Homestead Happenings
March 8, 2022

Women of Homestead: Celebrating International Women's Day

This year for International Women’s Day, we wanted to highlight some of the incredible women that work for us at Homestead Funding. We have some truly remarkable employees, and we were honored that these women were willing to share their stories with us. Their answers to our hard-hitting questions were honest, insightful, and truly inspiring. We hope you enjoy reading their responses as much as we did.

Is there a woman in your life that inspires you? Please tell us a little bit about her and why she's such an inspiration to you.

I met my good friend Cait in college at a very pivotal point in my life where I needed direction and friendship. Her kindness, optimism, and wit helped shape me into the person I am today. Today she is a wife, mother of three, and a career woman who still empowers me to be a better person. She will always be someone to be looked up to and leaned into for support, compassion, and advice.

My biggest inspiration is my mother. She was born and raised in India and always accomplished anything she would set her mind to. She worked extremely hard to provide for my sisters and I and encouraged us to do anything we wanted to do, so long as we worked hard and never gave up. Watching her, seeing her work ethic, and hearing about the hardships she had to overcome is not only highly motivating, but also a constant reminder of how strong women are.

What has it been like for you to balance your work and personal life during the global pandemic? What challenges have you faced?

Personal and work balance was hard in the beginning of the pandemic. I’m immune compromised and found myself caring for a family member who was going through cancer treatments. I juggled taking him to treatment, handled the busiest time in our industry, and made sure I wasn’t compromising either one of us by being in large groups. It was very daunting. Homestead was flexible with the time I needed and allowed me to take care of the things I needed to do in my personal life. They were truly a lifesaver.

Combining work and family life all under one roof has been a challenge, to say the least. The learning curve has started to flatten out and become more natural.  Our clients are people just like us trying to balance their lives too. It’s nice to be able to connect with them on that personal level. Having my kids and husband understand that I need the appropriate time and space to convey this to my clients has been the biggest obstacle so far. One day at a time.

What advice, if any, would you give to women who are looking to enter the mortgage industry?

The mortgage industry provides a unique environment for women to strive and achieve whatever level they want. There is no ceiling.  

Be compassionate. There are many reasons people want to buy a house or refinance and most of them are very personal and sensitive. To be able to hear your clients and understand what they are going through, to educate them, and to help make one of life's largest investments easier and as stress-free as possible should be your goal.

What was your career journey like? How did you end up in the mortgage industry and at Homestead?

After graduating college, I moved to the D.C. area, working as a Staff Accountant. A couple years later I relocated back home without a job lined up. I answered a newspaper ad for a data entry position at Homestead. After my interview, Homestead decided to create a new position in the Accounting Department based on my experience and education.  I'm appreciative they saw my qualifications and made that decision over 21 years ago.  I haven't looked back since.

I was born and raised in Brazil. I graduated with a degree in Materials Engineering before I did a 2-year internship at an international company that provides products for various industries. After, I participated in an international exchange program. The program allowed young people to come to the US, live with a host family and, in exchange, I assisted in providing care for their children. What was supposed to be 1-year program became permanent once I met my husband and decided to stay in the US. I continued working as a nanny for the same family that hosted me during my exchange year.

My first real job in the US was as a cashier where I learned a lot about the workplace in America. After 6 months, I got a call to interview for an entry-level position in the Opening Department and I got a job offer which I gladly accepted.

I first went to college to become a radio DJ. I was so excited to get a local job and be heard. Unfortunately, in this small market, you need experience and the only way to get that was through internships. Interns earn no money and I needed to pay my bills. I found an opening at a bank with the scheduling department and worked my way up to underwriting. From there, I decided to move to processing. I really enjoyed working with people and helping the borrowers. In 2016, I was laid off due to cutbacks. After searching for another processing position, I came across Homestead. Opportunity after opportunity just kept coming my way at Homestead and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

How has Homestead supported you in your career journey?

Homestead has really advanced my growth. Within the short time I have been here, the managers, department figures, and team members have really bolstered my abilities and have shown me I can achieve great things.

The relationships and experiences I've garnered through Homestead's very fun and friendly atmosphere have bolstered my ability to write mortgages more efficiently and thoroughly.  The help and guidance I've receive from colleagues, training, and support staff has been priceless on my journey to becoming a professional mortgage originator.

Homestead has given me the opportunity to explore my interests and meet women who have excelled in their careers. Through meeting these women, I've gotten the chance to experience the dedication, hard work, and leadership skills it takes to move upwards within a company and achieve certain goals. Watching my manager deal with extremely stressful situations while keeping a level head and guiding each one of her employees in the right direction has been motivational and something I hope to be able to do.

What, if any, obstacles have you faced to get where you are now?

I always thought it was important to obtain a degree and I ended up putting myself through college.  I worked full-time on the floor in a factory while going to college at night and on weekends. It took me 11 years, but I graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Science degree.  I'm proud that I persevered and accomplished that goal.  

It wasn’t easy restarting my life and career away from my home country—away from my family, friends, and my culture. At first, my plan was to start a career as a Materials Engineer once I finished my exchange program, but after spending time abroad I learned that this wasn’t really the field I wanted to pursue.

Once I started working at Homestead, I learned a lot of new procedures and documents that are very different from Brazil. I had to further develop my English skills and tailor my speech to professional adults and internal customers. I am proud to say that I have learned plenty of new skills with the help and patience of my manager and my co-workers. I am now the Team Lead and I train new employees and assist my co-workers as a means of giving back – I believe in pulling someone up with me every time I take a step forward. I’m very fortunate to work in a place where my ideas are heard and accepted. I know I am seen for all I have to offer.

In your opinion, what is the most important characteristic, trait, behavior, and/or skill a leader should have?

First, a leader must have emotional intelligence and compassion. There is a saying in sales: “the customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”; the same is true of a manager or leader. While hard skills are important, being willing to take the time to understand what drives your team and tailor your coaching skills to everyone is imperative. Second, a leader should lead from the front and not be “above.” A leader should lead by example and never ask an employee to do something that they won’t or can’t do themselves. Last, and perhaps most important, a leader should demonstrate integrity and accountability. This can be achieved by 1) doing what you say you’re going to do, 2) communicating effectively, openly, and frequently, and 3) be willing to give credit to your team for their successes, while taking the blame for any shortcomings.

What do you think makes you a good leader?

I have grown over time in this position, but if I had to point to one thing: I care and work to earn the respect of the people that I respect and work for this organization.

I try to approach situations from a perspective of humility. It is imperative to choose being open-minded and curious over protecting my point of view. This will allow me to see real potential and possibilities in others and their ideas. I deeply care about the success of everyone on the team and endeavor to provide an environment for individual growth and freedom. I am highly passionate about our industry and maintain high expectations while striving to always be empathetic and fair.

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

When in doubt, follow your instincts.  

You can have all the data and the facts in the world to help you make a decision. If you are a leader, that quality is separate from those data elements and facts. Trust yourself.

Own who you are and don’t apologize for it. Instead, embrace it and consider how to make the words that describe you your strengths and play to those strengths. Be bold, be kind, show resilience, and have courage–set goals but not limits and above all believe in yourself.  

From All of us at Homestead Funding, Happy International Women’s Day.

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