One of First National’s points of distinction is experience. Many members of our team have been with us 10, 15, 20 and 25 years – and in a few cases since we began operations in 1988. We salute those committed individuals who are celebrating a milestone anniversary by presenting their stories in their own words. Today, we profile Stella Ma, Commercial Bilingual Training Specialist, Training and Documentation.
Take us back to the beginning of your career at First National.
First National was my first job in Canada and my first role after graduation. I started in customer service in the Residential call centre. I spent two years in that role before moving to Residential Administration, where I helped clients with mortgage changes. After two years in that role, I transitioned to Commercial Servicing for three years, then to renewals and assumptions. I have recently moved into Commercial Training, where I facilitate the onboarding process for new hires. I also create policies and procedures for the entire Commercial Division.
What was your first year like?
I was actually really nervous when I started because I didn’t have a financial background or basic financial knowledge. I majored in Asian Studies and Teaching French as a Second Language at the University of Toronto. First National provided a great orientation that definitely helped to boost my confidence. When I look back on 10 years, I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned. I’m learning every day and love the challenge of building my knowledge.
What was your “I’m in” moment?
After spending a year in customer service, I felt like I was really getting to know people well and understood how the company was developing. There are so many opportunities to grow here. I am someone that likes to contribute through collaboration. When I learn something new, I like to share those insights and help my department develop. When I moved from customer service to Residential Administration, I found the work really rewarding because I was answering questions and solving real problems for clients.
Describe some milestones in your career.
I feel like I still have so much to learn. But if I had to pick something, I would highlight my move to Commercial Servicing. Being in Residential allowed me to learn the basics. But commercial is more complex, with a lot of different dimensions. That felt like real growth for me. I was dealing with bigger clients with more sophisticated problems. I was digging deeper into financials and doing more extensive research. Having that exposure really allowed me to grow as a professional in this industry.
What stamp have you put on the business?
I consider myself fairly outgoing so I participate in a lot of social committees. People in the office know me. I was even asked to contribute to training materials. One of my client conversations was recorded for training purposes. In my new role, I feel like I am finally where I was always meant to be, working with new hires and giving them the foundation they need to succeed.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I’m proud of my reputation. I’m proud that my service approach is being used an example to help train other employees. Clients and the origination team consistently recognize me for my service delivery. I work hard, and appreciate that management sees and acknowledges my efforts. For me, contribution is so important, regardless of my department. Whether I am dealing with colleagues, new hires, investors or clients, I aim to deliver the best service. I am also so grateful for the trust they put in me as a representative of First National.
Any favourite memories?
I get involved in social and charitable events whenever possible. Every year since I started, I’ve participated in the volleyball event for Sick Kids. One year, my team made it to the finals. We didn’t win, but the whole experience was so amazing. It’s such a great memory – summertime, playing with colleagues, connecting and having fun. I really love the social aspect of First National.
What advice would you share with people growing their careers at First National?
I always give my 100% to everything. Whatever you are doing, whether internally or externally, give your 100% and fullest attention. That’s how you will contribute positively. First National is a great place to grow your career. There are so many opportunities to advance. And the training is comprehensive, so you can build your confidence with great support. Don’t be shy. Ask questions. I am still learning after 10 years. Everyone is willing to help. The people I work with are like family to me, and I feel really cared for. My managers were invited to my wedding. They are people I work with, but they are more than that to me.