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Career Development: How Leslie R. Grew Professionally and Forged Connections Through Shared Culture.

By: Chelsey S., Sr Manager, Communications

Leslie R. describes her life as "a little bit of an underdog story." She was born in Puerto Rico, and when she was three years old her dad tragically died in a car accident. Her mother became a 26-year-old widow with two children to look after, and after struggling for a few years, she made the tough decision to move the family to the United States. So, at age seven, Leslie’s life upended when she entered the Florida public school system, knowing no English.

Through hard work and persistence, Leslie has found great success in her life in the United States. But it’s these early experiences that have shaped her path and her approach to achieving her goal of becoming a leader.

Getting started

By the end of her senior year at the University of Central Florida, Leslie had mapped out a promising career for herself in finance. She even had a job offer from Charles Schwab. But in a rare, impulsive moment, Leslie took a job at a local hospital instead, because it’s where many of her friends had chosen to start their careers.

“I regretted it every day,” says Leslie, who worked in the radiology department. “I kept thinking, ‘What am I doing here? I’m a finance major.’”

She regretted it so much that one of the radiologists grew tired of hearing it and picked up a Schwab application, gave it to her, and said, “This is where you belong.”

And so, in May 1999, Leslie accepted an offer and started her Schwab career. She’s been at Schwab for over 24 years and still talks about how it could have been a couple more if only she had accepted the first offer.

Building a career at her own pace

Leslie got started in Customer Service & Support, helping clients from various parts of the business over the phone. She really found her home when she moved to Schwab’s Wealth Management team as a Senior Associate Portfolio Consultant. Leslie excelled. In fact, her manager asked her more than once if she was ready for the next step. But Leslie loved her job and wasn’t interested in moving yet. Plus, there were other things in her life she was prioritizing, like her husband and her daughter, who was born prematurely.

“I told my boss that when my heart tells me I'm ready for the next step, then I’ll do it,” explains Leslie, who was building her career at her own pace. “For a long time, my heart was content where I was.”

Embracing Opportunity

"I always knew I wanted to get into leadership. Even though I didn't know what my career was going to look like, I knew where I wanted to end up," says Leslie.

After 15 years on the Wealth Management team, Leslie decided it was time to figure out the second half of her Schwab career. She knew the manager of the Winter Park Complex, and in winter of 2018, she paid a visit to explore what the roles there looked like. It just so happened that a position for an Associate Financial Consultant had just opened up, which meant Leslie had an opportunity.

“I had to really give it some thought,” she says. “It was hard to leave the role I was in because I really loved it.”

But she ultimately took a leap of faith and accepted the role in the branch. Within six months, she was promoted to Financial Consultant.

As she started to embrace opportunity, she also began to zero-in on her goal of leading people. She sought out mentors, leaders in the branch that she admired and that she could learn from, and within two-and-a-half years, she was offered her first leadership position as a Client Relationship Manager. Not long after, with the help of another mentor, Leslie became the Assistant Branch Manager of the Winter Park Villages and Melbourne branches.

Leslie acknowledges that she probably could have achieved her leadership goal earlier in her career, and sometimes she wishes she would have moved a little faster, but she followed a pace that worked for her. "Sometimes you have to take 30 steps to end up where you want to be,” she explains.

Remembering where it started

With her success, it’s hard to describe Leslie as an underdog now. But she’s never forgotten her beginnings. And it’s because of her journey that she innately looks out for people who might fit that description.  

Remembering what it was like to come to the United States not knowing the language, Leslie offers to help clients who may speak limited or no English, saying, “Let’s have this conversation in the language that’s most comfortable for you.” Clients have even sought her out, looking to talk to someone who comes from a shared culture. Leslie’s heritage has become a connection point for her—one that she’s proud of.

“I have a passion for helping people,” explains Leslie. “And from a cultural standpoint, I’m able to help more people. I think that’s pretty great.”

When Leslie reflects on her life, she hopes it serves as an example that if you have a goal and a dream, just work hard and go for it. Don’t hold back, but also do it in a way that works for you.