Spotlight Series: A Conversation with Roger Portela

Spotlight Series
October 20, 2023

In the PayNearMe Spotlight Series, we shine a light on the people that make our company thrive. In this month’s interview, we sat down with Roger Portela, Senior Director of Product Management, to chat about his role in the company, why he loves working at PayNearMe and his life outside of work.

Q: Can you tell us about your career journey and what led you to PayNearMe? 

Roger Portela: After I left the Navy, my professional career started in the e-commerce world. I was an early adopter to the internet and tech world. At every stage of my career development, I’ve always tried to work on the bleeding edge with new technologies to help organizations move from legacy systems. After leaving a startup to help them adopt mobile technology, I met my current supervisor, Steve Kramer, while we worked on a project together. We stayed connected through social media, and when I saw him post about the Senior Director of Product opening at PayNearMe, I was like, sign me up!

Q: Have you always wanted to pursue a career in Product Development?

RP: When I first started my career, product development was defined as engineering things like plastic cups! Product development was around, but it wasn’t what it is today. When I worked at my first startup, I was a project manager, graphic designer, coder, etc because of the nature of a startup; you wear many hats. 

I basically took what I learned from the startup world and found my comfort zone with product development. It was more of a journey than a target. 

Q: How has PayNearMe helped you in your career development?

RP: Well, I’ve been a team leader since my first day of bootcamp in the Navy. I joined PayNearMe as an individual contributor, but within a few months, I was promoted to a leadership position. One of the many great things about PayNearMe is we recognize people’s strengths and put them in positions to be their best. 

This is the only company that I’ve ever worked at where we have an actual training budget! We encourage our team to go to conferences and trainings to develop their skills and find personal enrichment. We have programs available to help new managers prepare for leading teams, and the programs are really just phenomenal. 

Q: Do you have any advice to share with those who are just getting into the fintech industry who might want to join a company like PayNearMe? 

RP: It’s important to find what interests you because fintech is very broad and you can get lost in the mire of choices. As with any career, finding your passion is really the key to finding success. 

Additionally, as I mentioned about my career journey of working in startups, be prepared to wear many different hats.

Q: What are some of your favorite things about working at PayNearMe?

Without a doubt, my favorite thing about PayNearMe is the people. Everyone is so nice and so willing to help each other. 

I was recently at a client meeting and the feedback we received was that they love partnering with PayNearMe because of our responsiveness and service. One quote stood out: “You guys actually follow-through when you say something; you answer me.” It was so interesting because they didn’t say anything about our product—it was all about our people and processes! I think that’s what makes PayNearMe so special.

Q: Let’s shift the focus to your role. What does a day in the life of a Senior Director of Product Management look like?

RP: In a nutshell, I spend a lot of time planning and looking at results. From a planning standpoint, my team and I take big ephemeral concepts and put them into actual plans to determine where our product is going. Then we spend time retrospecting on those plans to figure out what works, what doesn’t and what we can do better.

Q: Let’s talk about remote work. How are you able to stay connected with your team virtually?

RP: We over communicate. I’d rather hear about something in excess than hear about it too late or not at all. That means we meet often, sometimes at a greater cadence, but it works for us! The more we talk, the better we communicate and our plans and goals are executed as expected.

Q: What are three things you must have on your desk in order to have a productive workday?

RP: I always have a big cup of water, eye drops because I’m looking at monitors all day and several USB chargers for all of my electronic devices. 

Q: What are some things that you’ve learned about yourself while working at PayNearMe?

RP: I’ve learned that your work environment can have a significant impact on your stress level. Since I’ve joined PayNearMe, my stress level has been very manageable because we have a great work environment. 

Q: So what about you—what kinds of activities or hobbies are you interested in outside of work?

RP: I’m a huge Star Wars fan. I play all the Star Wars video games, have all the movies and even have some Star Wars tattoos!

I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons since the early 80s. I play every Monday night in-person with my local friends, and every other week I play online with my friends back in New Jersey. 

During COVID, I got really into landscaping and gardening. We now have several fruit trees including mangos, lemons, limes, coconuts and bananas. It’s so great to be able to go into your backyard and pick fresh fruit anytime you want! 

Q: If you could do another job for just one day, what would it be?

RP: I would be an astrophysicist. It would be fun to look at distant galaxies in real time.

Q: Any fun facts you’d like to share with us?

RP: My wife is allergic to cat hair, so I got her a Sphynx cat, Electra, but she quickly became my baby. Electra can often be seen in Zoom video calls because when it comes to getting my attention, she is not shy! I am her person and I love her to no end! 

Q: Do you participate in any volunteer work or have any organizations you’d like to shine a light on?

RP: I am a type 1 diabetic, so I support the JDRF, which is a non-profit of type-1 diabetes research. 

I also encourage people to support the Ronald McDonald House®. This organization was incredibly helpful to me when I was a young sailor that had a child with medical issues. I want everyone to know that a little bit of change in the McDonald’s drive thru can make a huge difference.

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