Chance encounters lead to lofty career dreams

April 27, 2018 | GET MORE : Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

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A job training program helped two U.S. Bankers get their foot in the door – and they haven’t looked back.

Lydia Xiaofei Zhou (above, left) was out of work. She’d been laid off from her job as a manager at an IT consulting company and was “directionless” when she stopped by a Redmond, Washington, community center to pick up an application for unemployment benefits. While there, a countertop brochure captured her attention. 

Nayeli Gabriel (above, right), a Redmond area retail employee, was busy selling clothing when a friend stopped by the store. The two chatted for a while about Gabriel’s plans to go back to college and her desire to find more meaningful work when her friend handed her a brochure – the same that caught Zhou’s eye.

The two don’t know one another, but they have a few things in common. Both are residents of the greater Seattle area. Both of their encounters led to U.S. Bank, where, since joining the company in 2016, each has already received at least one promotion. Both also have big dreams for their careers as bankers, and they owe it all to a brochure about “no-cost training” and “opportunities for financial services careers.”

The brochure referenced an intense, eight-week financial services job training program offered through YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish. As part of its Economic Advancement initiative, YWCA aims for the program to “help community members gain equitable opportunity to reach their full potential.” Participants are often refugees, immigrants and those facing additional barriers to employment such as limited proficiency with English, homelessness or domestic violence.

U.S. Bank supports the program by providing funding as part of its Community Possible corporate giving platform and, more importantly, participating in recruitment events. Since 2016, the bank has hired more than 40 graduates in the region.

“This program ensures that we have well-prepared employees, like Nayeli and Lydia, who are beginning to see career opportunities in banking open up for them because of the valuable job skills training they received,” said U.S. Bank HR Business Partner Liz Frederickson.

Zhou, a personal banker specialist, is responsible for overseeing the financial activities for personal accounts. The job requires excellent customer service and communication skills – it doesn’t hurt that she’s fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese – and a comfort level explaining various investment options.

“I love my job and believe it’s an honor to help customers,” Zhou said. “When they come to the branch and are looking for help or advice – and I am the person that they trust to talk about their situation – it makes me an important person in their life. And that’s really gratifying.”

Gabriel is a teller coordinator and is responsible for most all of the cash that comes into her branch. She checks on the overnight deposits and safety deposit box slips, and remains busy throughout the day assisting tellers. She still finds it hard to believe that she’s a banker.

As for the future, Gabriel wants to move into an operations specialist role, where she’ll have regional responsibility for managing operations for multiple U.S. Bank branches, while Zhou, who has begun the process of obtaining her securities license, has her sights set on joining the U.S. Bank Wealth Management team. 

“As a non-native English speaker, it’s sometimes harder to find scholarships and things to make advancement affordable,” Gabriel added. “So when my friend gave me that brochure, and I saw that it was free, I said to myself, ‘Why not?’ and I took a chance. That was two years ago, and I love my job. I love helping people, especially my tellers.”

Dan Endy works in public affairs and communications for U.S. Bank.