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A Year of Humility: Leading Through COVID-19 and the Fight for Racial Justice

woman smilingAngie Francis
Regional Operations Director
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Lake Park, UT

My why

I thrive on serving those around me. Whether it’s an evening call for advice from a sibling, leaving a morning note to my husband or mentoring a coworker— I get my energy from helping others be their best selves. This intrinsic motivator has served me well at Discover. We have a culture of supporting those around us, developing the next generation of leaders and doing it all the right way. These core values resonated with me early on in my career. Now, 23 years later, I get to serve our internal and external customers within our customer assistance and recovery, as the consumer lending director.

How I got here

Each year, we recognize the people who have best lived the Discover values while delivering results with the Pinnacle of Excellence Award. My first year at Discover, I didn’t fully understand what the award represented. I simply felt floored by the pure excitement of those around me and the energy in the room. In that moment, as a 30-day collector, I set a goal that I would be a recipient of that award someday.

Never too old to call home

For the next decade, I actively worked on my development. I sought feedback, implemented that feedback, reached my role’s goals and helped those around me. I didn’t work so hard purely for the Pinnacle award. Rather, I really thrived in such a collaborative environment. Almost to the day of my ten year anniversary, my leaders called me to the stage to receive my 2008 Pinnacle Award. It took all my energy not to cry from excitement and pride. Immediately leaving the stage I happily called my dad to share the achievement.

woman holding badge and smilingFraming a picture of a hotel

During the trip to accept my award, I deliberately soaked up every moment. All the events and gratitude to the winners rendered me speechless. A photo still sits in my office from my hotel room on Michigan Avenue. Anyone who sees it likely wonders why I framed a random picture of a street. But to me, that picture signifies a very important career accomplishment that I will be forever proud of.

COVID-19 changed everything

Many moments in 2020 felt heavy and overwhelming. One of them was our efforts to transition all of Lake Park to work remotely in record time. Those first two weeks were the most important, high stakes moments of my career. Normally in moments of stress I can remind myself that in my day to day, people’s lives aren’t at stake. In mid-March 2020 that narrative changed. We all worked to deploy thousands of workers safely home before a positive COVID-19 test arrived.

Career-making moments

I felt inspired watching the resiliency, commitment and compassion of my team during this time. They physically moved and transformed workstations into Work at Home Kits. They operated on new information daily for how many employees we could send and who it would be. They continued to drive results for the company and give emotional support to their teams. All the while managing their own stress, family commitments and worries of what was to come.

That’s a brief moment in my career I hope to never repeat. But I’m so thankful I was able to observe the greatness displayed in the most challenging of times.

Responsibility to do better

2020 was also a year of humble acknowledgement of so many things I didn’t know, understand, or previously invest time to educate myself on. As a child, I vividly remember watching brutal, angry and righteous Civil Rights era video clips. I hoped that if I lived during that time I would have done what was right and had the courage to stand by Black Americans who weren’t being treated fairly. A hard reality for me was recognizing that we’re in that time now and I have the responsibility to do better.

My role as a white woman in the fight for racial equity

I’ve focused on understanding the social justice work in my community and activating support within my organization to create a psychologically safe and inclusive environment. We’ve had many candid conversations with our employees and expanded our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives at Discover. My journey has involved a lot of humble listening so I can continuously deliver allyship for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) at Discover.

woman and man smiling in front of mountain

Let yourself be new

When I relocated from Phoenix to Salt Lake to assume the Collections Director position, one of my mentors advised me, “let yourself be new.” She went onto say that too often as we move into new roles we assume we’re supposed to have all the answers and execute immediately. However, those first few months are really a time to learn, seek education and get acclimated. We should be taking time to breathe because in 3 – 6 months, we do need the answers. I’ve held onto that piece of advice and passed it onto others. I wish I had learned that earlier in my career. It’s proven true for the roles I’ve accepted, for my personal growth, and in my fight for racial equity. Humble listening comes before decisive action.

 

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