s important to find what you are passionate about and what makes you happy, because that is when you will thrive. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Don’t be afraid of failure because I have found that failing stings at first but that’s when you find the most strength and learn the most about yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself, you are your worst critic and it’s important to give yourself a break sometimes.
Nancy Langer has experience leading financial services businesses of many sizes, from start-up ventures to mature businesses. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Management Information Systems from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and later received an executive leadership program certification from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.