Future Leader Spotlight: Jean Martinez Vera, 2020 MBA Candidate, "A Summer Internship at BOA"

I remember sitting in a department meeting with the CFO at my previous company and hearing him pitch how new initiatives were going to improve the experience for our clients and the health of the company. When he spoke, the content was around facts and figures like the cost of each incoming customer support call or how he was calculating EBITDA, but the tone was very relatable and friendly. No one doubted his credibility and yet I think it was also his demeanor which won people over. With each explanation he gave, I could see that my colleagues in the room were bought in, they were committed. At that moment, I thought, I want to be him. I want those skills, those abilities to lead, to make prudent business decisions and to know why and how to make them.

At that point in my career, I had held multiple positions, the result of promotions brought about from delivering results with grit in the face of challenges at a fast-paced tech start-up. If there was a fire, I ran towards it. If something was broken, I worked tirelessly to fix it. I pushed myself. I’m goal oriented by nature, determined to achieve, to not let obstacles beat me. But I also felt I had something to prove as I didn’t come from a business background, I had never even taken a business course.

I was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, one of six kids to immigrant parents. I come from a long line of farmers and ranchers turned engineers. My upbringing was humble but full of warmth and encouragement, especially around the importance of a good education and travel, to become the person I wanted to be. Coming from a Latino culture some may consider this quite progressive, a break from the traditional gender roles of the past. Only two generations ago, my grandmother was a teenage bride. To put it in perspective, I was the first woman in my extended family to earn a college degree. I’ve since accomplished several other “firsts” in my family.

At a young age, I learned that not everyone is afforded the same opportunities in life, regardless of ability or skill. This may be why I was a quintessential good student; I saw education as the great equalizer. I got As, did honors classes, was a club leader and dabbled in public speaking and fundraising.

I graduated with two degrees from Arizona State University (ASU). A Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Linguistics. To put my courses into practice, I spent a semester abroad in Castilian-lectured classes at the University of Seville in Spain and another semester working at the Arizona House of Representatives as a research intern.

Fast forward five years and I was employed at Zenefits as a Risk Manager for payments. I was very grateful to have the opportunity to wear many hats, serve in such varied roles, and work with intelligent, hardworking peers. I had also survived layoffs, operations missteps and served under three CEOs. I was happy but tired. And then, things started to get better. To this day, I believe it was a result of the knowledgeable leadership brought on towards the end of my tenure, leadership like my role model CFO. I knew I could stay at my previous employer to gradually learn the skills of our fearless execs or that I could take a risk by going to business school and accelerate that education.

Wanting an immersive experience, I decided to pursue a full-time MBA. In August 2018, I became a “Double Devil” when I pivoted into the world of quant by returning to ASU once again. This time I am pursuing an MBA with concentrations in finance and business analytics to provide me with a foundational knowledge of the topics I previously felt I was lacking.

In addition to searching for a sense of personal fulfilment and accomplishment, as a child of immigrants, I feel a sense of responsibility to be successful. The first American-born children are so often seen as pioneers, setting the expectations and possibilities for those who follow. If people say that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, then I’m going to make that chain stronger. Through leading by example, I hope to inspire and encourage my family and community to step out of their comfort zone, to create dreams for themselves and then go after them.

As a professional stretch goal, I wanted exposure in a large corporate environment. I’ve only ever worked at start-ups or locally owned businesses. Therefore, considering my goals and values, it makes sense that I decided to spend my summer at Bank of America as a Consumer MBA summer associate in Charlotte, North Carolina.

As an intern, I have two main goals. One, I want to put into practice some of my new skills gained during the first year of business school. Two, I hope to learn how a firm with over 209,000 employees and eight lines of business continues to be a leader in their space. Consider the balance between successfully meeting the regulatory guidelines and legal responsibilities of banking with delivering value to the millions of customers who expect real-time solutions to their needs. These are the intricacies that attract me, what technology is utilized, how does culture help, how is the organizational structure set up to help the firm and its employees succeed?

During my time here, I’ve come to learn that the company is so much more than a bank. They have positioned themselves as a technology firm that’s really good at banking and the numbers are there to prove it. The 2019 Q2 Earnings report was the best in the company’s 115-year history, they routinely win awards for their digital banking capabilities and they have a strong culture of fostering innovation balanced with responsible growth.

The bank promotes a culture of networking during which you can connect with colleagues working in different parts of the business on really interesting projects. As a result of these coffee chats, I plan to learn the skills necessary to work in similar capacities. For example, I’ve met multiple peers who are working with machine learning. So I added a course to my fall schedule, which features a python workshop to get me started on that path. My internship reinforced my belief that turning big data into meaningful insights to tell a story will be key to my career growth.

On the topic of internships in general, an internship would have to be intellectually challenging, provide meaningful work, provide opportunities for personal and professional growth, culture fit, and provide a sense of community to be ideal. All these elements are important, but some stand out as being the most important to my career satisfaction: meaningful work, opportunities for personal and professional growth, and culture fit. I come to grow, stay for the people and keep pushing for the work.

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