Throughout her career, Nicole Zayas struggled with her confidence and felt overlooked. After working as a delivery driver in the Phoenix, Arizona heat, she wanted to explore new career paths that could offer her a sense of purpose and fulfillment. In August 2022, while looking for opportunities online, Nicole discovered BankWork$, a free banking career readiness program offered by A New Leaf. She decided to enroll and set her sights on a career in banking.
For Nicole, it was important to find a career where she could still be present for her family. “Growing up, my dad always worked twelve-hour weekdays and did military stuff on the weekends. He was always gone and working,” said Nicole. “I wanted a career where my work-life balance would not only benefit my own well-being but also enable me to be there for my family.”
Nicole was initially apprehensive about starting a program where she did not know anyone, but she soon made friends and received ample support. “I met several classmates that I quickly got close with, and we all supported each other. When I experienced car trouble after class one day, my instructors and classmates went out of their way to make sure I got home safely.”
“BankWork$ prepared me,” Nicole said, reflecting on her experience in the program. Thanks to the guidance and training provided by her instructors, Nicole was able to develop a deeper understanding of what it truly means to conduct herself professionally. “There were so many things that I thought were professional behaviors that I now know are unprofessional. I learned how important it is to not lose your head, and be able to assist anybody who comes in the room,” said Nicole.
After graduating, Nicole, like all BankWork$ graduates, interviewed with local financial institutions at a hiring fair. “On graduation day, I dressed up as best as I could, and my entire family was able to come and see me graduate. It was really special,” said Nicole. “My son was three at the time, and he came running up to me afterward saying, ‘Mommy, I’m so proud of you!’ If you’ve ever heard a three-year-old say that, you know it’s the best feeling in the world.”
At the hiring fair, Nicole felt a strong connection with a recruiter from BMO Harris. After completing the interview process, she was hired by BMO and now works as an Associate Banker. She loves helping customers, processing transactions, and recommending services to them.
For Nicole, being able to provide for her family and set a positive example for her kids is bringing her so much joy. “With this job, we can afford the things we need and even some extras. I cherish the time I get to spend with my husband and children, and with one more on the way, this job allows me to be there for them. It fills me with so much joy to work hard and then come home to my beautiful family.”