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“A Woman With Vision can see beyond those barriers and see herself in the role she has defined for herself."
Allow me to introduce you to an amazing Woman With Vision, Jessica Coen. She is the branch manager for the Bronx, NY branch of the US Mortgage Corporation. She lives and works in the Bronx, NY.
Jessica was born and raised in Puerto Rico. In 2004, she moved to New York City on her own after deciding she wanted to work in the mortgage industry. She has gone on to hold successively higher positions at several institutions and is now the branch manager and a LO for the US Mortgage Corporation.
Asked how she started in the mortgage business, Jessica explained she was attending college in 1998 and working full-time in Puerto Rico then went on to say, "My uncle became a mortgage broker, and I went into his office to see what this profession was all about. I quickly discovered I loved the work. The challenge of solving issues for clients and building files was rewarding. When I was ready and had a bit of experience, I headed for NYC, a much larger venue, to continue within the industry."
Jessica believes her choice of profession and her move to New York were the best decisions she has made in her life.
"Upon arriving, I wanted to get right into the brokerage business, but I had to take a calculated step back and start again as an underwriter. I kept watching for opportunities and worked on my language skills. Eventually, a position came up at a brokerage for Imperial Mortgage Corporation. I took the role of branch manager there, but during the crisis in 2008, the office was forced to surrender its licenses and close. I was out of work. "Fortunately, I was approached by Chase Bank to work in the corporate mortgage world as a loan originator. I took the job because I needed to work, and it was in my chosen field. "I liked working for Chase even though going from running my own shop back to corporate was a tough transition. I stayed there a few years before moving to Manhattan and working in the private client area."
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Jessica eventually found another opportunity to work in a brokerage for Allied, then she moved on to USA Mortgage as a branch manager, which is her current position.
"I guess you could say I have come full circle to running my own shop again. I’ve come to realize being a Woman With Vision means being someone who can look past traditional limitations on what we can choose to do with our lives. I was raised in a community that mainly saw women as wives and mothers. Maybe a woman being a nurse or teacher was acceptable, but we were mostly viewed as working in the home and raising a family. A Woman With Vision can see beyond those barriers and see herself in the role she has defined for herself."
“Heavy stones fear no weather.” ~ Of Monsters and Men
Her mother was young when Jessica was born so her maternal grandparents were Jessica’s primary guardians during her childhood. Her grandmother had a significant impact on Jessica, professionally and inspirationally.
"My grandmother was a strong, intelligent woman. My grandfather supported her with encouragement and respect. They ran a small grocery store in town until a chain store opened, pivoting them to owning and running a bar. My grandmother was the one who ran the day-to-day operations and was well thought of in town. She was firm but fair with the employees and ran the bar as a clean, popular establishment. As a young girl, I watched her navigate the business world with relative ease. She worked hard, and she knew what she was doing. It gave me an excellent example of what a woman could do when given the opportunity."
Jessica wanted that kind of life and respect for herself. She learned from watching her grandmother work that when you treat people with kindness and respect, they will return it. She didn’t have to be ruthless or unkind to get what she needed to succeed.
"I maintain those values in my own business relationships to this day. My grandmother showed me that being a woman with vision means being able to see yourself accomplishing your goals despite the challenges of working in a role that might be more traditionally seen as one for men."
Asked what she would like to say to her grandmother today, Jessica said, "If I could tell my grandmother something today, it would be ‘thank you, I love you, and I miss you.’ "I also would like to give credit to two other important people in my life. After having me at an early age, my mother carved out a career for herself. She worked hard, providing another excellent example of a woman who got what she wanted by putting her mind to the task. I want to mention my grandfather here as well. He was not a traditional Puerto Rican man. From the time I was small, he encouraged me to get an education and pursue my dreams beyond the traditional female roles. He told me there would always be lots of time for a husband and children, but I should put my own goals first."
Superpower is defined as having an excessive superior power or ability. Jessica defined her professional superpower as her ability to connect strongly with her traditional and cultural roots.
"I am an advocate for members of the Hispanic community when it comes to providing services for them in a way that makes them feel comfortable and secure. "I have been able to build myself a book of business and identity with my local market, which is predominantly Hispanic. I have developed client relationships that are based on trust because I am able to understand their requirements in a personal way."
Part of her passion for working with Hispanic clients and protecting their interests comes from Jessica’s own experiences. Members of her own family who came to the US before her were taken advantage of financially while trying to purchase a home.
"I am adamant that I will prevent that from happening to as many Hispanic families as I am able."
Change happens in any industry. Jessica described how she pivoted in the mortgage industry and, because of doing so, has reached her achievements to date. "I have had to use my inner determination on more than one occasion to advocate for myself and ensure I was given the respect and opportunities I deserve. "Since arriving from Puerto Rico many years ago, I have had to work hard, starting fresh when applying for positions and building my business. "When I first came here, I spoke almost no English, and the experience in the industry I had gained working in my homeland was not given much credit by employers. I was able to eventually work my way up to advance into the branch manager role I have today by making myself heard while demonstrating my value."
As Jessica mentioned earlier, she didn’t have to be ruthless, but she did have to speak up for herself to insist on being respected and heard. She heard her grandmother’s voice in her head telling her she was a strong, smart, and worthy woman who deserved to be offered opportunities based on her talents.
We discussed what advice Jessica would give to a woman starting her career today. I would tell her to be assertive, but also respectful and generous. She can advocate for herself and take advantage of opportunities that arise without having to cause harm to others on the way.
"Approaching your career with a generous heart is something we should all aspire to. I watched my grandmother offer generosity to those around her, resulting in reaping the rich rewards of respect and assistance being offered when she needed it. "I would encourage women to remember that we are as deserving of success as men, and we need to work toward our career goals with that same drive. There is nothing a woman cannot do if she is willing to work hard and advocate for her immense value."
For Jessica, success means being at peace with what she is doing and how she has acted to achieve her goals. "I am running my mortgage business on my terms and in a way that I know is honest. This is beneficial to my clients and staff, also allowing me to be well-respected in my community. To me, that is the epitome of success. "I also measure success as being able to provide for my son and being able to balance his needs with my time at work. Being a mother is a vitally important job and just as valuable as my professional role. For me, to be able to say that I can give my son the time and attention he needs while still providing excellent service to my clientele is something I consider an important indicator of my success."
When she’s not working, Jessica and her son love to spend time together.
"We often travel back to Puerto Rico to visit family. Family time is of paramount importance to me and having him be immersed in his cultural heritage is something I strive to provide as often as I can. "I am also a music lover and enjoy attending live performance venues. I am a huge fan of the Indie genre!"
Jessica discussed her thoughts on the importance of collaborating with a mentor. "I strongly advise everyone to find one or more mentors to help guide and advise them as they work toward goals. "A mentor can keep you from making mistakes that are unnecessary, giving you a mirror to make you aware of your strengths and weaknesses. "We all have faults and foibles, but it is how we learn to turn those experiences into strengths that will benefit us in our careers. A mentor can give honest yet encouraging feedback to make us aware of where we need to improve and what we should promote about ourselves."
For Jessica personally, she said having a mentor when she moved to the US would have helped her in immeasurable ways.
"I did not speak English well yet and was not able to advocate strongly for myself while convincing potential employers of my value based on my work experience to that date. Having a supportive mentor at the time would have prevented me from having to ‘learn the hard way’ and might have given me the ability to pursue better opportunities despite my language barriers. "Finding and maintaining a strong connection with one or more mentors is one of the most valuable things a person can do to further their career to ensure success in that chosen role or profession."
Jessica would like to tell young women starting out today to be strong and principled in the pursuit of their goals. Learning, asking questions, and really listening to the answers is key to getting yourself where you want to go in whatever profession you find yourself passionate about.
She would tell them not to limit themselves to traditional roles and to have the vision to look forward to whatever makes them feel fulfilled in both their professional and personal lives. There is nothing wrong with being a wife and mother, but that is not what defines all women! We should be willing and able to put our aspirations first if that is what we choose to do. "I am looking forward to the next few years, watching my son finish high school and launch himself out into the world. I am also interested in spending more time as a mentor to young, Hispanic girls like me starting in the industry who are looking for someone who truly understands their fears and goals. "I want to continue to honor my grandmother by running my business with integrity, hard work, and being generous with my time to those who need it. I know she would be proud of the woman I have become and the success I have achieved, which means everything to me."