Take us back to the beginning of your career at First National.
LA: In 2006, I had finished school and was living with my parents. My mother knew someone that worked at First National. There was a Fax Administrator role available. I got hired on the spot. I stayed in that role for three years until a Funder position came up. After four years, I became a Senior Funder then applied for Fulfillment and eventually transitioned into underwriting. Two years into that role, an opportunity in TDMS came up, and I really wanted to make a difference in that part of First National’s growth. I started as an Underwriter for First National on the TD side. Now I am a Manager. And recently, I’ve moved over to the Excalibur team, working with borrowers who don’t fit traditional lending parameters. I’ve done every role in the Residential underwriting department and I understand what each role entails. So I can guide and mentor my team based on that insight.
What was your first year like?
LA: The first year was really fun and exciting. It was my first time in the corporate world. I was young, and my colleagues were all my age. Everyone was so friendly and kind. I made a lot of long-term friends. I was eager to learn and curious about other people’s roles and departments. Everyone was willing to help. It was a very exciting time in my life and career.
What was your “I’m in” moment?
LA: I wanted to grow within the company. And I knew I had to be patient. When I started as a Fax Administrator, I had a goal in my mind. I wanted to become and Underwriter. That’s when I would know I made it and was doing well in my career. Becoming an underwriter and then a Manager were turning points for me in my progression with the company.
Describe some milestones in your career.
LA: For me, there are two key milestones – when I moved from fulfillment to underwriting and when I advanced to management. For anyone who wants to progress in his or her career, First National does give you the opportunities to make it as far as you can. It’s been an honour to watch the company grow. I remember when the company went public. Stephen Smith cut the celebratory cake, and we all toasted with a glass of champagne. Reaching $25 billion in residential mortgages was also a big milestone. It’s very comforting to me to be a part of a company that was so small and grew to something so large.
What stamp have you put on the business?
LA: My progression in the company shows that I’ve put in my work, and I’ve always tried to be the best version of myself. Good communication skills and service are the most important. I have dealt with certain brokerages that didn’t submit any business to First National, and now they are top brokers. I attribute that success to how much effort and attention my team and I invested. Especially in my current role, I have perspective I can share because I have done the jobs my team is doing. I try to bring positivity, support and a family feel to our team. We love and encourage each other. Bi-weekly, we get together for a video chat with a glass of wine. And that rapport really makes a difference. Especially now, during COVID, people are looking for close, consistent connections. Anyone that talks about First National from the outside in, they mention our morale and the flow on the floor. I feel I’ve made huge contributions to building and cementing that reputation.
What are you most proud of in your career?
LA: My growth. I look at the person I was when I started, and the person I am today. That evolution could have never happened if I wasn’t at First National. I had immense support from management and everyone in the organization. I started at the company when I was 20. I’m 35 now. I grew up here. That’s why I feel like First National is family. In my current role, I am also part of the onboarding process. I have influence over choosing people that will fit and excel in the company. I’ve hired people as Funders who are now Underwriters. I noticed something in them I felt would be beneficial for the company. Their energy and outlook fit our culture.
Any favourite memories?
LA: First National definitely knows how to throw parties. I have so many memories with my colleagues from those parties. It is always so great to be able to get dressed up and come together with people from different departments and friends that have changed roles. Our celebrations when we hit company milestones were also really special. Most recently, I was honoured to be a part of the TDMS launch. I was one of the Underwriters to approve one of the first deals that came through TDMS. Overall, First National really takes care of its people. These memories are only a few of so many. The fact that I have so many memories speaks to the strength and quality of this organization.
What advice would you share with people growing their careers at First National?
LA: If you come in to this company with confidence and drive, you will succeed. I have always tried to look at the positive, even when facing challenges. The more positive you are, the more people will be drawn to you. Commit to making a difference, and you will go far. Have an open mind. Set goals. Be driven. When you’re in one role, learn about the next role you want. I always inspire my team to want to be better. But it’s also ok to have days when you feel overwhelmed. Push through with a positive attitude, and you will go far.
Any final comments?
LA: I’ve had a great 15 years here and look forward to the next 15 years at First National. I would love to see the company continue to grow as it has in the 15 years I’ve been here. I’m excited to see what’s to come. Growth leads to opportunities, which makes employees want to stay. The younger generation is driven. They want to work in a dynamic environment with ongoing opportunities. And First National understands that and offers people a chance to build their knowledge and understanding of different facets of lending. The company is always looking to find and keep the people who have a 15-year story in them.