Navigating through a new career can be both an intimidating and exciting journey. But, this experience can be made easier when you are part of an inclusive workplace that offers the support you need to grow in your career and achieve your professional goals. Janelle Curtis, Managing Director, Global Banking and Markets (GBAM) Operations at Bank of America, knows this experience all too well from her own career background.
Curtis took the time to share her advice on how to build a successful career in tech and other fields based on her own perspective working in corporate America as an African-American woman.
Two and a half years in with Bank of America, Curtis currently leads the Process Automation and Operational Excellence organization for GBAM Operations. In this role, she focuses on leveraging intelligence automation tools to streamline processes and deliver more value to Bank of America’s employees and clients.
Working in a high-level position at one of the top financial institutions in the country, Curtis believes Bank of America’s commitment to diversity and inclusion has helped to accelerate her professional growth, empowering her to bring her whole self to work every day.
When it comes to the field of tech in particular, Curtis believes having diverse technologists working in the banking industry is a huge benefit, not only for the company itself, but also for the clients and customers.
She says people who have different educational, social and cultural backgrounds bring a valuable solution to corporate issues.
“You’re providing a solution that will solve a problem,” said Curtis. “If you don’t bring in people with broad perspectives, you’re only going to be looking at that problem through one lens — which very likely is going to be narrow and not reflecting the reality of the world.”
That’s why Bank of America is committed to attracting, retaining and developing diverse talent. By bringing together broader perspectives, the company thinks it is better positioned to meet the needs of its diverse stakeholders and strengthen the value it delivers for its clients.
For the tech field in particular, Curtis considers Bank of America as one of the leaders in dynamic hiring when it comes to having an employee-base that reflects the world in which we live. She believes the company is also one of the most collaborative environments she’s worked in during her 15-year career. Despite busy schedules, Curtis says her colleagues always find time to support one another to help ensure each other’s success.
“There’s a huge focus on career mobility,” said Curtis. “You have the option to navigate through different parts of the organization and try your hand in different things without having to leave the bank.”
The managing director also considers Bank of America a perfect place for a person to break into the tech industry. The company continuously explores different avenues of innovation and also leverages the best technologies for clients.
“It [Bank of America] is a massively global organization, so from our international presence, the opportunities here are limitless,” added Curtis. “Particularly if you are a person of a diverse background, it is an organization where you will be extremely comfortable.”
When it comes to maneuvering through other career fields, Curtis also offers a few tips on how to acclimate to a new environment.
The first tip to keep in mind is making sure you have a good understanding of the culture of the organization in which you work.
“I have been in my current position for over a year, and the firm is extremely supportive,” she said. “It’s important to network and build relationships, but it’s also critically important to understand the culture of your organization.”
It’s important to know how decisions are made, how people communicate and most importantly take advantage of the resources available through your company to grow in your career.
“It just makes your acclimation so much easier, but I think it really positions you to be successful because you don’t have to figure it out by yourself – you have an organization that’s ready to help you create a plan,” Curtis said. “HR execs and online resources can point you in the right direction and connect you with people who can help with decision-making or simply help you get to know more people within the organization.”
Curtis also encourages people to step out of their comfort zone when it comes to applying for a new role. Throughout her career, she’s learned not to feel intimidated about applying for positions that aren’t necessarily aligned with past roles. She instead recognizes transferable skills. Curtis emphasizes that it’s important to open yourself to new career roles and not deny yourself an opportunity because you may lack the “typical” experience for it.
Looking at her own career to date, Curtis evaluates the requirements of a role and the skills she possesses that can be transferred and applied to that specific position. She also considers the other members of the team and their working style to determine whether she would be a good fit.
Another tip Curtis has for anyone trying to advance in their career is to not be afraid to “be in the driver’s seat” of your career. This especially applies to women.
“Own your career, ask for what you want,” Curtis said. “Take control. Sometimes we come in, and we put our heads down, and we think ‘okay, I’m going to do an awesome job — I’m going to kill it, and somebody is going to notice me.’”
Further to this, it’s critical for employees to sit down with their managers and have a candid conversation about their career goals and a plan to achieve them.
“Have a plan for what you want and be vocal about it,” said Curtis. “And ask for feedback on your performance.”
Reflecting on her 15-year career, the managing director considers Bank of America one of the most exciting environments she’s worked in because she has the opportunity to be at the forefront of change, especially coming from a diverse background and not having traditional training to work in tech.
“I’m not a born and bred technologist, but I have the necessary skills and I’ve built a strong team that is helping to influence and drive technological changes which are transforming our organization,” Curtis says. “Being at a place like Bank of America enables me to do that successfully; I can flourish in my role with the type of background that I have as a woman and as a person of color.”
Interested in connecting with Curtis? Connect with her on LinkedIn and learn more about opportunities at Bank of America here.
This article is brought to you in partnership with Bank of America.