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Growing Forward: Integrating My Past and Present

Weichen Gao
Data Science Manager
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Riverwoods, IL

Spring Festival Eve Traditions

Spring Festival (Lunar New Year) Eve is my favorite celebration. In preparation for the eve, my mom and I always pick out couplets, poetic lines. The morning of the Eve, my dad and I paste the red couplets on both sides of our door. When my grandma was still alive, all my relatives including uncles, aunts and cousins from across our extended family would come together to celebrate. My grandma was the core to reunite all the families from all over the country.

In those days, after we pasted the couplets, we’d join our other relatives at my grandma’s house for a heavy brunch. Then we’d all work together to prepare the reunion dinner, which was the most meaningful dinner the entire year. When sunset came, we’d light fireworks to scare away evil spirits and bring good luck.

After fireworks, we’d start our dinner with fish, shrimp, pork, beef, chicken and most importantly, dumplings. After dinner, we’d stay up late to watch the Spring Festival Gala on TV. We’d all sit around, with laughter and tears. Some people would play poker or Mahjong for fun. At 12am, we’d all wait for the New Year’s bell to ring and say “Happy New Year” to everyone. The whole night was filled with the sound of fireworks everywhere.

Embracing my identity

Embracing my intersectional identity is layered. Firstly, I believe everyone should be treated fairly in a corporate environment. Secondly, I never hide the uniqueness of my background, but I don’t highlight it in my work unless needed. Thirdly, if possible, I like to share my culture and unique knowledge with everyone who’s interested. Lastly, I fight back to defend my culture if there’s a misunderstanding or discrimination.

Community brings confidence

Being a leader in the Asian Professionals at Discover (APAD) employee resource group (ERG) has positively impacted me in many ways. I’ve learned how to organize events, be a good leader, coordinate volunteers and push myself out of my comfort zone for public speaking. I’ve had the opportunity to know, and work with, senior leaders in the company.

Apart from developing my skills, APAD has also impacted my self-understanding. After I hear from, and work with, people with similar identities as mine, I’ve noticed how I acknowledge my identity more. I feel more empowered to serve my community and share my culture with those who don’t know much about it. I feel more confident sharing the characteristics that culture shapes and help solve the misunderstandings that result from cultural differences.

Getting over past feelings

I never regret anything that’s happened in the past. I believe anything that’s happened in the past was a valuable experience for me. No matter how difficult an experience is in the moment, the sharpness of the feelings will always fade. What I learn from the past is more important than how I felt in the past. This mindset helps me at work, whether I make a mistake, go through a restructuring at work, or have to deal with a tough manager.

When it’s time for growth

The best piece of career advice I got was from one of my mentors in the APAD mentorship program. He’s at the director level. I asked him how he knows when to change roles. He told me that he usually updates his resume every 6 months. If he doesn’t have much to update, then it’s the time to move. I’ve adopted this practice as a way to check that I’m continuously learning and being challenged in my current position.

 

Interested in joining the Discover team? Explore careers with us.

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Deadlines and Fasting Don’t Mix: How I’ve Navigated Corporate America

Fahad “Freddy” Ansari
Product Owner
Pronouns: He/Him/His
Riverwoods, IL

Chapli, cricket and community

The moment that’s had the biggest influence on me was the day I met two of my best friends. They were consultants in the IT industry and held strongly to their South Asian roots. They lived in humble apartment complexes in Des Plaines, Illinois and taught me how to be an accelerated IT professional. At that time, IT was already a very competitive and fast-growing industry. I was infused with so much insight from them in such a short period of time. And better yet, during my nightly study sessions with them, I was surrounded by fresh cooked chapli kabobs and late-night cricket watch parties.

Deadlines and fasting don’t mix

For the most part, since I started working in the corporate world at a relatively young age, I allowed myself to become accustomed to its cultures and practices very easily. The only situation where I struggled to intertwine with the corporate American lifestyle was during the months of Ramadan.

Fasting was a prevalent tradition upheld by both my immediate and extended families (my favorite family tradition is preparing egg rolls and curry puffs with my mother before breaking our fasts). At work, I had to try to keep up, morning ‘til sunset, without any food or water. Because, well, deadlines were still due. Hopping from one meeting to another was still a popular marathon. But I can also remember countless times when my associates were willing to make fasting easier for me, whether it was canceling a lunch or adjusting their schedules to let me rest a bit in the day.

Staying true to my roots

To be honest, I don’t think I’ve fully embraced my intersectional identity yet. I still have so much to learn and am constantly searching for opportunities to stay true to my roots. Growing up in America, I was easily influenced by my public and collegiate schools (and of course my bffs). But only once I got married and moved into my own place, was I eager to look up the latest Indian recipe or find the right traditional attire to wear to family parties and get-togethers. Yeah, don’t tell my mother.

Sharing cultural experiences

The best decision I’ve ever made was joining Discover. I’ve had a wonderful line of managers who have enabled me to take the time I needed for my family and traditions. Also, being surrounded by others like myself at Discover has given me a chance to share similar cultural experiences and make connections that I never would have made on my own. I’m truly grateful for the inclusion Discover has to offer.

I’m currently co-leading the mentorship program for the Asian Professionals at Discover (APAD) employee resource group (ERG). I’m able to get real-time experience leading a program outside of my every-day job responsibilities. It is both very satisfying and energizing.

Being naïve isn’t a bad thing

The best piece of career advice I ever got came from a prior manager who said, “be naïve.” I’ve made so many mistakes over the course of my career I can’t even count or remember them anymore! But I do know that the biggest mistakes I’ve made along my career journey were when I became too complacent. When I didn’t allow myself to be naïve again or to expand my expertise, I lost sight of my ultimate goals.

From starting my career as a Business Analyst to now becoming a Product Owner, I’ve come across numerous opportunities to grow and expand my knowledge. I’ve developed a knack for absorbing content across industries and connecting with colleagues to solve ongoing problems. I’ve realized that I can only be successful in my career if I hold onto that eagerness to constantly learn and improve.

 

Interested in joining the Discover team? Explore careers with us.

 

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Celebrating Military Spouses at Discover

Members of our Honoring Military and Veterans (HMV) employee resource group (ERG) share how they’ve navigated deployments, relocations and more:

Christy Green
Senior Account Specialist
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
New Castle, Delaware

I would certainly tell my younger self to embrace my relationships with people. I was the spouse of a flight engineer. That meant many days, weeks and months without my spouse— and my children without their father. We made the most of the time we had with him, but it was often few and far between. With a deployed family member or spouse, the relationships I made with other people helped me feel stronger and more positive. It’s not always an easy adventure, but the relationships I made helped make our time apart a little brighter.

Kristen McKenzie
Workforce Management Lead

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
New Castle, Delaware

I was a military spouse for 18 years prior to my husband’s retirement from the US Air Force. Over the course of his service, we welcomed our 3 children, endured 7 deployments (each 6 months to a year in length), regular TDYs (temporary duty travel) and relocated 5 times.

At the beginning of our marriage, I didn’t fully understand how challenging this lifestyle would be, how much time would be spent without my spouse and the sacrifices that I’d need to make along the way. Putting my career on the back burner, co-parenting from opposite sides of the world, missing holidays, weddings, and deaths was brutal. However, I quickly learned who I am and what I’m capable of. The best piece of advice I received was, “take it one day at a time, and find the positive in any situation,” which is what I did.

Frequent moves also allowed us to experience new cultures and meet so many interesting people. Some of my best friends are military spouses located around the world, and I consider them family. We’ve leaned on each other through childbirth, deployments and every curveball life has thrown at us along the way.

Being a military spouse helped me grow and shaped me into who I am today. These experiences and relationships would not have been possible without leaning into the lifestyle, trusting my capabilities and finding the positives in each situation.

Felicia Russell
Account Relationship Manager
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
New Castle, Delaware

We’re fortunate because my husband doesn’t deploy for months or years at a time.  Because of his position, he leaves frequently for missions. When he walks out the door, we never know exactly when he’ll return.

In the military, we know that Murphy’s Law goes into effect as soon as your loved one walks out the door. While they’re away, if it can go wrong, it will go wrong. I make sure to have several power of attorneys (I recommend one of each) to cover everything from getting a new ID, to purchasing a vehicle. The local JAG (Judge Advocate Generals) office usually has a list of all the Power of Attorneys that they offer.

I also manage by making friends who I can count on at my station. When my daughter was younger, having a social life was easier because of all her playdates. But as time went on, she grew up and all of our friends got relocated. Being a military spouse can be a lonely life and it’s really hard to consistently try to make new friends. Holidays are often quiet because traveling to see family is expensive. Often, our holidays are just our immediate household. To cope, I commit to seeing my old friends for a long girl’s weekend each year. Working at Discover has also given me a great set of friends that I know I’ll never lose contact with when it’s time for us to relocate.

The best part about a military spouse is getting to hear about the adventures my husband goes on. There’s a whole other side to the military that’s quite amazing. When he travels around the world, he’s able to do “touristy” activities. He tries to bring us something from every trip so that we get to enjoy a small piece of his adventures.

Honestly, at first I felt really jealous he got to travel to amazing places, while I sat at home.  Eventually, I came to the realization that it’s a great opportunity for him. I know that if the roles were reversed, I wouldn’t want him to hold me back. He never would’ve been able to see and do everything he’s done if he didn’t join the Air Force.

Kristen Barnes
Area Manager
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
New Castle, Delaware

I’ve been an Air Force spouse for 12 years. During that time I’ve received a lot of advice about being a military spouse (some good, some bad). I try to remember that every person’s experience is different and this life is what I choose to make of it.

The biggest thing I’ve learned to accept is that our children and I will make sacrifices for this life too, and they may go unnoticed. I’ve spent countless milestones away from family and friends. I’ve had to put my own personal and professional goals on the back burner at times to support my husband and ensure our children have the stability they deserve. I’ve watched our children navigate the challenges of a life they didn’t choose.

Through each deployment, I’ve learned that I’m much stronger than I thought I could be. I’ve learned to set aside my pride and admit when I need help. I know that being kind and patient with myself is just as important as being kind and patient with my spouse. And when the day has you drained, cereal for dinner is acceptable.

That said, my military network has become a family to me. They are the support system that speaks my language and understands exactly what this life entails. Like all relationships, it takes work and investment in each other, but I truly think our bond has made all of this worth it.

 

Interested in joining the Discover team? Explore careers with us.

 

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Optimizing Isn’t Just for Work: How to Simplify and Automate Your Life

Divya Amarayil
Senior Principal Consultant, Global Transit Program
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Riverwoods, IL

The new normal… with a toddler and kindergartener

For me, COVID-19 was challenging because I suddenly had my two kids at home during work hours. On top of my own work, I had to manage my 5-year-old’s remote learning and keep my 2-year-old occupied. 1 week into this new arrangement, I realized this setup wasn’t just temporary. I needed a long-term solution. So I shifted our lives into this new normal.

Flipping schoolwork and learning

At first, I spent nearly every night with my son, helping him with his remote learning. I hated spending most of our time together on schoolwork— I wanted to enjoy our evenings together. So, I slowly started training him to become independent and responsible for his schoolwork. I taught him the broad concepts at night and asked him to try to work on it during the day. This simple shift gave me time back to spend with him, and he was more occupied during the day with the structured work.

Making the small things count

I also introduced earning privileges. My kids earn a privilege for their good behavior every day. They get to pick their favorite dish, which I cook for them in the evening. I add small things for them to look forward to and find little ways to encourage them to do better.

One of the festivals we celebrate is Vishu, which occurs in the month of April. Vishu marks the start of New Year in Kerala, a state in India. On the day of Vishu, I wake up early and cook at least 20 dishes. We serve the dishes on a plantain leaf. Adults give younger ones money. Everyone at home really looks forward to this festival, especially kids.

Automation beyond just code

Another time-saver was automating everything I could. My kids forget to drink water during the day and I found myself having to regularly remind them. So I set up reminders on our virtual assistant. Because my kids always forget to turn off the lights, I installed sensor switches. Now, the light turns off automatically in 5 minutes if they forget. I use my automated slow cooker pot for a ton of meals. I schedule cooking, receive alerts when the food starts cooking and when it’s done. My one pot dishes are cooked fresh and stay warm for when it’s time to eat.

Community safety

In my neighborhood community, one of our residents’ moms passed away after being hit by a shipping truck that was driving recklessly. The accident happened near the entrance, where there’s a sharp turn with a poor lateral view. We also have a straight road with no traffic calming measures, which encourages people to speed. I didn’t know who to approach or how to make our community safe— but I was ready to work towards it.

Making change without the title

I soon discovered there were several other issues in the community that weren’t getting addressed by the board at the time, so I researched and pushed for resolutions on behalf of all homeowners. I created a homeowners database and started group chats to increase communication and foster connection. I setup a meeting and walked everyone through the issues in the community and proposed possible solutions.

One thing led to another

Today, I’m the president of our HOA. I’m now working with the city to conduct traffic studies to implement necessary traffic calming measures. Within 2 months of becoming president, I brought our operational costs down by $5,000. Landscaping was our biggest cost, so I got new quotes and negotiated a lower price. I picked a company that was expanding its business. I negotiated the price down by offering to help build their online profile and leave positive reviews if the work was great.

How one person has time for all this

Time management is everything. I avoid piling my work. I try to finish what I can the same day it bubbles up so that it doesn’t carry over and become a burden the next day. I put my kids to bed by 9:00 PM. That gives me time to walk on the treadmill, read, watch videos, or work on board-related activities. When my kids are busy playing, I cook. I wake up early when my kids are still deep asleep. I’ve pretty much carved out time for every activity. I keep a consistent routine for my kids’ meals, play, etc.

On top of it all

I love everything about my role at Discover. I work in a domain (transit) that I’m most passionate about. I get to work and learn from a bunch of talented individuals. I have one of the best managers in the world. He understands me, supports, coaches, and motivates me to do better. He’s a great combination of a good heart and a sharp mind.

The key to everything

I’ve learned not to do anything I don’t love doing. When I stop enjoying what I do, I know it’s time to move on. I’d give my younger self this advice: Don’t believe everything everybody says. Don’t shy away from saying you don’t know something. Admitting when you’re uncertain fosters learning and growth. Don’t be afraid to say “no.”

 

Inspired to join the Discover team? Explore careers with us.

 

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Waiting for Sunday: Growing up in Mumbai, Navigating Cultural Gaps and Breaking Societal Norms

Usha Tunuguntla
Business Strategies Senior Manager
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Riverwoods, IL

Waiting for Sunday

Growing up in a big family with 6 siblings was chaotic—to manage us all, my parents followed a strict schedule during the week. But Sundays were different. We’d break from the routine on Sundays to make the day extra special. On our weekend escape, we’d play board games, takes quizzes and challenges, read comics and books.

We also cooked special meals— food we wouldn’t usually eat every day. My father especially liked to source international foods, different cheeses and breads. He shopped at international markets for produce that wasn’t easy to grow locally. All this in an era when there was no internet. My mother would make delicacies from scratch. Making them was laborious because of a lack of modern appliances back then. Some of my favorite dishes were Pulao, Dahi Wada and Wada sambar. All of us sitting down together for a meal felt like a festive celebration with warmth, comfort, love and affection. We had many memorable conversations during those meals.

As Sunday wound down, I wished the day would never end. I’d eagerly start thinking about what the next Sunday would be like—deserts like Gulab jamum and snacks like chakli, gujjia. My parents spent a lot of time and effort to celebrate the little things in our lives. We didn’t wait for holidays, special occasions or vacations to celebrate. We just waited for Sunday.

Breaking social norms

As a woman of color, I’m part of two historically oppressed groups. Growing up in an all-girl family in Mumbai, one of the biggest cities of India, my parents gave us the independence and freedom to make our choices. In retrospect, their open-minded approach added an important dimension of self-responsibility to my personality. They never limited us or prevented us from breaking any social norms.

I’ve always believed that navigating through the unknown makes me stronger, and I’ve never shied away from opportunities when they arose, knowing they may not come around again. I feel privileged to experience the benefits that activists, both in India and here in America, have worked towards. While we do have lot of work to do, I believe as a society, we’re making headway on accepting people and leaders of color.

Power to say no

I’m not a typical employee of Indian origin. I started my career at Discover on the phones with an undergrad degree from Mumbai, India. I very quickly learned that growing up, everything my culture taught me not to do (which I did anyway and was seen as rebellious) was permissible in the U.S. For instance, I was surprised I had the power to say “no.” I learned that I don’t have to wait my turn to speak or wait to be called on. I could speak my mind, provide input, and share my thoughts and views. I felt empowered in meetings. I felt motivated to work harder and develop an unrestricted perspective to find solutions.

Influenced by my roots

Growing up in a big family, I learned to socialize at an early age. At Discover, I’ve expanded on my skills by learning from, and interacting with, a broad group of people from diverse backgrounds. In some ways, I believe my roots have an unaltered influence on me. To this day, I still struggle when I’m asked to introduce myself. We seldom flaunt our accomplishments in my culture.

Understanding authenticity

Understanding authenticity at work is important. It’s the alignment of who we are, our interests (our internal self) and understanding how we can incorporate this in our day-to-day work. Putting up a front, a public image, can cause a lot of agony. It’s not who we are.

Being authentic gives me a sense of confidence. I find myself more engaged, satisfied, better able to make decisions, and in return, accomplish more. It’s helped me build trusting relationships and connect freely.

Becoming hungry to learn

I recognized early that my married life journey would take me to different places. My husband initially held a consultant role, which meant we moved frequently. That also meant I had to make some choices. I’m naturally open-minded and make the best of the situations, so I decided to put my existing skills to use and explore opportunities to enhance those skills. I enrolled in continuing education, certification courses and volunteered for non-profits.

I’m grateful for those early decisions because they contributed to how I started my career here in the U.S. After I completed by MBA, I couldn’t believe myself when I signed up for another certification course. I felt a hunger to learn new things and constantly update my skills. The saying, ‘once you stop learning, you start dying’ has stuck with me for years.

Crucial conversations

I’m the chairperson for the Asian Professionals at Discover (APAD) employee resource group (ERG). Initially as a new member, APAD gave me an opportunity to share my culture and traditions with my fellow co-workers through year-round events. Stepping into the leadership role as chair made me feel more empowered. I now have the platform to influence and make an impact for our members.

Organizing events has also given me the experience of collaborating with various people internally and across different companies. Above all, by exploring and researching my community’s needs, I continue to develop skills that I wouldn’t have otherwise gained. I recently had the privilege of moderating a crucial conversations session about the recent hate crimes against Asians. These topics are often ignored or considered “taboo.” I’m proud to break the norm and provide a forum within the Discover community for Asians to speak candidly about their hurt and pain. I’m honored to be in a position where I can enrich my fellow employees with these learning experiences.

 

Interested in joining the Discover team? Explore careers with us.

 

 

 

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When Delivering Results Comes at a Cost: Why I Transformed My Work Life

Sri Vamsee Krishna Manchiraju RSVM
Principal Business Analyst
Pronouns: He/Him/His
Riverwoods, IL

Delivering at all costs

I always thought of myself as someone who could deliver. But I’ve only recently realized what that actually meant. It meant delivering at all costs.

Over the years, I developed a habit of putting everything in the backseat for work, including my personal life. I struggled with bouts of anxiety and stress over leading mini work projects. My mindset negatively impacted my stress levels, health and personality. I realized it isn’t sustainable and I couldn’t put my personal life in the backseat.

Now, I’m starting to learn new ways to manage my work-life balance. I’ve adopted a different working style, which allows me to calibrate my time and also better estimate my needed effort at work. I’m on the path there— albeit just at the first mile.

Rebuilding through grief

The best decision I ever made was joining Discover. I was recovering from my mom’s death and realizing how much of my life was built around where I worked. I needed a change and applied to Discover. At the end of my interview, while the last person escorted me out, I asked about the culture. They said it was awesome. It wasn’t until after I started that I knew what they truly meant.

The job and culture allowed me to look and learn everywhere. Allowed me to look at areas that I never thought of before, including my working style. I love working for a company that actually cares about their employees (hello, benefits) and has diverse teams that can fully collaborate.

Learning self-awareness

My thesis supervisor for my master’s degree always said, “You should be able to evaluate your own work.” Over the years I’ve understood the layers underneath this advice. Understanding my abilities impacts my mindset. I need to be able to see myself and my work clearly in order to represent myself. The better I’ve gotten at seeing myself, the more realistic my expectations are for myself too. And it’s helped me with year-end reviews!

Crucial conversations

The Asian Professionals at Discover (APAD) Employee Resource Group (ERG) gave me the opportunity to understand and learn who I am, as Asian. Through events like the crucial conversations session on Asian hate, I’ve been able to understand what my fellow Asians face every day. I didn’t know about internment camps during WWII until recently. Thanks to APAD, I’m now reading more about it. A recent leadership panel discussion, and the crucial conversations events, were so impactful in understanding the importance of speaking up, expressing your feelings and sharing your story. I signed up for bystander training and hope to continue to learn more.

Mastering self-acceptance

There was a phase in my life where I struggled to cope with being mistreated at work. Work was everything to me back then. As a result, the conflict made me uncertain of myself. I spent a lot of energy thinking about “presenting” myself instead of just being myself. From this experience, I learned about self-acceptance. I learned to forgive myself more. I realized who I am is not defined by how I’m treated. I completely changed my attitude. I’m now on the path to understanding myself— though I’m still getting there.

 

Interested in joining the Discover team? Explore careers with us.

 

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Intentional Living: The Key to Balancing Big Dreams and Daily Life

Lindsey Dorsten
Regional Operations Director
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
New Albany, Ohio

The year of and

I know many people took on heavy emotional weight this year. 2020 was a year full of many opposites— time taken and time given, gratitude and struggle, strength and weakness, celebration and grief. Fall of 2020, I personally lost two loved ones and introduced our baby girl within a six-week timeframe. The emotional tug-of-war taught me the power of accepting and embracing the “ands” of life.

Intentional living

As a passionate leader, a wife, a friend and a mom of three, I value intentional living. It’s about showing up every day with respect, humility and a desire to learn. It means living my days by being present, listening and being there for other people. By living with intention, I demonstrate through daily action how my vision and goals can become a reality.

Big dreams, meet daily life

Because I’m a big dreamer, I tend to set goals with a long-term view. To manage my daily life, I practice setting my intention for the day in a “5-minute journal.” Journaling helps me connect my short-term actions back to my big-picture goals. When I think about my upcoming day, I decide ahead of time who or what needs my attention the most and start my day with purpose.

Testing my balance

Like many families, I put my usual home and career balancing act to the test this year. As the pandemic progressed, I saw articles about how the pandemic affected women’s careers. As a woman, I noticed a major shift in the priorities I typically juggle. Fortunately, in my family, my husband has done nothing but support me, many times through little actions that accumulate, giving me time to lean into my goals.

Leaning into what works

Our household would sink without our strongly held principles of teamwork and respect. I believe that my success will fall short without a community of people surrounding and helping me. This belief has been true during the pandemic and in times of adversity throughout my life.

Your career comes at a cost

Starting a family had a tremendous impact on me. Almost “overnight,” I gained a whole new perspective on how I spend my time and choose to live my life. I became particularly aware that our time is a high cost. Time spent towards careers costs time away from family. My career is therefore deeply embedded in my purpose. I choose to spend my time serving others and helping them become their best selves. I believe my career can be an intentional part of my holistic life.

Leadership is a mirror

Over the course of my career, I’ve learned that leadership is a mirror. The energy, attitude and actions I have as a leader reflects and multiplies within my team. I set the environment for my team to thrive. I aspire for my team to find purpose in their work and to be their best selves. I’m constantly reminding myself of this lesson on the reality of leadership.

Choosing courage over fear

Finding my voice has been a journey of choosing courage over fear. I channel my courage into a growth mindset, where I feel comfortable knowing that even when I get it wrong, I can learn something. I’m grateful to work for a company with strong values, which gives me a solid toolkit to support my courage.

 

Inspired to join the Discover team? Explore careers with us.

 

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The Career Mistakes and Advice You Need to Hear

Cari Greer
Regional Operations Director
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Phoenix, AZ

Plan ahead

Having an amazing husband, two incredible teenagers, and two dogs who don’t seem to leave my side these days, means there’s never a dull moment. Every night, I look ahead at what’s to come the next day. Work life balance is important to me, and to feel successful in both these areas, I must plan ahead.

Build a community

I get to work alongside the most inspiring and motivating people. I’ve been so fortunate to have built a community of friends and a solid support system over the years at Discover. Prior to the pandemic, working onsite was second nature to me. I passed co-workers in the hall, gave high fives, smiled and engaged with everyone. An in-person work environment was the only way of working that I knew.

Turn off the day

Transitioning to working from home, helping my two high school students acclimate to online learning, and adjusting to this new way of living was quite overwhelming. I didn’t know how to disconnect from work. I lost my drive home, which I normally used to help turn off the day.

Go back to what works

I wore myself out very quickly and knew I had to make some changes. I built small breaks into my schedule and ended the day with a scheduled “focus time” to allow me to wrap things up and finish out the day strong. While these small changes helped tremendously, I’ll admit, I still have work to do.

Insert yourself

Early on in my career, I felt like my work spoke for itself. I thought I didn’t need to advocate for myself or insert myself where I wasn’t invited. One of my mentors reminded me that I won’t always be invited to the table. She told me that there are times when I’d need to find my way in, grab a chair and pull it up to the table myself. And when I do, I better have something to say so that I get an invite back next time. Her advice still resonates with me. To this day, when approaching a new initiative or big decision that I can add value on, I make the bold move of inserting myself.

A hard truth

A hard truth I’ve learned over the course of my career is that life isn’t always fair. Being with Discover for as long as I have, I’ve had several ups and downs. Whether an idea gets shut down, a promotion goes to someone else, or a high profile project passes me, things don’t always feel fair. What I’ve learned is that when one door closes, another one opens.

Better is coming

I remember being declined from a promotion for a role that I was already actively involved in. While it was discouraging at the time, what I didn’t know is that a different promotion, one that was even more exciting, was just around the corner. I learned to accept disappointment, keep my head up, continue to work hard, and trust that something bigger and better was coming.

 

Interested in joining the Discover team? Explore careers with us.

 

 

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How To Show Up In Corporate Culture When You Don’t Look or Think Like Everyone Else.

Juatise Gathings
Chatham Operations Director
Lake Park, UT
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

It takes a village

When I think about growing up, I think about how it took a village. My neighbors babysat me, family-friends drove me to school, friends hung around my house. I came from a community. In my adult life, I love to “do life” with other people. I work within my communities to ensure each person has what they need to thrive. Life isn’t meant to be done alone.

The only one in the room

But in the corporate world, that’s not always the case. It’s tough to be a woman in leadership. It’s tougher still to be an African American woman in leadership. I know how foundational representation is for women, including African American women. Yet often times, I’m the only one in the room. Not only am I the only one in the room who looks like me, but I’m also the only one with my background.

Fitting in

In the past at work, I entered a room and made it my goal to fit in. That meant saying as little as possible or finding ways to align with the group’s overall direction, even if I thought another direction was better. It became excruciatingly hard to suppress parts of myself. But I thought this model was the easiest way forward.

Becoming a disrupter

I quickly discovered that assimilating to fit into the dominant group takes more effort, not less. Standing out to show up authentically is so much healthier than continually suppressing myself. So, I’ve shifted my mindset from fitting in to standing out. I speak up, regardless of my different thought, tone or energy. I challenge the group’s direction. Sometimes that friction can feel disruptive. But whether I offer the best idea or not, I know I have to be true to myself.

The women before and after me

Over time I’ve grown into myself. I’ve become more comfortable being the only one. I view my different perspective as an advantage. I feel an obligation to show up each day as my authentic self, to make the way easier for the women behind me. I also owe a debt to the other woman in leadership before me, and particularly other African American women, for helping forge and chart my path to leadership.

Free from imposter syndrome

The racial justice movement this summer was a large part of how I realized the value in my perspective. It gave me confidence to show up authentically. It freed me from feeling like an imposter.

Grieving 2020

2020 was hard for a lot of people. It forced the world to pause and reflect. The resulting racial justice movement coincided with a global pandemic, and I had so many more emotions to process. My heart grieved as I watched the news and our country’s leadership respond to the resulting outrage.

Transforming grief

Prior to now, societally we didn’t talk much about racial injustice in the workplace. For my own mental health, I decided I had to make peace. I thought about my brother and other individuals who look like me who may not be in a position of power to speak up for themselves. I focused on my lane of control and transformed my emotions into power and positive energy. I built up my courage and sparked conversations with my friends, shared social justice information on social media and educated my work colleagues. Through education comes awareness. Through awareness we build allies. With impassioned allies, we gain momentum towards real change.

Perfection not perfect

A lot things are broken in my current role. Some problems we can’t solve without the right technology, systems or resources. As a leader, that’s a really frustrating feeling. I’ve had to tackle those feelings head-on by acknowledging that sometimes I can’t immediately fix 100% of the problem. Rather, I might be able to fix 80% of the problem. I’ve adopted a mindset of truly seeking perfection vs. perfect. Where I can’t deliver the final product, I put one foot in front of each other, take small steps and build on progress.

Moving slow

I’ve made a lot of mistakes throughout my career. The biggest mistake I made early in my career was not sitting in the moment and enjoying the journey. I’ve always felt competing pressures to move fast, execute and perform. And as a result, often times I’ve moved a little too fast. I miss the opportunity to interact with colleagues in a meaningful way, slow down and ensure that what we’re delivering isn’t just good, but the best it could be. The momentum robs me of the opportunity to enjoy the journey. I now view assignments not as tasks to complete, but as opportunities to learn. I don’t allow my desire to execute become more important than the learning journey itself.

Building a culture of celebration

Receiving the 40 Under 40 award from my state’s business magazine this year was a great honor. I value stopping to celebrate critical milestones in my journey. But it doesn’t have to just be for large awards. In reality, each of us accomplishes things every day that make the people and work around us better. Don’t wait for the award. Encourage one another, fix each other’s crowns and take time in team meetings and huddles to celebrate the great work others are doing. This is important. In order to be celebrated, you need to celebrate others. Building a culture of celebration far exceeds the moment of an award.

 

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Do You Embrace Failure? How to Feel Uncomfortable, Get Loud and Grow More.

Lauren Heimbach
Lead Systems Specialist
Phoenix, AZ
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Being my own purpose

For a long time, when people asked about my purpose at work, I searched for what I felt was an “appropriate” response. Was it to get my degree? Get promoted? My family? Eventually, it hit me. Me. I, myself, am enough for me to get up in the morning. My family, education and career are all huge motivators for me, but at the end of the day what drives me is knowing I gave my best each day and that tomorrow is a fresh start.

Getting through 2020

I think we can all agree that 2020 came at us like a freight train. Some days I had extreme anxiety and I truly wanted live under a rock. I felt sad, anxious and uncertain of what each day would bring. However, I channeled my strength in adaptability and told myself to stay strong. I talked to friends and family as often as I could. I didn’t have a reason to call, I just called. For me, knowing that I wasn’t in this alone really helped. I also focused on what I could control— my health, relationships and career all helped me adapt to this new way of living.

Refusing to be silenced

In the past, I was told I was too positive. That statement could have been enough to silence me. I took a long, hard look at how I wanted to represent myself. And I decided to get louder. I’ll always be positive, that’s who I am— but I’m more than just a basket of rainbows. I truly found my voice at work once I learned how to properly channel my positivity into loud, enthusiastic advocacy.

Technology doesn’t discriminate

To this day, when I mention to someone outside of Discover that I work in technology, I notice they immediately “size me up.” I don’t think they doubt my ability, but I can tell they think it’s unusual. I try to demonstrate that technology doesn’t discriminate who or what can work with it— so why should people? I educate people about the limitless opportunities there are for women to work in fields they might not stereotypically picture women dominating in.

Being the only one

I’m sometimes the only woman in the room. I’m also sometimes the youngest person in the room. Because of my identity, I hate seeing outdated scripts play out again and again. I encourage people to embrace differences and put old stereotypes to rest. The good news is, this is changing— but it won’t happen overnight. I’ve stopped focusing on what makes me different in the room and instead draw attention to all the unique qualities of all the individuals in the room.

Getting uncomfortable

At the beginning of my career, leaning into what felt comfortable and came naturally to me accelerated my success. Beyond that, in order to continue growing and challenging myself, I had to get out of my comfort zone. Nothing ever grows in your comfort zone. But some days, I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable. To be honest, I didn’t have to. I did well and could continue to sail through calm waters while I did my work. But being who I am, I needed to be challenged.

Growth doesn’t have a finish line

I realized (albeit not quickly enough), that some days I didn’t know the answer, I didn’t always possess the right skills. I had to get uncomfortable to learn new things. The beauty of it is, my career isn’t a race. There’s no finish line to growth. At the end of the day, any challenge that’s put in front of me is an opportunity to shine. I’ve stopped being afraid to fail and started being excited to learn.

 

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