Embracing Opportunities: How One Woman Took Risks and Realized Her Potential
Keita is Program Manager for the Advancing Black Leaders strategy. She joined the firm in 2015 through the ReEntry Program. We spoke with her last year about what it was like to return to work after an 11-year break. She recently took yet another big leap to a role that is completely new to her. Jennifer Lavoie, our company news anchor, recently caught up with her to discuss her journey.
Last year, we spoke with you about what it was like to return to work following an 11-year hiatus. Since then, you’ve changed roles to a field that is quite different from your legal background. Now you are Program Manager for the firm’s Advancing Black Leaders Strategy. What was it like to make that change?
To be totally honest, at first I was a little anxious. I jumped from being an attorney—a known comfort zone—to Human Resources, an unfamiliar and new space for me. I inevitably questioned whether I would be successful. Could I be a valuable contributor? Will there be a steep learning curve? And even, will I fit in? While these questions permeated, I also knew that this was a terrific opportunity to work in an area that I am deeply passionate about. By the time I accepted the role, I was excited, grateful and eager to take on the next phase of my career.
You were happy in your last role and not “in the market” for a new one. How did you decide to take this on?
I have always been passionate about diversity and believed it is critical in a strong workforce. Even when I was in the legal department, I sought ways to participate in activities that I cared about, including diversity. I was an active member of the Legal Diversity Committee and involved with several diversity initiatives. I heard about this opening through a casual conversation with one of my mentors and was immediately drawn to learn more. What initially began as my mentor simply asking if I knew anyone who might be a good fit quickly developed into a serious interest in a position that I thought would be perfect for me. With my analytical background, my drive and passion for diversity, and my constant desire to learn, I took the leap from a job and team that I knew and loved to experience new challenges and make a difference.
Is there a “secret” to career mobility?
I am not sure there is a “secret” roadmap to career mobility, but I think there are certain factors that can be helpful:
- Build your network. While changing jobs, whether it’s within the same company or changing companies, seek to receive advice and assistance from someone you know (i.e: alerting you to opportunities, providing recommendations on your behalf, advising on the process, and providing exposure to key stakeholders).
- Be open and willing to try something new or different. It can feel daunting to move out of your comfort zone. But listen for opportunities that play to your interests and strengths. You just never know!
- Have your story ready. Be prepared to demonstrate your success and why you’re the right candidate for the job. In such a large company like JPMorgan Chase, there are vast opportunities for mobility – up and across the company. Mobility helps you develop new skills and a greater knowledge base that can only enhance your career trajectory.
In addition to being a program manager at JPMorgan Chase, you’re a wife and mom to three children. How do you balance work and life?
It is not easy, but I try to balance work and home life the best I can. It is a lot of juggling, honing my time management skills and understanding you can “have it all” but not necessarily at the same time. Sometimes the scale is weighted towards work, sometimes the scale is weighted towards home and sometimes you have that true balance.
When I reentered the workforce I immediately accepted that I could not make every game or field trip, but would attend the ones that truly meant the most to my kids. My husband and I try to make big meals on the weekends so the pressure of “what we are cooking tonight” is eliminated. I look at life as a journey and a constant pursuit to find that perpetual balance. However, when I do start to feel that my life is unbalanced (and it is not very often), I take a deep breath and remind myself this is a temporary state and I reflect on my blessings – to have a wonderful supportive family and work for a company that I love.
Who do you go to for advice? Do you have mentors at the company?
What type of advice I am seeking determines who I reach out to in my network. You NEED a network and connecting with those in your network can be critical at different points in your career. My own network consists of family, friends (in and outside of work), mentors, sponsors and advocates. I do have mentors at the firm. These relationships grew organically out of casual introductions, common interests, involvement in business groups and from working together. My mentors have been an invaluable resource in helping me move through the firm.