From the Ivory Coast to a Financial Services Career in Washington State, Graduate Justine Sakou Says BankWork$ Was “Life-Changing Experience”

Justine Sakou’s journey to her current career in financial services crosses continents. 

A native of the Ivory Coast and native French speaker with a degree in accounting and finance, Justine immigrated to the United States with her husband in 2008. After settling with her family on New York’s Long Island, for the next five years Justine worked as an assistant manager of a gas station. Then, in 2013, Justine moved with her family to the Seattle area and focused on raising her four children. 

By 2021, Justine was eager to rejoin the workforce in a role beyond retail.

“I knew I wanted to have a career in financial services and was hopeful my background and education in accounting and finance would help me find something,” Justine recalls. “But I did not know where to start.”  

It was then that a friend recommended BankWork$® to her. 

After talking with our training partner YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish about the CareerWork$® training programs they offer, the team suggested Justine apply for BankWork$®. She was accepted, and this summer, she began the eight-week program, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I like to learn, and it was something that I was looking for. It was challenging.” 

Justine started the BankWork$ program while her four children attended school remotely and her husband worked from home due to the pandemic. Despite those challenges, Justine excelled. She impressed her instructors with her work ethic, and her confidence grew by leaps and bounds over the eight weeks. 

After celebrating with her family at the BankWork$ virtual graduation ceremony, Justine participated in the virtual career fair, where she interviewed with BankWork$ employer partner Key Bank and quickly received an offer. 

So in July 2021, decades and continents removed from her early interest in finance, Justine began her career in financial services as a Financial Wellness Consultant at one of the Key Bank’s Seattle-area branches, just 15 minutes away from her home. 

“It’s been a great experience so far. BankWork$ really prepared me to get the job and to be ready to do the training at Key Bank. It was the best program for me. BankWork$ was an open door.” 

Justine hopes others considering the BankWork$ program and a career in financial services will take advantage of the opportunity. 

“BankWork$ helps you be prepared for the real world.” 

For students starting the free eight-week, comprehensive career development program, Justine’s advice is to “take it seriously and work hard. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Give your all. That’s what will make the difference. At the end, your effort will pay off. That’s what happened to me. It was a life-changing experience for me.”