My Door Is Open and I Am Always Willing to Help, Welcome, And Share: “You Belong”
In honor and celebration of Women’s Empowerment Month, we’re spotlighting BIPOC women in leadership, who are taking action for equality and paving the way for our future leaders.
This week, we had the great joy to [virtually] sit down with LaSandra Hunt, Vice President Commercial Banker & Supplier Diversity Ambassador at JPMorgan Chase & Co. LaSandra shares how education shaped her life, navigating a career in the financial industry / commercial banking, and her greatest hope and advice for women of the next generation.
Read the full story below:
Please share a little about yourself. Where are you from? How did education shape your life?
I was born and bred in the Bay Area; I went to Skyline High School in Oakland, CA. But, my path to “University Avenue” was a unique one. My career began as a bank teller, I moved on to work in a Cash-Vault where I processed cash from branch deposits and ATM envelopes. It was there that I began to fully understand about our money system as an industry. Later, I worked in a Merchant Processing service center, then transitioned to a Personal Banker and finally, became a Business Banker.
I soon realized this career is where I belonged. The thrill of helping entrepreneurs in a broad range of industries, and I was hooked. I stayed in retail banking for many years. When I had my son, I took a short break from banking and sold television ads for NBC and later CBS. Being a new mother made me think about my future more and I began chipping away at prerequisites. I ultimately transferred to Golden Gate University and received my degree in Business Administration. All along, I worked full-time until I graduated in 2017. I’d also note, JPMorgan Chase aided me with Tuition Assistance so it was a real win-win!
It was a proud day for me and my family and I continually reflected on my mind set: “How am I going to ask my son to pursue college if I hadn’t.” Today, my son is a freshman at UNLV and on a partial scholarship. I could not be more proud. My degree was the catalyst for change, it enabled me to compete for career advancement at my firm and recently I have been thinking about pursuing my MBA and even Law Degree. Golden Gate University really demonstrated that you can actually have your cake and eat it too. Working full-time and completing your degree is possible!
How did you find your career path in Commercial Banking and Supplier Diversity at leading global financial services firm, JPMorgan Chase & Co.?
I will be celebrating 13 years with JPMorgan in October. My career path to a Commercial Banker followed nine years in Business Banking. Originally, I worked as a sales coach when JPMC acquired WAMU, later in production as a banker and as an Area Manager and recall during this time, I was also taking courses at GGU.
I love identifying clients with shared missions and values, it’s what fuels my passion to understand the client, their industry and needs deeply. I knew I wanted to continue to advance my career and being equipped with my degree, I started applying. I did not get the first job I applied for, but that was a godsend. In July 2017, I was promoted to Commercial Banker.
The way I became a JPMC Global Supplier Diversity Ambassador: This is really an interesting story and underscores the value of curiosity and making connections.
While visiting a client at their office I saw a banner they had displayed that noted “WRMSDC Diversity Supplier of the Year.” I asked the client what that was and learned the principal owners were Minority Business Owners (MBE’s) and they belonged to a Minority Business Council, specifically Western Region Minority Supplier Diversity Council.
I rushed back to my office and logged onto LinkedIn. I had long followed our Global Head of Supplier Diversity William R. Kapfer. He is very active on LinkedIn and I had connected with him years prior. I emailed him and shared my experience. He set up a call and shared that his team was looking for someone in my market to help raise awareness about our Supplier Diversity efforts and I immediately raised my hand.
Today, I am still a Commercial Banker, plus I have picked up our Supplier Diversity flag, serving as champion for MBE’s and raising awareness in the San Francisco Bay Area Market. Reinforcing our firm’s 27-year commitment working with diverse suppliers; and $2Billion annually spent with businesses owned by people of color, women, veterans, and other underrepresented groups.
JPMorgan Chase Supplier Diversity is bringing the whole firm to bear across the U.S. to promote and expand affordable housing and homeownership for underserved communities, grow Black- and Latinx-owned businesses, improve financial health and access to banking, accelerate investment in our employees, and build a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
How have you navigated a gender-related challenge in your career?
The financial industry has long had a reputation of being male dominated. By working for JPMorgan Chase I participate in creating real change. Engaging in the process is mission critical to achieving diversity and equality.
I participate as a Site-Lead for “Women on The Move,” our Business Resource Group, bringing together employees from across lines of business to support, network, advance careers, and attract and retain diverse talent. I also participate in Superday, Campus Recruiting for Summer Interns & Analysts. In 2015, we launched Advancing Black Pathways, a commitment to expand economic opportunities for Black Americans focusing on Careers, Wealth, and Education. Again, I participated, raised my hand and led a 6-month campaign called ‘Currency Conversations,’ the first JPMorgan Chase Financial Literacy campaign, in collaboration with Essence to address some of the pervasive disparities in the African-American Community.
I am also supported by incredible leaders, including male allies that have helped me sharpen my skills and advance my career like Jeff DeRosa, Robert Hurley, BJ Washington, Jeremy West, Todd Heintz (JPMC), and Jack Schwarz (CBS).
Who are women in leadership you look up to?
In JPMC, we have many awesome women leaders. Some of the most inspiring and influential include: Sarah Hebda, Alice Rodriguez, Kimberly Hett, (JPMC), and Cheryl Olive (NBC). Brilliant women who do incredible work with flawless execution and are real standard bearers.
Please share your experiences as a BIPOC woman in leadership.
I can reflect on many occasions pre and post JPMC life where I was the ‘only’ BIPOC. I always count myself fortunate to have the privilege and responsibility of the job at hand. It has always been more about just getting it right. It’s doing my very best, each and every day, demonstrating the value I bring. My effort, work, and contribution demonstrate how different life experiences add new ideas, viewpoints, and result in even more success for the broader team, paving the way for greater diversity.
Today, my door is open and I am always willing to help, welcome, and share “You belong” – our Women on The Move, BRG mantra.
What do equity and equitable opportunities mean to you?
In the spirit of working to create equity and equitable opportunities, that is for all people regardless of sex, race, preference or religion we look to undo bias, advancing the limitless power to create the world that was meant for us all.
What does SRA mean to you in terms of closing equity gaps?
I was introduced to SRA in 2016 after Scott Kockos with JPMorgan Securities shared a volunteer opportunity for our Volunteer Leadership Group (VLG), a Business Resource Group. As co-Chair of the VLG, we deployed Chase employees to volunteer at the 2017 and 2018 SRA Annual Mock Career Fair, alongside companies like Tesla and AT&T.
Each year, Students Rising Above (SRA) closely mentors students from 12th grade helping them navigate through college admissions, the 4-years while at college, and hosts workshops centered around careers, internships, and resume and interview preparedness.
In 2018, SRA helped place 267 student interns in roles, with firms like Google, Apple, and others. These high-valued internships may have been out of reach without the connectivity, guidance, and support SRA advisors provide.
Meeting the students first-hand at an SRA Career Day and seeing some of the students who graduated come back holding titles at some of the foremost enterprises on the globe and giving back, represents real progress toward equity.
I know first-hand what such achievements mean reflecting on what getting my degree and working for JPMorgan has meant in my life. The impact SRA has on the lives of its students is life-changing. The support their advisors and mentors give these students is closing the gap; we need more Students Rising Above.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership first starts with awareness, spurred by passion and belief and often originating from personal life experience.
With your awareness and passion, you move in action stirring attention by those around you. Though you may have many or little followers / supporters, you are undeterred and can pursue your mission with single-minded focus often inspiring those in your wake.
What is your greatest hope for women of the future / next generation?
My hope is one day – soon we are no longer talking about women in this context. That Women and BIPOC are lost in the success of equity and equality created in a world (an achievable world) meant for all of us.
Any advice for future leaders?
Find your passion through your life experiences, your values will drive you effortlessly in your pursuit. We each have a gift, something special to add to our network, family, clients, the company we work for or your own company and the world.
Go out there each and every day, share your mission by word and deed, and make it happen!