I’m an SVP at a Fortune Top 50 Company And Empathy Is What Got Me Here — Here’s Why

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I’m an SVP at a Fortune Top 50 Company And Empathy Is What Got Me Here — Here’s Why

Photo courtesy of Bank of America


Naquina (Nikki) Diaz-Loachamin knows that to grow a successful career, you don’t need to job hop. You just need to find a company that recognizes you for your humanity and invests in you accordingly. And that’s exactly what she says she’s found at Bank of America.

“There is a reason I’ve been here for 15 years and hope to be here for 15 more,” Nikki, who serves as the bank’s Senior Vice President, Small Business Banker Manager for Orlando, told us. “Our culture of inclusiveness is powered by our people, who have the ability to bring their authentic self to work every single day. Like the people we serve, we come from every walk of life.”

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That’s no small benefit for someone like Nikki, whose belief in fostering inclusivity and building community is evident both in and outside of the workplace. While on the job, she defines “listening to my team, their needs and their experiences” as the cornerstone of her leadership style. And outside of work, she’s known to literally welcome strangers to her family’s table for her annual “misfits” Thanksgiving dinner, a tradition she started after leaving home at 16. 

This open-door attitude (literally and metaphorically) is evident, too, in her work as a mentor, both to other female colleagues and to the high school-aged girls she advises. For Nikki, it’s all about community — and that’s precisely why she feels so at-home at Bank of America. 

Recently, she shared with us her approach to building a meaningful career, no matter what your line of work is in, as well as the top three qualities she looks for in candidates. (Empathy, unsurprisingly, made the cut.)

How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously? 

I’ve been with Bank of America for 15 years. I have been in my current role for over four years. I began my career here as an Executive Admin for our Business Capital segment, I had left an IT job at a Venture Capital Firm for a chance to work with people.  I worked with an amazing Bank of America executive and learned so much from her.  I knew that by changing careers, I would be starting my career over.  

Thankfully I would find myself surrounded by leaders, mentors, advocates and an award winning development program, which would make that path to leadership possible.  

From there taking on special projects — steps forward, back and sideways — I  followed a path that took my family and I from New York to Florida where I eventually became a Small Business Banker. Being in this leadership role has made me realize that my joy solely isn’t my own success but in seeing the success of my teammates, and the fact that I helped them.  Simply put it’s where I found that leadership spark in me. 

Describe what you do in one sentence. 

I am directly responsible for leading, coaching and developing strategies to enable my team of 15 Small Business Bankers to assist their clients in meeting their business priorities and delivering a consistent level of top performance. 

What’s the first (and/or last) thing you do at work every day? 

Take a long, deep breath: to center myself for the day ahead and from the day I had. 

How do you prioritize and deal with your to-do list each day?

This is a great question. Especially when I think of my “to-do list” and that balance we all crave. Work-life balance can seem, at best, elusive and, at worst, a complete myth. I usually say I’m better at work-life integration. I leverage my calendar for everything work and life. I make (where possible) deliberate choices about which items I need to focus on and which I can delegate or decline. It is by no means a perfect process, and there are moments I cannot totally avoid having to be reactive, especially as of late, with my children back at school (virtually). However, I find practicing this daily allows me to engage meaningfully with work, family and the community I serve.

How would you describe your leadership style?  

Ask my team (I did) and they will tell you that I have a combination of styles, and that is so very true. I am without a doubt a mix of a few (participative, inspirational), but overall my leadership style is situational. I believe that the professional and personal fulfillment of my team will result in a higher quality of work. I also feel it’s important to engage my team in the decision-making process and strategy building – they know we are truly in this together. Most of all, listening to my team, their needs and their experiences helps me to be a better coach and leader. 

What’s one thing you think young job seekers should know about your company? What about those who are in a more advanced career stage? 

I don’t think I have ever been more proud to work for a company. There is a reason I’ve been here for 15 years and hope to be here for 15 more. I believe no matter the career stage, you will find that Bank of America is indeed a great place to work. The company is committed to its purpose of empowering its teammates, its clients and the community we serve – through education, support and opportunity. Our culture of inclusiveness is powered by our people, who have the ability to bring their authentic self to work every single day. Like the people we serve, we come from every walk of life. We are proud of our inclusive culture, because when you create a workplace where all employees can thrive, everyone benefits. Our culture is also one of shared success. Leadership invests and commits to really developing you, so you can learn, plan for and reach your career goals. We are also committed to supporting the financial, emotional and physical wellbeing of our employees and their families. 

How have you used your role to help bring up other women behind you? Do you build time into your schedule for this kind of work? 

ABSOLUTELY! This is a passion of mine. If it wasn't for the empowered women (educators, mentors and advocates) I have met throughout my life that took an interest in and nurtured my ambition, I would not be in the position I am in today. Everyone deserves that opportunity, and if they are willing to put in the effort to make it happen, it’s my obligation to ensure I do what I can to lift them along the way.  

I am an active mentor, both within our company across several lines of business and externally, as I mentor high school girls. I am also on the board of several Employee Networks which gives me the opportunity to leverage that platform to build out a career development workshop track that is open to all teammates. It helps them navigate their professional growth path with individual development planning, networking, resume building, executive presence training and interviewing techniques. This gives them access to not just the tools available, but also the leadership they need to be in contact with to get them to their next step. 

This being a passion of mine, building time for it is a joy. I find ways to integrate my personal life with work and am fortunate to work with a team who shares in my passion and help make these efforts not just a reality, but a success as well. 

What’s something you’re really good at related to your work?

I asked around to get the perspective from some teammates and leaders I work with. They all felt I had a really good ability to motivate those around me. I tend to agree with this. You heard me mention my leadership style as situational. Being a situational leader allows me to take stock of those around me, weigh the many variables in the environment and choose the style that best fits their goals and circumstances.

I believe I am especially good at creating connections. I genuinely care about people and their experiences. I want to listen and let you know that I hear you and see you. Being able to make that connection, no matter the situation, has been key to my own career growth.  

What about outside of work? 

Cooking/baking. I’ve been cooking for my family since I was 7 ½ years old. Feeding people brings me joy and de-stresses me. Every year since I left home at 16, I have held a “misfits” Thanksgiving — it is my FAVORITE holiday. If you don’t have a place to go, you come to my home. My door is open, the food is great and the company is always good.   This year will look different, but the misfits will still come together, this time virtually.  While the group will be smaller and we will not get to be in person, some traditions are too important to pass on.  So this year we will tweak it, still get to share food (by way of yummy “care packages”) and via zoom be able to go around the “table” and share what we are most thankful for! 

What are you trying to improve on? 

Taking better care of myself. Making myself a priority. As a leader, a wife and a mother, I find that I take care of everyone else’s needs before my own. I know I am not alone in this. So, everyday I try to do at least one thing just for me and remind myself that annual checkups aren’t just for my family and that my mental health is just as important.  Even if it’s just taking a daily walk with my son, we connect and it makes my day all that much better. 

What are the top three qualities you look for when you’re interviewing a candidate? 

  1. Hunger – a drive to want to be successful in whatever they do.

  2. Ability to listen and take coaching.

  3. Empathy.

Why do you think your company is a particularly supportive work environment for women?

We invest in helping women make meaningful contributions within our company and in our communities.

More than 50% of our global workforce is women, and our support of women is evident in the resources we have focused on bringing female talent to our company, developing and retaining our employees and supporting the economic empowerment of women around the world.


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