“The last two years have been intense. I had a baby, I started business school, I moved from New York City to Pennsylvania to start a new job at Vanguard. But when I think about it, I’m really happy. This has been the best career move and the way Vanguard supports its crew members to balance work and life has been amazing.”
Hear from Amrita T. as she shares her Vanguard story.
https://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/618/2018/07/BlogFeature_Strong-Start-Kids_640x480.jpg480640manjunathhttps://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/841/2019/02/logo_vanguard_ship.svgmanjunath2019-06-19 15:52:502019-07-25 22:21:34From preschool teacher to program officer
https://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/841/2019/07/BlogFeature_Template2_640x480_Amrita2.jpg480640manjunathhttps://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/841/2019/02/logo_vanguard_ship.svgmanjunath2019-03-08 06:00:422019-09-12 13:37:13Make a choice and take a chance
https://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/841/2019/02/BlogBody_VADPCayla_640x480.jpg480640fdoerrhttps://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/841/2019/02/logo_vanguard_ship.svgfdoerr2019-02-20 16:46:512019-07-25 22:40:35I wasn’t just hired, I was welcomed
https://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/618/2018/12/DiscoveryChallenge_Feature_640x480.jpg480640fdoerrhttps://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/841/2019/02/logo_vanguard_ship.svgfdoerr2018-12-19 06:00:272018-12-18 20:20:44Vanguard crew innovate new technology through the Discovery Challenge
https://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/618/2018/11/Gemma-CareersBlog_Feature_640x480.jpg480640fdoerrhttps://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/841/2019/02/logo_vanguard_ship.svgfdoerr2018-11-29 13:32:162018-11-29 13:32:16Q&A with a Vanguard Senior Portfolio Manager
https://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/618/2018/11/CareersBlog_Feature_640x480_Sneha.jpg480640fdoerrhttps://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/841/2019/02/logo_vanguard_ship.svgfdoerr2018-11-14 14:54:042019-07-26 23:23:19What it means to be a thought leader
https://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/618/2018/11/CareersBlog_Feature_640x480_Veterans_BootsToSuits.jpg480640fdoerrhttps://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/841/2019/02/logo_vanguard_ship.svgfdoerr2018-11-11 06:00:122019-07-26 22:14:20Boots to Suits: Transitioning to the corporate world as a veteran
https://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/618/2018/10/CareersBlog_Feature_640x480_Trader_MollyC.jpg480640fdoerrhttps://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/841/2019/02/logo_vanguard_ship.svgfdoerr2018-10-19 12:40:322019-07-26 22:43:22Four Unexpected Things I Love about Working in Investment Management
https://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/618/2018/09/CareersBlog_MidlifeStart_640x480.jpg480640fdoerrhttps://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/841/2019/02/logo_vanguard_ship.svgfdoerr2018-10-01 07:00:362019-07-26 22:48:533 tips from my midlife start at Vanguard
https://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/618/2018/09/CareersBlog_Feature_640x480_WorkLife.jpg480640fdoerrhttps://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/841/2019/02/logo_vanguard_ship.svgfdoerr2018-09-26 21:21:062019-07-26 23:15:08Leading the life I want–at home and in the office
https://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/618/2018/08/CareersBlog_VTODay_640x480.jpg480640fdoerrhttps://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/841/2019/02/logo_vanguard_ship.svgfdoerr2018-08-24 06:00:102018-08-22 21:46:54What is a VTO day?
https://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/618/2018/08/CareersBlog_InternalAudit_640x480.jpg480640fdoerrhttps://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/841/2019/02/logo_vanguard_ship.svgfdoerr2018-08-17 06:00:242018-08-16 16:15:32Internal Audit: diverse work, a welcoming team, and time for my son
https://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/618/2018/08/BlogFeature_LeadershipExperience_640x480.jpg480640fdoerrhttps://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/841/2019/02/logo_vanguard_ship.svgfdoerr2018-08-08 06:00:162018-08-07 22:52:36Three experiences that paved my path to Vanguard
https://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/618/2018/06/BlogFeature_Women-invest-in-self_640x480.jpg480640fdoerrhttps://cdn-static.findly.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/841/2019/02/logo_vanguard_ship.svgfdoerr2018-07-09 06:00:572018-07-26 17:30:05Vanguard women break down investment acumen myths and perceptions
During this year’s Black History Month, Vanguard hosted a company-wide celebration, bringing crew together near and far.
The Vanguard Black Professional Network (VBPN) kicked off February with a keynote event featuring Mehrsa Baradaran, bank scholar, associate dean at the School of Law at the University of Georgia, and author of The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap.
In an effort to build connections globally, VBPN also introduced The Diaspora blog series, where crew shared personal stories that highlight the rich cultural heritage and diversity of the VBPN community.
We invite you to read the following excerpts from these #InclusionatVanguard stories that have also been shared personally on LinkedIn.
Algreen Bakasa’s Story
Today, I am heavily involved in the community both at work and outside of work, and strive to maximize every opportunity I receive by paying it forward. By helping create better opportunities for disadvantaged minority children and young adults, I hope they receive an opportunity that will change their trajectory like the one afforded me.
During this year’s Black History Month, I challenge you to take the time to really know the unique stories of those around you, learn their culture, and what makes them tick. As a global organization, Vanguard has crew from many diverse backgrounds with unique experiences and perspectives. What keeps me motivated each day is knowing that: “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Antonia Singleton’s Story
Growing up in Harlem, despite the crime and war on drugs, there were many fun, community uplifting and educational events and traditions that I loved to take part in with my family. My top three traditions were: attending the African American Day Parade in Harlem, The Million Youth March, and block parties during the summer on Saturdays. The African American Day Parade in Harlem was an opportunity for people around the world to come and celebrate black people and black culture in America just two short blocks away from where I grew up. My dad took my sister and I to the Million Youth March every year from inception until it tapered off. He wanted us to be aware of what was going on in the country with regards to the African American community and how we were treated. He wanted us to listen to and learn from the leaders in our community, as they usually shared what we could do as young black children in America to help make a difference.
Ajaa Jackson’s Story
Growing up with my grandmother, I gained a sincere appreciation for diverse cultures. She taught me at an early age there were places far away from Sierra Vista, Arizona where people lived similarly yet differently from us. My grandmother spoke on the phone—to me what seemed like all the time—with family in Ethiopia and friends across the U.S. I would listen to her speak in Tigrinya, Italian, and English, sharing boastful laughter with family and friends. She also regularly hosted friends for coffee. The delight of roasted coffee bean smoke mixed with incense frequently permeated the house—a smell I’ll never forget. She loved bright colors, both in her home and clothing, which complemented her unquenchable zest for life.
Our family got to share my grandmother’s satisfaction of achieving her dream of becoming an American citizen in 2002.
Although she is no longer in this life with us, her spirit lives on in our family. She is preceded by her siblings in Axum, Ethiopia. In February, I will be taking what I hope is my first of many trips to Ethiopia. My grandmother’s love of Ethiopia has always fueled my desire to visit, and this trip is a lifelong dream come true!
Shauna Collick’s Story
While I’m blessed to have many amazing family members, the moment I was asked to write a blog representing a piece of my history, I immediately thought of my paternal grandmother. As a youth, I vividly remember when she would take me to nursing homes and hospitals. She would always tell me to smile at the patients, look them in the eye, and that it’s okay to give them a gentle touch of affection on their hand or shoulder. Because of that experience, I started having my daughter visit local nursing homes when she was in preschool. She would hand out her art work and it would inevitably be the highlight of someone’s day.
My grandmother demonstrated that you can rise up from poverty and live a fulfilling life if you put God first, work hard, pursue education, and use political, economic, and social influence to improve your community.
When I started out on my own after college, like so many people I furnished my apartment with items passed down from family members—drinking glasses from my grandmother, dishes from my aunt, lamps from my parents, and a well-used sofa from my older brother. It was a great new adventure as I had my own place and I was now a “wise, all knowing adult.” One day some friends visited and laughed at the lamps. I knew the lamps were older, but they were still cool-looking and in good shape. But my friends were actually joking about the plastic wrap that was on the lamp shades. You know what I am talking about—that protective plastic covering that is on lamps in the store when purchased (and that remained on those lamps all those years). I was perplexed and thought, “EVERYONE has the original plastic wrap on their lamps. At least everyone from where I grew up left the plastic on. What’s wrong with these friends for thinking this was odd?” It was eye opening for me that, in fact, not everyone leaves the plastic wrap on lamp shades. Who knew?!?
I look back on this story with humor and great pride. Those covered lamp shades linked to the history of the people where I grew up in central New York State. The area had been settled by European immigrants who came to the United States to establish a better life for themselves and for their children. They worked hard to make it in the U.S. and experienced the Great Depression. Their past financial struggles gave them an appreciation for preserving and protecting their assets. Those lamp shades were a reflection of the culture and the values of my upbringing.
We all have our unique ways of doing things based on who we are and our previous experiences. Sometimes we may feel that our approach is similar to everyone else, and other times we may feel like the outsider, not fully understanding the norms of the group we are in. The opportunity for this variety of feelings is even more likely at work where we have the incredible opportunity to be around colleagues who come from various backgrounds and experiences. It’s the intertwining and interaction of all of us and all of our backgrounds that help create a diverse and inclusive environment.
For me a key element of inclusion is simply having a conversation and getting to know more about others, and being open to understanding and appreciating different approaches. I ask questions and try to get to know others and their story. I may not always fully understand or even agree, but I always walk away with a better appreciation. And, most often, I find I have more in common with other people than I could have imagined. In times I have felt like the outsider, I have always appreciated when someone took the time to welcome me, get know more about me, or seek my opinion. It was through these actions of others that I felt a greater sense of belonging and comradery.
So, the next time you run into someone with “plastic wrap on their lamp shade,” be curious. Strike up a conversation, and seek to know more about them. If you are like me, you will be amazed by what you learn.
-Ken O. (The Vanguard Group, Diversity and Inclusion, PA)
My family and friends often ask me to explain what it means to work as an investment analyst in the Investment Strategy Group at Vanguard. I answer by saying that my job is to develop thought leadership. Now, if you’re not sure what the phrase thought leadership means, you’re not alone. When I first joined Vanguard, I didn’t understand what it meant either. Essentially, within my role, thought leadership means investment research that aims to go beyond what’s already been published within the industry or showcases a differentiated opinion. This research helps Vanguard answer key topical questions: What is the value of financial advice? How should investors be thinking through decision-making in retirement? What is Vanguard’s outlook for the economy and the capital markets? Answering these questions by way of research helps Vanguard continue to educate our clients and crew—and helps further establish Vanguard as a leading investment management firm.
When I began my rotation in the Investment Strategy Group through Vanguard’s leadership development program, I felt fairly intimidated by how much I didn’t know. The group was full of subject-matter-experts who not only conducted research, but frequently acted as ambassadors, discussing and delivering our group’s research in crew trainings, client meetings, and at industry conferences. While I had a background in economics and was passionate about investing, I was unsure about being able to contribute as a new team member within such a tenured department.
What I realized was that being surrounded by such knowledgeable leaders and analysts ensured that my learning curve was essentially vertical. The culture was so collaborative and grounded in intellectual curiosity that I quickly began to build both investment and technical acumen. Throughout various projects, I was able to leverage and maximize my own unique skillset while partnering with other analysts to bring my analytical skills and systems knowledge up to par. I loved the fact that there truly were no bad questions, and everyone was eager to share their experience and knowledge, whether it was over a casual coffee or in the midst of a department-wide town hall.
The content creation process
Shortly after completing my rotation and joining the group permanently, I was aligned to the Advisor’s Alpha research team, which focuses on investor behavior and the value of financial advice. When I began working on my first whitepaper, I collaborated with members of my team and partnered with leaders and practitioners in Vanguard’s client-facing divisions. Our goals were to create differentiated content that would shape the industry conversation and to outline best practices that would give institutional clients the best chance of achieving their mission (i.e. charity, education, retirement).
Creating thought leadership, no matter the topic, often happens in phases. We started off by doing deep dive research, poring through academic studies, industry intelligence, and previously published whitepapers. I really enjoyed the “get smart” phase because it allowed me to get a feel for the broader conversation happening in the industry around institutional advice. Then, we began outlining our approach, performing analysis, and drafting the paper. The writing phase was challenging but rewarding as we iterated through a number of versions and honed in on our structure, language, and visualization. Though it was a long journey, the skills I gained by working through the research process were invaluable.
A foundational skill set
My favorite aspect of working as an investment analyst in this group is that it’s given me broad exposure to numerous investment disciplines across the globe. While I work in Vanguard’s Scottsdale, Arizona office, the Investment Strategy Group is spread across our headquarters in Pennsylvania as well as a number of international offices, allowing us to conduct thought leadership on a global scale. By avidly reading and organically learning from experts in the department, I’ve built a base of knowledge across all of our research specialties including portfolio construction, retirement, and the economy and markets.
In addition to that wide-ranging foundation, I’ve delved deeply into my own research specialty. I realized that a challenging first step to being a thought leader and influencing industry conversation is being well-versed in what’s already been said. By leaning on my team’s experience and conducting research alongside our business partners, I’ve educated myself on the existing dialogue around investor behavior and the value of advice. In the future, I aspire to continue contributing to this dialogue as a developing thought leader (and proudly explaining my job to my friends and family when they ask!)
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Boots to Suits: Transitioning to the corporate world as a veteran
Recently, I was invited to be on a panel at Vanguard that focused on the experience of female veterans transitioning into the corporate world. Why did I receive this invitation, you ask? Because I’m a proud veteran of the United States Air Force, having served from 1990-1999. I left the USAF after serving in a variety of roles stateside as well as in the Middle East and Japan, and I consider those years to be my most formative as a professional.
What struck me about my fellow panelists at that event was that our respective transition experiences varied greatly. After I separated from service, I spent a short period of time as a stay-at-home parent before taking on part-time roles as an instructor of economics and later as a financial advisor. In 2011 I finally transitioned back into the workforce full-time at Vanguard. In contrast, one of the other women on the panel served as a reservist and the third went directly into the corporate world after leaving the military. Although how we all got to this company differed greatly, being a part of that event reminded me of why I feel so energized and happy to work at Vanguard.
At Vanguard, as in the military, leaders are expected to prioritize their people. I learned very early on that if you take care of your people, they will take care of you. Vanguard does an exceptional job of prioritizing and committing resources to crew development—and the results of that focus are crystal clear to me each and every day. We push crew to embrace and take advantage of training, some of which is mandatory and a lot of which is voluntary and available on-demand. As a leader at Vanguard, I spend an enormous amount of time coaching crew, in one-on-one sessions with my direct reports, and meeting with crew in my line. Everyone has their own passions and career aspirations, but I have always believed that my first priority as a leader was to figure out how to best support each and every one of the people who report to me on a daily basis. When our crew feel supported and valued, they in turn dedicate themselves to providing our clients with a world-class experience.
As an Air Force officer, I came to deeply appreciate the importance of having a clear and unified mission. Vanguard stands out within the financial services industry not because we have a mission (lots of financial services companies have one), but because the mission at Vanguard is simple, clear, and applicable to each and every one of us. If you want to get a team to make progress towards a goal, every member has to know precisely where you’re going. Ideally, they also understand why you’re going there. How you get there can be different across the organization, but the final destination must be a clearly defined point on a map, whether literally or figuratively. I love working at this company because I know precisely where we’re going in the very confusing world of investments and what we are all collectively trying to do.
A final similarity I’ll share between the military and Vanguard is that in both cases the people doing the job feel a strong sense of responsibility to those they are serving. Every day I overhear our crew working through very challenging client situations; without fail, what strikes me is the deep sense of ownership and accountability exhibited by those I work with. The best comes out of people when they are taking care of other people. At Vanguard, we take care of our clients, and we never stop trying.
On Veterans Day this year, I am grateful for the years I served and for those with whom I served. I am also extremely grateful for the chance to work at this company, because I can honestly say that I usually leave work feeling like I made a difference. More than anything, I’m grateful to spend my days, my energy, and my intellect at a place where smart, ethical people devote themselves to achieving the Vanguard mission of giving every investor the best chance for investment success.
From Airman to crew member: Presenting the best of myself
I began my working career as an Airman in the US Air Force. After serving 8 years, I recognized the strength of the core values I gained: Honesty, Integrity, and Service before Self. Those values, coupled with the foundation set during my childhood, created the woman I am today and help to drive every decision I make.
In 2003, I separated from the Air Force after determining that one of my goals of becoming an officer could not be realized due to a prerequisite change in the application process. Feeling a bit lost and unclear of the path ahead, I began the search for the next chapter of my career journey. I relocated to Charlotte, NC and was introduced to Vanguard. Shortly after, I was extended the opportunity to join the company–officially transitioning from Airman to crew member.
Joining a company with a variety of growth opportunities was an important factor for me. Fortunately at Vanguard, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally in countless ways throughout the duration of my career. Often times it has been through a job assignment which required an expanded set of skills. However, I’ve also grown by being in tune with my abilities and knowing when I needed to enhance a competency. One of those competency’s I knew I wanted to gain more knowledge on—and be more effective at—was communication.
I always knew how critical it was to be an effective communicator, but also knew I wanted to become stronger in this area. To that end, last year I signed up for our internal Toastmasters club. While I was reluctant, I knew that only positive results could arise from the experience. Since becoming a member, I’ve become more comfortable with speaking in public settings, more confident in presenting ideas, more assured to share input. For example, I’ve agreed to take on key roles in events such as moderating a Fireside Chat (or Meeting with the North Carolina Leadership team and) with our Chief Human Resources Officer at Vanguard, and on a more personal front I recently served as the master of ceremonies and also a presenter during a women’s conference at church.
To shift gears to written communication, a few years ago I sought out a class on the topic of business communication. While I walked away with many tips, I regularly leverage a couple best practices for communication via email specifically.
Balance when to leverage email vs phone. For example: if the email will take more than three exchanges, make a phone call.
Keep information succinct to capture the reader’s attention. For example: if the reader has to scroll down the email to obtain all of the written content, chances are: the email is not succinct enough. Make it a goal to ‘eliminate the scroll’.
There are situations when a more thorough communication is relevant (perhaps in written form and/or planning for a presentation). In those instances, it’s important to find the right mix of information to share and I like to use the “5 W’s + How” as my template:
Who is my audience
What does my audience need to know
When is the decision needed, the change occurring etc.
Where is the impact if applicable
Why is the change or recommendation needed and
How will the plan be implemented
These steps have helped me to keep messaging as concise as possible while sharing what the audience really needs to know.
In closing, I share my complete gratitude to be part of an organization who truly cares about our Clients, our Crew, and our Communities. I feel honored that Vanguard cares enough about our crew to support and encourage continued development. I was proud to serve our country and I’m equally proud to serve our shareholders.
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Vanguard Women Break Down Investment Acumen Myths And Perceptions In this blog, we recap an event hosted by Vanguard’s crew resource group Women’s Initiative for Leadership Success (WILS) where they had a panel discussion with three female senior leaders in Investment Management to help breakdown investment acumen myths and misconceptions.
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Creating a diverse and inclusive environment was once a passion of mine. Now it’s a burning fire. Having worked on many different teams, in different industries, and in different continents during my professional career, I have witnessed the incredible results that can be achieved by teams who embrace the unique perspectives and experiences of each team member. And I’ve often been asked to share my experience and what I have learnt about inclusion along the way.
When it comes to building an inclusive team, we all have a part to play. Whether you’re new to the team, welcoming someone else who’s new, or simply striving to create a more inclusive environment within your current team, I hope sharing my insights may make it a bit easier.
If I’m changing locations or teams, I take some time to assimilate to my new environment. It’s helpful to observe local customs and team practices—things that seem as simple as personal greetings, fashion choices, or meeting “norms” may be quite different from one situation to the next. For a change as big as moving to a new city or country, I also make sure to learn about local sports, cuisines, hobbies, and events; and I look to my new team to help me get up to speed.
When I was put in charge of Vanguard UK/Europe in 2015, I chose a local football team (soccer in the U.S.) to get passionate about. I put time into picking a team that matched my personal values, and then I wove the team’s results, history, and culture into the local story when talking about Vanguard’s strategy for building a growing business. It was a fun way to connect with my new colleagues, helping them understand both my character and the vision for the business.
I gave the example of using a sports team to communicate with my colleagues, but that metaphor may not resonate with everyone. Knowing that, I also try to connect with each of them on an individual level. I treat every meeting and person I interact with as the most important interaction I will have that day, irrespective of location, hierarchy, race, gender, or department. This is a personal value that drives me to ensure we all get a fair shot. By sharing our diverse experiences, we can feel safe questioning the status quo and empowering each other to be a unique part of the team.
I cannot tell you how rewarding it is to understand an individual and what makes them tick. I am always amazed at how hearing a person’s story and learning what drives them can completely change the type of relationship you have at a more personal level. When you know the hurdles that have been overcome to be where the person is today, you far better appreciate their capabilities to maximize their impact and help a team get a little better every day.
Look back to move forward
As a forward-looking person, I feel most energized envisioning what could be. But creating an inclusive environment also means understanding what came before you. I have learnt that I must consciously ask questions to understand the history of what, why, and how the team operates before seeking to influence. Taking the time to do my homework shows respect for what the team has already achieved and better allows an outsider like me to give informed input as we look to the future.
When I first worked in the U.S. with Vanguard in 2008, I was struck by how many times I wanted to comment (and critique) what our key intermediary clients were doing compared to what I had seen be successful elsewhere. I realized that instead, I needed to ask why. There was so much context and history worth absorbing to help frame my contribution to the conversation. Today I am super conscious of a new member to a group, asking questions to better understand their background while sharing team history to help them understand where we’ve come from and where we’re headed. I’ve found this exchange of information to bring the best out of the diverse experiences and personalities in the room.
Dare to be different
Perhaps the most important piece of advice I can give is to remain true to yourself. You bring valuable new ideas and experiences to the table. Share them with your team as you immerse yourself in your new environment. Although it can be intimidating to join a new team, this change is most often exactly what the group needs. Just do it at the right pace.
My most recent transition led me not only to another country, but also to an unfamiliar role. When I first started as Chief Human Resource Officer, I had big shoes to fill. I constantly asked myself what my predecessor would do in certain situations or how she would lead the team. Finally, I woke up one day and realized I’m not in the role to do it exactly the way she did. I had to remind myself that I was chosen to lead HR because of who I am, what I bring to the organization, and how I can personally deliver on Vanguard’s mission. I challenge you to adopt the same mindset.
My big thing is, fostering inclusion is ultimately about unleashing the team to achieve their best. The less each individual worries about proving their own contribution, the more a team feels empowered to step up in such a change. That is what the best leaders and high performing individuals do, they make teams better. While it may seem a harsh reality, it is not about you as an individual. It is about the team as a whole achieving great results for clients.
Creating an inclusive team environment may seem daunting—it’s a commitment I must renew each and every day. But by working and continuously improving together, we can bring out the best in everyone.
-John James, Managing Director of Global Human Resources (CHRO) at Vanguard
Celebrating “mi comunidad” during National Hispanic Heritage Month
Each year from September 15 to October 15, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month to celebrate the diverse backgrounds of American citizens of Latin American, Spanish, and South American descent. At Vanguard, we focus on attracting, retaining, developing, and engaging Hispanic/Latino crew members and celebrate the diverse cultures they represent through our crew resource group HOLA (Hispanic/Latino Organization for Leadership and Advancement). Operations Manager Evelin M. shares her experience bringing HOLA to fruition and how it has influenced her Vanguard journey:
When I started working at Vanguard in the Acceleration into Financial Professional (AFP) program eight years ago, I remember asking my manager how I could sign up to join the Hispanic crew resource group (CRG). I had interned at two other companies and expected that a company like Vanguard would already have one. I was surprised to find out that a Hispanic group did not yet formally exist. My manager connected me with another crew member who was leading an informal group in the Malvern office. A spin off group was also created for all of the people of Dominican descent who work at Vanguard. I immediately connected with other crew members who had similar backgrounds and they offered suggestions for how to acclimate to Vanguard. Before long, HOLA was born.
Once HOLA was officially launched, I was very eager to get involved with one of the committees. The group made me aware of the Spanish food restaurants in the neighborhood and non-profit organizations supporting the Hispanic community. When I meet with other HOLA members I make sure to recommend these places.
HOLA created a safe environment for me to learn and grow in my career. I was an analyst in the Fund Financial Services (FFS) department with aspirations to become a supervisor. My involvement in the committee ultimately helped me prepare to be a people leader. I applied to join the leadership development committee and got accepted. My experience within this committee helped me increase my conceptual thinking and relationship management skills. It also gave me opportunities to network outside of my department and site, which helped me build my business acumen. As I became a supervisor, it was very helpful to apply what I was learning from HOLA in my role. For example, I needed to apply my ability to think strategically (and globally) on an ambiguous project where my team worked closely with our Scottsdale office.
My involvement in HOLA has given me more confidence to challenge myself and aspire to do more. My HOLA network helped me prepare as I transitioned from the Finance division to the International division. My interests began to shift toward helping with attraction so I became an HOLA Ambassador after 2 years in the leadership development committee. It is really beneficial to have the opportunity to change my involvement within the CRG. After I graduated with my MBA and had more availability, I wanted to be more involved. Next, I joined the Attraction committee to serve as a relationship manager with organizations that Vanguard partners with, such as ALPFA and Prospanica. Having the opportunity to network with these organizations and meet college students and professionals who may be interested in working at Vanguard has been an exciting and rewarding experience.
Looking back at my involvement with HOLA, I am very happy with what I have gained. HOLA has provided a platform for me to give to others and receive. There were multiple HOLA leaders who conducted career coaching sessions with me, fostered my development and inspired me. I also pay it forward and help other HOLA members in their professional development. I feel much more comfortable bringing my authentic self to work and also speaking in Spanish. My HOLA experience is even more applicable now that I am in a department supporting the Latin America and Caribbean region. The support from the HOLA CRG really helped me as I transitioned from multiple roles and responsibilities in my Vanguard tenure. I highly recommend everyone get involved in at least one CRG to foster their professional development—and to find their own “comunidad.”
In this blog, we recap an event hosted by Vanguard’s crew resource group Women’s Initiative for Leadership Success (WILS) where they had a panel discussion with three female senior leaders in Investment Management to help breakdown investment acumen myths and misconceptions.
My mom loves to tell anyone who will listen, that from the moment I could crawl, I was running toward something. I was a head strong child, full of energy, always ready to tackle a new adventure. What I couldn’t have known then was that this enthusiastic approach to life would prepare me for what was to come.
While working for a large bank, ready to take on a new phase of my career, a friend of mine encouraged me to check out this place called Vanguard. Boy, am I glad she did! You see, my interview was scheduled when my daughter was just six weeks old. I was told I’d need to come in to the Scottsdale office, and should prepare to spend 4-5 hours on site. Like most moms away from her child for the first time, I sobbed in the car. Doing my best “superman pose” to build confidence, I wiped my running mascara and walked into the building.
I broke all of the rules in that interview. I talked about my daughter. I was candid about why I was pursuing a new career with a new company. There was no posturing or positioning. They got to see the real me. Knowing this was not a “best practice” approach, I was very confident walking out that there was no way they’d hire me. Two days later, I was offered the job! I was thrilled, and singularly focused on launching a career at a company I believed in, never considering what was about to happen next.
Dylan was just a baby when I began my career at Vanguard. She became the light of my life, and taught me what unconditional love can be. She is quite possibly the most charismatic (and strong willed) person I’ve ever met. She is filled with a love for life and adventure. She is also quick to tell you when she wants something, especially when you aren’t delivering. She has an incredible desire to be heard, and always has a story to tell. But as she missed milestone after milestone, I learned what it meant to be a mama bear and a fierce advocate. We were at the end of our rope searching for answers. Dylan had been suffering from seizures, aggressive behaviors, and was severely behind developmentally. After years of searching, we finally found a doctor who agreed that there was a problem and the new chapter in our lives began. We had finally gotten our answer – Neurodegeneration with Brain Iron Accumulation – or NBIA, a life threatening degenerative disease with no treatment or cure.
My priorities shifted again as I balanced what had become a highly demanding career with my role as a mother, an advocate, and a partner to my husband. As the feeling of hopelessness began, I had to push it aside. I became the Chair of the NBIA Disorders Association, where I combined the talents and skills I’d learned as a Vanguard professional along with my uncontrollable desire to help my daughter, and put them to work so that I could make a difference for Dylan and all those affected by an NBIA disorder. I was so focused on my daughter and maintaining my professional momentum that I was distracted from what was going on with my own health. Something was very, very wrong.
Change is rarely easy, but I knew now was the time to take the leap into a formal leadership role and also prioritize taking care of my health. While it was a very difficult decision to step away from the Relationship Manager role I loved, I knew the demanding travel schedule was putting a strain on my family and on my body. I’d been supported in such incredible ways during my journey, and knew my path would one day lead me into leadership. I applied for, and was offered, the role of leading a team of high-net-worth Sales Consultants in our Retail division.
As I prepared to transition into my new role, I took some time off for the holidays. Each year we visit my dad where he lives on a mountain and enjoy a beautiful white Christmas. I had suffered from increasingly challenging elevation sickness (or so I thought), which had become progressively worse each year. This time it was so bad, I could not stop from passing out over and over again. Worried, my husband packed us up and got us off the mountain and I immediately began to feel normal (or as normal as I can be). Although feeling better, a persistent cough kept me from sleeping. I went to an urgent care doctor, who thankfully paused to ask questions, learned about my extensive travel habits, and ordered an x-ray. Although he thought it was likely pneumonia, he directed me to the ER to rule out a pulmonary embolism.
Five days later, I went home with a diagnosis that scared the hell out of me (what are the odds that both Dylan and I have rare diseases?) – lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), an extremely rare lung disease that affects approximately 3,000 women around the world. This disease causes my lungs to be riddled with “innumerable” cysts which obstruct my airways and make it impossible to breathe normally. I was told I would need supplemental oxygen 24/7. I was told I wouldn’t be able to travel by plane. I was told that a double lung transplant was inevitable, and soon. I was overwhelmed.
My world had just shifted. What was I going to do? I’d just accepted this new job. Would they even want me now? Terrified, I called my new leader to share the news. I braced myself for his reaction and disappointment. It didn’t come. What I thought would be an awkward discussion, wasn’t. He quickly subsided my worries. He barely knew me, yet reassured me that he hired me for a reason, and that reason hadn’t changed. He showed me that he genuinely cared about my wellbeing, both in his words and his actions, even after I had to tell him that coming back to work wouldn’t be easy. I’d now be on oxygen 24/7, would be taking drugs that would make my immune system obsolete, I’d have countless hours of tests and appointments, and I might need a transplant that could take me out of work for months or more. My new leader didn’t flinch. He said “Ok. We’ll get through this together. Focus on you. I’ll focus on getting you back to work,” and he did. That day my new leader embodied what it means to be a leader at my company, Vanguard. This approach to leadership isn’t formed by rules, policy, or procedure. It is formed by culture–a culture of authentic caring for others, demonstrated with both words and actions.
Then the reality set in for me. I was going back to work, in a new department, and I’d be wearing oxygen…on my face. Nowhere to hide. I was terrified! How many times was I going to have to tell the story? I’d barely begun getting comfortable with the idea myself, let alone trying to comfort those around me. I’d begun experiencing the stares when my family was out. Would these new colleagues stare or judge me, thinking I had done this to myself somehow? Would they think I was contagious and avoid me?
Just as I began to question if I’d made a terrible mistake, I received a call from my local senior leader. She let me know she had planned a New Year’s celebration in her home for the leaders in our group and asked if I would join. My first reaction? Not a chance. I told her I was afraid of people’s reactions. Instead of minimizing my concerns, she empathized. Caring as always, she asked how she could make it comfortable for me. So I went, and guess what? Everyone was wonderful. This party was exactly what I needed. These people got to see my new reality for the first time in a social, and very safe, setting. The result? When I returned to work, it was old news. They’d already asked their questions, and I was quickly getting comfortable in sharing my story. We had moved on and the tube on my face was old news. Amazing. What I learned here was twofold: how important the role as a leader can be for people, and that when you have the courage to open up about what you need, people willingly and enthusiastically offer their help.
It’s been over a year since my diagnosis. I’ve begun to truly accept my new reality and have found my rhythm. I still require oxygen 24/7, and am working to find solutions that keep my oxygen levels high enough to continue doing the activities I had once taken for granted. While I could spend hours fixating on the countless activities I can no longer do, or worrying about what I may become exposed to that will put me in the hospital, I re-center myself and focus on being present in the moment and find joy in the things I CAN do. The joy of being a mom, the joy of being a wife, and the joy of working for a company and leading a team that I love.
Dylan is still my sweet, charismatic little girl, trying desperately to be understood and fight her own disease. I am still the mama bear fiercely advocating for her every need, and learning to advocate for my own. I’m in a role and part of a business that is thriving. I have a stellar medical team, and am afforded the opportunity to speak at conferences with my doctor, raising awareness for all rare disease patients. Transplant isn’t something we expect next week or next month, or next year. My circle of friends, while much smaller, is stronger than ever. I’m home every night to cuddle with my daughter before bed. For now, I am grateful for every moment and I’m grateful for all of the people who have been there and offered support, encouragement, and sometimes a swift kick in the behind. When the tough days happen, and they do happen, I repeat my mantra, “Keep on keepin’ on.” I put a brave face on for the world.
My advice to others facing their own battle? Be candid about what you need. Work for a company that values you and where you can be part of a community that will support you along your own journey. Remember that you have the power to find joy in even the worst situations. Finally, take a breath, put one foot in front of the other, and “Keep on keepin’ on.”