It has been theorized that it takes 10 years or 10,000 hours to master something.
On June 3, 2013, I started a new job at a place called Quicken Loans (now known as Rocket Companies).
Today I celebrate my ten year anniversary working at Rocket Companies in learning and development and I want to share my journey over the past decade.
I worked at a bank for five years in their Servicing (everything that happens with a mortgage after closing like payments and escrow) department. I started with default loans, moved to business analyst work, and eventually did auditing. When Quicken Loans moved to Detroit, many of my work peers jumped ship and went there. They loved it there and convinced me to do the same.
I originally applied for two Servicing roles and was interviewed for both at the same time. The recruiter called me a couple of days later to let me know that I was not chosen for either position.
The recruiter also told me that one of the leaders I interviewed with really liked how I communicated and suggested to a Director of training that he have me audition for the open Servicing Trainer position his team. I panicked because I had no background in training. I taught people how to do things in previous jobs, but I certainly was not a trainer. I also really wanted to work for Quicken Loans and leave the bank.
I said yes to the opportunity, despite being scared. I chose 15 year fixed rate mortgages as my training topic and put together a PowerPoint and handouts. I went to my audition, did the training, got some great feedback from the training professionals in the room, and went on my way. My recruiter called me and told me that they wanted to make me an offer. I couldn’t believe it! I got the job!
I put my two week notice in at the bank and started Quicken Loans on June 3rd.
Then the fear hit me. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing and they would surely let me go as quickly as they hired me. The imposter syndrome was high and heavy.
The Early Years
I joined Project Mercury, our team name for Servicing Training, and became a new learner and a mentee to pretty much everyone on my team. I had a lot to learn!
I was chosen to attend the Training Magazine Conference in January 2014. I could not believe that they chose me! What? Why? How?
During this three day experience I learned so much about learning and development and started delving into psychology. I was certified in “Designing and Delivering Instructor-Led Training” and the “Total Trainer Certificate Program”.
For over three years I worked on developing and facilitating new hire training for our Servicing team members. I got to make so many connections while welcoming new folks to Servicing and many to our culture and our ISMs. My team team continued to grow and we eventually became a new team named SHIELD. I coined the name as an acronym but the meaning escapes me at the moment.
I was promoted to a Senior Servicing Trainer when I become eligible. It felt so great be recognized with a promotion early on.
We eventually transitioned to another training team where I got work with some more amazing folks.
Eventually, I reached a point in my career where I was not only developing and facilitating training, but I also developed and facilitated a “Train the Trainer” program for new trainers to learn learning concepts and how to facilitate a class effectively. I realized that I had transitioned from a mentee to a mentor.
I began to ask myself “If I’m now developing people who develop people, what’s next for me?”
Coincidentally, a “Leadership Trainer” position opened up on our Talent Development team. This team focused on leadership training and programs. Leaders develop people. It made perfect sense to apply for that position. I applied for the role and auditioned by training SMART goals to the leadership training team. I was blessed to receive an offer as a Senior Leadership Trainer (I got to keep my promotion title) and I joined my new team in December of 2016.
The Formative Years
Little did I realize that I was embarking on the most transformative years of my entire life.
My new role as a Senior Leadership Trainer was focused on facilitating classes on what people call “soft skills” for leaders. This included skills like emotional intelligence, trust, delegation, conflict resolution, etc. I also worked with intact teams to offer training on those same soft skills as well as facilitated team building activities when teams needed them.
I had come from a role where I did more “hard skill” training, also known as technical training. I taught people how to perform functions like processing a mortgage payment, processing a loan payoff, and reading and process invoices for defaulted loans.
I struggled hard with this transition. I was used to being the expert. I was the “sage on the stage”. I scheduled dry runs of the classes with my team so I could get ramped up and facilitate. It was extremely challenging for me to facilitate an open conversation and to learn how to be a “guide on the side”. I know that I put my team through it in the beginning. I can’t even count how many times I got frustrated at myself.
Imposter syndrome came and it came back hard. I thought it was over for me. I was a lemon. I kept “joking” “I hope you kept the receipt!” I wasn’t actually joking but I thought that would make me cry less when they sent me back.
Thanks to my team and our company culture, I pushed through. With lots of practice and a ton of feedback, my confidence in my abilities grew and I started to find both growth and success. I acquired an incredible amount of new facilitation techniques and skills over time. I become comfortable and very confident in this type of facilitation and training.
Over time I was able to get certified in different programs like DiSC Communication, The 5 Behaviors of a Cohesive Team, Situational Leadership, Leadership Circle Profile, and Human Performance.
The new facilitation skills coupled with knowledge from certifications built my confidence.
As my confidence grew, so did my personal brand. I found myself being presented with so many new opportunities to work with many wonderful people and to continue growing as a trainer, team member, and human being.
In 2019, I was promoted to Executive Trainer. This was a role and title that did not exist on our team and, through some assertiveness, the role was created and I became the first Executive Trainer on our team. This promotion meant everything to me as it was a testament to the work I have done and the growth I have experienced.
I have had the privilege of getting to support leaders on their offsites, divisional meetings, and just being able to be a resource for everyone. I have been to help people work through challenges on their team, which are natural when humans are involved in anything.
One of things that I discovered was my passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion work. I regularly facilitated a class across our organization called “The Art of Inclusion” where I got to really lean into social identities, biases, and other important topics of conversation relative to creating an inclusive environment.
Because of this work, when Rocket Companies started Team Member Resource Networks (TMRN) in 2018, known as employee resource groups or affinity groups in other organizations, I was asked to be a founding member of our LGBTQ+ group, Perspective, as its Vice President. As a gay man, this meant everything to me because I have always had pride in our community.
I took on the role of President shortly after and helped lead our group for three years. Stepping into that leadership role positively impacted my life. During that time we were heavily involved in LGBTQ+ initiatives inside and outside of Rocket Companies. We led the way in what it mean to engage our group members and also use our collective voice to educate our organization on what it means to be LGBTQ+ in the workplace and society.
My passion for our community and my confidence in myself allowed me to become assertive to advocate for our community. Policies and procedures were reviewed through the LGBTQ+ “perspective” (that is where the name came from) and it was important to be a leader that pushed for their community because that is how progress happens.
We had also experienced some challenges that, before we become a collective group, may have gone unacknowledged. When controversial events happened, it was my responsibility to guide our LGBTQ+ and ally team members through it in a positive and constructive way. Our company culture and our ISMs guided us and created an environment for learning about social identities and healthy discourse.
My work in diversity, equity, and inclusion allowed me to expand my passion across the organization. I have been able to represent the LGBTQ+ community as a guest speaker at different events.
Part of the human experience that is diversity, equity, and inclusion is mental health. My journey these past few years brought me into the conversation of mental health and have also helped raise my awareness about it. I have also become a champion of mental health and, because of my experience at work, learned more about my own neurodivergence and got the support I need as someone who has ADHD and Anxiety.
I have been fortunate enough to facilitate classes regarding mental health and become a support for leaders and team members across Rocket Companies.
For the past five years we host a two-day Mental Health Summit during Mental Health Awareness Month in May where our amazing Benefits team brings in guest speakers and provide resources to help break the stigma of mental health.
The past three years I have had the absolute privilege to be the moderator for our “You Are Not Alone” panel where we have some inspirational humans join as panelists and have a discussion on their mental health journeys.
I like to joke that I am the Ryan Seacrest of Rocket Companies.
In 2019, I was nominated for a Rock Honors award in the category of “Best Performance in a Talent Development Role”. This award is our highest esteemed award in Rocket Companies.
My work on Talent Development as a facilitator who worked closely with leaders and teams to provide support, heavily supported our Phoenix office, being “obsessed with finding a better way”, and President of Perspective led to this nomination.
I won the Rock Honors award and it was the biggest milestone event of my 10 year career. It was (and still is) truly an honor to not only be nominated, but to win. I can’t even express the gratitude in my heart.
Impact is a word that we use often at work. It is a word that I would to delve into here as my journey has not just been professional. This decade has had a profound impact on me personally and has changed me. No, not changed. It helped me find me. My thirties were spent into becoming who I am supposed to be.
My role required me to lean into personal growth. If I am going to teach on topics like emotional intelligence, communication, conflict resolution, and showing up energized for life, then I have to do it. I have live it. I have to immerse myself in it. There is discomfort in growth and I went through quite a bit of discomfort as I became more aware of myself through opportunities gifted to me.
I had an opportunity to participate in a 2.5 day training by the Human Performance Institute in January 2020. This was a pivotal experience in my life that shaped how I experience and show up in the world today. We learned how to maximize physical/emotional/mental/spiritual energy. The trajectory of my life changed after those 2.5 days.
I have been on a roadshow promoting everything that I have learned from this program. From emotional regulation, purpose, the stories we tell ourselves, gratitude (that tattoo in the photo below is the symbol for gratitude), and all things mindfulness, I will find a way to talk about!
The biggest impact of everything was when Rocket Companies offered us Rock Academy, a new benefit that would help pay for school. I struggled quite a bit being someone who was kicked out of high school for being gay and did not have a college degree. When I realized that my passion was directly tied to everything that I do, psychology, I enrolled. I have one semester left before I graduate!
For me, not having a degree lowered my self-esteem and I anchored myself to my role as my identity. It was the root of my imposter syndrome. This caused me to come arrogant and critical. It was my subconscious way of appearing confident and protecting myself. That sometimes made me a challenge to work with. Check out my blog post to learn more about this experience.
The gift of awareness shed light on my insecurities and since then I have been able to lean in and address them. Now I have different outlook on things. I am more confident because I am learning to be vulnerable and that I don’t have to compare myself to others. I have strengths and gifts that I can share with the world while being a life-long learner.
My purpose is to support others. My passion is to develop people. I am living my passion and my purpose through my role and now shining my light in the world as well.
The Ten Year Takeaways
Here are my top ten biggest takeaways from the past decade:
- Energy is everything – You only have so much physical/emotional/mental/spiritual energy. Use it wisely.
- Feedback truly is a gift – People see what you can’t see and that awareness is crucial for growth. Do not rob yourself the opportunity of this gift.
- Patience is a virtue – There is power in waiting/pausing and being more deliberate with your time and energy.
- Strengths used in excess become toxic – What builds you up can also knock you down.
- Empathy without boundaries is self-destruction – Know where your emotions end and someone else’s starts. Their journey is not your journey.
- The absence of illness is not wellness – Self-care is crucial to well-being. Prioritize yourself.
- Awareness silences the ego – We need a little bit of ego to do extraordinary things. Operating from ego full time can be damaging.
- There is discomfort in growth – If you are growing, you are learning/relearning/unlearning patterns of thinking and behaviors. It isn’t easy but it’s worth it.
- Practice gratitude – There is always a gift in everything, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.
- Do not compare yourself to others – Your light is unique to you and let it shine as your authentic self.
I want to shoutout my team (past and present). This type of journey does not happen without the amazing comradery and support of your leaders and your “first team”. I do not know where I would be without the inspirational folks that I get to work shoulder-to-shoulder with every day who help me grow and teach me new things.
You have helped change me forever.
So, am I considered an expert? Not at all. I’m a life-long learner and look forward to continuing to grow in my craft and as a person. I am excited to see what the next 10 years bring.
Love and light,