HPW’s Inspiring Women series profiles remarkable Greek-American professional women whose stories of success inspire and encourage us to achieve our own career goals and aspirations.
Alexandra (Lexy) Prodromos currently works as Head of Blockchain and Digital Currency Strategy at Discover Financial Services. She has worked in the blockchain space for many years, beginning as one of the primary initiators of the Illinois Blockchain Initiative, a state of Illinois consortium dedicated to furthering blockchain development in Illinois, and worked as the only non-government affiliated member of the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology’s Blockchain Working Group. She also worked for nearly 4 years, practically since the company’s inception, at Bloq, Inc a leading decentralized finance and enterprise grade blockchain software and services provider.
She was appointed as the Executive Director of the Chicago Blockchain Center, a public-private non-profit partnership that served as a leading educational resource and ecosystem hub for blockchain and cryptocurrency focused companies in the Chicago/Illinois tech ecosystem. She is a regularly invited speaker in Chicago and internationally on the subject of Blockchain and Distributed Ledger technology, a Women Tech Founder award recipient in 2018, was selected as a Crain’s Chicago Business 20 in their 20’s, class of 2019, and most recently the Electronic Transaction Association’s 40 under 40 Payments Professionals class of 2022.
Alexandra Prodromos received her Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in Political Science from Pepperdine University, and her Master of Science degree in Information Systems from Northwestern University. She is an active member of the Hellenic-American community, frequently volunteering for various philanthropic efforts, and also serves as Chicago Co-Chair for the Heritage Greece chapter of the National Hellenic Society. In early 2020 she was selected as a Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) 2030 fellow. In her spare time, she feels very fortunate to lend her classical operatically trained voice when asked to sing alongside her sister for private or charitable events, both in Chicago and nationally, and is passionate about supporting musicians and music education. She is also a former youth USTA competitor and still loves playing tennis.
Contributor: Frederica Bolgouras
Firstly, congratulations on becoming a Fellow of The Hellenic American Leadership Council supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and serving as a Co-Chair of the National Hellenic Society! Your background is superb, and we welcome learning more about your professional advocacy in all that you aspire to accomplish.
Describe what led to your passion for Digital Currency and Blockchain.
Thank you very much for the recognition, I am honored! My passion for cryptocurrency and blockchain began in earnest about 7 years ago, when I was studying political science pre-law in my undergrad at Pepperdine. I was first exposed to the idea of smart contracts when reading about new technical innovations in the legal space. Once I began studying more about smart contracts and, at the time, a new platform called Ethereum that enabled them, I became fascinated with decentralized systems as a whole. I began to read more about blockchain technology, about distributed applications, and also about alternative payment methods enabled by cryptocurrency and was hooked! I believe very strongly in what these new technologies can enable for society, specifically in providing more transparency and trust in digital environments, and connecting creator driven economies to thrive without an overabundance of intermediaries. One particular use case that resonated with me early on, as I am a musician myself, was a use case artist Imogen Heap was developing on Ethereum. The idea was to provide fractional payments to all artists that worked on a record in real time, and to make music production once again profitable for artists (as opposed to only seeing revenue from touring and merchandise sales).
Describe your new growth process early on in your career, creating media marketing campaigns on social media, then your implementation of an encrypted telemedicine platform.
In my career I have been fortunate enough to have worn many different “hats” and have worked in many different capacities, including in marketing and public relations. For the Illinois Sportsmedicine and Orthopaedic Centers, I assisted in transitioning their practice through the pandemic when telemedicine demands were much more extensive, and reaching patients in new ways via organic marketing campaigns. Additionally, during my Masters program, I had the opportunity to learn more about coding languages, including development in Python, and about the technical product development process, which has helped me in many of my positions throughout my career. I believe that we are entering an age where there are no longer non-tech vs tech companies, and that every business will have a technical component. Having fluency in both business complexities and how to build out technical solutions to serve those business needs is something that motivated the early part of my career growth, and what I continue to develop my skills in today.
Tell us about one of your most proud accomplishments in your current role as the Head of Blockchain and Digital Currency Strategy for Discover Financial Services; then a second one as the Executive Director of the Chicago Blockchain Center.
What has excited me most about my new role at Discover working on blockchain and digital currency strategy has been the opportunity to explore the future of this rapidly developing space at a trusted financial institution like Discover. I believe strongly in the future of decentralized technology, and have been most proud of my contributions in terms of internal thought leadership and education in the organization so far. I have also conversely enjoyed learning more about the traditional payments ecosystem and its myriad players, and how we could offer more secure and trusted payments options for our customers that are also safe and secure. For broader adoption to occur within the digital asset space, partnerships and exploration between FinTechs and established Financial Institutions will be of the utmost importance, and I look forward to continuing that work. In my role at the Chicago Blockchain Center, I was very proud of the opportunities we gave to students and professionals, particularly in terms of technical workshops and lectures for university audiences. Coursework and student groups devoted to decentralized technology have since grown significantly, and I am proud to have been a part of those early efforts in this space in the Midwest.
What advice would you give to professional Hellenic-American Women today, and those who are seeking a leadership role in the technology sector? Expand on your nomination to the Crains 20 in their 20’s and how you were notably selected from a short-term career candidate to a potential candidate for long-term success.
A piece of advice that I would give to professional Hellenic American women today that are seeking leadership roles in the technology sector is to always stay curious! One of my mentors had told me at a crossroads in my career to “pay attention to ‘weird’” meaning to not immediately dismiss an idea because it perhaps seems a bit strange, but instead explore all options before passing judgement. Additionally, I think a unique part of being a Hellenic-American professional is that we are part of a very tight knit international community. Wherever I go, particularly in professional circles, there is always an immediate bond when I encounter another member of the Greek diaspora. It has helped me to expand my network greatly, and allowed me to hear more “weird” ideas from different industry sectors that I may not have had exposure to otherwise. This has helped shape what has become both a short term and long term career goal of mine to never stop learning and exploring ideas outside of my comfort zone. This is something I hope to continue not only in my 20’s, but in my 30s, 40s and beyond!
Who has inspired you the most in your life?
I would say that my family and music have been the biggest inspirations in my life. I have been extremely fortunate to have grown up in a household that always stressed excellence to my sister and me, while also allowing our creativity to flourish. My father received formal classical operatic training, and actually taught my sister and me to sing opera from a very young age. We were fortunate enough to have had a classical-crossover career and learn much about being professional musicians before we both entered jobs in the technology space. I have found music to closely mimic technology in that they are both things thought to be inherently mathematical and tedious in practice, but can be the most collaborative and unifying expression of emotion when finally performed. Being a musician taught me to be extremely disciplined, but also to be resilient in the face of failure. This training taught me over and over again that there is no such thing as a “perfect live performance” but only ones where the show continued on despite mistakes, and that there would always be “another openin’, another show!” Life as in music is comprised of continuous tension and resolution, and neither can exist without the other. Being able to particularly perform music with my family, has been such a gift and one I hope to pass on to my family as well.
What Impact has your Greek heritage had on your aspiring career?
My Greek heritage has had a tremendous impact on my career. In fact, one of the first times I had exposure to bitcoin in particular was reading about how countries that were in economic crisis were turning to alternative forms of digital currency. Were I not of Greek descent and had not had family still in Greece viscerally experiencing the crisis, the impact of the future of this technology may not have resonated as strongly with me, and I may not have pursued it as ardently. So my Greek heritage and knowledge and experience of global economic situations was extremely impactful on influencing my decision to learn as much about blockchain and digital currency as I could.
Are you active in the Greek Community in your area?
Yes, I try to stay active as I can in the Greek Community in Chicago, and outside of it! I was very fortunate to have participated in the Heritage Greece trip sponsored by the National Hellenic Society in college, and from that program made friends in the Greek American community that reside all over the United States, and feel that I truly have “parea” wherever I go. I have also been very fortunate to be a part of HALC 2030 fellowship program, and lead and participate in networking and mentoring events in the city, and learn more about Greek and Cypriot political issues at an international level. Additionally, I enjoy volunteering at ecclesiastical events in Chicago in addition to activities relating to the National Hellenic Museum located in the heart of Greektown.
Given the COVID pandemic, how did you handle stress and which wellness/coping exercises, and mechanisms would you recommend?
During the height of the pandemic, I candidly did not handle stress extremely well! I dearly missed many social interactions with friends, and had to find creative ways to stay in touch with members of the community. For example, I hosted a weekly virtual show on the app Clubhouse for Greek diaspora entrepreneurs to discuss business topics together, and pitch their companies. Additionally, finding time to go and exercise outside became a crucial part of my routine as well, and I was thankful that my favorite sport, tennis, was quite naturally socially distanced!
Who has inspired you in your career? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org