How to Mentor Other Women in the Workplace — Advice from a Bank of America Leader

Sponsored by Bank of America

Jessica Kannya

Image Courtesy of Bank of America.

Fairygodboss
Fairygodboss
May 22, 2024 at 4:53AM UTC

Jessica Kannya has been with Bank of America for two decades. So what’s kept her there for all these years? “The sales teams that I support connect clients to lending solutions that can enable their dreams of home ownership,” she says. “This is the core reason I fell in love with Bank of America. As someone that didn’t grow up in a house where we discussed financial acumen, I was inspired at how the company educates and connects clients to financial solutions.”

Kannya recently shared with Fairygodboss what she does in her current role, how she acts as a mentor to other women in the workplace, and her best advice for other women who want to work for the company.

Tell us a bit about your job. What has been your career path?

I am the National Sales Support and Optimization Executive for Consumer Lending. My team provides business support to the sales teams including activities like driving recognition programs and communication strategies. We are also accountable to drive efficiency and optimization across the sales teams.

I spent most of my career in compliance and operational risk roles, then took a jump into business support to diversify my experience. Business support led to a process design and enablement executive role and then to the role I am in now.

What’s your favorite thing about your job and Bank of America?

I love that Bank of America encourages me to have an impact on my community through volunteerism, employee resource groups and the role I play with the company’s Hispanic-Latino Executive Council (HLEC). The HLEC brings Hispanic-Latino leaders together to engage and network with each other; invest in and grow our employee base; and influence and help execute business strategies to serve the Hispanic-Latino community.

How long have you served as a mentor?

I was mentoring and sponsoring before I knew to label it. When I started with the company 20 years ago, I thought that by putting my head down and working hard I would be successful. As I progressed through my career and had mentors and sponsors that taught and advocated for me, I became passionate about sharing the knowledge and best practices that I wish I would have known. 

Does the Bank of America have a formal program in place for mentor/sponsorship?

I am a mentor and sponsor in formal company programs, but I most enjoy when these relationships occur organically. I generally start with what I call a virtual coffee. We meet to get to know each other which helps to evaluate professional chemistry and mutual objectives. I have found that quality mentor relationships often turn into sponsorship relationships.

Earlier in your career, did you have a mentor?

I am the daughter of immigrants, my parents taught me to work hard and to be resilient, however, they could not teach me how to navigate the corporate workforce. I have had amazing mentors and sponsors throughout my career. One mentor/sponsor relationship that stands out to me began about eight years ago when my boss retired and I was realigned to this leader. He gave me direct feedback, some was hard to hear, that allowed me to grow in a way that I had never experienced. I have found that most leaders at all levels are willing to make time to share the lessons they learned and support the development of others. 

By being a leader in your career, what are some ways that you’ve enriched the lives of those around you in the workplace?

I am committed to elevating the voices and perspectives of others. Leveraging a framework provided by Bank of America, I host monthly leadership conversations to feature the diverse perspectives of employees. I am an active mentor and sponsor with a focus on women and diverse talent. I feel fortunate that Bank of America encourages me to bring my whole self to work and to use my time to deliver business results while supporting the development of others.

The human experience seems to be really important to you. What are some ways that you champion this every day?

Consumer Lending is a fast-paced environment. Every day we are committed to delivering for our clients which means dedication and hard work are key. Each member of our team plays a critical role. The last year we delivered results all with the backdrop of a global pandemic that was only possible because of the power of our teams. Sometimes it is as simple as asking someone how they are and being genuinely interested in the real answer. Everyone I interact with knows that my children are my entire world. If I say I need to wrap up a meeting because I need to get to my kids soccer practice, I expect my partners to support me as I do with them. I take pride in knowing what is important to my partners, too. I remember their kids’ names and critical life events. I do it because I genuinely care and find enjoyment in knowing my partners.

What’s the number one thing you think women should know about working at the Bank of America?

At Bank of America, we take meaningful actions to promote an inclusive workplace for women. The company invests in and empowers women through things like development programs, and supporting our women’s employee resource group (Leadership, Education, Advocacy & Development for Women – LEAD), and through best in class benefits and programs. I am so impressed by the company’s overall commitment to diversity and inclusion.  

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