Be unapologetically ambitious about your career
Senior Vice President, Head of Digital Marketing Strategy, Brooklyn, NY
While most of the world was navigating the ominous effects of a global pandemic in early 2020, Amy started her new role as Head of Digital Marketing Strategy. Despite having several interviews, Amy never met colleagues in person or set foot in the office. Amy was recruited to TD during maternity leave with her third child. She began her new role with the plan to travel to TD’s Mt Laurel, NJ office to get acquainted with her new team. As working from home quickly became the only option, Amy had to get creative to engage her team of seven over WebEx. TD’s slogan, “unexpectedly human” became a reminder of the support everyone needed during this time. “It’s important to believe in your company’s mission, that’s how you’ll do your best work. Soon after joining the company, I realized TD has compassionate leaders and an inclusive culture.”
One of Amy’s first unexpectedly human moments came when US CEO, Greg Braca announced early in the pandemic that TD would not have lay off’s related to COVID in 2020. “When you’re a new hire you worry about layoffs, especially during the unprecedented times we faced in early 2020. Knowing there would not be reductions to staff eased my mind and helped me focus on TD’s wholistic customer journey to create a vibrant digital strategy.” Amy’s role became even more crucial as the pandemic brought digital to the forefront with everyone suddenly more reliant on all things digital. Amy and her team’s contribution to digital marketing strategy expanded their focus to cover all of North America and the team of seven grew to twenty. “Getting expanded responsibilities after eighteen months of employment showed me TD supports employee growth.”
As the mother of three young children ages seven, five, and two, work life balance and flexibility are crucial. During her TD interviews, Amy was impressed when she met female leaders who talked openly about raising young children while growing their career as senior leaders. More unexpectedly human moments came as Amy found herself managing work and homeschooling her children. “I use a standing desk in my home office and what you may not have noticed is that my children were under the desk at any time during the workday. I was grateful that I didn’t have to hide my reality from colleagues, if I needed to hold my baby during a video conference, no one cared. Everyone supported each other throughout this new journey.”
Head of Employee Engagement, Mt Laurel, NJ
It was April 2018. I was sitting in an exam room, nervously waiting to learn if my seven-year-old daughter, Lilly, had developed a facial tic, or something more. I tried to read the neurologist’s expression as she reviewed the EEG report. My husband sat to my right with Lilly in his lap. She was fussing with her hair that was still sticky from the EEG adhesive. As a child model, Lilly looked at life as her runway and she was unaware of how serious this was. The ticking of the wall clock was deafening, and the room felt cold and uninviting. I snapped to attention when the neurologist looked up from her notes. The four words that came out of her mouth shattered me “your daughter has epilepsy.” The ticking of the clock stopped. My stomach dropped to the floor, and I couldn’t feel my legs. How was this possible? What did this mean? My words were stuck somewhere in the bottom of my tightened throat and tears streamed down my face. The doctor continued talking but I couldn’t hear anything. I had descended into a rabbit hole of “what ifs”. What if Lilly can never live alone? What if Lilly can never drive a car? What if Lilly can never have children? What if Lilly has one of the bad kind of seizures.
The doctor said if Lilly was going to have any form of epilepsy, this was the one to have. She had a greater chance of outgrowing absence seizures than any others. Ok. There was hope. I had never heard of childhood absence epilepsy before but if there were things to be learned, I was going to learn them. In that moment, we thought that was the worst of it. We had no idea how much worse it was going to get.
Nothing is a crisis until it’s a crisis
After Lilly’s diagnosis, she began taking medication to try to control her absence seizures. She didn’t have much success and we held onto the hope that this would stop over time. Nothing could’ve prepared me for the moment when time stopped in October 2018. I was upstairs in my bedroom and Lilly’s 10-year-old sister ran in shouting “MOM!” I was used to hearing “mom” during arguments, but I’d never heard this panic in her voice before. “Mom! Lilly fell and hit her head and now there’s something wrong with her.” My body reacted the same way it did that day in the neurologist’s office. Panic propelled me down the stairs two at a time, but I couldn’t find her. “Where is she?” I screamed. Then I looked to my right. There was Lilly, on the floor in between the couch and the coffee table. She was violently convulsing, and her skin was a shade of bluish gray. It was the bad kind of seizure… We launched into a series of firsts that night. The first time calling 911. The first time riding in an ambulance. The first time rushing into a pediatric ER. The first time I thought I could lose my daughter. Over the next few months, Lilly would go on to have several more seizures like this and what we experienced during that time would change my outlook on life completely.
Control what you can
Seizures come on without warning and the best way for me to describe epilepsy is that it’s a disorder of anticipation. Over the next several months, I vacillated somewhere between feeling like nothing besides epilepsy mattered and looking for anything else to focus on besides epilepsy. My husband threw himself into home improvement projects and I went through the motions at work. Each time the school nurse’s number appeared on my phone; my heart would stop. Things that once seemed catastrophic now took on much lesser meaning. If it wasn’t life or death, it truly wasn’t life or death. That’s a hard lesson to learn but one that gave me great perspective on how to manage my emotions and prioritize what’s important. It’s easy to get caught up in the “what ifs” but when you have a life-altering experience, you realize that a single grammatical error in a communication, or a live event glitch really isn’t that important.
Find your people
We are fortunate to be surrounded by people who care about us and care about Lilly. As a parent, I always wondered how I would react if my child was diagnosed with something. Would I be angry? Would I be resentful? Would I fall apart? I can tell you, it’s none of the above. I felt an overwhelming sense of protectiveness and responsibility and my priority was for no one to treat Lilly differently. I was reluctant to share too much of what we were going through because I didn’t want Lilly to be left out. Much to my surprise, not only was Lilly not left out, but she was also embraced. I never imagined that a piece of business advice I heard years earlier would come to life on such a personal level – don’t run away from the problem, run towards it. Lilly had an army of people running towards her to make sure she was okay. Kids, parents, family, friends – no one ran away, and their support contributed to her resilience.
Share your story
Epilepsy can be hard to explain in a way that doesn’t sound scary. 1 in 26 people have epilepsy. This was a statistic I never knew and one that was somewhat comforting. The more we talked about Lilly, the more it seemed that everyone knew someone who had epilepsy. We joined the Epilepsy Foundation Kids Crew and Lilly found other kids who looked like her. They all share a goal of raising awareness and helping others, and she is so proud to be a part of this community. Being part of this community has also raised my EQ to a whole new level and has shaped the way I approach all things in life. Most importantly, it’s reminded me that nobody has everything, but everybody has something. Together, we celebrate milestones and encourage each other to create positive change. Lilly is one of the lucky ones who gained seizure control and now she’s over two years seizure-free. That’s a lifetime in epilepsy years and we never lose sight of the fact that we have a lifetime to go and there’s many others who don’t share her success.
I can truly say that life with epilepsy has taught me more than any class I’ve ever taken. It’s taught me to be grateful for the good days and remember that our worst could be someone else’s best hope. It’s encouraged me to always lead with empathy and to stop giving into the fear of sharing. When we share, we bring awareness and with awareness comes acceptance. The path to positive change isn’t always smooth, but there’s definite strength in numbers. And with 1 in 26, we have strong numbers on our side.
Senior Recruiter I, Haddonfield, NJ
Six months after joining TD, Mia received the 2015 CEO WOW! Award for legendary performance in Talent Acquisition. While Mia’s colleagues and peers congratulated her on her professional achievement, few people realized her personal struggle with infertility. As a new employee, Mia worried about informing her manager that she was undergoing infertility treatments that required lots of long doctors’ appointments. Eager to use TD’s generous benefits to support infertility treatments, Mia talked to her manager to outline the treatment process including the numerous appointments. Happily, Mia’s manager was supportive of her treatment and offered positive encouragement that helped her navigate the highs and lows that can dominate your life during infertility treatment.
The support of her leaders helped Mia process pain, loss, grief, stress, and rollercoaster emotions all while balancing her busy workload. The optimistic reassurance paid off when Mia and her husband, Tim welcomed their son, Ben in 2017 and daughter, Frankie in 2019. “I was so grateful to TD for expanding maternity leave to 16 weeks of full pay which enabled me to spend precious quality time with both my children when they were newborns.”
As a Senior Recruiter, Mia supports high profile teams including Marketing, Compliance, Anti Money Laundering (AML) and Risk to identify talent and manage the interview and hire process. Mia also is a Talent Acquisition Champion for Individuals with Diverse Abilities which includes working with five other recruiters to promote TD’s inclusive culture and identify potential opportunities. Through this work, Mia’s been actively involved with co-facilitating resume writing and mock interview workshops with TD’s Project SEARCH Interns. “Connecting one on one with young adults on the Autism Spectrum and helping them gain confidence to interview is one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my career.”
Looking back over the last year, Mia continues to be appreciative of TD’s supportive culture. When the pandemic started, juggling the constant needs of an eight-month-old and a three-year-old was demanding. “My husband and I juggled work and play all day, every day. What helped me sleep at night was the reassurance that TD understood I needed the flexibility to do my job as Senior Recruiter and Mom. As the pandemic continued, team members grew closer as video meetings brought us into each other’s homes and gave us a peek at our colleagues’ family and pets and helped us support and appreciate each other even more.
SVP, Head of Business Transformation Delivery for TD Bank, Cherry Hill, NJ
Michele recently received the Career Mastered Women’s Leadership in Action Award which honors the achievements of women who have made a compelling mark on business. Honorees represent powerful women across diverse industries and disciplines. These women leaders are Game Changers who have mastered their work and have learned the necessary steps to move ahead and build successful careers.
Since its inception, more than 200 women and girls have been recognized across various industries and disciplines for their leadership – and TD Bank is thrilled to celebrate Michele as an exceptionally strong role model of what a woman can accomplish.
The theme, “Capacity: Women Shattering Limits – Now!” suits Michele well. She seizes opportunities to share her experiences and expertise through advocacy, sponsorship, mentorship and as speaker for TD’s Black Employee Network and Women in Leadership corporate events and university programs. She sits on the Board of Trustees for the Camden County Historical Society, the Alumna Board for the Philadelphia High School for Girls, Temple University’s College of Engineering Board of Visitors, and is a proud member of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. and the National Black MBA Association®.
Reflecting on the award, Michele is both honored and humbled to be recognized among the incredible cast of accomplished women across every industry. “It is extremely special to receive this award as validation for my career and contributions to my profession.” Michele’s education and background has shaped her career. “Through the power of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), I, like many of the other women acknowledged through this particular award, have harnessed the power of a STEM education to challenge the status quo influencing the way organizations apply technologies to achieve business success.” Michele takes inspiration from many women, including her mom who is also an engineer to Maggie Walker the first woman and African American to charter a bank and serve as its president in the US.
Michele’s career advice is for women is to think bigger. “See the trends, ask questions, set goals, constantly re-tool, celebrate successes, and aim for the C-suite. We are qualified with all the skills necessary to take on any role within any organization, the sky is the limit not the ceiling!” Michele also reminds herself of the mantra, “sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. What’s most important is not being afraid to ask “why.”
Governance & Controls Manager,Stafford Springs, Connecticut
Patti spent the first half of her career in Information Technology working for fast paced Fortune 500 companies. Frequently the only Woman in meetings, Patti learned to be heard in male centric environments. When Patti shifted her career to consulting, she enjoyed the challenging and varied work and had no plans to “go back inside an organization.”
When TD became a client, it was the first time Patti considered swapping the consultant title to be an employee. “Unlike many organizations, TD doesn’t just talk the talk, they do what they say especially around social justice issues. It makes a huge difference to work in an inclusive, supportive organization.” As Patti’s father has suffered with Alzheimer’s for years, she had to regularly travel from her home in New Hampshire to Florida to help manage his care. “It’s gratifying to work for an organization that prioritizes family first. Long before the pandemic forced people to work remotely, I had to navigate successfully working in multiple locations to balance the needs of family.”
Patti appreciates the support and connections available through TD’s Women in Leadership events. “I am so happy to help other women in any way that I can. It’s so important for women to support each other. I enjoy any opportunity to support colleagues and that really applies regardless of gender, but I have found that it is much appreciated by my female colleagues since women often carry a much heavier load in work/life balance.”
As an LGBTQ2+ Executive Lead, Patti works to create programs that support the community. Currently Patti is spearheading an effort to develop a learning path to educate employees on relevant topics such as pronoun usage and intentional language to remind everyone that “words matter”. Patti credits her work with LGBTQ2+ groups to helping her meet people outside of her normal work channels. “Any new roles I’ve received usually come from someone who knows my reputation and reaches out to me to ask if I’d be interested in pursuing a new project or opportunity.”
Patti believes networks are important at TD and the relationships you build with co-workers are so significant. “Women will always have challenges combining work and family responsibilities. Keep plugging along, focus on your goals and don’t get pigeonholed in a role that you’ve outgrown that no longer meets your career goals.” Patti once held a role where she created dashboards that the team loved. After being the go-to dashboard developer over time, Patti mentioned to her manager that she was bored with this role and was ready for a new challenge. “My manager reached out to me that afternoon to share that he found a new, more challenging opportunity for me. I was so impressed my manager cared about my development and wanted to help me. I’m glad I spoke up to my manager and let him know I was ready for new responsibilities.”
As someone in the ‘sandwich’ generation, Patti is concerned about her adult son as well as her aging parents and it sometimes feels like there is no chance for a break. “I find that listening to music, spending quality time with my dog and getting out in nature (sometimes while I work,) keeps me grounded and able to tackle the next challenge. Balance is so important, and TD truly supports taking that time for your mental health, which is so critical in a pandemic world.”
Wealth Strategist, TD Private Bank Trust, Newcastle, Delaware
Kalimah draws inspiration from so many black women from history and present-day including Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Zora Neale Hurston, Shirley Chisholm, Maya Angelou, Shonda Rhimes and the list goes on and on. “If I have to choose a specific black woman from history or present day who most inspires me, I would have to choose Michelle Obama. I am sure many would choose the “Forever FLOTUS” as an inspirational figure for different reasons. Her confidence and strength, her commitment to her family and our country and, of course, her impeccable fashion style are all great reasons to admire Michelle Obama.”
Kalimah was inspired by Michelle Obama because she made her feel CREDIBLE. “She gave me a sense of confidence, that when I walked in a room full of people who did not look like me — which happens quite often — that I at least knew that they were familiar with someone undeniably great who did look like me.” Having the First Black Family in the White House has provided many gifts and many challenges to our country. “Regardless of any challenges, it certainly demonstrated to every American — whether you liked Michelle Obama and her President husband or not — that Black Excellence is alive and well in the United States.” Coming to the realization that she did not have such confidence before was very eye opening. “Representation matters — even for educated and dynamic career women like me.”
Thinking about inspiration, Kalimah thinks Black women should look for programs or initiatives that help shape the Black female experience inside or outside of work. “Black Greek Letter Organizations have a long and divine history spanning almost 115 years.” The “Divine Nine,” as the current iteration of Black Greek Letter Organizations are often referred to, is made up of 5 Black Fraternities and 4 Black Sororities. Kalmiah’s been a member for almost 28 years of one of the Divine Nine organizations — Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated, founded on the campus of Howard University on January 16, 1920 by 5 amazing women. “I have seen first-hand how the ideals of Scholarship, Service, Sisterly Love and Finer Womanhood have positively shaped the lives of so many black women.” Zeta Phi Beta is a “community conscious, action-oriented” organization committed to serving African American communities and specifically, uplifting and enhancing the lives of black girls nationally and internationally. “My years as a Zeta have deepened my love of community service and given me an outlet to share my gift of “giving” with my community. The life-long bonds forged by black women members of Zeta Phi Beta are indescribable and intergenerational. I am so proud to have my sister and daughter as members of Zeta.” The commitment to each other and to our communities is immeasurable and incomparable. “My passion for Zeta and the never-ending gifts of friendship, love and service to community are deeply imbedded in me and strengthen my spirit as a black woman leader.”
Considering obstacles women face in their careers, Kalimah, the main caretaker and breadwinner in her family, feels the most significant barrier in her career was the inability to focus solely on her career development. “I am not sure I consider it a barrier as more of a choice. A choice that I would make again even in hindsight. Some say you can have it all, just not at the same time. I chose to try and strike a balance between my career and my family, which I am sure both suffered in some ways. It was important to me to have my children at a younger age and not wait until I was established in my career. I also had a lot of responsibility with my younger siblings and other family members.” Like many women, in the early years of her career, Kalimah spent a lot of time and energy “fixing” everyone’s lives and ensuring that her two children built strong foundations academically and athletically. She had a very good career early on but didn’t pursue many opportunities to deepen her network and knowledge base that may have taken too much time away from her family. “Now that my daughter is a college graduate — with a daughter of her own — and my son is a sophomore in college, I am much more focused and intentional about my career. I specifically work on growing and creating career opportunities that allow me to highlight and hone my skills. My career goals are directed to where I want to go and not just where luck takes me. Blessedly, I am still young enough even with grown children to have many more years to continue building success.”
Advice Kalimah tells my teenage self is not to worry so much about what others think of you. “When I was young, I wasn’t as outgoing and confident. Many who know the person I am now truly find that unbelievable. Despite being a great student and successful athlete in high school, I did not fit in as I attended high school in the late ’80s in a very rural area where the only other black students in the school district were my siblings. It was very hard culturally to fit in and find myself. I had friends at school, but was rarely invited to outside activities, sleepovers and definitely no dating, which fostered high levels of insecurities and anxiety about others “liking” me. However, once I went to college, I discovered a whole new world and so many different cultures to fit into. I found my fit and cultivated friendships that have lasted a lifetime. I realized the importance of being the best you that you can be and allowing those that do not appreciate your greatness to pass you by, leaving room to focus on those who add value to your life.”
Drawing from her own experience, Kalimah advises young women entering a male-dominated profession to first, work hard. Hard work is a differentiator. “No matter how much someone may discriminate against you or treat you differently because you do not look like them or act like them, there is no denying your talent and skills when you demonstrate a dedicated work ethic and a commitment to strategic execution.” Kalimah also wants women to be SHINY. “When you are shiny, good people will notice and flock to you as good hardworking people love to mentor and sponsor other good hardworking people.”
Second, Kalimah doesn’t want women to assume that an issue a male manager or colleague has with you, is about you. Sometimes it is, but most times it isn’t. “Many people have underlying issues stemming from childhood or adult relationships that make them behave in very different ways. I always say that our society would benefit greatly from universal therapy as growing up is hard and not intuitive at all.” We all may need help with communication and self-awareness, even despite thinking we are “fine” or can “handle” our past or current life circumstances. So, don’t take it personal. Their behavior may affect you, but it most likely isn’t about you. If you take it so personally that you can’t function, then maybe you also need some help to figure out why you internalize the actions of others. “If you know you are doing the right thing in a situation, stand your ground and stay your course. If you need help and support to continue to stand strong — from other managers or HR — then seek out such support. Moving forward without internalizing the issues and problems that others try to lay at your feet is the only way to make room for true career growth.”
Lastly, Kalimah encourages women to be open to mentorship and/or sponsorship from male managers or executives. “Many of the mentors and advocates I have had in my life were white males. I would have missed many opportunities to learn and grow in my career if I did not open myself to such a relationship just because these individuals were not female or black.” While Kalimah is passionate about cultivating women leadership and definitely a champion of black women leadership, she is also a big advocate for having a diverse community of caring and strong leaders and sponsors that can meaningfully enhance opportunities and growth. “So be open. It will pay off in the end.”
VP, Treasury Management Healthcare Segment Manager, Mt Laurel, NJ
Karen joined TD Bank in 1998 where she was hired to handle treasury management sales, project management, implementation, and training. She rose through positions including Treasury Management Sales, Implementation / Technical Manager, Receivables Product Manager and Senior Receivables and Payables Solutions Consultant where she led complex product implementation and application development projects for prominent accounts. Karen is now responsible for shaping the strategic direction of the healthcare segment within Treasury Management.
Karen is the passionate about paying it forward, in addition to her day-to-day duties, Karen’s served as the lead for her team’s Pulse Action Committee which measures and responds to employee feedback. Co-founder of a team mentoring program, Co-lead for the Marketplace Pillar for the Black Employee Network, and a Circle Lead for the PA/NJ Women in Leadership the Electronic Transitions team. Karen’s a Project Lead for the Commercial Bank’s first ever Diversity Committee and a Leadership in Action participant.
Outside of work, Karen volunteers her time to assist those in need whether it is supporting the elderly in her community, her local church, or the children and families of the Ronald McDonald House as well as helping her family.
Karen is looking forward to the journey and what the future will bring, and along the way she wants to inspire others like herself to find their voice, believe in their strength, be unapologetic about their career goals, and dare to fall forward. Karen holds a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University’s Douglas College. Residing in Wenonah, NJ, Karen enjoys being a single mother to two adult daughters and a son-in law, and her beloved micro-teacup Yorkie, Rowan and hanging out with extended family.
Financial Advisor I, Ramsey, New Jersey
It was the first time Karina Vega-Gonzalez had ever failed a test.
Her score of 71 was so close, which made it even more frustrating. She needed a 72 percent to pass the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) Series 65 exam for her license as a financial advisor. This license allows individuals the opportunity to support investment advisory solutions.
Karina didn’t give up. She hung the test above her desk, so she’d be reminded of it every time she looked up from her laptop. Thirty days later she retook the exam and passed. She calls the experience, “humbling.”
Karina is one of 16 women who are part of a new team of nearly 60 Financial Advisors (FAs) based in Stores across much of our footprint. These advisors are focused on our Mass Affluent Customers, who have investible assets ranging from $100,000 to $750,000. This program aims to reach Mass Affluent Customers with relevant advice and appropriate solutions, including planning, investment management, annuity and insurance, during their financial journeys, personal milestones and any economic situation to help them achieve their financial goals.
Karina remembers 2015 as a pivotal moment in her life. She rejoined TD to become a Financial Services Representative. Even more importantly, her son was diagnosed with autism during that time.
“The referrals, evaluations and appointments – it was a lot. But after that it just all sort of clicked for me.” Karina said. ” Instead of looking at that as a tragedy, it helped me realize how valuable time is and how important it is to plan for the not so fun stuff in life you might not expect. And when you have a plan to take care of those that matter most to you, you can enjoy the time you do have with them.”
Her personal experience has shaped the way she provides advice and counsel to clients.
“You have to plan for the unexpected, you have to plan for emergencies,” she said. “Those can be very uncomfortable conversations to have with people, but going through that situation, it made me want to help other people. I share my story and I connect with people, because every parent understands wanting the best for their child. This is why I do what I do. I want my customers to know that I genuinely care.”
For decades, wealth management has been a male-dominated profession. According to a recent McKinsey report, women make up just 15 percent of financial advisors across the financial industry. However, women control a third of the total U.S. household financial assets today and are highly involved in the decision-making pertaining to a family’s financial well-being. Additionally, women are expected to see a significant upswing in financial control over the next ten years as Baby Boomer assets change hands due to the longer life expectancy for women
For Karina, inviting women to the conversation early has always been a top priority.
“When I meet clients that are married and I tell them about what I do and how I can help, then I let them know that I don’t sell to men without their wives,” she said. When they ask why, the explanation is rather simple. Karina puts herself in other people’s shoes she says. As a wife, she recognizes she wouldn’t be ok if her husband made major financial decisions without her.
“I want to avoid an argument for you when you get home,” she tells them jokingly. “No matter what I can do or what I am offering you, if you didn’t include her, she’s not going to feel good about it. So, let’s make sure she’s part of the dialogue and decision making.”
Changing the conversation
But a woman’s perspective doesn’t come without its own set of challenges.
“Being a woman is one thing,” Karina said, “but being a young woman is totally different.”
Sometimes customers can be a bit more skeptical or tend get a little more defensive when she suggests ways she can help, Karina explained.
“I have to shift the conversation depending on the audience,” Karina said. “These clients are often very successful, very savvy and of course, very busy. So instead of telling them what they already know, I remind them that time is money and that at TD I have many resources and professionals working alongside me to help provide them with the necessary strategic support to manage their investments.”
Looking back on this past year and the difficulties faced throughout the pandemic, Karina realizes now adaptability is everything. Whether is building relationships in the virtual environment with her colleagues or clients, helping her son with online schooling or even missing the mark on that first exam – there’s always a lesson to be learned.
“There’s always something you grow from, especially when its hard or when you fail. You can choose to let the challenges limit you or you can be stronger because of them,” she said.
Head of Commercial Business Programs & Support, Blackwood, NJ
Kellee Rivers joined TD Bank in 2009 after working as a consultant for the TD Bank North and Commerce Bank integration in 2008. She began her career in the financial services industry in 2000 after deciding to explore a different career path outside of Art and Graphic Design, which she had originally attended college to pursue. Soon after starting an entry level position in Account Operations, Kellee knew financial services was a place she could learn, grow, and flourish while helping to support her family. “When I began my career in banking, I had two small children. Despite almost 80% of my paycheck going directly towards childcare at that time, I had hope that I would succeed if I learned as much as possible and worked to accomplish my career goals.”
Growing up in a military family enabled Kellee to adapt to change early and often in her life. “As the elder daughter of a military family with a father who continued to work for the government, I lived everywhere from the Royal Air Force Base of England to the U.S. Eastern Shores of New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and the Carolinas. I traveled all over attending eight different schools by the time I was in high school.”
Constant movement taught Kellee how to quickly integrate change into her life. Upon joining TD, Kellee soon realized her natural ability to embrace change allowed her to navigate fast paced growth and help team members prepare for times of business transformation. “All of my change management skills were put to the test during the uncertainty that occurred during the pandemic. Leading a remote team while managing the urgent needs of customers and coping with the constant fear of COVID was upsetting, but it gave rise to opportunity to leverage my skills to quickly accomplish methods that would professionally drive changes that were needed.”
As a mother of three, an Executive Leader and Philanthropist, Kellee’s been able to achieve a career that constantly grows and fosters her ability to learn on and off the job. “I’ve had the opportunity to change roles frequently in both lateral and promotional opportunities. As I enter another stage of my life, TD has provided me with the support to continue to take care of my own well-being and that of my family. TD’s total rewards package provides benefits that give me the comfort to put my well-being first and the security to continue to flourish at work.”
As the U.S. Executive Lead for Women in Leadership at TD, Kellee partners with others across the Bank in supporting women in all walks of life and in every stage of their careers. Her leadership style draws on her creative abilities and leverages her resilience to change. This combined mindset allows Kellee to “bring women together in the workplace to produce unique career opportunities and build an inclusive and supportive workplace for all team members to reach their full potential.”
Retail Project Specialist III & Northern New England Well-Being Ambassador, Manchester, New Hampshire
Sarah is extremely passionate about Breast Cancer Awareness and Ovarian Cancer Research as both cancers have impacted her personally. Sarah’s mother had both cancers and passed away at a young age. “Every year, I actively engage in community walks and events put on for these charities. I am also a strong advocate for our local youth and prior to COVID-19, I volunteered regularly with my children to support our local rec. program and youth centers.”
Sarah was nominated by her Market President to be the Well-Being Ambassador (WBA) for the Northern New England Market. “I was very excited to join this role as wellness is so critical to overall physical and emotional wellbeing.” Sarah is extremely grateful for this role as it played a vital role in allowing her to take control of her health and uncover a life-altering discovery. As Sarah listened to a webinar about Breast Cancer it made her think about her own health changes. She decided to see her doctor and from that first visit in 2020 her life changed forever.
Sarah learned she had cancer and for the last seven months she’s been on a journey of recovery and understanding. “Being a WBA has provided me with so many tools and resources for not only myself, but also my family to help us though this very difficult time that so many face. The emotional and physical toll cancer has on both the patient and their family is exhausting, having all the support tools and resources TD offers made for such a positive experience and more importantly it allowed us to feel more in control of our decisions.”
Sarah believes women should focus on their mental well-being. “I, like so many women, carry the burden of our sorrows and responsibilities on our shoulders and those burdens can be heavy, even debilitating. So many people won’t reach out for support, they might feel embarrassed or feel that they can do it all by themselves or like me – they put the needs of others above their own. Mental health is something everyone can relate to, it is ok to need help, to ask for help, and it’s ok to receive help. We all face struggles at some point in our lives and taking care of ourselves involves both mental and physical health.”
For Sarah, taking time to write how she feels has provided her an outlet to express herself, all her emotions, stress and anxiety that work and personal lives can cause and release everything onto paper. “I also find that sometimes we need to take a few minutes to stretch or walk away from our desks. I work remotely due to the pandemic and often I would be in my office and at my desk for hours and never leave. This isn’t healthy and stepping away for a few minutes to grab some fresh air or just having a change of scenery has really helped.”
Reiterating the important lesson is important for every woman: “listen to your body, advocate for yourself and don’t allow anyone to tell you that you don’t know what you are feeling!”
Had Sarah not paid attention to her body and advocate for herself, her future would look very bleak. Thankfully Sarah found a doctor that listened and dug deeper to find the truth. Annual exams are critical and making those a priority is so important, but it is also important to learn your family history and be aware of your health risks. Medical advancements have come so far, and we have some amazing facilities available that will provide you with the highest level of care.
Sarah shared her cancer story with her market on a quarterly call and provided a high-level overview of the wellbeing portal and all the resources available for anyone going through literally anything. “My story and the tools I shared impacted so many people. I was shocked by the outreach and support I received, and I have learned that we are all going through something, it might be hard to identify from the outside, but so many are struggling internally.” Being a WBA has provided Sarah with the ability to help so many people.
Looking back, Sarah would advise her younger self not to take moments for granted. “Losing my mom was unexpected and quick, I never thought I wouldn’t have her by my side. I would have asked more questions, taken videos and more pictures, but we just never know what the future holds. I would also tell myself not to be so hard on myself and to take risks.” As a woman, Sarah feels many of us are our own biggest critics and we play it safe sometimes. “In the end I have discovered through my own personal journey that life is short, it is a gift – we never know what will be thrown our way that we’ll have to deal with and beating ourselves up and stressing won’t change the outcome. We can only do what we have the capacity to handle, and we need to know that must be good enough, because we only hurt ourselves in the end”. Sarah feels we need to believe in ourselves and take chances because deep down we do know our value. “It has taken me a long time to understand that and accept that reality because I always want to do more, be more, be better and show that I am highly capable of any task, but fear of failure has held me back. Failure is not when we take chances and come up short, but rather when we allow our fear to hold us back from diving headfirst into the unknown and taking the risk!”
Senior Manager, Strategic Planning & Support, New York City, NY
Taania’s been with TD for 13 years and enjoys keeping busy which isn’t surprising for someone who holds three citizenships and has studied five languages. In addition to her fast-paced work, Taania is an active member of TD’s Women in Leadership’s (WIL) Circles committee. “The most beneficial part of joining a Circle is connecting with Colleagues from across the bank’s footprint and having the opportunity to learn through different perspectives.” As a busy Mom of three children, Taania appreciates the consistent flexibility she’s given to balance work and family priorities.
To maximize your involvement in a community like Women in Leadership, Taania recommends taking time to clearly define what you’re looking to get out of it and ensure you work towards your goal. “Colleagues have different goals but we will all gain something positive by participating in a Circle.” When asked about a goal she’s working on, Taania shared “I’m working on improving my communication skills and using my voice to inspire others to do great work. I’m excited to take this goal to Circles.” To continue to polish her public speaking skills, Taania joined Toastmasters and enjoyed the practical lessons and tips to confidently speak on the fly. The support she gained from the group encouraged Taania to become TD’s New York Chapter President of Toastmasters. When asked how Women should ask for advice to support their goals Taania feels you should look for allies. “At TD we have a culture of care and your peers and leaders will support you; don’t hesitate to connect with people to ask for the guidance you need.”
While recently participating in TD’s Leadership Development Program, Leading with Impact, Taania met the person behind one of her favorite inspirational quotes, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Taania couldn’t believe hockey legend, Wayne Gretzky was a surprise guest during the last class. “It was so inspirational to meet Wayne Gretzky at a work event; it’s wonderful to engage with one of your heroes.”
Head Consumer Product Technology, Executive Lead, Women at TD; Sarasota Springs, New York
Both of Nadir Jones’ parents had great ideas when it was time to name their son. His father, Eddie Jr., chose to carry on their family legacy by passing his name down to his son, while his mother selected Nadir – meaning rare in African and Arabic.
During Ankana’s career, she worked in global consulting, technology, process, and product management within Banking and Financial Services throughout Europe, Australia, Asia, and North America. While working in North America, Ankana always noticed most people looked the same, and there wasn’t much diversity when walking through the halls of different financial institutions. While at a conference during her consulting days, Ankana was intrigued by a vibrant table represented by diverse communities, including women. She instantly knew she wanted to be part of that group of dynamic leaders. Ankana learned that the table belonged to TD, which convinced her she should join the bank and work for an organization that appreciates all diversity.
In her seven years with TD, Ankana is grateful for her various roles. “I’ve never felt compartmentalized at TD. I started as a Business Process Leader and became a Business Transformation Manager within six months for Commercial Lending, Retail Banking, and Payment Operations. Next, I took a role in Technology Delivery Services before moving to my current role as Head of Consumer Products Technology,” Ankana said. She credits being open to new challenges and seeking opportunities to help her navigate her career transformation.
Ankana believes in continuous learning through formal or informal channels. She has been trained in machine learning (a field devoted to building methods that let matchiness “learn”) and applied AI (Artificial Intelligence) from Columbia University and recently completed a Leadership and Management certification from Wharton Business School. She is currently enrolled in an executive coaching program at the University of Texas. Ankana continuously looks for ways to share any knowledge she acquires. She has been a speaker at many conferences, including at Philly Tech Week’s Machine Learning and loves to explain complex topics simplistically.
She spent her early childhood in Libya and identified as a South Asian woman residing in upstate NY with her family – a family her husband and she created via infertility treatment. Having undergone infertility treatments before joining TD, Ankana was shocked at the staggering financial cost of the process. When she began procedures again while working at TD, she realized she now had the right benefits to provide necessary medical coverage. Ankana said, “You don’t realize the value of infertility benefits until you need them. Focusing on your health and family instead of worrying about the financial burden is a wonderful benefit.”
Looking back on challenging times, Ankana is grateful for compassionate colleagues who supported her throughout her infertility treatment process. She believes empathy is one of the most valuable and essential traits anyone can bring to the table. “You never know what anyone is going through in their personal lives. We must be emotionally present to support our colleagues through good and bad times. When someone experiences hardships at home or work, it’s crucial to help them improve their mental state; even small gestures that give hope can be very beneficial. While colleagues don’t need to share details of their predicament if they aren’t comfortable, they should be able to confide in a trusted colleague to receive appropriate support,” she said. Ankana starts her one-on-one conversations with any colleague with, “How are you?” “Sometimes a simple, genuine heartfelt question is enough to build trust & support someone,” she shared.
In her new role as the Executive Lead for Women at TD, Ankana spearheads a Business Resource Group of US colleagues to promote Women through education on personal and professional effectiveness. Topics range from managing your finances to career growth, group and speed mentoring, and opportunities for allies. Ankana believes Women should follow their passions and pursue what will make them feel fulfilled. “It is impossible to take time out for everything – but one must take time out for what they are passionate about. That can change based on the time in their lives,” she said. A couple of years ago, Ankana had to manage three kids under the age of 3, so her priorities and passions were to focus on her family. Two years later, she can devote time to follow other passions. She actively mentor’s women and has mentors in and outside of TD Bank. “My passion has always been mentoring and promoting women while learning from my mentors. While this work is vital and rewarding, back in 2020, I had to be honest with my time commitment and realistically assess what I could contribute.”
If you want to join a business resource group but feel your time is too stretched to go beyond your job and family commitments, Ankana suggests taking a small step to feel involved. “Take five minutes a week to learn about activities or seminars that interest you and consider what will fit into your schedule. Ask yourself – Are you able to listen to a recording of a seminar when it’s convenient for you? Determine the time you can spare to join the community and prioritize some time to learn more in a way that works best for you.” She went on to share, “Only when I had more time was I able to commit to the Executive Lead role for Women at TD.” Ankana believes paying attention and following through on what inspires you will lead to fulfillment in your professional and personal life.