When Daniela and Juan Pablo arrived in the United States from Venezuela, they kept on hearing that they had to start from scratch. They did, and thanks to UnidosUS’s Latinos in Finance initiative they now have a career in banking.
By Beatriz Paniego-Béjar, Affiliate Communications Specialist, UnidosUS
“Everybody tells you: ‘Okay, you have to prove everything that you did in your country, you have to start here from zero.’ And basically, we started here from zero,” Juan Pablo DaCosta explains, “but thanks to the Latinos in Finance program we are able now to be in a good company, doing good work, and starting a good career in the banking industry.”
Both Daniela Ramos and Juan Pablo took the Latinos in Finance (LIF) course, generously supported by Bank of America, with our partner Catholic Charities of Tennessee in Nashville. During eight weeks they learned the in-and-outs of the commercial banking field and enjoyed taking these classes together because they got to learn from one another: “This was a life-changer, where we have grown personally and professionally. […] It was very helpful [to be in the same class]. We are super different, and we were able to discuss our different points of view. It was super fun, as well as being able to spend that time together in the class,” Daniela shares.
LANDING THE JOB
One of the most nerve-wracking experiences any job-seeker encounters is the interview process; LIF includes this topic in its curriculum to instill confidence in the participants through practice. In some instances, our banking partners will join these sessions and rehearse with the students, providing feedback directly from the field.
Even if they knew what to expect, as Juan Pablo puts it, Daniela’s and his job hunting was stressful and demanding, but they went into the process with confidence because of the preparation Latinos in Finance had provided for them.
The husband and wife ended up being hired at the same banking institution, one of Latinos in Finance partners, Bank of America, who quickly saw their potential and hired them to tap into their abilities and strengths, one of the most important ones being that they can fluently move between two cultures and languages. Furthermore, Juan Pablo brings his experience from the financial industry in Venezuela: “More than the language, I can guide the people, and help the people […] in what’s better for them,” he explains.
THEIR GOAL: TO HELP OTHERS
Speaking with Daniela and Juan Pablo there is a theme that repeats over and over again: they are delighted to have taken this career path because they want to help people.
A description we often hear when Latinos are mentioned is “unbanked,” “meaning that no one in the household had a checking or savings account at a bank or credit union.” It being lack of trust or understanding of the banking industry, fear of the institutions or others that contribute to this phenomenon, UnidosUS’s finance initiative was created with this in mind.
The vision of LIF is twofold: to launch participants into lifelong career pathways in the commercial banking industry, and to embed culturally and linguistically proficient team members in banking communities across the U.S. to better serve Latinx clients.
Daniela and Juan Pablo embody this vision, and they both feel blessed that they get to help their communities. “There’s a lot of people that don’t know that they can open a bank account. […] There’s a lot of people paying a lot of money just for cashing a check or losing money because they have everything in cash. […] I try to help people to save money with loans, help people refinance something, showing them how to use in a good way the credit cards… That’s the most exciting for me,” Juan Pablo shares, and Daniela feels the same way: “I am passionate to help people,” she says.
And she takes it one step further: Daniela talks about her branch with warmth; she is creating community: “It’s always local people in here [in my branch], so I see them two or three times a week; they always see me, and they say: ‘Oh, hello, Daniela!’ […] and it feels like we have become friends or something like that. I already know their names,” Daniela shares. “You can meet a lot of people: Arabic people, Latin people, American people, Native people. So, I really love that because… I have not become like their friends, but I love to know about the people, their culture, so for me that is amazing,” she continues.
REAL-LIFE CHALLENGES FOR LATINX
Juan Pablo shares two instances that have made an impact in his work and how he approaches it, going above and beyond to help those who need a hand.
One story involves the language barriers: “Something that is very sad for me… I don’t know if the right word is heartbreaking… There is a lot of people that speak Spanish, but a very broken Spanish because their first language is an indigenous dialect. So, it’s hard for me to understand them in Spanish, and I can imagine how life is for them here, when the main language is English,” Juan Pablo tells.
One story involves the digital divide: “I remember that I helped one guy… He was moving, and he needed to pay the rent through a new app: he didn’t know how to do it, he needed a cashier’s check, I helped him with the apartment app, I helped him with the cashier’s check, I showed him what the Bank of America app does… And he was very happy because I helped him. That really was amazing, to be able to do that for that person,” Juan Pablo shares.
Latinos in Finance has set this couple on a career path that allows them to have an influence that they did not expect. To learn more Catholic Charities’ program in Nashville, click here. If you want to learn more about UnidosUS workforce development programs and our work with Affiliates and partners, check out this site and follow us on social media, @WeAreUnidosUS.