Returner Spotlight: Jody Hanson

Company: Wells Fargo
Position: Senior Vice President, Talent Integration and Enablement

To celebrate the launch of the Wells Fargo Glide – Relaunch Internship Program, we talked to Jody Hanson, who returned to work at Wells Fargo after a career break, and has had a varied and successful 15-year career at the company. Jody Hanson took a six year break from her banking career to raise her young children. After deciding to return to work, she initially applied for a part-time position at Wells Fargo, where her interviewer recognized her long pre-break experience, and offered her a full-time management role instead. Since then, Jody’s time at Wells Fargo has taken her from Mortgage Collections call center management to Auto Finance, project management, remediation, and finally – enterprise talent enablement. Jody talks about the key to her return to work success, why she’s excited about the Wells Fargo Glide – Relaunch Internship Program, and what advice she has for future career returners.

What prompted your career break, and how long were you out of the workforce?
I worked at Bank of America right out of college, where I started by managing call centers and moved up from there. When I got pregnant with my son, I knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, so I chose to hang it up for a while. Not long after, I had my daughter. Once my kids started school, I had a lot of free time coming my way. At that point, six years had elapsed since I started my break, so I started thinking about what my back to work journey would look like. I always knew I would go back, but it was definitely nerve-wracking to think about that process.

What made you decide to return to work?
I’m wired and motivated to work. Even during my break, I would joke that I was still working, because I was vice president of the local mom’s club, I volunteered at the library, and I hosted events with other stay-at-home moms. I was always keeping busy and doing something with my skills. So when my kids began school, I knew that I had to go back and engage in the working world again. And I can’t say the money wasn’t a motivating factor either, because going back to work allowed my family to have two incomes again.

How did you approach and prepare for your return to work?
I started thinking about what I could do, because after being out for six years, I was worried my skills weren’t relevant anymore. The world moves fast, technology changes, and I thought that the things I had learned were no longer applicable. So I started looking for part-time positions where I could ease into the role and get acclimated slowly. Banking was my passion, and I knew I wanted to return to that field.

My family had moved to Minnesota, where Wells Fargo has a big presence. I decided to take the plunge and applied for a part-time position as a collector. I had some experience from college, when I worked as a credit card collections agent on an auto dialer. I figured that I would have to start from there and work my way up all over again. But when I showed up for the interview, the interviewers recognized that I had quite a bit of management experience and thought that I would be better qualified for a full-time manager position. It was nice that they looked at my whole career and not just my six-year resume gap. It kind of forced my hand, and made me reflect on whether I was ready to fully return to work, and face my anxiety and fear of failure. But I figured, if they believed in me, then I was willing to jump in and give it a shot.

How did you and your family navigate the transition from being on a career break to working full-time?
It was actually not as difficult as I thought it would be. Since I started in a call center environment, it afforded me the opportunity to play around with a more flexible schedule. I worked an 11:30AM – 8:30 PM shift, which allowed me to spend time with my kids in the morning and see them off on the school bus, and my husband would be with them in the evening. So it was a good experience for everyone.

You didn’t have the benefit of a formal return to work program at the time when you returned. What was your experience of returning to work at Wells Fargo like? What was the on-ramp process like?
I think what really helped me was that everyone seemed to really believe in me, and saw my potential. I think my authenticity and motivation shone through, but I was met at every turn with the support of my colleagues. I think organically, Wells Fargo has a good on-ramp system in place, because I felt a lot of support from everyone, from leaders to admins. I could always go to someone to answer even the smallest question I had, or to guide me through the training.

What I also found was that things hadn’t really changed that much. Yes, the world moves really fast, but I also found that the things that make you successful – like the ability to get things done, organization, being able to collaborate with people – never change. My career break even helped me strengthen those skills. Raising and chasing after children helps you with those soft skills.

There were definitely times it wasn’t easy, and even times where I’d get things wrong, but getting positive affirmation everywhere I turned, at all levels, helped me know that I was headed in the right direction.

Through your 15 years at Wells Fargo, you held a variety of roles. Could you talk a bit about your career journey through Wells Fargo?
I started out in mortgage collections, then moved on to Wells Fargo Financial, where I learned another side of the business. After that, I moved into project management at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, and found that I had a knack for it, so I spent time developing those skills. I then decided that I wanted to move into an enterprise role. At the time, Wells Fargo was looking into centralizing their remediation space, which was responsible for solving challenges and fixing mistakes. I knew the leader of that division, as I’d worked with her in a previous role. Through that connection, she reached out and brought me on the team. That role allowed me to learn the bank end-to-end and see where any errors are made. If you see how things can break, you have an appreciation for how they should work. I got to understand processes, risk management, and quality control. I’m now working in a similar role within Enterprise Talent, and my job involves looking at how I can make a positive impact on the business, to make things better for everyone, from customers to employees.

What were the keys to making your own return to work and career journey successful?
I’ve actually been very intentional with the career moves that I made. I learned early on in my career that in order to be successful, you really need to collaborate well with people to get things done, so I made the effort to network and make connections. I keep up with all the people I worked with in the past, from previous leaders to team members, in addition to connecting with people that I don’t know. I might reach out to someone and say, “Hey, I like your leadership style, would you be willing to spend time with me in an informational interview?” I think that has led to my success. I have a natural ability to get things done and execute through project management, but the other half of success – which is just as important – is knowing how to connect and collaborate with others.

How do you feel about the fact that Wells Fargo is launching a formal returning talent program this fall?
I am so excited about it. I would say that what’s so great about Wells Fargo is that we’ve always had elements of the Glide – Relaunch Internship Program in place, but that the formal program is going to pull it all together and make it more organized and official. I think this type of structured program will help returning talent be successful and overcome some of those fears and challenges that come with returning to work after a break, giving them the confidence they need to move forward.

What advice would you give to those who are currently on a career break and thinking about returning to work generally?
I think that my best piece of advice would be, don’t give up! It’s easy to get frustrated and feel that there’s no way to succeed. But be ready to put the work in. Network and maintain connections with people who will champion and advocate for you, and try to find people who aren’t like you. One of my earliest mentors was someone I saw at a leadership panel discussion early in my career, almost twelve years ago. I was struck by his leadership style, and even though he was in a different line of business, I reached out to him and asked him to be my mentor. Now, we’re on more equal footing – he advises me, I advise him. So don’t be afraid to find mentors and make connections with people who are different from you.

What advice would you give to those who are specifically interested in applying for the Wells Fargo Glide – Relaunch Internship Program?
I would say, embrace it! Take full advantage of every opportunity that’s offered to you. Just jump in with both feet, knowing that you may make mistakes, and that that’s okay. Know that this program is there to help people like you to return to your career.

Thanks for sharing your story, Jody! You can learn more about Jody on her LinkedIn page.
– The Path Forward Team