In 2019, commercial banker Kelly Wang visited Los Angeles on a pleasure trip which changed her future forever. She was so impressed with the city, she fell in love with it and asked her employer, Bank of Montreal, to relocate her from Canada.
Fast forward to 2020 and while Wang completed her dream of living and working in her new home, something was not clicking as she expected. Even though she found the commercial culture similar to her previous home, Wang had difficulty networking in a whole new environment, which frustrated her and made her duties as Vice President of Commercial Banking a little harder.
“I originate new relationships and also manage existing relationships with big market companies,” explains Kelly, born in China but raised in Canada from a very young age. “I realize LA is a very big community. It has many non-profit organizations and business associations. In my mind I was telling myself there must be somewhere that there is a network for women, professional women, whether (it’s a) leadership organizations or a mentorship program.”
Kelly did some research and found JVS SoCal’s WoMentoring program, a six-month career development program that offers women with defined career objectives the opportunity to be paired with a mentor who has an established career in the participant’s chosen field. The WoMentoring program is generously supported by the JVS SoCal Women’s Leadership Network.
“When I came to LA, I found out the networking mentality is very different and I struggled.,” adds Kelly. “I started to question myself, is it because I’m a minority woman or did I not present myself well? Is it because I’m new, people don’t want to work with me? I had a lot of questions and confusion.”
Kelly, a banker with over 10 years of experience, met with WoMentoring program manager Diane Shapiro. She explained that Wang was not the problem, but that Los Angeles being a melting pot of cultures, is different. In the program, there are a lot of women that are eager to help without expecting anything in return.
She paired her with a fellow banker, also an immigrant (from Iran) from another big regional bank, who understood how to manage the cultural competencies . She introduced Kelly to her own network and encouraged her to proactively seek out her LinkedIn contacts, and introduced her to them.
“She’s a western regional marketing leader with a big bank here. She’s been here for 21 years and I had spent only 22 years in North America at that time, so I felt this is good,” said Kelly. “I told her about my challenges. She made me feel welcomed, it made me feel that not everybody in LA is like that, there are some people who are willing to help.”
At work, she connected with a colleague who has helped her understand other cultural norms in L.A. and how to overcome those challenges. She has even joined an affinity group network, paid by her employer, which, on a monthly basis, helps members meet other members face to face. Kelly said this has complemented the experience she had as part of the WoMentoring program at JVS SoCal.
WoMentoring has made a big impact on Kelly. She has already recommended the program to a friend of hers, who themselves have already been connected to a mentor. After settling in her new home in Santa Monica, Kelly wants to give back and become a mentor to other women bankers in Southern California.
Would you like to help others access the training they need to get good jobs? We are grateful to our generous donors, like the Women’s Leadership Network, for their ongoing support of women in professional transition. Please consider donating here.