Q&A with LaShandra Sartor, Vice President Client Experience Ops, Rocket Mortgage
How did your earlier career choices lead you to where you are now?
I looked for opportunities that required me to stretch my capabilities and expand my skillset. Very early on I embraced the fact that change is constant. The more open I was to change, the more adept I became at navigating through some of the challenges and uncertainty that can come with it. Anytime there was an opportunity to learn a new role within the organization, I said yes and approached those opportunities with eager curiosity. Doing so broadened my exposure to my organization and the mortgage industry. That exposure gave me the confidence to pursue leadership, which has been my focus for the last decade. For me, the key takeaway was that growth happens outside of your comfort zone. So if you’re not feeling stretched or challenged in your role and you have aspirations to grow, it may be time for a season of change.
What resources do professional women need most? How can organizations best prepare and support them for career advancement?
More than anything, I think women need an engaging environment that genuinely values our perspectives and contributions. In addition, organizations should actively seek to invest in our career development to ensure we have representation at every level within the organization. Organizations can better prepare women for career advancement by providing opportunities for advanced skills training and mentorship programs that will prepare subject matter experts and future leaders for heightened levels of responsibility.
What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?
Raise your level of awareness around your company’s short and long term goals. From there align yourself with initiatives and activities that directly contribute to those goals. As you implement impactful changes and see successes, communicate those successes to your team and your leaders. As you communicate your successes, be sure to clearly communicate how those successful changes positively influence the overall organizational goals. Building a track record for doing this can help you build a reputation as an impact-driver in your organization, which can create other opportunities for increased ownership and responsibility.
Organizations can support this effort by ensuring hiring and promotion practices are inclusive and equitable. Business leaders can start with re-evaluating existing business processes related to hiring, promoting and succession planning. Start with questions like the ones below and go deeper into the details to identify potential gaps.
- How are team members made aware of new career opportunities?
- What evaluation criteria is used when determining eligibility for promotion?
- What resources or programs does the organization offer to invest in skill development? How are participants selected for these programs?
Organizations should also take an active role in amplifying the voice of women by highlighting their impact in the workplace and community. Team Member Resource Networks (TMRN) provide a platform to accomplish this by offering a sense of community and access to professional resources that contribute to career growth. At Rocket Mortgage, our Professional Women’s Network is a TMRN comprised of women and allies committed to inspiring and empowering women in the organization by providing educational resources, hosting networking events, and offering developmental opportunities.
Mentorship is a key factor in both personal and professional growth. How do you suggest finding a mentor at work?
First, consider where you’re at in your stage of development and the specific areas in which you want to grow. Once you’ve identified your opportunities for growth, seek mentors who possess the skills and characteristics you want to strengthen. Initiate an introduction with your prospective mentor and give them insight into what you’re hoping to learn from them and why. Some organizations have developed mentorship programs designed to create such connections, so do some research to see if this is something your company offers. At Rocket Mortgage, our Aspiring Leaders Program and The Red Door Project are developmental programs that support aspiring and existing leaders through mentorship opportunities and experiential training. While some companies may have internal mentorship programs, don’t solely rely on your organization to facilitate these interactions for you. Be prepared to take initiative in making these connections. Also, use mentorship as an opportunity to seek out diverse perspectives. Expand your mentor search beyond those who you interact with on a regular basis. Considering people outside of your immediate team is a great way to broaden your relationships and leverage diversity of thought.