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How to Stop Holding Yourself Back in Corporate Spaces

Janice Glavtcheff
Principal, Diversity Equity Inclusion
Riverwoods, IL
Pronouns: She/Her

Holy Week Alfombras

As a child, I visited my mom’s home country, Guatemala, every year. My favorite tradition was celebrating Semana Santa, or Holy Week. Holy Week is a big celebration in Guatemala and many other Latin American countries. My cousins and I would grab bags of colorful sand and go out to create “alfombras” (carpets made from the sand) on the neighborhood streets. I loved that it was such a community-driven event. The neighbors and kids would come together and work on creating these beautiful colorful sand rugs in the streets in preparation for the week’s processions.

Growing Up with Immigrant Parents

Over time, I came to value my multicultural upbringing (while my mom is Guatemalan, my dad is Bulgarian-Brazilian). Growing up with immigrant parents became a big part of my identity and instilled in me a love of learning about other cultures. As a child I loved dancing and imagined I’d grow up to be a flamenco dancer. When I studied abroad in China and Europe in college, I pictured myself working at a multinational company or in international relations– something that would allow me to embrace my love of travel, different cultures and people. Eventually, I fell into HR and Diversity and Inclusion, and I haven’t turned back in 10 years— it’s my proudest achievement.

Breaking Learned Habits

Being first generation in a corporate environment has granted me many learning moments. My parents raised me to be a hard worker, to keep my head down, not to make waves, speak out of turn or share too much. As a result, I grappled with imposter syndrome, held back my authentic self and silenced my ideas. Over time, I realized I was holding myself back from being able to fully contribute in a corporate setting. Once I started to speak up during meetings and share more about myself, I found it easier to connect with others and build meaningful relationships. I had to learn to embrace and honor my upbringing while also breaking away from what didn’t serve me.

Embracing a Multi-Dimensional Identity

Advice I live by is don’t be one-dimensional. Every day I commit to keep learning and growing. I’m a first gen, Latina, globetrotter (28+ countries and counting!), still a dancer (salsa and the periodic all-out kitchen performance). I always try to say yes to new opportunities and experiences. When deciding where to go to college, I had the choice to go to a smaller, private college near my family or to a bigger university a few hours away. I decided to move far away. I gained so much more from the network I created there, and the international travel I had the opportunity to do.

Recreating Myself

A hard truth I’ve learned is that you must create and re-create yourself. It’s so important to be able to adapt. I’ve had moments where I thought I’d had mastered something – whether it was work, technology, or that macaron recipe I’ve made several times – just to realize that I still had more to learn.

 

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

 

 

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The Ladies of Business Intelligence

We asked the ladies on our business intelligence tech team to share their experiences with leading in tech, their advice for the women after them, and the necessary progress still to make in the future.

Neha Kamineni
Lead Application Architect
Chicago, IL
Pronouns: She/Her

I firmly believe that mentorship is crucial to a successful career, particularly for women. I’ve seen firsthand the bias women face in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields. We have to prove we’re technically capable, where men are already assumed to be— and are compensated for it. It’s important for young women to do ample research, talk to friends, lean on mentors and know their worth when negotiating. My manager has given me incredible opportunities to grow and ultimately became my strongest advocate for a promotion. If you’re able to, choose the right boss, not the right job.

Anika Chatterjee
Product Owner
Chicago, IL
Pronouns: She/Her

Growing up, I loved percussion and rowing. Those passions taught me how to “bridge the gap.” A percussionist is responsible for keeping the rhythm and adding color to the music through unique sounds. A coxswain on a rowing team is responsible for being the coach’s eyes in the boat and adapting a race plan based on real-time feel and execution. In music, I’d work between the conductor and the orchestra. In rowing, between the coach and the rowers. Both of these roles bridge the gap between what needs to be delivered, and the actual resulting performance.

When I graduated college, it came naturally to take my background in information systems and economics, my passion for technology, and my unique ability to bridge the gap to carve out a career. Now as a product owner in data and analytics, I work at the intersection of engineers, stakeholders, and users, to ensure my teams produce features that add value for Discover.

Ashley Dierkes
Senior Software Developer
Chicago, IL
Pronouns: She/Her

Over the last two years, I’ve had a lot of moments— big and small— where I felt I “leveled-up.” There was the first time a peer referred to me as a SME (Subject Matter Expert). That moment showed me that I was establishing myself in my field. There was the first time I presented at one of our user community events. I talked to over 200 people, a majority of whom had worked in the field a lot longer than me. The positive feedback I received after that event, and the fact that people took time out of their day to listen to me, unlocked my self-confidence. But my greatest “level-up” moment was when I won the President’s Award. The President’s award recognizes employees across the company who’ve achieved exemplary business results, while living the Discover values. Winning the award showed me that the work I’m doing is truly making an impact.

While I’ve had these “level-up” moments, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that it’s okay not to know everything. It’s more important to speak up and ask questions when you don’t know something instead of nodding along. Asking questions gives you the information you need to be successful later on.

Aradhana Lakshman
Senior Software Developer
Chicago, IL
Pronouns: She/Her

As women in technology, we’ve come a long way thanks to the many women before us who had to fight to make our entry easier. While it isn’t as tough as it once was, there’s still a lot to be done. The problem is more nuanced especially as a woman of color in tech. My hope for women in tech is to uplift other women. I’m personally invested in everyone’s growth around me. I learned this mindset from my team.

The most impactful part of my journey is watching when I, and others around me, accomplish what we once thought was beyond our understanding. When I look at something challenging, I remind myself of something we thought was challenging a year ago, but were able to accomplish.

Diane Harshbarger
Lead Software Developer
Chicago, IL
Pronouns: She/Her

A revelation for me was, ‘it’s okay not to have the answer initially.” This lesson ties in with the motto “progress over perfection.” Both sayings take the emotional pressure off of me and create a space to focus on the problem at hand. It’s more than okay to take time to research, ask a teammate, ask the software vendor, or explore all of these avenues. In fact, creativity and innovation are more likely to occur when your brain waves indicate you’re in a relaxed state, such as before you fall asleep, when you wake-up, while freeway driving, while running, etc. Taking time to let your brain relax brings innovation. Embrace your natural curiosity and crave the knowledge of how something works.

Heli Shah
Software Developer
Chicago, IL
Pronouns: She/Her

My parents always told me that making a choice for my career should be about following my passions. I’ve always been most excited about analysis and working with data, so their words motivated me to follow my passion. Now, because data is core to my job, I genuinely get satisfaction from identifying the root cause of a problem and creating a solution. I’m also a major part of platform architecture and administration. Though there’s fewer women in administration, I lead my role with enthusiasm as every day brings new challenges.

My role at Discover is also challenging because networking and strong communication are vital skills. I’m more of an introverted person and naturally talk less. But my day-to-day job often involves dealing with different teams and maintaining relationships with them. Over time, I’ve learned to use my introversion as a strength. I’m good at listening and getting to the root of a problem before I propose a solution. As I continue to evolve, I’m becoming even better at communicating and building strong relationships with other teams.

 

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

 

 

 

 

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How Rowing and Percussion Made Me into a Product Owner

Anika Chatterjee
Product Owner
Chicago, IL
Pronouns: She/Her

Growing up, I loved percussion and rowing. Those passions taught me how to “bridge the gap.” A percussionist is responsible for keeping the rhythm and adding color to the music through unique sounds. A coxswain on a rowing team is responsible for being the coach’s eyes in the boat and adapting a race plan based on real-time feel and execution. In music, I’d work between the conductor and the orchestra. In rowing, between the coach and the rowers. Both of these roles bridge the gap between what needs to be delivered, and the actual resulting performance.

When I graduated college, it came naturally to take my background in information systems and economics, my passion for technology, and my unique ability to bridge the gap, to carve out a career. Now as a product owner in data and analytics, I work at the intersection of engineers, stakeholders, and users, to ensure my teams produce features that add value for Discover.

Bridging those teams requires staying curious and continuously learning. The more I learn, the more I can converse with all sorts of people and understand the world outside my daily life. To me, a part of learning is also “unlearning” and re-shaping the way I think. As technology continues to move at light speed, my ideology must follow just as quickly.

There’s a saying that the upsides of difficult knowledge far outweigh the downsides of blissful ignorance. Less than a year into my career, I experience “learning moments” every day. These moments of discomfort and uncertainty in my day-to-day are actually evidence of my growth. Compared to just over a year ago when I was still in school, I now have a stronger data-driven approach to my thinking. At that time, “the cloud” was just a concept to me, and not something tangible as it now is.

Owning 2 enterprise-level business intelligence tools at Discover has allowed me to guide many data-centered projects, which is ultimately at the center of our digital world. Just as I did as a percussionist and a coxswain, I’ve learned to strategize and more effectively bridge the gaps.

 

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

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Discover Interns Tell All: Behind the Scenes in Our Internship Program

This summer we welcomed nearly 150 interns into our technology, analytics, and general business internship programs. Hear from this year’s emerging talent about the moments when they “leveled up,” the best advice they’ve received, and why they chose Discover.

Ashley DeLarm
Data and Analytics Intern
Riverwoods, IL
Pronouns: she/her

Advice that’s resonated with me is, “don’t be afraid to ask for help.” I used to have a hard time admitting when I was stuck. That changed at Discover. Here, everyone is willing to answer questions and help wherever they can— both with larger projects and daily work. So much of our everyday work is done through collaboration. A lot of the projects that I’ve worked on have been assigned to a pair or a group of us. Even individual work is easier to get though when I have someone to brainstorm and problem solve with. People on my team frequently reach out to check on my progress and meetings are always ended with “let me know if I can do anything for you!”

My biggest “level up” moment in college was when I got my internship offer from Discover. I got the call while I was in the airport. It was my first big internship so it made me feel like all of the studying and late nights had been worth it. This is now my second summer internship here with Discover.

Odin Verdin
eBusiness Intern
Riverwoods, IL
Pronouns: He, Him, His

Being an Economics major, I never expected to be working within a marketing department. Here I am, well into my internship, and I now have a basic understanding of marketing. That’s because I live by the advice, “never stop learning.” Growth requires the willingness to be uncomfortable, and that’s where the real learning begins. I’ve only been able to expand my skills because of the connections I’ve made this summer. Everyone at Discover wants to see people succeed and improve themselves.

Alexa Atout
General Business Intern, Balance Transfer Portfolio Marketing Team
Riverwoods, IL
Pronouns: She/Her

In taking an internship, I wanted to make meaningful connections. I’ve definitely been able to achieve this goal at Discover with the help of my managers, team, advisors, and peers. I meet interns in my area (as well as across other business sectors) on a weekly basis. I’ve also attended numerous coffee chats where I’ve received valuable advice and learned about new projects, roles, and more. The best advice I’ve received was, “never stop asking questions.” Remaining curious and asking questions has allowed me to develop my educational, personal and professional growth.

Jack Otto
Business Technology Intern
Riverwoods, IL
Pronouns: He, Him, His

When I was younger, I wanted to be in a hands-on job when I grew up. Over the years, I went from wanting to be an architect, to an engineer, to landing in software engineering. From the outside, software engineering doesn’t seem to be “hands on,” but it really is. With every problem comes an infinite number of solutions. That’s what makes computer science so much fun— it really lets your mind wander because there’s not just one right answer to a problem.

I’ve gotten lots of advice from my college coach over the last few years, but something he’s said stayed with me, “If you’re scared of something, you should do it. You’re only scared of the consequences and how they affect people around you, but this life is yours and at the end of the day, if you don’t have any regrets, then it doesn’t matter what happens.” I’ve used this piece of advice often in recent years. Any time that I’ve been hesitant to do something, I think about what my coach said, and it allows me to take the leap of faith.

Sean Coughlin
Business Technology Intern (Digital Payments)
Riverwoods, IL
Pronouns: He/Him/His

A big moment in my life when I grew exponentially was when I went through my first “pull request” at Discover. Any new development work is done in separate branches before being integrated into the main branch. The process of merging code is called a “pull request.” Going through my first pull request at Discover and seeing code I wrote merged was an amazing feeling. It was the first time that I felt like a professional software engineer.

As a software engineer, I find it easy to get lost in delivering code. Something this internship has taught me is the importance of the bigger picture. Focusing too heavily on one piece of code is a mistake that can lower productivity. This lesson is even true more broadly. Being a good employee, student, and person is not the result of a single day’s effort. The culmination of habits creates success (and not the other way around).

Discover has been a fantastic chance to gain exposure to software engineering and the financial services industry. An important part of any internship experience is the learning opportunity. The people at Discover have delivered on that learning opportunity. Everyone here is always open to helping others learn and grow in their careers.

 

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

 

 

 

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Unlocking My Dream Career: Gauging Career Risks in Software Engineering

Animesh Kumar
Lead Software Engineer – Full Stack
Riverwoods, IL
Pronouns: He/Him

Childlike curiosity

As a kid I loved to dismantle toys. I did it because I wanted to see how they worked (though for that reason, I always seemed to have less toys than my older brother). I used to imagine building a robot that could move toys and furniture at the press of button. Anything seemed possible. The curiosity and big dreams in my little eyes stayed with me as I grew older. I eventually discovered programming and computer hardware, which fascinated me. Programming then went from being a passion to becoming my profession.

Designing end-to-end

At Discover, I’m a full stack software engineer. Being a part of Discover gives me a sense of immense pride – in myself, my work and my connectedness to everything here. I design and develop end-to-end software applications independently by handling coding, databases, servers/platforms and user interfaces. I work on each and every layer of software architecture— from CSS and JavaScript to Java REST/SOAP APIs, to databases—and I work on the intercommunication between each layer.

Pioneering new innovations

One of the most important jobs that my team does is proof of concepts (POC). We explore new possibilities that haven’t been used in the department before. We’ve pioneered many tools and technical innovations. Being part of cutting-edge pilots is exciting and fun, but because we’re the first, we’ve also faced some major challenges. Sometimes it take hours, or even days, to cross a huddle. Luckily I have an awesome team, so we struggle together and overcome any challenges in our way.

Tackling new tech stacks

Because of my unique role, I work both with technologies I’m good at, and technologies that I need to explore. The various tech stacks challenge me at times, and other times the tech lets me demonstrate my expertise. Learning and exploring each day in my job keeps me motivated and gives me a sense of progress in my overall life.

Blog writing

I also love sharing my knowledge, so I started writing technical blogs to help other people. Being able to explain a topic to someone else (where they clearly understand), is a signal to myself that I truly know a subject. Equally as challenging is simplifying my explanation so that someone with less background knowledge can understand. I’ve come a long way in my knowledge-sharing evolution of both explaining to fellow experts and newcomers— and I’ve still got a ways to go!

Taking a career risk

Whenever I’ve taken a new step in my career, I’ve taken on some level of risk. As with any decision, there’s always a chance of failure, but I never took blind risks. I always took gauged risks. However, I always reminded myself that “If I succeed, I will set an example. If I fail, I’ll have a lesson.”

Knowing when to pivot

To give an example, early in my career I worked at a company in the electronics department. After a few months, I felt a little lost and wasn’t fully enjoying the job. I wanted to program and I didn’t think that would be possible at that company. So I decided to take a risk and get into the industry I was passionate about.

My do or die moment

To make the leap, I decided to pursue an expensive, full time certification course. I didn’t have enough money, so I planned to save money for two months and start the course in the third month. In 2009, this was a risky plan because of the Great Recession. Job hunting wasn’t that easy in an economic downturn. The certification course was my “do or die” moment. I knew that if I got through it, I’d shape my path to success. If I failed, I’d be done with my dream career. I took my chance and with (a lot of) hard work, I landed into my first job in software. That’s how I began my dream journey. I’ve never looked back since. The only truth I believe today is, to turn a dream into reality takes hard work and perseverance.

Learning to be expressive

I would tell my younger self to be more expressive and outspoken. It’s good to be humble, but it’s equally as important to express yourself. In the past, I used to let things pass without expressing how I felt. As time has gone on, I realized that the ability to express ourselves openly and authentically is one of the strong pillar of any relationship. I’ve learned from my past mistakes. My wife has helped me work on communication too. She’s always reminding me how important it is to express ourselves, good or bad— just express in a humble way.

 

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

 

 

 

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The Path to Regional Operations Director

Angela Anacay
Director, Regional Operations
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
New Castle, DE

The journey to Discover

I often share the story of how I got hired at Discover. When I applied, I already had four job offers on the table. On paper, all the other offers were objectively better. However, there was something about the warm welcome, smiles, and authenticity of the people at Discover that made me ultimately accept the offer. I haven’t looked back after 13 years.

Curiosity fueling growth

I’ve always been curious and asked questions with the intent to learn and enhance processes. Because of this, I’ve grown within the organization through lateral career shifts and promotions. This internal movement has provided me with valuable business knowledge.

Making exceptions

In my prior role as a Senior Manager of Operations, one of my main areas of responsibility was customer exception processing. For example, let’s say a customer made a payment over a week ago, but they can’t see their payment posted to their account. My team researched and processed these types of transactions. If transactions started weeks ago in the customer journey, I had to first alleviate the customer’s frustration. In this way, my work is always integral to the customer experience. In addition to this processing work, we also served as consultants for monetary movement. Monetary movement means any money that moves i.e. through wire transfers, wires, checks, etc.

Getting certified

We handled monetary movement primarily because we all had the right skill sets, specialized knowledge and certifications to support those challenges, in addition to our regular roles. I’ve earned the Accredited ACH Professional (AAP) certification and am currently studying for the National Check Professional (NCP) certification with Discover. I also earned my Master’s degree through Discover’s educational assistance program. These certifications transformed how the enterprise manages specific monetary processing and changes. They ensure compliance with regulations, while providing benefit to our customers.

Competitive edge

The certifications aren’t mandatory; however, they provide Discover with a competitive edge in the industry to have experts in specific payments. This means we have expertise about regulations, financial institution warranties and obligations, and we have insight into innovative payment solutions. These certifications are extremely impactful to my career and to Discover. In collaboration with my team (who also earned AAP certifications), we have been able to provide extensive consultation and transform the business. A very recent example— our expertise helped shape new processes for pandemic programs (economic impact payment or stimulus) and mitigating risk. We ensured Discover remained compliant with specific governing rules.

Taking on a new leadership role

I recently took on a new role leading the digital servicing family for the customer service and engagement team at Discover. I’m still leaning into my new role (and also supporting my prior role), but I’m very excited about the opportunity. Taking on the Regional Operations Director role is quite different from my prior background and history with Discover. Since joining in 2008, I’ve supported back office operations and banking. In my new capacity, I have the amazing opportunity to work with a wonderful team and influence customer experience in our digital channel. I’m looking forward to building strategy around our ever-changing customer expectations to continue to provide award-winning customer service.

Eliminating inefficiency

We’re always working together to improve the customer experience by eliminating inefficiencies. We create more streamlined processes to resolve processing scenarios much quicker. We’ve had many successes with shortening the customer journey. In some instances, we’ve eliminated processing from 20 days to just 3 days!

Starting a family

I’m excited to share that I’m also expecting my first child in January. My leadership has always been fierce supporters of prioritizing our families over everything else. The support I’ve received from my team is especially important to me right now because it can be hard for successful, career-driven women to take significant time away from work. That’s not the case here. Discover offers great benefits for parental leave and the right culture to back it up.

Leaders who listen and act

I’ve worked at Discover for 13 years, and it is always the people that bring me back every single day. People outside the company are always surprised at the autonomy and openness of our leaders. They’re surprised to hear that when we propose ideas and solutions, our leaders listen and act. My advice to job seekers? Apply! It’s a no brainer. In my experience, Discover offers a unique culture and mindset that’s unmatched.

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

 

 

 

 

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New Discover Card Designs Celebrate Black Culture – And Hold Deeper Meaning for Black Employees

New Card Designs Celebrate Black Culture – And Hold Deeper Meaning for Black Employees

Jonita Wilson
Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer
Riverwoods, IL
She/Her/Hers

Representation and inclusion matter – for customers, employees and communities.

Discover today launched three new card designs that celebrate Black culture, thanks to the determination, hard work and deliberate actions of two employees who saw an opportunity for the company to be more inclusive in its design choices for customers.

As co-chairs of the Black Organizational Leadership at Discover (BOLD) employee resource group, Chrissy Le’Blanc and Mike Williams were looking for ways their chapter could have a bigger impact at Discover and in their local community.

They learned about our LGBTQ+ Pride card design that our PRIDE employee resource group championed in 2015 to celebrate LGBTQ+ customers and employees, as well as expand Discover’s marketing outreach to that community.

Looking at Discover’s inventory of 100+ card designs, they found famous landmarks and international flags representing dozens of countries across the globe. But none were tied to African heritage or the Black community.

Handful of Color

“I like the hands because it reminds us that in order to see change, we must be all in it together.”

– Ashley Potts

Handful of Color

“I like how (this card) speaks to us as a collective unit and celebrates our diverse skin tones.”

– Bethany Loper

Golden Africa

“I love this card – bold and shows our African Heritage.”

– Jennifer Covert

Silhouettes

“The different facial features/structure along with the colors of the Pan-African flag shows the diversity within the Black community.”

– Crystal Santiago

Silhouettes

“I like that (this card) demonstrates diversity and inclusion.  The picture coupled with the bold and vibrant colors of Africa portrays a story without any words.”

– Cynthia Goslee

And that’s how it all began. Mike and Chrissy researched the spending power of Black consumers. They looked at other U.S. financial institutions to see if they had card art that uplifted their Black employees and customers — and only found one example. They created a proposal that outlined the need and presented data to support the business case. They brainstormed possible card designs.

Mike and Chrissy tackled this project for a variety of reasons.

Mike wanted representation of the Black community in Discover’s card designs. He was proud to work on a project that advocated for inclusion. He believes it’s important for companies to work with and support their employee resource groups, especially on ideas that resonate so deeply and personally.

“Companies like Discover have the opportunity to stand out and not blend in with everyone else,” said Mike, an area manager. “They have the ability to drive positive change by supporting grassroots initiatives and underserved communities.”

Chrissy also wanted Black employees at Discover to feel proud and see that persistence can lead to bigger things. She also wanted to be able to say to colleagues that she didn’t give up.

”I knew this was bigger than just Discover. It had to do with inclusion and diversity. There was no doubt about it,” explained Chrissy, a senior consumer complaints specialist.

Mike and Chrissy brought their idea for consideration to various leaders at Discover. Their original idea quickly gained traction and a cross functional team that included leaders from BOLD and Discover’s cardmember marketing organization. “Our BOLD team came to us with a great opportunity that evolved organically as the cross functional team searched for a way to make our card designs more representative and inclusive. We’re proud of the collaboration between our BOLD ERG and our internal creative team, which gave us a concept that celebrates and represents diversity within the Black community,” said Eduardo Carlos, director of portfolio marketing for Discover.

“Leveraging inspiration and insights from internal stakeholders, our BOLD team crafted the ‘Foundationally Black, Uniquely Diverse’ positioning that informed the three card art options designed by the Discover creative team,” added Carlos.

Earlier this year, members of BOLD chapters from across our company weighed in and voted for the designs they liked the most. And now these three card art designs celebrating the Black community are available to our cardmembers, thanks to the drive of Chrissy and Mike, and the village of individuals across Discover who joined them on the journey to bring this idea to life.

Existing credit cardmembers can get these card designs by visiting
www.discover.com/designs

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Girls, Gays and Theys: Navigating Corporate America from Beyond the Margins

We’re talking about our experiences navigating corporate America as part of the LGBTQ+ community.  Vibe with someone’s story? Click their name for their full blog.

Camille Todd
Agile Coach, Cybersecurity
Remote (Delaware)
Pronouns: He/Him | They/Them

I navigate corporate structures with intention and compassion. I’m intentional about 2 things– being my most authentic self and taking up space. I thrive when I can be my authentic self and bring ideas from my unique perspective on the world. I’m intentional about taking up space because early in my career I was plagued by imposter syndrome and it caused me to shrink away from various opportunities. In recent years, I’ve learned to own my experience with greater accountability. I take up the space required to present new and fresh ideas, foster and cultivate relationships with my coworkers, and drive growth and diversity within corporate culture.

Anahita Chaudhary
Lead Modeler
Riverwoods, IL
Pronouns: She/her/hers

At the beginning of my career, navigating my identity at work was particularly tricky. I had to go back into the closet after college to be able to fit in. I felt I would let the entire community down if I came out and then couldn’t perform up to the mark at my job. So I worked hard to establish my credibility, which in turn gave me confidence to gradually come out. Within 2 years I was the only visibly queer and gender fluid person in the office. I’ve been extremely lucky to have supportive colleagues and bosses throughout my career who made it easy for me to be myself without the fear of any judgement.

Natalie headshot with glasses onNatalie Kalmbacher
Lead Account Specialist Billing Resolutions
New Castle
Pronouns: She/her

During my transition, I never ever thought I would see the end of the tunnel. But I grew stronger than ever and now I do. It’s all thanks to Discover, actually. They provided me with the resources I needed to make myself complete and get the care I needed. I’ve also gotten so much love and acceptance from so many people. Honestly my whole experience at Discover has been amazing. I’m openly Trans and wish I could speak to even more people within the company. I want to share my story and ensure anyone in my position knows that they have a voice. As a Trans individual, it’s rare to find a company as open as Discover— people need to know that. I do know other Trans people at Discover who don’t want to speak up. But I personally want to be seen.

Amy Armstrong             
VP, Compliance Advisory
Riverwoods, IL
Pronouns: She/Her

About 5 years ago, in the middle of interviewing a candidate, he pointed to a picture on my desk of my partner and I on vacation. He asked me where “my friend and I” had vacationed. I told him that the photo was of me and my partner at a theme park. He then abruptly said he hadn’t realized I was gay and that he wasn’t interested in the role because he couldn’t “work for someone like me” and literally left the interview. From this experience, a hard truth I’ve learned is that people will dislike or disrespect you for things that you cannot change.

Karlyn Steadman 
Team Coach, Customer Service & Engagement Dept. Core
New Albany, OH
Pronouns: They/Them

Knowing how to navigate a professional work environment as a male or a female is learned— from binary dress codes, to learning how to navigate proper etiquette based off your birth gender. As someone who doesn’t fall under the binary gender umbrella, it was always difficult to know how to navigate those norms. After my first year of college, I was a chef. I kept to myself and always made sure I worked somewhere where the uniforms were the same. I always chose a unisex cut chef’s coat. But after leaving the industry, I was thrown into the business world without guidance on what to do.

Thankfully, I was lucky and worked for Discover. I quickly realized that the scary truth of a binary dress code, binary bathrooms and professional brand, were not true for Discover. I felt comfortable in my own skin quickly and created my own brand. I felt confident that it didn’t matter that I didn’t fall under a female or male identity. I identified as me and portrayed that in my attire and confidently shared my pronouns.

woman standing against grey wood panelingMegan Isaac
Team Leader, Deposits Front Office
Lake Park, UT
Pronouns: She/Her

When I was first hired at Discover, I was so scared for anyone to know that I was in a relationship with a woman. I didn’t have very many positive experiences or role models that I knew of that were successful and Out. I’ve been very blessed to work for a company that I personally have never felt like my sexuality has held me back from opportunities. The environment at Discover is amazing. My management and peers have always made me feel included. A mistake I’ve made is being too cautious. Oftentimes, if I’m unsure of how LGBTQ+ friendly a situation is, when speaking about my fiancé, I use they/them pronouns or substitute “my partner” or “my fiancé.”  Yet, I’ve never had a negative interaction from a co-worker finding out I’m a lesbian. My management, peers, and people I manage have always been supportive. Yet, I’ve held back when sharing personal stories. If I could change anything, I would be open and proud from the start. I wouldn’t hold back when asked about my relationships, and I would use she/her pronouns from the get-go.

headshot of patrickPatrick Opinion
Lead AML Compliance Specialist
Riverwoods, IL
Pronouns: He/Him/His

Gradually over time, I’ve discovered opportunities to find self-acceptance by working for organizations that champion diversity. I’m now connected to people with the same passion for inclusion. I feel it’s imperative that organizations develop a safe space for individuals where everyone can be themselves and find a sense of belonging. I’ve been privileged to be a part of my organization’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) council, where I learn from a team of like-minded individuals and navigate topics like unconscious bias, blind spots and racial injustice. Through action and conversations like these, we can learn how to be more intentional in how we treat each other.

Chris Crosby
Team Leader, Identity Protection
New Albany, OH
Pronouns: He/Him/His

It’s hard to navigate corporate America as a black gay man. There’s always the mentality that I’ll have to work twice as hard to get half as much. So when I first started working, I kept my identity private and only told a select few. As I progressed in my career, I learned that if I hide who I am, I’m not going to be able to give 100% of what I can offer. Now I understand that my identity is major a part of who I am. It allows me to share stories and experiences that can shape the outcome of the business. In turn, I also seek out individuals at Discover who look like me. As simple as that sounds, it can be a challenge. But I’ve found so many, across different points in my career. I use them as a reference and motivation to know that I can be greater than where I am today.

Nicole Shuck     
Senior Manager, Rewards Marketing
Riverwoods, IL
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

I’ve been at the Discover Riverwoods, IL headquarters for 6 years now. For the first 1-2 years, I was very selective of who I came out to and told about my personal life. When people asked who I lived with, I called my fiancé my “roommate.” At the time, I’d come out to a close friend at work who accepted and love me. She pulled me aside and said, “You have to stop doing that. No one will care about who you love and they will only love you more for being you.” In that moment, she was the best ally I could’ve ever asked for. She gave me the courage, in this new professional world, to be my full authentic self.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to really lean into the notion that, “When you’re scared, afraid, nervous; take one step forward.” Coming out at work was one small step forward. I slowly opened up one by one, until eventually my sexuality became part of everyday normal conversation. I’ve moved away from “coming out,” to just “being me.”  Ever since then, every person I’ve come out to has shown me nothing but positivity. Even most recently, my past coworkers, current coworkers and friends came together for a surprise virtual bridal shower for me and I was blown away by how many people showed up and contributed to the gift.

 

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Evolving Over Time: Our Stories of Gender Fluidity and Self Expression

Hear from Discover teammates on how they fought for acceptance as their identities evolved over time. Vibe with someone’s perspective? Click on their name to read their full story.

person with two dogsKayla Knoll
IRA Specialist
Lake Park, UT
Pronouns: they/them

I’m evolving more daily and learning to love myself! I used to think I was just a masculine girl, but after a teacher had me read a book featuring a transgender superhero, I started my journey of learning I am not Cisgender. The book helped me on my journey to come out as nonbinary immensely. I would tell my younger self that it’s okay to be feminine, it’s okay to like girly things. My relationship to myself and my identity now is honestly still a struggle. I battle with imposter syndrome daily, but I’m working through it! I’m also working on recovering from PTSD. On the journey of accepting my identity, I am almost there.

Natalie headshot with glasses onNatalie Kalmbacher
Lead Account Specialist Billing Resolutions
New Castle
Pronouns: She/her

Honestly, my relationship with my identity is a lot better than it’s ever been. For many years I hated myself and didn’t want to accept myself as a transgender person. I tried to live a “normal life.” Eventually, I came to the realization that being me, my true self and identity, was the only way to be happy. Coming to terms with my identity was the only way I could have a real relationship with myself and others. I stopped caring about what other people thought and started doing what makes me happy. I know that I can’t love myself or others if I’m not happy. When I transitioned, I tried on many different names, looks and almost anything else you can think of. One day it just clicked: Natalie Lauren. It was like a lightbulb went off and said YES! This is who you will become. I’ve been that person since.

Nicholas and sonNicholas Cash
System Support Specialist
Lake Park, UT
Pronouns: He/Him

If I had to label my relationship status with my identity, I would say “it’s complicated.” I love who I am, and I love that my identity is not considered the norm, but at times, I also wonder what it would be like to be looked at as “normal.” I thought coming out would be enough, but it wasn’t. I’m still learning about who I am and what truly defines me.

I also don’t want to be placed in a box. Within the LGBTQ+ community, we tend to place identities in boxes. Categorizing identities reinforces some obligation to act according to the label. This phenomenon is a constant struggle for me. Breaking down those walls and figuring out who I truly am has been the most challenging part of evolving my identity.

I’ve grown, forgotten things I loved, learned new things I love, revisited the forgotten and come out stronger in the end. I haven’t evolved from being a gay man, but I have evolved in learning about what it means to be a gay man. Just because I’m a gay man doesn’t mean that I need to act a certain way or pretend to be someone I’m not.

Person wearing a flower crownAvonlea Whitaker         
Coach
Lake Park, UT
Pronouns: They/Them

I originally thought I was bisexual, then demi-sexual, and now I am currently happy with identifying as a-sexual and bi-romantic. Then finally, coming out as non-binary. My identity has changed significantly over time for two major reasons. The first reason is denial, and the second reason is not having the words. My self-discovery journey really wasn’t easy. I felt judged by myself and believed that other people would judge me just as harshly.

It was also really hard knowing the people I’m blood related to aren’t as accepting of who I am. My relationship with myself is getting better, but it is still not perfect. I still struggle with gender dysphoria now and then because I get misgendered so often. I’ve learned to come to terms with my sexual orientation and I’m confident with calling myself a-sexual.

two friendsPatrick Opinion
Lead AML Compliance Specialist
Riverwoods, IL
Pronouns: He/Him/His

For me, acceptance doesn’t look like being explicit and boisterous in my gender expression. I find comfort in being mildly spirited. I’m protective of my own space and will speak my truth on my own time and in the way that benefits me the most. I haven’t been outspoken about coming out because I believe I don’t owe anyone an explanation. Nor do I need validation. I strongly feel that “coming out” is a process of self-discovery. It’s a personal choice to be vocal or passively approach it. But it’s done in your free will and not out of peer pressure.

Headshot of DawnDawn Hansen
Change Management & Communications Specialist
Lake Park, UT
Pronouns: She/Her

I first came out to myself about 5 years ago. It was a true “ah ha” moment. All the confusion and internal conflict I’d felt since middle school suddenly became clear. I felt liberated— like an elephant suddenly jumped off my shoulders.

When I first came out as bisexual, and it was very cut and dry to me. As time has passed, I’ve become much more comfortable with just saying I’m queer. The term queer is much more fluid, which is how I feel day-to-day. It allows me to fit in a larger spectrum and not feel so labeled.

I’ve also recently started doing a lot of introspection on what gender means to me and expect that understanding to evolve over time as well. My relationship with myself has completely changed. I’m finally embracing myself as a queer individual.

Camille Todd
Agile Coach, Cybersecurity
Riverwoods, IL (Permanently remote from Delaware)
Pronouns: He/Him | They/Them

My identity has definitely evolved over the years and it’s been a wild ride. When I was born I was AFAB (Assigned Female at Birth) and in my early adolescent years (11 or 12) I came out to my friends and family as bisexual. In recent years, I came out to myself and then family and friends as Trans. I now live as a proud pansexual transman. In regards to self-discovery and identity, I believe fluidity is the best approach for me and it’s how I’ve learned to love myself on deeper levels.

Laura Stoll         
Principal Release Manager
New Albany, OH
Pronouns: She / Her

I’m a bi woman, married to a woman who I’ve been with almost 16 years. Most of my life I knew that I was attracted to women, but because I was brought up in a Southern Baptist household, I tried to ignore it. In early 2000 after my engagement ended, I started dating a woman for the first time. I used to think I was either straight or a lesbian, but over time I’ve accepted that for me, it’s about being in love with that person— whatever they identify as.

Karlyn Steadman
Team Coach, Customer Service & Engagement Dept. Core
New Albany, OH
Pronouns: They/Them

Come high school, I knew I was different. I learned more about what it meant to be a lesbian and could easily identify with that label. Even still, I would force myself to show up as female because there wasn’t anything that described me fully. I didn’t want to wear dresses, or skirts. And wasn’t a huge fan of how my body was changing. So I hid myself in hoodies and baggy clothes and explored the more masculine side of myself.
When I graduated high school and was navigating the world of college, I learned what it meant to identify not only as a lesbian, but also as non-binary. Now as I approach my 30’s quickly, I’m finally comfortable in my own skin. I’ve used my past traumas to learn more about myself. I’ve built a foundation of support in my family, both chosen and not. I can be open and truthful out loud to myself— it’s ok that I don’t fit into a box of female or male. The ever-changing sliding scales of gender and sexual orientation can be difficult to navigate if you aren’t taught that it can be ever-changing.

Nathan Andon
Account Executive
Riverwoods, IL
Pronouns: He/Him/His

Over time, I’ve grown to accept myself for who I am more and more. Back in my teen years, if someone asked me about my sexual orientation, I definitely would’ve lied. In college, I would’ve answered depending on whether or not I felt safe enough to do so. Once I moved to Chicago, I felt comfortable enough with myself to not care. I realized there was an entire community that identified the way I do.

My identity is still ever-evolving, but I’m at the end of my journey of accepting who I am. As with anything, I have good days and bad days. My younger years were definitely full of exploration and trying to find out exactly who I am. I’m now more self-loving and self-confident. I know who I am, and I am proud of who I am. I identify as a cis-gendered, Latinx, gay male, and am 100% proud of all of those identifying labels.

 

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HBCU Alumni Talk Black Excellence on Campus and Beyond

Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Alumni at Discover share why they chose a historically Black institution, the impact their education had on their lives, and their advice for anyone considering attending. For more on how Discover supports Black excellence, explore our recent college commitment partnership with Paul Quinn College.

Nasiya Acklen
Senior Manager Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
HBCU Alumnus
Pronouns: She/Her

In high school I knew that I wanted to attend an HBCU because they had been so connected to my experience growing up in Nashville, TN with three prominent HBCUs located just a few streets over. The local university’s homecoming was an annual celebration of black culture, and I was in the parade every year of high school, being celebrated and cheered by the largely black crowd of students, families, dignitaries, and alumni.

I also saw the comradery of the HBCU experience when watching my grandfather with his college and football buddies. They maintained tight connections and supported the university with pride, even up to the day he passed away. I saw the same with my Aunt from her experience at an all-female HBCU in Atlanta. She was in a sorority and a member of the majorette team. I knew an HBCU would be a place to fully immerse myself in Black Excellence and the Black experience. It would be a place that I could be my authentic self in a psychologically safe and fun environment.

I chose my alma mater from the seven schools that I applied to because it was a highly regarded institution, and I was fortunate to receive a Presidential Scholarship. And at the urging of my mother, it was the furthest away from home, which gave me exposure to living outside of the deep South. When I visited the campus for the first time, I absolutely fell in love. The campus is gorgeous, and it is affectionately called “our home by the sea” because of the dorms on the waterfront. As soon as I stepped on campus, I knew in that moment that I had made the right decision.

Being at an HBCU truly broadened my exposure to unbounded possibilities and all types of people, which is probably true at any university. Yet it felt so special to break through the monolithic versions of Black people that are usually portrayed. My best friends from college and sorority sisters are from California, Washington DC, Charlotte, Maryland, and New York. I quickly recognized that we saw the world so differently from our unique backgrounds and upbringings. I’m connected to some of America’s best and brightest Black talent, which actually extends through to the entire HBCU network.

Attending an HBCU was life changing, and I am especially grateful for the experience. I would say to a prospective student that it’s a rare occasion to be in an extremely nurturing learning environment with people that look like you. You’ll be enveloped in a community that’s committed to your future growth and success. All parties involved, including your professors, understand and don’t shy away from conversations on what it takes to be successful as an African-American in corporate America. That mindset seeps into the academic programming, so take full advantage of this opportunity.

Speaking of opportunity, use the time at an HBCU to explore who you really are while in an environment where you never have to question if your Blackness is a reason for any of it. Conversely, there is so much diversity within each of us and within the Black community, so test yourself to see Blackness outside of the limits of your lens. Lastly, expect to be challenged. When race comes off the table, consider any preconceived limits that you or others have put on your capabilities. Hopefully you will find renewed motivation to be the absolute best.

Maia Davis-Singleton
Director Client Support
HBCU Alumnus
Pronouns: She/Her

I grew up in the Midwest and had a number of “only” experiences. I’d been the only Black person in my neighborhood, the only one at my school. Given I had my share of experiences as being the only, it was important for me to find a college that I felt connected to.

I’m a product of a mother and father who are both HBCU graduates. A local sorority afforded me the opportunity to go on a HBCU college tour. We visited at least 10 HBCU’s across the country and that experience changed my life. By being surrounded by Black excellence, I felt a sense of belonging and pride that I hadn’t felt before.

I will forever cherish the relationships and extended family that I built. I can’t forget the warmness and sense of community the students and teachers extended to me. Those relationships have extended far beyond my college years. I’m still in touch with many of those friends today.

Michael Canady
VP, Global Operations & Client Services
HBCU Alumnus
Pronouns: He/Him

I chose to attend an HBCU consciously and deliberately. Candidly, I only ever had an interest in an HBCU education. I had a lot of options academically, but at my core, I wanted and needed a Black college experience.  I felt that an HBCU education would provide me with the best cultural and academic environment for my personal success.  In retrospect, the experience certainly allowed me the space to grow and learn about myself as a young Black student in ways that I may have been unable to at a traditional university.

Apart from the academic benefits of an HBCU education, by far the best benefits are the life-long friendships that I developed.  I’m thankful for the amazing relationships and people I encountered during my journey there.  My network and the relationships that I built along the way are invaluable.

Quite honestly, my HBCU journey exposed me to Black excellence on a level that I hadn’t yet personally experienced before.  A variety of successful people from my own culture mentored and educated me.  That experience had a meaningful impact on my own personal aspirations and ambitions.

I firmly believe that my college experience was a key contributor to who I became as an adult.  I certainly found my confidence and the experience was pivotal in helping shape my identity, point of view as a Black man and my overall outlook on life.  I definitely matured in a manner that I likely wouldn’t have been able to do had I chosen a different path for my undergraduate studies.

I had the opportunity to learn about the world from the perspective of my identity.  That experience was invaluable and certainly helped to shape my perspective on a variety of topics ranging from politics, social issues to diversity, equity and inclusion.

 

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