In this issue, we celebrate 87 amazing Women With Vision. Coming from literally all walks of life and experience, all share one common trait: a desire to achieve. We speak often about vision and passion and goals, about finding balance, about living a full, happy life. The winners of the 2021 Women With Vision Award do more than talk—they do. Combining vision with deliberate action is powerful to the point of being nearly unbeatable. The women featured on these digital pages prove this over and over again every day. Celebrate them. Read about them. Get to know who they are and when a spark flares, embrace their vision and incorporate that spark into your own.
Inevitably, in each issue of the magazines I oversee, these remarks are the last to be written. I love fitting the puzzle pieces of each issue’s content to create a beautiful digital experience for our readers. By the time these pages are put together, I and the entire editorial team are intimately connected to every article and advertisement. We have been working with the words, the worlds, and the people featured in these pages for several months, sometimes longer. We hope you enjoy getting to know every person presented in these pages, learn the lessons shared, and simply enjoy reading our magazine.
The biggest edition of our year unfolds in the pages beneath this month’s beautiful magazine cover. This edition could not be more special to me.
What does Women With Vision mean to me? Everything.
It is hard for me to realize some days that I am a woman who is, having been a 30 + year veteran, the one paying forward education to up-and-coming women business owners and professionals in the mortgage, finance, and real estate space. Wow. What an honor and privilege it is to be in a position to give back.
I have always felt I one day would share my voice in pursuit of women’s advancement, through proven results, in the workplace. As long as women continue to prove their ability to run thriving departments, lead large groups, and run their businesses in healthy and profitable ways, I intend to shine the light on women in our industry. I am not alone in this commitment, however. Through this magazine, through sharing business knowledge, and through the coaching available from our consulting firm, we will continue to guide women to run and be successful in business.
I personally congratulate all of the women who have won the prestigious Women With Vision Award in 2021. You have entered a new time in women’s history and you too carry the responsibility of upholding our growth and trajectory through the running of great businesses and channels and also by acting this next year as representatives contributing to our joint cause. As a Women With Vision, you will have the spotlight bestowed upon you, starting with this winners’ edition of the WWV Magazine and culminating in the LIVE award show in June 2022.
In between, we will meet, collaborate, and we will pay forward our learning to others and grow our cause. I am so excited and proud of each of you. Enjoy your moment. You are redefining our industry each and every day. I applaud you and I will be here to support you with 20/20 Vision for Success Coaching throughout your reign as a 2021 WWV Award winner!
Written by: CaZ
The winners of this prestigious industry award are esteemed by their peers, their clients, and their families and now by you, the readers of the WWV Magazine. Each winner was nominated. Her name, her professional and personal curriculum vitae, along with accolades earned were provided to the organizing committee of the WWV Award for consideration. Each of these women are winners in every way and we say again, congratulations!
Laura Brandao, a past and current winner of this award, is the Chairwoman of the Women With Vision Board of Directors. We asked her to welcome the 2021 winners as they begin their one-year reign.
“It is my joy to see women recognized and celebrated for their hard work and accomplishments. To be selected as a Woman with Vision is a testament to a woman’s strengths, talents, and how she leverages them to make the world a better place.
Talent, intelligence, experience, coupled with kindness, empathy, encouragement, and service to others is just the tip of what sets you apart from the rest.
The world has been crying out for strong, confident women leaders in the finance industry. You weren’t intimidated by naysayers or obstacles of the day; you answered the call. Working within your community to elevate other women either by example or by encouragement – your positive impact has had a ripple effect far beyond where you stood when you started. Women are stronger, more confident to take chances, are expanding their market shares, and have stronger work relationships along with a healthier mindset than ever before.
It is a great honor to congratulate this year’s WWV winners! You are a force of brilliance, a shining beacon of inspiration! Congratulations on your well-deserved accomplishments. We salute you and look forward to seeing how the collective vision of the 2021 Women With Vision Award winners will change our industry, indeed our lives, for the better.”
A woman with vision is a leader, an innovator, and a take-action person. To be nominated for the Woman With Vision Award, a woman meets and exemplifies these principles:
- Has a forward vision of leadership and growth
- Performs with professionalism and excellence
- Demonstrates proven qualifications as a leader who is a groundbreaker, an industry trendsetter, and provides visionary leadership
- Is a woman with sales and professional momentum
- Is a woman who inspires
Please share congratulations on the social media channels for each of these phenomenal women (and in person if you know them!) Remember, the magazine is free, so share the link with your comments! (wwvmag.com)
As the Editor in Chief of the WWV Magazine, as a woman whose privilege it is to come to know each of these women through the words of their peers as well as their own, it is indeed my great honor to present to you the 2021 Women With Vision Award winners.
Kristin Hess - AnnieMac Home Mortgage - Loan Originator
Kristin Hess makes everyone around her feel special. She is popular with the customers and an inspiration to women. She owned a mortgage company with her husband and lost both in the divorce. Despite leaving with little more than the shirt on her back, she has risen to success on her own after starting over from scratch. Kristin reconnected with her passion and followed her heart back to AnnieMac and the Consumer Direct Platform, where she has been recognized as a 1 percent mortgage loan originator and earned consecutive year awards as Presidents Club and All-Star Club. She is also the Ambassador for the NJMBA Women’s Committee. And she did all of this without stepping on anyone’s toes while maintaining a wonderful, caring, and positive reputation.
She lives up to her vision every day of helping to raise up her fellow women coworkers. Kristin keeps busy in her personal life as well, taking care of herself and her daughters and delights in showing them how to be an inspiration to other women.
Chrissi Rhea - Mortgage Investors Group - President / CEO
Thirty-three years ago, Christine (Chrissi) Rhea set out to create the kind of customer-focused, employee-empowered company she wished existed within the mortgage lending industry. Her vision was forward-thinking has come to fruition and continues to bloom and grow. Chrissi’s hands-on approach to running a business and her genuine desire to do right by everyone she encounters has made her a Woman With Vision.
Chrissi both talks the talk and walks the walk when it comes to diversity and leadership in our industry. She is a generous mentor, sharing her decades of experience with up-and-coming mortgage professionals and industry peers while reminding them that sometimes the most valuable lessons are learned during the most challenging of circumstances.
Aliza Akhtar Maqbool - First Option Mortgage - Mortgage Loan Originator
Aliza Akhtar Maqbool, an erudite, motivated, and passionate mortgage loan originator, is also a cheerleader for her co-workers and a valuable team player. She is immensely dedicated to her clients, routinely going above and beyond to help borrowers understand and feel comfortable about the loan process. It’s no surprise she has developed a loyal client base in a short amount of time, increasing revenue for her company while making borrowers’ dreams come true. She is the perfect and rare combination of intelligence, amicability, and professionalism. Her expansive vision extends beyond the industry because she sees potential for success in every opportunity, whether it’s for herself or others.
Aliza has earned awards and accolades in different industries, including television, education, and the legal field. In recent years, her most notable achievements have been earning her master’s degree from Harvard while being a full-time mother to two small boys.
Aliza is an inspiring visionary who readily shares her vision. As an immigrant woman of color, Aliza understands the struggles some women face and wants to use her example and her experiences to guide those who need support. The key to Aliza’s vision for empowering women is to enable women to live their most successful life through mentoring and training which will result in more women hired into the mortgage field.
Rosa Romaine - leadPops - Chief Operating Officer
Every company needs their own Rosa Romaine. She is incredibly fun and hilarious while simultaneously an amazing inspirational leader. Rosa has been a C-Suite executive and director helping grow and sell multiple companies. She builds teams, people, culture, and executes on an unparalleled level. Since successfully shifting from a top producer role to a mortgage tech expert she has focused her vision around the melding of technology and mortgage. Rosa’s vision offers the best of two worlds: solving problems while fueling jobs globally and inspiring people.
Kirti Panchal- First Option Mortgage - Business Development Director
Kirti Panchal thrives on challenges and enthusiastically overcomes them. Her ability to connect with clients and push through difficult circumstances has earned her a stellar reputation amongst her peers. In a short time, Kirti has carved an indelible place, leading her branch to double in sales production while supporting both the incoming business and bringing in new leads.
Kirti’s vision is to see women in the mortgage industry at the forefront leading the pack from key industry leadership and executive roles. Along with all the incredible women winners of the Women With Vision Award, she is confident we will soon see a future where women excel in shaping the path in mortgage.
Leora Ruzin, CMB, AMP - Coloramo FCU - Senior Vice President of Lending
Suha Zehl - BackFin Group - Chief Innovation Officer
Suha Zehl’s career in mortgage spans twenty years throughout which her passion for paying it forward has been evident. No more so than in 2021 when, after a conversation with Marcia Davies, COO of MBA and Founder of mPower, Suha took it upon herself to create and host In the Spotlight with Suha, an online series seen on LinkedIn and other social media platforms. In this series, Suha helps fill a gaping need to recognize and appreciate the next generation in the mortgage lending ecosystem by shining the light on young women who are not in management or leadership roles and who are making a significant contribution and difference every single day. Suha’s vision is of a future filled by a significant shift to support inclusion of women in the highest leadership and strategy roles.
Kerry Cole - Equity Prime Mortgage - Senior Vice President of Lending
As SVP of Lending for Equity Prime Mortgage (EPM), Kerry Cole intimately understands how many individuals it takes to make people’s dreams of homeownership come true. Kerry introduces creative and relevant solutions to deliver on her promise to help more Americans get the keys to their new home. She curates a frictionless, delightful experience for the broker community, the customers, and those with whom she works. She continuously helps to move the needle, innovating, disrupting the status quo, and eliminating silos and hurdles that continue to plague the mortgage industry. Progress for women has proven substantial over the last decade, yet it remains uneven when it comes to equal pay, expectations, and inclusion. Kerry is a strong champion for women whose vision encompasses a future more balanced and offering more opportunities for women to grow and lead and be a part of the conversation.
Samantha Fraser - First Option Mortgage - Senior Loan Officer
Samantha Fraser is a top producer and a leader amongst her peers, many of whom are men. She is an example of what a young woman can accomplish in the mortgage industry by applying effort and determination. Samantha’s vision for the future is to have a strong group of women around her in like positions who she can help to grow into their own leadership roles. She believes having people who truly believe in you makes a difference.
Kerry Wekelo - Actualize Consulting - Chief Operating Officer
Kerry Wekelo is recognized by peers and clients alike for her innovative practice of looking at gratitude as an investment. Sixteen years ago, Kerry committed to personal growth and showing up as the same person in all aspects of life to serve herself and others for the greatest good. Putting action to her beliefs, she introduced these principles to Actualize Consulting, a financial services firm. As COO, Kerry has created an award-winning culture and workplace based on gratitude. She is a multi-published author and keynote speaker who is dedicated to bringing her message to young women through mentorship and speaking. Kerry’s vision of showing women they can successfully integrate their life values into the workplace inspires women to enter the industry.
Laura Brandao - American Financial Resources - President
American Financial Resources President and Partner, Laura Brandao, took a leap of faith in 2007 and started AFR Wholesale just as others were running away from wholesale lending. Laura is a magnetic leader who has been instrumental in growing multiple organizations within our industry, creating opportunities for others, and empowering the industry’s women to collaborate and lead. Laura’s vision is to leave the mortgage industry better than when she arrived by supporting and enlightening others to be their best selves while guiding their families home.
Claudia Mobilia - Embrace Home Loans - Senior Vice President
Claudia Mobilia exemplifies true leadership in every way. She leads and coaches a team of five and oversees loan processing, underwriting, and closing, as well as operations support. Claudia leads by example and has worn many hats during her time at Embrace, making a major impact on the company for decades.
Today, Claudia continues to evolve with the ever-changing mortgage industry and looks forward to helping more women achieve their career aspirations. Her career is a great model of how women can grow to have much success in the mortgage industry with dedication and hard work.
At every step in her career, Claudia has inspired women throughout the mortgage industry to reach new heights. She has been instrumental in advancing the careers of women by appointing them to leadership positions. Claudia feels there is plenty of room for more women to enter the industry and grow into successful careers.
In Claudia’s vision, the number of women in the industry doubles in the near future. She believes it is up to men and women like her, who serve in executive positions, to help guide and mentor these women to achieve their professional goals.
Chris Harrington - USHERPA - President and Co-founder
Chris Harrington has more than 25 years of experience in high-tech real estate and mortgage relationship management, developing state-of-the-art CRM platforms combined with automated content marketing services. Her vision and leadership helped build the premier support system for loan officers dedicated to referral-based selling. During her impressive career, she has developed a deep understanding for the needs of the mortgage industry. Her company has helped tens of thousands of loan officers increase their business, driving the entire industry forward. When Chris started her career as a loan processor, the mortgage industry was incredibly male-dominated. Even when she was promoted to VP of Marketing, she was often the only woman in the room with senior executives. Chris’s vision for the industry, and for her own company, is to empower women leaders. As a female business owner, she employs a staff of over 23 women, many of whom she has personally helped mentor and build their careers. She also contracts with other female-owned and operated businesses where applicable.
Kiran Shah - First Option Mortgage - Area President
In the mortgage industry, we understand change is constant. Kiran Shah has a proven ability to unify a group of strong, independent individuals and bring them under the umbrella of a shared vision – hers. Building on a solid foundation of support and trust, Kiran’s team tailors solutions, mentors each other to reach their full potential, and continues to grow collectively and as individual professionals. Most would agree a true leader is one who inspires action by sharing her vision. Kiran Shah is such a leader. Kiran’s vision for the industry is to see spirited, driven women leading both in operations and sales. These women are multitaskers, empathetic, humble, and resilient leaders who hold their teams accountable and value integrity. They understand and respect diversity and inclusion, are coachable and ethical. Kiran believes these are the characteristics women bring to the future leadership of the industry.
Reena Jiva - First Option Mortgage - Loan Originator
Reena Jiva is a rising star in mortgage. Still a newcomer by most standards, she approaches her role as loan originator as if this was her own business. She takes ownership complete with a plan and a vision for the future.
Reena is committed to learning all she can and has made a solid entrance into this industry. She is a woman to watch who has earned trust and confidence and has already begun building the partnerships, repeat clients, and referrals that will grow with her as she fulfills her current vision and breaks through to create an even greater one.
Katie Foster - United Wholesale Mortgage - EVP, Chief Risk Officer
Katie Foster leads over 200 team members to deliver wholesale loan services in her role as United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM) EVP, chief risk officer. She has 25 years of experience in the mortgage industry allowing her to be an unwavering driving force behind UWM’s growth. Her keen eye for process enhancements and leadership continue to move the wholesale market forward.
Katie’s vision is for the industry as a whole to grow and become more diverse in all aspects. As the mortgage industry continues to diversify and more women join and break the mold of the male-dominated spectrum, her vision is of an environment where women find success in banking and are true innovators and problem solvers. Katie is the epitome of what it means to be a woman with vision within the banking industry and she will continue to push the industry and UWM forward.
Adriana Aleman - First Option Mortgage
Adriana Aleman began her career as a loan officer at the age of 20 and has grown consistently and significantly as a professional in the mortgage lending industry since then. With a background in corporate social responsibility and an BBA in managerial sciences, she earned membership in the Million Dollar Club for the month of June at First Option Mortgage.
Adriana is committed to using her skills to help families accomplish their goal of buying their dream home. Her vision is for women achieving leadership positions to be the norm in the mortgage field. This image remains front and center in her mind as she works to help women feel comfortable bringing their unique gifts to this industry.
Stephanie Zinsmeister - AnnieMac Home Mortgage - Senior Vice President of Operations
Stephanie Zinsmeister is an inspiring executive whose leadership inspires others to dream, learn, and become more. In addition to leading an Operations’ and Credit Policy team for a $5B per year organization, Stephanie has mentored several women within AnnieMac since her time here. Many leaders have spent time with Stephanie under her tutelage. This is a quality dating back to her early days in the mortgage industry and is evidenced by the following she has within the industry. Over a dozen operational employees have joined AnnieMac as a result of working with Stephanie in the past.
Stephanie’s vision for women in the mortgage industry is her current reality. Of the twenty-four leaders who either directly or indirectly report to her, nineteen of them are women. Stephanie does not preach women empowerment; she practices it on a daily basis.
Paola Scott - First Option Mortgage - Loan Originator
For Paola Scott, service comes first. This is the base she’s built her success upon. She advocates for growth by helping others in her community and provides opportunities to women who are interested in a career in mortgage and banking. In Paola’s vision, the future for women in the mortgage industry is big and bright. Her vision is of an industry ruled by men and women where women are valued for professionalism, communication and relationship skills, and empathy. She believes homeownership is everyone’s dream and everyone deserves their dream.
Kimberlee Clancy - Mindful Mortgage Group - Broker/Owner
For some, the vision is so strong, it has to be created from the ground up. This is true for Kim Clancy. She entered the mortgage field 21years ago and early on recognized the importance of taking care of clients to provide a quality experience while meeting their financial goals. To bring her vision to life, she opened Mindful Mortgage Group, a brokerage designed to give back to her community. Success was not long coming as Mindful Mortgage Group is consistently ranked one of the top brokers in Colorado.
Kim is a leader in her community who works closely with a network of mortgage professionals. Kim’s vision includes branching out to expand the business into surrounding communities and to become an even stronger leader and educator in the industry.
Michelle Dugan - MS Lending - Broker/Owner
Michelle Dugan did not always want to be a broker. She began her career as a paralegal fully intending to attend law school and become a real estate lawyer. Life has a way of opening the right doors at the right time. Fifteen years ago, Michelle fell in love with the mortgage industry and has never looked back. Michelle has built an incredibly successful business and is often giving back to the brokers and loan officer community by volunteering and speaking on empowering women to find their seat at the table.
Michelle has seen her vision come to fruition and exceed the initial goals. The dream, the vision, keeps getting bigger and better as she now envisions a world where women thrive not just survive.
Julie Yarbrough - Empire Home Loans - Managing Partner
Julie Yarbrough has been in the mortgage industry for over 30 years and has grown into and moved through roles that presented every angle of the industry to her: eight years in title and escrow, 23 years as a loan originator, and 17 years in executive roles before transitioning into her current managing partner and ownership role in 2019. Julie’s path demonstrates her continual quest to inspire and lead women in this industry by strategically developing more programs and nurturing more relationships, even in the face of ever-changing pandemic-related times.
Julie has always been passionate about using her career journey and personal ownership experiences to continue forging a bigger path for women in the mortgage industry, educating and empowering them to move into a position to build their own empires. Her special interest is in raising the visibility of opportunities to women, which she has done for over ten years as the leader of two executive-level mastermind groups: one for top-performing women in the mortgage industry, and a second for women in finance.
Visionary leaders like Julie manifest themselves early in their careers and continue to grow and share their powerful future sight.
Jamie Cavanaugh - Amerifund Home Loans - Chief Operating Officer
Jamie Cavanaugh, who has broken through multiple glass ceiling barriers to sit on executive leadership teams, is a passionate supporter of women in the mortgage industry. Her diverse experience includes origination, compliance, credit risk, post-closing, and secondary marketing management. Jamie is a firm believer in empowering women to find their own seat at the table. She has shown the way by her own success and offers a hand daily to any females needing help to succeed in the industry. Jamie is one of a kind, a class act, and a singular pillar in the mortgage industry.
Over the course of her 20-plus year career, Jamie has come to exemplify the consummate mortgage professional. Jamie runs operations for a well-established brokerage and continually finds innovative ways to scale and grow her business. She is the first to help any broker in the community who finds themselves in need of motivation. She supports and upholds the growth and success of the broker community as a whole.
Her vision is to see more women pull up seats to the table and own their place in our industry. In bringing this vision to life, she helps ensure women continue to level up and reach the top!
Rosemarie Rodriguez - First Option Mortgage - Business Development Director
Rosemarie Rodriguez is a genuine person who has no fear when it comes to achieving goals and helping others find their success. She is passionate about mortgage, a trait that has served her well as a business development professional. She is dedicated to increasing awareness of the opportunities for homeownership and the doors that open to first-time homeowners.
Rosemarie has a big vision: to help families, individuals, new graduates, and even mortgage professionals to become informed about the process of purchasing a home. She envisions a future where new graduates learn the benefits of becoming loan officers and are motivated to help others in their communities become proud homeowners.
Sareena Halani - First Option Mortgage - Regional Manager
Little girls with big dreams become Women with Vision. Coming into the mortgage industry brand new, mid-pandemic, Sareena Halani worked from the ground up to establish herself and learn every piece of the origination process from back end to front. The insanity of 2020 threw all types of situations at her. She worked double the hours to gain knowledge twice as fast. She understands opportunity doesn’t wait until you’re ready, she figures out how to make things happen. Sareena is determined, resilient, and fearless. From processing and originating to managing the P&Ls of twenty-eight plus branches and now recruiting and growing the corporate division on a national level, Sareena exemplifies what it means to be a visionary and leader in this industry where she is paving her own path.
Sareena’s vision is to empower other women to reach their full potential. She is passionate about helping women build a successful and rewarding career and scale their business.
Ashley Miller - GTG Financial - Business Development Manager
Ashley Miller’s selfless spirit draws people to her. She is the biggest cheerleader in all aspects of life. Ashley is a two-time winner of the Women With Vision Award.
It takes visionary leaders like Ashley to create a solid platform for women in mortgage leadership roles, and in the career fields long unavailable to females. Ashley is committed to continuing to change the picture and place more women in leadership positions, which allows the population of homebuyers and homeowners to be better served. Women bring a new angle to mortgages and often connect differently with their clients and peers than their male counterparts, a service style many clients welcome.
Ashley is an asset to women in the mortgage world who are seeking help. She openly shares her knowledge, but more importantly, she welcomes strangers and new mortgage professionals when they ask for help as well as being available to friends and colleagues.
Megan Marsh - Keystone Alliance Mortgage - Co-Founder
Megan Marsh is a successful real estate investor, entrepreneur, and speaker. As a leader, Megan inspires loyalty and motivates those in her sphere to excel and grow both professionally and personally. Having come to the mortgage world after deciding to make a change following her close encounter with the 9/11 tragedies, Megan has made a distinguished career as a top-producing loan originator in Pennsylvania and the co-founder of Keystone Alliance Mortgage. In addition Megan created Keystone Capital, a commercial division to help women entrepreneurs gain funding to start their own businesses.
Megan has a vision of collaboration and proves its value daily as she grows her business following and teaching the mentality that teamwork is the best way to grow and have an impact on people and the profession. She empowers women to build their mental muscles to become the best versions of themselves, especially when facing adversity.
Ruth Lee - Big Think - Founder & CEO
Ruth Lee is a highly successful entrepreneur, having built companies, products, and technology over the last twenty-eight years across multiple channels in the mortgage industry. Having experienced great success in origination early in her career, she is now working on her third company as a consultant and thought leader. She prides herself on keeping an eye on the horizon to foresee important changes and trends in the industry.
Ruth’s vision is to cultivate the cross-generational leadership approach necessary to address the coming challenges of automation and digital transformation. Currently, she is reflecting on the impact of millennials and Gen Z on the future of the mortgage industry and how their desire to make a positive impact in real estate finance will create a fundamental shift in the way we approach the customer experience.
Felicia Saucier - AnnieMac Home Mortgage - Mortgage Loan Originator
After taking a break from the industry to raise two amazing daughters, Felicia Saucier rebooted her career on a whole new path in mortgage lending. Three years ago, she embarked on a focused path of educating herself in order to share her knowledge with her colleagues, partners, and clientele. Felicia hosts multiple monthly classes for realtors as well as monthly homebuyer events to empower and support those in her sphere of influence.
Felicia received her Certified Mortgage Advisor designation offered by Barry Habib and MBS Highway. She is also a New Hampshire Chapter Leader with Women’s Business League, a Women-Only networking group empowering women business owners to have meaningful and authentic networking relationships built on the philosophy of supporting and giving to one another.
Felicia’s vision for the future of women in our industry is to continue to develop, promote, and empower women of all ages and experience on their career path, as an unstoppable sisterhood.
Melanie Stuckey - Synergy Mortgage Group - Broker Owner
Melanie Stuckey is an innovator. She is the first to help her associates in and out of the broker community. She effortlessly mentors new originators in the business and takes their hand to lead them through their first successful steps. The genuine day-to-day work she gives to her community shines through.
Melanie is an active member of the broker community and is frequently asked to speak within the industry on best practices and financial planning initiatives. She is a force to be reckoned with as she leads her team with passion, dedicates time to teach community wealth building, and strives to create limitless success in the mortgage industry.
Anamaria Sanin - Confident Closers Branding & Consulting - CEO and Brand Strategist
Ana Maria Sanin is one of the few three-time winners of the Women With Vision Award and is a woman who has grown within the industry in a short time including the decision to launch her own company in 2020. Ana Maria both epitomizes what a Woman With Vision is and does and believes wholeheartedly in the concepts that fuel this movement.
She strives daily to lift up and support the growth of women in the industry, especially those who want to have an impact and change the industry to include more women in leadership roles who own their talent and have the courage to be themselves while leading and growing professionally.
Ana Maria’s journey as a single mother has led her to a life made impactful through service. Her vision is to enable others to rise above whatever challenges are to be faced. The pathway is strengthened by building solid, long-term relationships and embracing the power of teamwork.
Larissa Luck - AnnieMac Home Mortgage - Mortgage Loan Originator
Larissa Luck’s10-year journey in the mortgage industry has traversed a road of learning beset with both setbacks and wins. As is often true of a Woman With Vision Award winner, she turned pain to power, choosing a path less taken by sharing her journey from disappointment to success using social media broadcasts.
Larissa has a firm belief in relationship-driven prospecting and networking. Even before she proved the validity of her revolutionary marketing techniques, Larissa practiced reaching out in a spirit of selfless encouragement to reach rookie realtors and referral partners. Her vision and belief in this path was proven and came to fruition in the mortgage deluge of 2020 when every seed she had sown burst forth with fruit at once.
Larissa is passionate about using social media to revolutionize marketing and lead generation. Her vision is strong, evolving, and shared freely across social channels.
Sam Verma - Peoples Processing - Chief Executive Officer
Dimah Hasan - First Option Mortgage - Branch Manager
Dimah Hasan is a branch manager and mortgage loan originator working out of new offices in Tampa Bay, Florida. For Dimah, who came to this country as a teenager with no English, few skills, and no family, failing was not an option. Today, as a successful branch manager and mortgage loan originator, she applies this philosophy and determination to her mortgage career.
Dimah is a proud wife, mother, daughter, sister, and a top-notch boss in the mortgage industry. In her vision for the future of women in our industry, gender and clothes do not define character. Hard work is what defines it. Women can be compelling and feminine and successful in business without hiding evidence of their womanhood.
Dianna M. Thompson - NEXA Mortgage - Loan Originator
Dianna is passionate about empowering others to attain their dreams. As a recruiter who has assisted in hiring and mentoring of new loan officers for over 10 years, Dianna works tirelessly to bring her vision to life while teaching and mentoring the next generation of mortgage professionals.
Semah Kirmizikaya Rodriguez - First Option - Loan Originator
Semah is often found in the midst of her community, giving her share and more to the common good while extending opportunities to bring women into business. Her vision is to continue following the path to be a leader who enables women from even the most diverse backgrounds to take on strong leadership positions in the lending world.
Jasmina Jakupovic - First Option Mortgage - Mortgage Loan Originator
Tashara Turpin - Infinity Home Loans - Mortgage Broker
Tashara Turpin began her journey in this male-dominated industry when she was a young, a single mother whose biggest dream was to provide for her children. It did not take long for Tashara to realize the mortgage industry is one where dreams are either made or swallowed up. Knowing firsthand what the downside was like, Tashara was determined to achieve success and today she has built a book of business based on trust and knowledge and is an admired entrepreneur. Her reputation is one of a savvy business owner with a heart who turned disappointment and tragedy into ammunition to overcome all obstacles and evolve into the inspiring leader she is today!
Tashara’s vision for women in our industry is to gain the respect of every person and surpass or be equal to everyone. No matter where the industry turns next, Tashara is willing and ready to fight for the betterment of all.
Tashara’s vision has grown but never wavered. She has remained the same woman with big hopes and dreams. She sees no gender she has no bias and understands what matters is how well we do for every client.
Parihan Jiwani - First Option Mortgage - Loan Officer Assistant / Processor
Parihan Jiwani is hard working and a team player. As a relative newcomer to the mortgage industry, Pari stands out from the rest and is always willing to learn more! With only a few years of experience, she has embraced the process and learned all she can about the industry, ever striving and ready for more growth, personally and professionally.
Her vision is for all women to strive and work together towards their goals!
Marie Hendrix - NEXA Mortgage - Marketing Director
Marie’s vision is of women who strive for personal and professional balance to successfully nurture and grow themselves and others who seek to be better versions of themselves every single day. She envisions a future where the world recognizes the value of how dominant, powerful, fearless, and committed women are AND where strong women lead by example and represent what we believe in with class and grace. Marie believes it is important for the women in our industry to recognize their worth, accept their unmatched abilities, and align their dreams with unfathomed determination and dedication to achieve their goals and truly be recognized as a powerhouse and fountain of worth.
Kelsey Rauchut - AnnieMac Home Mortgage - National Business Development Manager
Kelsey Rauchut is an industry leading national business development manager and growth coach with AnnieMac Home Mortgage. Kelsey has a vision of growth and collaboration for women in our industry; a vision for women to come together and dominate the mortgage world. Hers is a vision she bilaterally delivers for both her recruits and herself and takes the next step to link vision to action and execution.
Tatiana Mcausland - Single Home Loans - Mortgage Originator
Tatiana Mcausland’s career has skyrocketed from humble beginnings where her passion for the mortgage world sparked, to finding herself house-poor, working four jobs to make ends meet, to embracing an intelligent wealth creator mindset, to landing where she is today, a mortgage superstar who believes no renter should be left behind. Tatiana is passionate about helping people into the home of their dreams. Admired for her work ethic, authenticity, and integrity, she believes in her clients and is a mortgage lender who cares and coaches financial intelligence.
Tatiana’s vision is disarmingly simple, she sees a future where women come together to support one another and make a difference within each other’s worlds; a world where women are financially independent and do what they love.
Kimberly Kissane - Premier Choice Mortgage - Broker/Owner
Kimberly Kissane has been a force in this business for many years and has proven that even during a pandemic, she will not be stopped. Since surviving the crash of 2008, she has remained a successful broker and is an involved member of the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts (AIME), serving with the AIME Women’s Affinity Group.
Kimberly continues to inspire her team with a strong work ethic and willingness to help others. She is a mentor to her staff and leads them to their own success in the mortgage business. Her dedication to her team, family, and clients is pure excellence at its finest.
Melanie Walburg - Destiny Mortgage Lending - CEO & Broker Owner
Melanie Walburg is a force in this business drawing on two decades of experience. She is a beacon of light for women in mortgage and serves as a steady mentor to many. Melanie’s heart is committed to serving people. Melanie’s actions fit her vision as she strives to empower women to be strong leaders who work hard to build their own empires while supporting others.
Chasity Graf - LA Lending - Broker Owner
Chasity Graf is a steadfast leader who has overcome many challenges in the last fourteen years while building her company. Hers is a familiar face and voice in the broker community as many brokers see her as a creative leader who is worthy of being followed and emulated. Chasity is a two-time winner of the Women With Vision Award, a two-time winner of the 40 under 40 award and a multi published industry writer. She believes in strong women having a seat at every table. Her vision includes many women both sitting at the table, and running that table.
Jackie Dunlap - Next Generation Home Loans - Broker Owner
The Mortgage Calculator - Founder
Jacqueline Dunlap has carved out her section of the mortgage industry. She has risen through the ranks and today, as a producing broker/owner and successful owner of a tech training company, she continues to adapt to the needs of her community of professionals and clients. Jackie has always been one to bet on herself and is both respected and admired in the industry for her willingness to help and learn.
Jackie is on a mission to bring new faces into the mortgage industry and help mortgage professionals overcome common growth pitfalls. Her journey has ranged from teenage mom to six-figure income to divorced mother with kids to a million-dollar mortgage brokerage. She continues to follow her vision, launching an online training company, The Mortgage Calculator.
Amorette Hernandez - Arizona Lending Specialists - Broker Owner
Amorette (Moe) Hernandez is dedicated to the loan space for Federal workers and the Hispanic community. She continues to open doors to assist first-generation families to achieve homeownership.
As a broker, Moe is there for her clients every step of the way. Her eye for detail has contributed to the success of many by ensuring the complexities and details of each loan are met. Moe is fluent in Spanish, which enables her to offer an additional level of service to clients whose language barrier can lead to under-service. She is a wife, a mother, a mortgage broker. Amorette excels as a broker-owner, managing both a successful career and business as well as being present for her family.
Moe’s vision is to inspire those around her through encouragement and presence. She is committed to being seen to promote what is possible within the Hispanic community for women and was a panelist at the 2021 FUSE event.
Mary Mattingly - My Mortgage Group - Senior Loan Officer
Best Equity - Owner / Independent Broker
There is a reason Mary Mattingly’s clients become lifelong friends. She goes the extra mile, makes them feel valued and important and places their needs at the forefront of each loan. Mary is a tireless and creative advocate who consistently overcomes obstacles.
As a leader, Mary empowers people; she wants everyone to know what she knows rather than wield power over them. She has a vision for her company to grow in the coming years to include the education and promotion of strong women loan officers in a traditionally male-dominated industry.
Elena Boland - Wholesale Mortgage - Executive Vice President
Elena Boland knows what it takes to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Her story is one of family, hard work, and the relentless pursuit of her dreams. She is a prime believer that brokers bring a greater sense of connection to their community as local mortgage experts and are inherent parts of the communities they serve.
Corrina Carter - CMS Mortgage Solutions - Chief Executive Officer
Corrina Carter is a leading example of what a woman in this industry can achieve. Her tenacity and growth year after year shine as examples to all women in leadership positions. She continues to excel in all roles she takes on throughout her career.
Corrina, a previous Women With Vision Award recipient and Vision Master, is also currently serving on the government affairs committee for 2021 with AIME.
Corrina will continue to educate and guide us through the perils of government affairs and inspire us to do more within our community. Corrina exemplifies what it means to be a Woman with Vision.
Tawn Kelley - EVP, President Financial Services - Taylor Morrison
Deeply committed to making a difference, her journey began as an originator following a path inexorably to entrepreneurial success and today leading from the C-Suite at one of the largest public home builders in the United States.
Tawn Kelley wears many hats, each with the purpose to lead customers to their new front door. Tawn serves as a member of the Executive Leadership team for Taylor Morrison Inc. As President and founder, Tawn leads Taylor Morrison’s Home Funding and Inspired Title Services, financial services suite of companies. In addition, Tawn serves as Chairman of Mortgage Funding Direct Ventures which partners with Mattamy Homes and Neal Communities.
Tawn truly prioritizes the well-being of her employees and client-base and recognizes the social responsibility of providing homebuyers with financing that puts their best interests first. She has created a nurturing, inclusive, rewarding environment where employees are valued and ideas are encouraged, respected, and recognized. Tawn’s mission is to deliver best in class service and lead customers to their new front door with 21st-century technology
Tawn is a visionary who sees beyond what is right in front of her. Leading by example and mentoring other women is at the heart of her vision, one of the most important responsibilities of any leader, and one that Tawn does well. Tawn’s voice is heard and consistently shared as she empowers and promotes female leadership from within. At every opportunity, she advocates to show women anything is possible and encourages women to understand the significant responsibility they carry.
She reminds us our industry makes a difference in families’ lives. From raising children to providing security and shelter and lasting memories, we are fortunate to be part of something meaningful.
Mara Prestes - First Option Mortgage - Loan Officer
Mara Prestes has accomplished much in the two years since earning the rank of Loan Originator. Mara, who joined the mortgage industry in 2016, is of Brazilian descent. From her starting role as a junior processor, Mara soon recognized her highest and best value was in origination and she set out to receive her LO license. Today, as a loan originator, one of Mara’s strengths is her trilingual language skills which enhance her ability to help many people from different areas of the world. She loves what she does and proudly enjoys helping people achieve the dream of homeownership.
Mara’s vision is to continue educating borrowers in the community and help them become homeowners while growing her own skills and advancing in the mortgage field.
Rosalie Berg - Strategic Vantage Marketing & Public Relations - President
Rosalie Berg is a nationally recognized marketing and public relations strategist with over 20 years of specialization in the mortgage industry. In 2002 she founded Strategic Vantage, which has helped companies of all types and sizes generate wide industry recognition, double-digit revenue growth, and lucrative company sales.
Rosalie is actively involved in her agency’s accounts and provides strategic direction and oversight on all key initiatives, including rebranding and publicity campaigns as well as the creation of new websites, email marketing, presentations, videos, and press releases.
Rosalie believes the future of women in the mortgage industry is limitless. She considers her gender to be a strength and encourages women to take control of their careers and become as successful as they want to be.
Danielle Olbrantz - Clear2Close - President
Danielle is a fighter, a leader who understands what it means to rise out of disaster like a phoenix rising out of the ashes. She started in mortgage more than 20 years ago and had early success as a broker-owner. When the market crashed combined with a personal setback in 2007, she found herself deeply in debt, a single mother of two, and forced to move into her parent’s home. Inch by inch, Danielle reinvented herself. Starting with a simple hourly job in real estate she again found success only to have it pulled out from under her again. Choosing yet again to face adversity full-on, she opened her own brokerage in 2019 to immediate success followed in short order by creating a processing company to provide the ultimate loan officer support.
Daniel Olbrantz understands being accomplished does not make you successful. What counts is how we overcome challenges when the odds are against us and having the grit to act rather than sit back and ask, why me? She appreciates the tough times and uses those moments to define rather than embarrass by celebrating and sharing her story with women who feel the cards are stacked against them.
Danielle is a proud leader, president, and CEO of a seven-figure company and of her life. The vision she has lived has not always been the vision she chose, but through good and bad times, her vision has proven to be resilient, stubborn, and true.
Lil Abee - LA Mortgage Lending - Broker / Owner
Lil Abee is fondly known as Miss Lil in the mortgage industry. She is an active member of the broker community, a champion for women, and an advocate for borrowers. Miss Lil sets the bar high and always goes above and beyond.
Her vision for women is to have courage and take a leap of faith just as she did in 1990 when she opened her mortgage brokerage and as she still does today. Without action, it’s just a dream. It is up to each woman to do everything in her power to make dreams become a reality.
Tricia Parker - My Credit Guy - CFO and Founder
Tricia Parker credits the success of her business to always doing the right thing, no matter the reward or the cost. She is the definition of leading by example and has created an amazing culture within the workplace where every employee is encouraged to strive for success.
Tricia’s passion lies in helping consumers overcome a credit crisis and rebuild themselves to a place where they are able to seek financing on life’s major purchases. As co-founder of My Credit Guy, she takes pride in her company’s ability to help clients who have credit needs place themselves in a more positive credit position.
Tricia has a vision that is evolving. She has found joy in creating a culture of growth and respect within her team. She continues to envision a future where women help women grow through coaching and providing consistent support in workplace cultures flushed with enthusiasm and growing.
Marissa Sanchez - NEXA - Human Resource / On-boarding Director
Marissa Sanchez is in charge of hundreds of employees at NEXA and tirelessly directs their entrance to and exit from the company. Under her leadership, onboarding is smoothly accomplished and the needs of each person are patiently provided for. Marissa is no pushover, however. She works with the highest level of executives and demonstrates leadership qualities and decision making for the benefit of all.
Marissa holds a bold vision for the future of women in our industry She sees women progressing and moving up, as is already happening. She envisions a time where drive and willingness to execute leads to success, where each day is a learning opportunity and the common key to success is finding positivity wherever possible. Marissa believes being driven and passionate about life and what you are doing in life creates wins every time.
Angela Caputo - Delaware Financial - Loan Officer
Angela Caputo, an up-and-coming leader, and a young gun in our industry holds her own in a room of experienced men and women. She is a shining example of how to live a well-balanced life while successfully conducting and closing a massive amount of business. Angela, who has been working in mortgage since 2015 and is an assertive leader in her home market, is now stepping out into the national market as a sought-after speaker at national events. Angela works hard to develop relationships and put her clients at ease in what can seem like an overwhelming process; those relationships allow her to grow her local footprint and make homeownership possible. She is lucky to have many strong female leaders in her life who she is constantly learning from every day.
Linda McCoy - Mortgage Team 1 - Owner
Linda McCoy, a 27-year veteran of mortgage, is an advocate and champion for the industry. Serving this year as the first woman president of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers in 25 years, she is in a position where she is able to empower women to succeed in a way her success in business alone does not embody.
Whether it is running her mortgage planning company or stepping out as a leader in the mortgage community, Linda’s voice is strong and is heard across the industry guiding ladies into leadership roles through programs such as her mentoring initiative, High Heels in High Places.
Linda’s vision is to see as many women as men in top positions in the business world. She believes in helping women learn to use the drive they are born with to take their first steps to success and use their ability to achieve and move to the top where there are a whole group of ladies waiting to help them succeed.
Cindy Ertman - The Defining Difference - CEO & Founder
Cindy Ertman is a true servant leader. Founder of a successful coaching and training company, this award-winning industry leader has dedicated her life to empowering the growth of others. Cindy has a track record of helping high achievers shift their worldview to expand their vision of possibilities.
Having managed a branch for over 20 years and helped build a sizable region, while being one of the nation’s top originators and raising three children, Cindy knows it’s not easy and focuses on the rewards and fulfillment found in helping others tap into their greatest strengths. Cindy recognizes a great need for female leadership in the mortgage industry. As a coach, she helps female leaders manage their path to become great leaders and believes many companies are finally seeing the need to support the growth of female leadership in a bigger way.
Cindy’s goal is to help others gain more out of life by making powerful, intentional choices to propel their income and achieve their peak performance and build connected referral relationships to accelerate their success.
Jenna Silverman - Culture Matters - Chief Operating Officer
Jenna Silverman is a talented marketer who launches brand videos and state-of-the-art marketing campaigns and programs. Jenna is a brand ambassador who can produce an incredible story in videography, an executor of ideas, and an influencer of incredible magnitudes.
As a long-time advocate for change, Jenna is a master when it comes to creating space for change. With a strong background in psychology, hospitality, and marketing, Jenna helps pave the way in her industries with unmatched leadership skills.
Today, as the Chief Operating Officer of Culture Matters, Jenna lives a belief, purpose, goal, mission, and vision focused on reading, writing, listening, and speaking every day to develop a love for herself and others and to uncover the genius of other people. Her continuing goal is to make curiosity cool and popularize a vision that human culture is open, curious, and focused on creating our future.
Jenna is always ready for the next chapter and ready to face each day with one goal in mind: be better than the day before. Her vision is bright and big.
Marcia Davies - MBA - Chief Operating Officer
What can be said of Marcia Davies that has not already been said? In truth, this industry giant is the holder of a strong vision for all women in mortgage, a vision warmly embraced by most professionals in the field. As the COO for the MBA, Marcia provides strategic, dynamic leadership for the organization and the industry. She is the founder of MBA Promoting Opportunities for Women to Extend their Reach (mPower), an amazingly engaged community of women in leadership positions across all segments of the mortgage industry.
In Marcia’s vision, women are their own advocates who find allies within the office and within their professional community. Through initiatives like mPower, Marcia works to bring her vision for a robust future for women to life. The success of her efforts is visible as more women today are positioned to achieve leadership status and are well represented in all segments of the industry.
Karen Deis - Mortgage Marketing Strategist, Public Speaker
Sue Woodard - Mortgage and Fintech Evangelist
None who know her or of her would disagree that Sue Woodard exemplifies a woman with a vision. She has championed women coming up through the ranks. She has opened doors for many women leaders on the rise and done so with kindness and encouragement. She fearlessly leads by example and is a shining example of a woman making a difference.
Sue began her career at the ground level in financial services, navigated the steps to become a top producing originator, then leveraged her knowledge to become a highly acclaimed industry speaker, subject matter expert, and technology executive. Sue is a keynote lecturer who has presented at many national conventions and won numerous industry accolades.
Helping lenders and their mortgage loan officers better serve their clients and achieve greater productivity and success have long been her passion. Sue is highly regarded in the industry for her integrity, work ethic, and thought leadership which has helped her build amazing, long-term relationships in the mortgage space into the financial services arena and beyond.
Sue Woodard’s vision is deceptively simple: For all women to help other women coming up the ranks hold and achieve a vision of hope and accomplishment.
Katie Sweeney - AIME - Chief Executive Officer
Janet Pagan - PRMG - Branch Manager
Kerry Fitzpatrick - AnnieMac Works - Chief Operating Officer
Kerry Fitzpatrick has been blazing trails her entire life, as a realtor and broker-owner and later when she developed real estate education. In 2009, Kerry launched a subscription-based online education center known as Associate Worx. Today, Kerry runs AnnieMac Worx, The My Worx Suite Technology Solution for Realtors centered in education and pass-me-down best practices in residential real estate.
Kerry has a passion for educating others and promoting change. She is a mover and a shaker. As an incredible mother and wife, homemaker, and woman, she sees a future where women lead from the stages and helms of their organizations.
Christine (Cher) Eremita - 20/20 Vision for Success Coaching - Student Services Director
Anyone who has spent any time with Christine Eremita (Cher) knows she epitomizes selfless service and is the penultimate professional. She is relatively new to the mortgage industry yet is no stranger to putting others before herself. As a mother to three active teenage boys, Christine has endured the trials of holding down an active household while her husband served multiple tours in Afghanistan and across Southwest Asia. And while the wars raged on, Christine managed to go back to school, train to become a leading fitness instructor, and begin her own business. She never shies away from a challenge and is graced with enviable patience.
As the Director of Student Services at 20/20 VSC, Cher spearheads student-facing activities and expertly navigates daily challenges with a cool demeanor and swift problem-solving attitude. She is the model for how to sift through the noise of the day and find simple solutions to problems that seem insurmountable.
These qualities and more make Christine a Woman With Vision –one whose vision for the future counsels us to look to our leaders of yesterday and today for inspiration, for leadership values, and for how to conduct ourselves.
In the face of adversity, in the face of those who wish we do not succeed, women thrive. We know women will not always get it exactly right, but we also do not let perfection stand in the way of good.
Michelle Poole - 20/20 Vision for Success Coaching - National Business Development Manager
Michelle’s vision is to inspire and empower women to reach their highest level of personal and professional excellence.
Colleen Wietmarschen - Your Literary Prose - Owner
Tara Healy- Cherry Creek Mortgage - Chief Compliance Officer
Tara Healy is the Chief Compliance Officer for Cherry Creek Mortgage, LLC. She completed her term as the youngest female President of the Colorado Mortgage Lender’s Association ( CMLA) in August after successfully leading the association during COVID when the CMLA had to quickly pivot to virtual environments to help advocate for mortgage bankers and keep membership engaged. Tara’s vision is to see more women in C-level positions. The different perspectives women bring naturally to organizations and companies provide a balance and bring a needed change.
Skylar Welch- Maine Pointe Lending - Owner Broker
Skylar Welch is a savvy, knowledgeable broker/owner and trailblazer. She is a top producer in her market who looks every storm in the eye and takes it on. She exemplifies the term working mother. Skylar’s Main Point Lending celebrated its one-year anniversary recently and is poised to continue growing and continue providing a smooth and easy mortgage experience for her clients.
Sabina Chowdhury - First Option Mortgage - Business Development Manager
Sabina Chowdhury joined the mortgage industry as a loan origination assistant and has risen through the steps of processing to learn the business from the ground up. Her exemplary work has been noticed and recognized as she is now a Business Development Manager eagerly working on and growth and expansion to take her branch to next level. As the mother of two boys, she balances personal and professional life as do many women with vision, combining the challenges of a career she loves with family responsibilities. She is grateful to receive honors like the WWV Award uses such positive experiences to motivate and focus her efforts to achieve more.
Rebecca Amos Mohrhusen - AnnieMac Home Mortgage - Branch Manager
Rebecca (Becky) Mohrhusen has taken this industry by storm over the past nine years. Leaving a decade-long career in marketing with a Fortune 500 Company, she brought her crazy marketing brain to mortgage industry and has done everything from buying a limo to take agents to see open houses to purchasing a party bus for entertaining and doing mobile closings in her client’s driveway of their new home, complete with Welcome Home banners in the yard. Becky continues to give clients an amazing elite experience.
At the core of Becky’s vision is a passion to help women discover their inner amazing. Her strategy is to find women who work hard and teach them a new skillset where their hard work will pay big dividends.
Jessica Wells - Clear Choice Mortgage - Broker/Owner
Jessica Wells is a native of the Pacific Northwest, a single mother raising two young ladies. She followed her goal of helping as many people as possible accomplish their dreams of homeownership through the ranks of mortgage origination to become a successful broker/owner of her own company.
Jessica’s vision is for all to have access to the tools needed to better the industry, bring women’s voices to the table, and be involved in creating a world where all women succeed. Her vision is for women to hold and conquer any position they strive for in life, not limited to the mortgage industry.
Ashley Filitor - First Option Mortgage - Mortgage Loan Originator
As a determined and positive woman, Ashley constantly seeks avenues in which to better herself as well as those around her. Being able to embrace who she is while empowering others by guiding them through the home buying process and into homeownership is a gift she is thankful for every day. Ashley is committed to continually learning and growing and adding value to herself, her company, her customers, and the industry.
Ashley is passionate about originating loans and as a two-time winner of the Women With Vision Award, is looking forward to continuing to grow in this industry and change lives for the better.
Laiken Hobbs - First Option Mortgage - Loan Originator
As a young originator, Laiken can be seen as a harbinger for the next generation in mortgage. She is an industry trendsetter in how to be appealing to buyers of all ages, from the youth who prefer technology while not overlooking the more traditional, often older, market who prefer a non-digital mortgage process.
As a confident, honest, and respectful leader, Laiken maintains sales momentum by providing the best customer service and exemplifying forward vision and kindness. Hers is an evolving vision, one filled with learning and teaching and growing, combined with development both personally and for the industry as a whole.
Brenda Jarvis - TruLoan Mortgage - Executive Vice President of Business Development
Carolina Vergara - First Option Mortgage - Branch Manager
Carolina sets the standard for women supporting women and being proud of helping others succeed. She is a leader in the industry and creates a road map for teamwork. She believes having a vision and being successful go hand-in-hand. As a bilingual woman, she understands the power in building strong relationships with clients to ensure they achieve their personal goals of buying a home.
Carolina has been named to the NAHREP top 100, the FOM Circle of Excellence, and is a 2-time winner of the Women With Vision Award.
Carolina’s team consider her to be an inspiring leader. She finds inspiration both in supporting her team and by participating in coaching with like-minded individuals. Carolina believes strongly that a woman with vision should have herself a vision to empower others.
Mikinzi Ferran - First Option Mortgage - Loan Processor
As a young woman new to the industry, Mikinzi is an outstanding example of a woman striving each day to better herself and learn from her peers and industry leaders. What Mikinzi lacks in experience she balances with a willingness to learn and improve with a dedication to provide the best experience and to help the client achieve their goal of homeownership. After attending the 2020 Vision Summit, Mikinzi vowed she would be on stage to receive awards and more importantly, to motivate, inspire, and educate others.
The Woman With Vision Award is a peer nomination competition. Mikinzi’s peers recognize in her the endless possibilities available to someone who firmly believes in remaining a student. Mikinzi is an inspiration for young women.
Mikinzi’s vision is for people across all platforms to come together with grit and authenticity to move mountains.
Andrea Rivero - First Option Mortgage - Branch Manager
When asked why she has won this award two years in a row, Andrea credits it to being self-driven. When Andrea Rivero was introduced to the mortgage industry in 2014 by a family member working in the field, she had no idea how her career would bloom. After mastering her role as a processor, it quickly became clear her skills were equally strong in operations and she took on a lead role in ops. Today she has partnered with a high-producing loan officer and has started her own branch with First Option Mortgage.
Andrea is a strong team player who believes it is important to have and share her vision as a professional and a leader encouraging teammates to prosper. She values women and wants to see them grow and excel as she has. She is dedicated to developing a bigger talent pool in her ops department and to leading them to recognize and exceed their own potential. Her vision for success is strong and compelling.
Paola Colina - First Option Mortgage - Processing Manager
Paola Colina is a two-year winner of the WWV Award. She is a progressive thinker and a woman who holds a strong vision encompassing more women in real estate and the loan origination world. Paola is a leader committed to a focus on success for everyone. She believes in people and chooses to see the best in them, looking at the whole picture and finding solutions to the issues that arise. Paola enjoys training new processors to bring their best effort to the important role each plays in the success and growth of the company.
Melissa Puckett - Nexus Mortgage Lending - Master Loan Originator
Melissa Puckett is a standout in any room she enters. The combination of honest caring, quick wit, contagious humor, and tenacity when it comes time to be serious are keys to her success and also define her leadership style. Gravitating to the mortgage field more than 15 years ago, she spring-boarded sales and lender experience to partner with her mother to found Nexus Mortgage Lending.
Melissa is a notable speaker and advocate for women and the mortgage industry. Her vision is to inspire, energize, and encourage others to discover and use their inner strengths to propel their lives and careers to greater heights.
Moncenaca Cyprian - Quality Lending Group - Chief Executive Officer
Cenaca Cyprian has proven herself to be in this business to stay. As a fresh face on the scene, she quickly became one of the top brokers in Houston. Her diligence and desire to help has become an inspiration to her peers. A year ago, when a retail broker fired her, she didn’t let the disappointment stop her from following her dream. Today, as CEO of the company named fastest growing broker shop in Houston, opening her own shop has proven to be the right choice and one she considers to be a blessing.
Her vision is to change the lives of as many people as she can through innovative ideas, an ability to get things done, and the desire to see everyone reach the milestone and growth homeownership can provide.
Lovepreet Kaur - Lending Assets - Broker / President
Lovepreet had a dream from childhood to become a lawyer. It was a surprise to learn when she started working as a loan officer how much she loved the process of helping immigrants from India achieve their homeownership goals. Thus began a rise through the mortgage industry roles culminating in Lovepreet opening her successful mortgage brokerage in 2019.
Not many women in Lovepreet’s culture are businesswomen and while there have been challenges, she has faced and conquered the obstacles. Lovepreet’s vision is to introduce women to the mortgage business and help them grow in it as she has.
Hilary A. Passo - First Option Mortgage - Vice President of Human Resources and Personnel Development
Hillary is a champion for diversity who looks for ways to give women a seat at the table. She is often the woman behind the scenes, speaking up for those unable and speaking louder for those whose voices need to be magnified. Not one to shy away from opportunities, Hilary is dedicated to harnessing human talent, challenging the status quo, and creating change. She believes in women empowering women and setting a stage for marginalized people to have a voice.
Her vision is of a day when the standard is women in leadership, a day when compensation plans ensure women receive equal pay and standing as their male counterparts, a day when the empathy and collaboration opportunities women find natural to shift the industry from competition to supportive and thriving networks empowering other women.
Brianna Harris - ARIVE - Community Manager
Brianna Harris is a young professional who has experienced rapid growth by using business development skills, employing critical thinking, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills to stand out amongst seasoned professionals.
Brianna brings her unique individuality to the loan process and ensures both loan and client are nurtured. She is committed to finding ways to help the women in this industry be as efficient as possible and boldly stand out, ensuring borrowers understand they are in good hands every step of the way with the right broker on their side.
Her vision for women in this industry is continued growth by being transparently female: being nurturing, attentive, and compassionate is part of a woman’s instincts, making women precisely what this industry needs.
Written by: Leora Ruzin, CMB, AMP
Rockstar. Dynamic. A Swiss Army Knife. These are adjectives used to describe Denise Tragale, Regional Vice President at Stearns Lending. I have to admit being called a Swiss Army Knife would be really awesome, especially in the context of how Denise operates in her role with the company.
As Nick Pabarcus, EVP of Wholesale Lending further explains, “Denise can adapt to a myriad of roles and responsibilities while maintaining a baseline of fantastic ethics. That character translates not only to diversity and inclusion but to great team morale and a fun atmosphere for all of her direct reports, peers, and colleagues”.
Born in Long Island, NY, Denise’s parents worked tirelessly to give her and her siblings all they did not have. It is no surprise to learn she works with the same effort and tenacity as her parents did.
Denise has been with Stearns Lending for a little over eighteen months and came to the organization with nearly thirty years of experience in banking, mortgage lending, and more specifically, operating in the wholesale lending space. When asked how her career has progressed, Denise described how she started out in operations before finding her calling in sales. “I started in 1992 in operations, first in processing then quickly underwriting. I realized I enjoyed the sales side and became an account executive in 1999. By 2003 I became a sales manager and branch manager. Having the operations experience helped me elevate our branch to be #2 in the nation at American Home Mortgage. I spent the remainder of my career as divisional/regional sales leader covering large portions of the country. Most recently at Stearns, I took a position that further rounded out my experience as VP of Business Development where I was part of the leadership team implementing key strategic initiatives for the channel. In July 2021, I was promoted to lead the east sales division as one of four Regional VP’s for Stearns Lending, LLC.”
When asked how Denise describes herself as a leader, it is clear her style of leadership is centered on integrity, trust, and a call to action to always do the right thing. Her philosophy focuses on listening as key behavior, on consistently coming from a place of compassion and thoughtfulness, and demonstrating how actions speak louder than words. Her laser-sharp focus transcends to how she works with her associates, how she helps her clients and by extension, the borrower.
As Allyson Foley, EVP of Wholesale Operations further explains, “She is devoted to the success of her people, her peer group, others within the organization, and her clients. Denise has extensive mortgage background which helps her navigate through her role. She is dedicated and hardworking. Denise’s passion for doing the right thing for the client shows in everything that she does.”
Perhaps what is the most fascinating part of Denise’s story is how she came to be in the mortgage business, and how what she learned in college has been invaluable as she has grown as a leader. She credits sheer accident for her entrance to the mortgage business. “I always thought I wanted to be in the medical field and decided to take a gap year once I graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Hofstra. I was able to land a position as a copy girl for a mortgage company and with that began to learn how to process loans. I soon realized the industry has lots of opportunities and saw the need for underwriters was demanding. After two years I became an agency/jumbo/government underwriter.
I have been able to apply skills learned in college in a way of being tactical in my thought process and been able to capitalize on that strength. I will add as a psychology major trained to analyze situations to determine best response has been an ability I have grown over the years.”
Using the tools she has garnered while in college has certainly helped her connect with people in a way that other leaders envy from afar. She has also benefited from wearing many hats along her journey, and she understood early on that being adaptable to change is what separates good leaders from great leaders. As Denise further explains, “sitting in several seats throughout our industry has allowed me to learn the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have learned that when one door closes another opens, which always has led me to further advancement. I believe all my experience as a sales leader has allowed me to be impactful as a mentor to many Account Executives over the years. Maintaining those relationships is key as they have developed to lifelong friendships.”
Denise is certainly no stranger to change (as most in the industry can relate to), and while she has dealt with setbacks, she truly feels that the best leaders are those who adopt the right mindset to change. When the vision for success is commitment, anything is possible, providing you keep that commitment at the forefront. “As you know, in the mortgage business, there is always change,” Denise states, “Over the years my career has pivoted as a result of organizational and market condition changes but I have always kept the right mindset. Being adaptable to change is key! Being able to in a sense go with the flow and not let emotion or ego get in the way. I have heard many stories of folks who are unable to land on their feet after setbacks in their career and I believe wholeheartedly this one component is the reason. You do not want to get stuck looking in the rearview mirror saying I should have done that.”
At the very core of what motivates Denise, and what she thinks makes this industry the best, are the acts of helping others. Whether it is to help a fellow co-worker reach their truest potential, help a wholesale partner achieve their business goals, or help a borrower own a home, Denise stays focused on the bigger picture. What is truly refreshing, however, is what she feels is her greatest success in life. As she states, “My greatest success is my children. Being blessed to be a mother is one of the most cherished moments of my life. My career has enabled me to be the best I can be and having the balance between family and work is key.”
When speaking of family and being a mom, Denise reflects on what she does during those moments when she isn’t actively working. With a main goal to be healthy and enjoy all that life has to offer, Denise pays special focus on finding the ever-elusive work and life balance. She enjoys going for hikes, playing tennis, and traveling. She loves to learn about other cultures with her husband of 27 years and her grown children.
Tips for Success
- Be honest. Always.
- Be a good listener – to actively listen takes practice but is instrumental for success.
- Accept criticism – this will help you to grow and learn.
- Surround yourself with successful individuals.
Denise has a favorite quote which could not be more perfect for the caliber of leader she is. “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.” ~ Charles Swindoll
These words remind her to be aware of how often people react to a situation immediately as it happens, with an end result usually one of anger or presumption. “Just imagine,” Denise said, “If everyone just took a moment to reflect before responding, just imagine how much more we could all accomplish together.”
Wise words indeed, Denise!
Leora Ruzin, CMB, AMP is the senior vice president of lending Coloramo Federal Credit Union. Leora is also the managing editor of two magazines, The Vision and the Women with Vision Magazine and is currently serving on industry boards including Folds of Honor. A 14-year veteran in the mortgage industry, Leora is passionate about spreading awareness on helping everyone achieve the American Dream of homeownership. She is a fierce advocate for housing finance reform and common-sense credit policy.
Leora is the winner of prestigious industry awards, including HousingWire’s 2020 Women of Influence, National Mortgage Professional Magazine’s 2020 Women of Inspiration, and is a two-time winner of the Women With Vision Award, given by 20/20 Vision for Success Coaching. As a veteran of the United States Army, she understands the importance of ensuring no one is left behind and truly feels anything can be achieved through perseverance and teamwork. Her experience with trauma, both as a cancer survivor and a survivor of sexual and physical abuse, has given her the drive and passion to help other women find hope and strength during similar circumstances.
When Leora is not spending her time advocating for homeownership and spreading the word about the importance of investing in personal goals, she continues to expand her own knowledge through reading and attending industry workshops.
Leora holds degrees in Associate of Accounting and Bachelor of Business Management. She currently resides in Palisade, Colorado with her husband and daughter.
Written by: Suha Beidas Zehl
As we celebrate the 2021 Women With Vision Award recipients, I am once again reminded of the importance of being recognized and appreciated. So, I wanted to dive deeper, and I thought it may be interesting to go back to the definition of those two words:
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, to recognize is to acknowledge and take notice of the existence or validity of someone or something. And according to the same dictionary, to appreciate is to understand the worth or importance of something or someone, to admire and value, to be grateful for. Wow!!
No wonder we all want to be recognized and appreciated, right?!
I know we typically use recognition and appreciation interchangeably and think of them as the same thing. Based on these definitions, this is really NOT the case! There truly is a significant difference between them.
To further illustrate this difference, a recent article in Harvard Business Review states that recognition is about giving positive feedback based on results or performance. Sometimes this happens in a formal way: an award, a bonus, a promotion, a raise. Sometimes recognition is given more informally: a verbal thank you, a handwritten note. All of these methods can be meaningful, especially if they’re done in a timely and genuine way. They’re also motivating and exciting — everyone wants their work achievements to be applauded. In that same article, appreciation is described to be about acknowledging a person’s inherent value. The point isn’t their accomplishments. It’s their worth as a colleague and a human being.
Accomplishment vs. worth.
And therein lies the distinction: recognition and appreciation are given for several reasons. And if we solely focus on praising positive outcomes on recognition, then we may miss the opportunity to connect with and support our team members – to appreciate them.
The common denominator, as Oprah so succinctly put it, is we all want to be validated. We want to be understood. How many times have you asked the question, “Was that OK?” We ask the question because we all want to know if we are heard, if we are seen, and if what we said means anything to anyone.
And by recognizing AND appreciating our spouses, our children, our parents, our siblings, our friends, our teams, our colleagues, our peers, our leaders, our customers, and our partners, we are more likely to connect with them and build trust!
Those two simple actions—recognizing and appreciating someone—when done with genuine intent, will make a HUGE difference. They build self-confidence, a sense of us, a connectedness. They empower and help us strive for and achieve our full potential. On the other hand, when we do not feel recognized or appreciated, we tend to shut down, to disengage, and to tune out. How many times has that happened to YOU?
In the last eight months, I have been fortunate to be able to recognize and appreciate twelve phenomenal rising stars on In the Spotlight with Suha. What started out as a small project has turned into a full-fledged labor of love; and I am profoundly changed and humbled by each rising star, their strength, self-assurance, and indomitable spirit.
Never forget that people want to be recognized AND appreciated. And as Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Who are YOU shining your spotlight on?
Suha Beidas Zehl brings over 30 years of global, information technology, and business experience in various industries, and most recently in mortgage. Suha started her career as a programmer analyst; she has taught at the university level and ran her own successful consulting company before returning to the mortgage industry as an award-winning technology executive, writer, and speaker. Suha is the Chief Innovation Officer at BlackFin Group.
Written by: Coach, Candy Zulkosky
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
As a writer and editor, the power of the written word is present in much of what I do and am involved with. I am the first to admit, however, that words alone do not guarantee understanding, clarity, or communication of an intentional message.
Communication is the act of giving, receiving, and sharing information. In its simplest form, communication is talking or writing and listening or reading. Good communicators listen carefully, speak or write clearly, and respect different opinions.
Strong communication skills enhance how we interact with the world. Even in today’s digital world, texting, chatting, and posting responsibly depends on understanding how words and images affect others.
How strong are you as a communicator? Do you present a socially responsible and positive communication style?
Success in business is not possible without great communication skills. Depending on the nature of your profession, if you work on a team or interact with customers or other people you will find yourself in challenging situations requiring a delicate hand to resolve. These are the times when we fall back on our best communication skills and when the value of practicing effective communication all the time becomes evident.
Being a good communicator is not a trait one is born with, although there are those for whom it appears effortless. One great example is Steve Jobs. He was regarded as someone who had the best presentation and business negotiation skills.
A person with good business communication skills is able to properly translate his business ideas into words and communicate his thoughts to his seniors and colleagues more efficiently. Even more to the point, I believe, is the positive emotional quotient everyone measures when communication is successful. Practicing good communication skills instills a sense of self-confidence which carries over through our body language and voice to visibly present an air of confidence.
Business communication is a vast topic. Let’s look briefly at seven powerful techniques and traits you can practice and improve your communication skills and have an impact on both personal and professional interactions.
“I’m always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realize I’m listening to it.” ~ George Carlin
It is important for a good communicator to be a good listener. Listening is an art. One might think listening is a natural trait, and to an extent listening is important for survival and cultural integration, it is. Attentive, active listening is a learned skill and one that can be easily developed with the simple act of practice. Listening attentively helps us accurately evaluate the world around us and to consider events, people, and situations in the right manner.
When it comes to business, active, attentive listening helps us choose business terms that further communication and to frame accurate responses during private conversations, board meetings, and corporate events.
“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” ~ Larry King
Practice these steps to improve your habit of active, attentive listening:
Stop talking and focus closely on the speaker. Suppress the urge to think about what you are going to say next or to attempt to multi-task.
Listen for total meaning. In addition to what is said, the real message could be non-verbal or emotional. Learning to read body language is a part of active listening often overlooked.
Pay attention to your responses. Communication does not occur without at least two people participating. The way you respond to a question is also part of the dialog. Keep an open mind and show respect for the other’s point of view, even if you disagree.
“You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.” ~ Indira Gandi
Understand Non-verbal Cues
Some researchers suggest non-verbal communication is more prominent than verbal and written communication, in certain situations. At corporate workplaces, non-verbal communication is crucial.
Learn to observe one’s own as well as others’ body movements and use non-verbal cues like body language, posture, and eye contact effectively.
“There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice.” ~ Michelle Obama
Learn from Others
Find a communications mentor. Observing people who communicate effectively and confidently will reveal secrets about using communication skills prudently.
Pay attention to how the successful and confident people in your world communicate and learn positive traits from them. Paying attention to their business communication skills will provide motivation and a good learning boost.
Read Business Magazines
Reading is an effective way to grasp relevant business terms and learn to use them in emails and business presentations. Take time to truly read and comprehend. Scanning will give you the gist of the message, but when reading to communicate, a scan is not enough. Reading a variety of business-related literature, such as company reports, business magazines, industry news, interviews of industry experts, or company product reviews allows us to learn how to use business terms in the right context.
“Communication works for those who work at it.” ~ John Powell
If you want to learn to write and speak grammatically correct English then you should consider developing the habit of writing a minimum of 500 to 750 words daily. This will allow you to easily remember complex grammar rules. Use the applications supporting grammar and spell check as a learning tool. Consider Grammarly and similar applications to be a primer in the English language. Even making sure your grammar checker is active in MS Word or Outlook will allow you by osmosis to build grammar and spelling skills.
One good way to understand business terminology and technical words is by checking out relevant websites and reading their content. Similarly, joining an online course for learning business communication skills can be a good option.
Play Word Games
Word games are effective for improving vocabulary and becoming familiar with language syntax. Many word games are available on the Internet, often for free if you don’t mind an occasional ad popping up. Word games on the Internet offer a fun way of learning communication skills and if you happen to be competitive, most have an option for playing against other users.
“I need to listen well so that I hear what is not said.” ~ Thuli Madonsela
Choose to be Active When it Comes to Communication
Excellent communication requires active listening. There is a reason listening is the first of the tips we discussed in this article. Active listening involves listening with all senses. It involves hearing the words, the tone of those words, the context of those words, and how the speaker is communicating with their body language while saying those words. It requires a focus on the speaker and it requires the listener to show active signs, both verbal and non-verbal, of listening. Active listening is also about patience. Effective conversations develop over time.
“Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don’t believe is right.” ~ Jane Goodall
Have you ever noticed how rarely your coach or mentor or even your manager asks a question that can be answered with a yes or a no? Yes/no questions are closed. Communication is shut down immediately. Contrarily, open-ended questions encourage communication and allow opportunities to elaborate and expound on issues.
Using open-ended questions also eliminates most leading questions, which can also be a detriment to communication. If you take no other action from reading this article, please consider improving your use of this effective communication technique. Ask open-ended questions and listen for the response as a tool to get to the meat of the matter at hand or under discussion.
Three More Techniques to Effectively Communicate
The list of techniques for communication is long and complex. Here are three additional techniques you may find useful.
- Summarizing and rephrasing. Summarizing, which is a part of active listening, can prompt further reflection. It helps guide the conversation, clarify the topic, and reframe the conversation by using a different lens on the subject.
- Using silence effectively. Just as it is important to ask questions and provide feedback, it is also important to use silence within a conversation. Using silence means you are giving time to think through a reply, and you are not anticipating a response by pre-empting their answer.
- Action initiation. Once goals are set, action is needed to achieve those goals. The action initiated could involve challenging beliefs, exploring options, asking to share ideas, encouraging the identification of new behaviors or modes of thinking, of offering additional ideas without telling them what to do.
“Leaders who refuse to listen will soon find themselves surrounded by people with nothing to say.” ~ Andy Stanley
Communication is the key to success in life. Develop your own communication skills as your career progresses and you gain experience. Regardless of the techniques you choose to employ to achieve successful communication, the one constant is the necessity of practice leading to improvement and success.
Candy wears many hats at 20/20 VSC. As Chief Operating Officer, she oversees the power of our marketing. She is a tech expert who owns a tech consulting company. The combination of these unique powers and her editing expertise provide broad benefits to our professionals. Whether the goal is to unlock the author in you, to improve branding and marketing, or find a better use of technology and its ROI, she can help.
CaZ, the Writer Success Coach, wears many professional hats all earned through experience as a professional writer, editor, coach, marketer, educator, and entrepreneur. Aside from her nom de plume when writing, she’s known as Candy Zulkosky and is the editor-in-chief of this publication. As the Writer Success Coach, CaZ specializes in supporting writers. She finds joy in helping others to write and experience the joys of being published. CaZ coaches writers whose skills and experience range from the novice to the multi-published author. She tailors the coaching experience to best fit the needs of each writer and business professional she works with. On the publishing side, CaZ is a multi-book published author and has edited or assisted in bringing dozens of authors to both print and to the bestseller lists!Caz is pronounced KayZee in case you were wondering.
Happiness is a choice, choose to be happy!
This episode is about happiness and what it means for your personal and professional life when you are happy and more importantly when you are open to learning how to gain the most happiness in your life. Christine breaks down an exercise to do as well as questions from the audience about this topic and you will want to experience this amazing episode! Make sure to subscribe and tune in and leave comments so we can add to our future polls!
ABOUT BECKWITH UNPLUGGED AND UNCENSORED
Beckwith Unplugged and Uncensored is video podcast designed for Christine Beckwith, a long-time business executive turned executive coach in the banking, mortgage, and real estate industry. In this totally transparent and sometimes raw monologue, Beckwith tells it like it is…publicly. Emotion is the driving force behind all human intellect, accomplishment, and success. If you cannot feel where you are going, you cannot SEE it either. As the visionary behind 20 / 20 Vision for Success, Christine brings her personal and professional philosophy to the mic. Listen in because these are lessons you will want to learn here instead of anywhere else.
YOU WILL NEVER GO WRONG BETTING ON YOURSELF!
A Laura Brandao interview with Joni Pilgrim
Written by: Laura Brandao
This month I had the honor and privilege of sitting down with Joni Pilgrim, CEO of NAN Appraisals. I truly believe we all have a story to share and I encourage everyone to use their voice because your story may be the one to change someone’s life.
Q Laura: How did you come into the industry and what made you actually start your own company?
When I was in high school, my dream was to own my own restaurant one day. I went to school at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, and I graduated with a bachelor’s in business with a minor in hospitality management and started my hospitality career with the Longhorn Steakhouse group. They flew me out to Atlanta and I learned everything you could want to know about a cow.
More than you ever want to know about a cow!
I went through the management program with the Longhorn Steakhouse group and moved to the Tampa Bay Area where I managed three different restaurants. The hospitality business is rigorous and the schedule is a grind. You work 16- and 20-hour days, with no weekends or holidays off. I look at it as management bootcamp. It taught me how to manage, hire, and train, and most importantly, the value of communication. I looked at it as a great opportunity even though I worked really, really, hard and a lot, I also learned much.
I worked there for about five years in my early twenties and quickly learned it was not what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. At that time I needed to find my forever career and real estate had always intrigued me. I was on a mission to learn another business and in 2003 I noticed a classified advertisement for an appraiser who was looking for a sales associate. Keep in mind this is back in the day when loan officers could order appraisals directly with their local appraisers. I thought it sounded very interesting and decided I would like to learn more about the appraisal industry.
The funniest thing was the advertisement was for a cattle call interview at a Perkins Restaurant on Route 60 in Clearwater. It was a free-for-all. I was nervous because I had no real estate industry background, and none of my family were in real estate. My mom was a legal secretary and my dad was in construction. I had just purchased a home, and I had an appraisal done; that was the extent of my appraisal knowledge, but I was going to use it.
I showed up at Perkins on the day and time (between 10 AM and 2 PM) he was conducting interviews. I’m not kidding you, there were probably sixty people in the lobby with resumes in hand, ready to interview, and I thought to myself, I’m not going to get this job. I have no experience at all. I was already telling myself I wasn’t qualified, but it was time for me to have my five minutes at the table with him. I took a sip of water and he asked, “So tell me, have you ever sold anything before?”
I told him I really wanted this opportunity. This is something I could learn, have fun with, and sink my teeth into. He took my resume, told me it was nice to meet me, and off I went.
About a week later, I called him up, and I said, “Hey, I’m not sure if you made a decision.”
He asked, “What’s your name?”
“My name’s Joni.”
He said, “Oh Joni, I’m glad you called, you’re in the yes pile.” I thought oh that’s great news, then he said, “So are twenty other people.” I thought okay, I like my odds here.
Q Laura: Well, you went from sixty to twenty. So that’s great, right?
I thought it was great!
He continued, saying, “Give me another week, I’m still reviewing the resumes. I want to make a good decision.”
I said, “Okay. If there’s any other information you need give me a call anytime, I’m available. I’m very interested.”
Another week went by and I didn’t hear from him, so I called him up again. This is when I learned persistence pays off. I said, “Hey, did you make a decision yet?”
He asked, “What’s your name?”
“My name is Joni.”
He said, “Oh, Joni, yes I am glad you called. I can’t make up my mind. It’s between you and one other person. So, I’m going to hire you both, and I’m going to train you both, and it will be survival of the fittest. May the best person win at the end of the day? Right?”
I thought, oh my gosh. Yes, great. I’m going up against somebody who probably has all the experience in the world.
He continued, “Show up at my house at nine o’clock on Monday, be dressed, and ready for meetings. We’re going to hit the ground running. I’m going to teach you everything you need to know about sales.”
At the time I had to decide if I was even going to show up. I didn’t realize appraisers worked out of their homes but I figured it was a way into the real estate industry so I said, “YES!”
I showed up on my first day and sure enough, he had an office right in his living room. He had an office administrator, he was dressed in a suit and ready to go, and I was ready to go, too. He introduced me to the other person he hired.
He said, “All right guys, you’re going to be a sales team. I’m going to teach you everything you need to know, but I can only keep one of you. So, let’s work together and figure this whole plan out.”
I looked at this person, I shook her hand, and we hit it off immediately. She’s my business partner to this day.
We became best friends and business associates and we worked for him for about eleven months. We learned everything about what not to do.
Q Brandao: You worked together for eleven months so he wound up keeping you both?
Yes, he ended up keeping us both. We went out there and sold. We went to local loan officer offices and brought lunches and business cards. We told them we were a local appraiser and asked them to use our firm.
One of the first lessons I learned is as quickly as you can get the business in the door, you can lose it. There was no customer service happening internally. My clients were calling me saying, “Joni, I want to use you guys but nobody’s answering my calls. I don’t know what’s going on with my appraisal.”
All of this was new to me because I didn’t really know the business well, but I did know customer service. It was my thing. Customer service was in my blood. I knew what it meant. So we went back to the appraiser, and we tried to explain, “We don’t mind selling. We actually love being out there in the field selling, but we have to do something from a customer service standpoint. We have to have processes. We need people to answer the phone.”
He told us to come back in the office, and he gave us three months to fix it. We went back and worked in the office, we subscribed to a platform to put our orders in so we could manage milestones and know where these orders were happening and we were able to improve our communication and give our clients access and visibility into the system. We focused on great customer service and follow-up metrics.
We became good friends with one of our clients who had an appraisal management company. This was 2003 into 2004 and we were still learning and curious, so we asked, “What is your business model?”
“We go out to lenders and we market our appraisal services,” they explained, “but we’re national, not just a local firm. If somebody doesn’t have a relationship with their local appraiser and they have an order in an area where they don’t have a relationship, they send it to us and we facilitate it to one of our appraisers in that market.”
I thought, that’s genius. It was the best idea. The more I thought about it the more I loved the concept. We became good friends with the ladies who worked in their office and we liked the service and what they had to offer.
We were learning the inner workings of the industry at just the right time. Technology was starting to make a play in the industry and appraisers were really having to adapt to the demands of the industry. Everybody needed everything faster. Everybody needed answers now. It was like you could feel people wanting to have more control over the process and not less.
We went to the appraiser and said, “Listen. We need to adopt this technology. We need to start subscribing to these programs to give us more data and analytic tools to improve customer service.”
He was not hearing it; he was certain the industry was not going to change. He said, “It’s been this way forever; I’m not investing in the resources.”
After he turned us down, I talked to my partner, saying, ”We don’t need him. We can go out on our own.”
She was around twenty-two at the time and I was twenty-four. She questioned, “Do you think we can do this?”
“Absolutely! I know the best model for our clients and we can do it. We don’t have to be a licensed appraiser out in the field. We can be in the office creating good processes so lenders are happy with the service they’re receiving, and they’re getting appraisals all over the country and stellar service.”
The next day on our lunch break, we went to Bank of America and we asked if we could open up a business account. We had to deposit $50 each to open the account and we qualified for a $500-credit line on a credit card.
Now we are ready to go!
We met with people, we had faxed copies of metro cities, we used two handheld phones, and I had a computer I brought from my house. My partner had a computer and we carved out a section in her garage and we got busy. Initially, the plan was to only open up in the state of Florida because we knew the local loan officers had relationships with Clearwater appraisers where we lived. Then we started to think, what if we have an appraiser in Tallahassee, an appraiser in Saint Augustine, an appraiser in Miami, an appraiser in Gainesville? Our plan was to then go to those loan officers and tell them, we know you have your favorite appraisers but if you ever need an appraiser in one of these other markets, give us a call and we’ll facilitate the process for you.
Our original idea was to be a company of convenience. We were in the business of making connections so, we dialed down. We grabbed the yellow pages and called every single appraiser in the state of Florida and asked them if they would join our panel. For every one hundred no thank you we got a yes. As we gained an appraiser we’d color it on this little coloring sheet in the office until the whole sheet was filled with color, and then we went out and we started selling.
We landed our first order, and people liked what we were doing. We really didn’t have any plans to be outside of the state of Florida. We knew we needed a large lender to buy in and really give us a shot and put us on the map.
Lending Tree was the big lender back then, and they were out in California. We kept calling them; I mean every single day. Again, this goes back to being persistent. We just called and called them. I swear, I think what happened was, they were like just send them an order. We can’t take another call from these ladies.
They sent us eleven orders in one day, and we were like oh my gosh, and back then, the work was coming in via fax. When we walked into the garage that morning, there were papers all over the floor and they were actual appraisal orders. It was amazing. It was so cool. We worked from 8 A.M. until midnight because they were in California. So, we had to be there to answer the call.
One day one of their folks said they thought there were sixty people working in our office. They thought it was a huge outfit because we were always there. They asked if we had ever considered going outside of the state of Florida.
We asked if they had business for us outside of the state of Florida and they said, “Absolutely, we love your service. We would like to use you everywhere.”
Within two years, we were completely nationwide. We hired a couple of team members. We moved into our first office space and we were doing well just as the market crash was about to hit in 2008.
Q Brandao: You were an AMC before the Appraisal Management Model existed?
They weren’t known as AMCs then. They were known as appraisal companies but, the model was there. We were a company of convenience. It was like when you don’t have a relationship in any given market, call us; when you do, use your favorite appraisers. That’s fine. We were there to cover when they didn’t have a coverage appraiser. That was our model. And it worked, people really loved it.
We were getting our fair trade for making sure their licenses were up to date, and they had insurance coverage. We had their contact. We managed the entire process from beginning to end. It was a set it and forget it, kind of a thing. Then when the market crashed, everybody went oh my gosh. We have to use a third party, AMC. We didn’t advertise as an AMC back then because it wasn’t a thing, and our clients didn’t even know they could use us. Even though we could still do all the work and provide the same service, they started pulling business and going to AMCs with deep-marketing pockets, and could get into the guides and advertise themselves as AMC.
Q Brandao: How did your company change once Dodd-Frank was enacted?
It really changed our model. I mean we went from a company of convenience to a company of compliance, like now we’re the firefly. Now, we have to understand regulations, Dodd-Frank, and appraiser independence. Our role changed, and our relationships with our clients and our appraisers changed. It was a scary time because many borrowers were upside down on their mortgages where they had just purchased a home, now they wanted to refinance their homes worth a hundred thousand dollars less than when they purchased it. It was tough. I mean 2008 to 2011, was not a great time to be AMC.
Q Brandao: Now, let’s fast forward to 2021. We’ve seen many cycles but 2020 was something no one has ever seen. It was our first pandemic, hopefully our last pandemic, and there was no way we could prepare. We had no idea what was coming with record low rates and a shortage of housing. We saw booming prices and bidding wars and a high percentage of cash buyers last year and of course, being faced with a shortage of qualified trained operations staff. The big question is, what can be done about the shortage of experienced licensed qualified appraisers?
This has been a topic of conversation for 10-12 years now but when we saw the biggest boom in the mortgage industry in 2020 and a shortage of experienced and licensed appraisers, the discussion was a top priority. As we saw record numbers, we also experienced extended turn times and that’s a hard thing for our industry to really wrap their mind around; we don’t have the tolerance for extended turn times. Also, because the barrier to entry is so intense, it takes two years sometimes, depending on how much time this appraiser has to devote to the apprenticeship trainee process which, by the way, is unpaid.
You know, if you don’t get into it while you’re in college or during that period of your life where you don’t need a lot of money and you’re not trying to support a family, it’s a little bit easier. But deciding to go into the trainee program as a person who has a family to support is difficult. There aren’t enough appraisers in the industry in correlation with the demand for appraisals.
What we’ve been trying to do at Nationwide Appraisal Network (NAN) is work with our clients. We’ve made some good adoption, especially over the last six months when our clients are really feeling the crunch, which allows us to use appraisers in training to do the inspection. This lets us keep the appraiser in the office, reconciling those values. The trainees can do the appraisals fast. The certified appraisers are the ones who need to reconcile the value. It’s all along the same lines where they divide about value verifications that Fannie and Freddie are trying to put out there but, it’s an actual trainee appraiser who’s doing the inspection, trained trainees who have made it to a certain point in their education and their experience level where they’re going out there and they’re doing good inspections and the certified appraisers can depend on the information coming back from them and put their stamp on it and reconcile the value.
By using trainees, we can save five days off turn times for our clients, but you have to have the client adopt it. The lender has to be able to say, okay we’re comfortable with that from a risk standpoint but tell us what you’re doing to preserve the quality so we can use these appraisals to make good lending decisions because, at the end of the day this is really what it’s all about.
It takes a lot of communication and a lot of training, but we’ve adapted, and we’ve seen the pipeline unclog itself by using these trainees. So now, we’re giving more work to these trainees faster so they can become certified faster to solve a couple of problems.
Q Brandao: Are you seeing trainees come into the industry? Are you starting to get to the college level or recent college graduates to be able to get enough trainees into the role?
I feel like we’re seeing more training appraisers now than we have in the past because there’s more awareness around the industry. I think your everyday borrower is savvier about real estate and the mortgage industry, more than they have ever been. The discussions are happening. The housing crash brought it all to life; before 2008 people didn’t really know it’s an appraiser profession. I think all of the events that have happened in the economy have really shown a bright light on the profession overall and it is a great profession. You can make a great living as an appraiser, and now since the appraisers have AMC as a client, we’re protected with appraiser independence. The way we talk about and engage with appraisals is better than it’s ever been. I think it’s more enticing and more exciting for somebody to make it into the profession because you’re not dealing with the old school like The Wild Wild West issues we used to deal with back in the day. The appraisers have protection and they can act independently and do their job as it was meant to be without undue influence and other issues.
Q Brandao: Joni, your journey is so inspirational, from the moment you arrived at Perkins to meeting your business partner Cari and deciding you can do it better and creating a vision for the appraisal industry before AMCs were required.
Please share with us, what have you learned about continuing to stay focused on your goals and what recommendations do you have and how do you keep yourself inspired and motivated when you keep hearing no?
From an entrepreneurial standpoint, you always have one hundred negatives for every yes and your goal is to hear the one yes. Every call you make doesn’t have to turn into a yes, so, when you make one hundred calls and you secure one client, that’s a success.
I think this mindset is hard for people to grasp. It’s a failure for most people when they can’t turn every conversation into a win, but they’re learning along the way. Every conversation is a learning experience. You’re taking something away you didn’t anticipate or you didn’t expect or you couldn’t plan for and you use what you learned in your next conversation to turn it around, and maybe you receive two positives on the next hundred calls, but it’s part of persistence which is key to procuring those wins. If you do nothing, you’ll receive nothing. So, you have to keep trudging through and then when you feel success from the first yes, you’re more motivated to go after the next one.
I also think a lot of what I hear when I’m hiring team members, training, talking to clients about appraisals, the industry or the market, they want to tap into the secret sauce. What do you see in the appraisal industry? People want to collaborate with passionate people. If you’re passionate about your business, you can feel it, you can see it, you can almost taste it and people want to work with like-minded people, especially other passionate people. They want to work with her because she’s not going to let anything happen to the business. That’s how much she loves it and that’s key. I think being passionate is key for longevity. If you’re not passionate about what you do, you’re not going to be around in all these roller-coaster ups and downs when the market crashes. Yes, we’re going to see all this stuff happening but we’re going to be there on the other end of it, ready to go. We might have a slowdown, we might have to pull back a little bit, and we might have to redirect our focus. There are all kinds of opportunities. You know the project we’ve wanted to tackle for two years and we haven’t gotten around to it because it’s been appraisals up to here, let’s focus on that. Then, when the market turns back around, we have something to give to our clients they can use right now.
And I think people like to see you succeed through the good and the bad. Ultimately, people want to see you succeed. Another big thing is you have to be quick and nimble. You have to make changes fast. I’ve always been cautious of growing to a size which doesn’t allow me to shift and pivot when the market demands. I’ve learned the hard way you have to pay attention to the forecast, you have to plan. Even if the forecasts don’t come to fruition, you have to know the possibility is there in the future. Planning, learning how to forecast, always looking ten steps ahead, being a visionary at the end of the day, and knowing what we can do different is key.
What are the pain points we can solve for our clients? One of the easiest activity business owners can provide in the world is customer service, and the amount of folks doing it right is minimal. There are always tweaks you can do in your everyday business, like answering the phone before that third ring, smile when you answer the phone, set a reminder to follow back up in an hour like you told them you would, say their name three times during the conversation so you remember them, make them feel special. You always want to leave them wanting more and happy.
Q Brandao: If I asked you what three words people would use to describe you what would they be and why?
First, passionate. NAN is my firstborn, it’s my baby. There’s not a conversation I have with anybody where they won’t feel that.
Second, I would say kind; it’s a people business and it’s not transactional and you can never forget it. People have lives outside of work and things happen to disrupt our lives sometimes. It’s important for us to be kind and empathetic and know at the end of the day these are people and you understand.
Third, the word would be go-getter. When I have an idea, my CFO always jokes about this, saying, “When Joni gets an idea, she lights her hair on fire and runs down the road.”
I think it’s an element of fearlessness I didn’t always have, and it only comes with seventeen years of experience in this industry taking the punches, getting beat up a little bit, going through the ups and downs, and realizing oh my God, we survived. That’s pretty amazing. You know having the experience to reach back and draw from is huge versus when we first started out, we knew nothing. Everything we did was a mistake. It’s how the company works out. Yes, it was trial and error and you know, seventeen or eighteen years later, it’s a fearlessness I’m so grateful for.
Q Brandao: Joni, you don’t see a lot of women in the AMC space. Can you share your perspective on being a female executive in the appraisal industry?
Being a woman in this industry for me has been a blessing because most people are surprised. What I love about this industry is the women executives in this industry really wrap their arms around other women, and I have learned so much from other women leaders. This is one of our secret sauces because everybody wants everyone to do well. The community of women leaders, are visionaries, pioneers, fearless, and just so proud. I mean, anytime I see these women winning awards, I cheer. It’s one for me and our team.
Q Brandao: Joni: How valuable do you think it is for a woman to have a strong community like Women With Vision?
I think it’s extremely valuable because there are many possibilities in the mortgage and real estate industry right now. If you want it, go for it, and I love the fact we’ve all paved the way and shown this isn’t just the boys’ club, this is the girls’ club too, and I love it. Anytime I see one of the women leaders in this industry featured or talking about something, it’s always relevant. It’s always thoughtful.
They’re putting out game-changing stuff and you know there’s vulnerability tied to it. To step out and discuss issues to make changes, we’re kind of taking a risk, and I think we hesitate a little bit more to put ourselves out there. However, it’s important we put ourselves out there and those doing so should be applauded. This is pioneer stuff here and I love it.
Q Brandao: Joni, can you share with us something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I am a softball coach for my daughter’s softball team.
Q Brandao: Joni: Where do you see the future of women in mortgage and real estate and appraisal and what do you see it looking like five to ten years from now?
I see a lot more executive positions being filled by women with ideas who can communicate, who are passionate about the industry, who are fearless and can make those changes and speak their minds and really help continue to mold the industry and do something the general public can depend on. I feel there’s an element of trust involved when you have a woman at the wheel. I think there’s an element of trust involved when you see a woman at the executive level making the decisions, communicating, and making sure people are doing things the right way.
Communications are happening, customer service is there, coming up with new ideas. I hope we see more of this and I think we will. And I think Women With Vision, promoting this, really shining a light on women in the industry who are doing this already only further opens the door up to the possibilities.
Q Brandao: Joni, if you were going to give advice to a young woman who is a couple of years into the industry and her goal is to become an executive at whatever type of company she works for within the industry, what would be your advice for her to make sure of who she’s following or what she should be doing?
Broaden your network and don’t be afraid to become involved in the industry. Being involved is key. You learn so much from other people and joining different associations and groups advocating for the things you’re interested in doing in your future. Sometimes, you learn how not to do things and sometimes you learn from the best. You identify those mentors.
Find a mentor who you can really bounce ideas off of, watch how they participate in a room, how they communicate, and how they interact with others.
Be genuine; don’t be afraid to fail. There’s no such thing, everything’s fixable. The moment when things didn’t work out is just a redirect on how it will work out, so never be afraid to fail.
Write articles, write blogs, put your voice out there, and be heard. Be a resource. Eventually, you want people to look at you as a resource where they come to you. Sometimes, they come to you with a secret thought and you’re like oh, I didn’t know it was a problem. Let me try and figure out a way to fix it. So, I would just say stay involved in the industry. We need thinkers, we need communicators, we need leaders, and don’t get in your head, and believe in yourself because when you start believing yourself, other people will believe in you too.
Q Brandao: Joni, you have two children 9 and 13, what advice would you give to women professionals who are trying to balance work and home-life harmony?
I think if I could go back to myself when I was having babies and in their early infancy, I sacrificed for the sake of my business because it was just me and Cari. I wasn’t employed; I was working for myself and it was either sink or swim. I wish I could go back and enjoy the time; however, it’s in the past and with technology being the way it is today with the acceptance of computer programs, and the adoption and acceptance of working from home, I think it’s so much more doable now than it’s ever been to do it all and have it all. It’s not easy and nothing good ever comes easy anyway, but to know you’re not alone and there are millions of women all over the world who are homemakers, mothers, and businesswomen.
It teaches you how to multi-task if nothing else in time management, but embrace it, don’t be afraid of it, and use the resources you have because you can have it all.
There’s an element of discipline behind that and your job is ten times harder than your male power part; you know sitting right next to you because you are a mom and you’re going to have to take some time off, but I just think we’re in a different time period. We’re in a different world now.
Don’t overthink it. Embrace it all. Use the tools you have; you can’t have it all. And know when it feels hard, it’s because it is. It’s hard. This is not easy. It is not easy to have it all, but it’s so sweet at the end of the day when you can look back and go man I did okay.
Yes, you did and that’s a great recommendation. You have to celebrate those little wins because do you know what, sometimes that little win was just, hey the baby got a bath, and the baby went to sleep, and I was able to catch up on a few things. That’s a win; a win doesn’t have to be I got Lending Tree. That’s a great win but sometimes, it’s just the baby took a bath and went to sleep on time. That could be it.
A hundred percent; women are so hard on themselves, if it’s not done picture perfect. It’s not how I intended this day to look. This is not the result I came in looking for. Who cares? Maybe it’s just we showed up today and we did it and tomorrow’s a new day. Let it go.
Laura is the driving force that has catapulted AFR Wholesale to the top of Manufactured Home and Renovation lending in the USA. She has seamlessly rolled out new products based on market demand, including VA renovation, USDA repair escrow, and One-Time Close Construction to Permanent Loans for the FHA, VA, and USDA. Laura’s hands-on approach also propels AFR to remain on the cutting edge of technology with mobile-friendly applications that cohesively integrate the borrower, realtor, broker, and AFR.
This year, Laura has already been featured as one of The 10 Most Influential Businesswomen to Follow in 2020 and among The 20 Most Successful Businesswomen to Watch, 2020 by Insights Success magazine. Laura was among the 50 Best Women in Business named by NJBIZ in 2019, has been recognized as a HousingWire Women of Influence for the last three years, and named one of Mortgage Banking’s Most Powerful Women by National Mortgage Professional. Laura has also been one of Mortgage Professional America’s Hot 100 Mortgage Professionals in 2017, and an Elite Women of Mortgage in 2014, 2016 and again in 2017.
Laura is also actively engaged with several organizations and initiatives including the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts and is one of the founders of AIME’s Women’s Mortgage Network (WMN).
FINDING AND AMPLIFYING YOUR VOICE
A Vision For Today’s Market
Written by: Megan Anderson
As a frequent mortgage industry speaker and part of MBS Highway’s daily morning update team, I have encouraged people to use social media and video to amplify and grow their business. I have found many people are hesitant to embrace video, perhaps because they don’t know what to say or they hate the sound of their own voice.
These are common fears and if you have them, you’re not alone.
Just last month, I was given the opportunity to speak at an industry event, and it was unlike any other speech I had previously given.
It was about finding our voice. And I was terrified.
All my old fears, judgments, and negative self-talk came rolling in. Then I took a deep breath and realized this topic is exactly what I’ve always wanted to speak about. Instead of being afraid, I became curious. I asked myself, “What does it really mean to have a voice? How do we find our voice? When have we felt heard or unheard? How will past experiences influence our future voice? And why so often do we keep our voices small?”
This article is only the beginning of what I’ve learned about finding our voice, and how crucial it is. When we can communicate more effectively, in both personal and professional situations, both our relationships and our results improve. Putting it simply, communication and the way we use our voice is everything.
Why We Don’t Speak Up
Before we review the five elements of voice, it’s important to consider why we don’t use our voice in certain situations. Here are some of the most common reasons.
Past experiences of our voice being quieted or unwanted: I remember being in high school math class. Math was my favorite subject and one day I raised my hand to ask a question. The teacher replied, “Now, why would you do such a stupid thing? Have I taught you nothing?” This experience made me afraid to speak up in class and ask questions. It made me quiet my voice.
Toxic beliefs: Before joining the mortgage space, I helped women prep for bodybuilding shows. Oftentimes after a show, I would gain weight and this impacted both my confidence and my voice. I realized my voice depended on the outside look of my body. I had a toxic belief I was not worthy of love, clients, money, or good things unless I looked a specific way. This toxic belief even followed me into the mortgage realm when I initially kept my voice small and quiet. It wasn’t until I was able to change my belief I was able to find my voice.
Discomfort: When I first joined the mortgage space, I had to learn about the industry. Early on when my knowledge was limited, I remember feeling uncomfortable speaking to other professionals because I worried that I provided zero value. I did the work and learned the industry, which helped me find my voice.
Fear: Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat. I had massive amounts of fear the first time I spoke on stage. I was afraid people would judge me or not find what I had to say valuable, and they would think I was young and not take me seriously. I had to overcome these fears to find my voice.
The 5 Elements of Voice
Over the last few years, as I have become a frequent industry speaker and part of MBS Highway’s daily morning update video, I have learned much about voice. One lesson that helped me become better at communicating was learning about the five elements of voice and how to use them. This information is based on the Five Elements framework, which is a theory based on the premise all things in the universe can be traced back to five basic elements.
Earth: Have you ever heard of grounding? This technique can lower your stress levels and has many health benefits. Grounding is simply walking on the earth barefoot. When we think of the earth and its relation to voice, it is grounded, heavy, and slow.
Think of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s classic line from The Terminator, “I’ll be back.” I encourage you to practice stating that line exactly how he does. Really get into it. Now how do you feel? Speaking from the earth element, saying this line should feel like it comes from the stomach. And you want to use this voice when commanding respect. Use it when asking for a raise or directing your team.
Or even like me recently when I had to tell my new puppy, “NO!”
Let’s practice our earth voice. Looking at the adorable picture of my puppy, listen to the difference between saying a stern no, or saying no more softly. Do you hear how speaking from the earth element is different?
Fire: Speaking from the fire element brings energy and that energy spreads like wildfire around a room or audience. Imagine Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech but in the voice of Julia Childs. It just wouldn’t work. Use this element when you want to be seen or heard, be it on stage or even in a team meeting when you’re trying to literally fire up your team to reach their monthly sales goals.
Water: Voice within the water element is welcoming, flowing, caring, and comfortable. This is a great voice to use when expressing empathy, gratitude, or appreciation towards friends, family, colleagues, or employees. And it matters. Think of someone apologizing to you, but you didn’t believe them because of the tone of their voice.
Metal: Speaking from the element of metal means your voice is bright, sharp, and cuts through anything. Imagine a playground of screaming children, a crying baby, or a fire alarm, all of these would fit in the metal element. Use this voice when you want to amplify your message when you really need to be heard. This is also the voice you’ll need to use if you’re ever speaking on stage and your microphone goes dead.
Air: Back to my puppy. Look at his face and practice saying hello to him. Do you feel how it’s light and airy? It lightens up your face and the room. This is a good voice to use when telling a story or pitching a new idea to your boss.
Learning from the 5 Elements of Voice
Now that we have gone through the five elements of voice, I want you to think about the last conversation you had where you didn’t feel heard or understood.
Consider the element(s) of voice you were using. For example, did you tell a colleague, “Sorry the deal didn’t close” but in the tone of metal because you were thinking of another major issue at the office?
Or maybe you asked your spouse or child to help with something at home, but an annoyed tone of metal made them angry and defensive, whereas a different element may have brought you the result you desired.
What we say and how we say it matters. As you approach conversations, ask yourself, “What are my goals for this conversation? And how can I use the five elements of voice to feel more heard and understood, and ultimately achieve the results I desire?”
While finding our own voice is important, it is also imperative to find our collective voice. Being part of a community helps us feel accepted and heard and gives us a larger purpose. Being part of a group of women, especially in the mortgage space which has traditionally been male dominant, can make all the difference.
I’m able to share my voice with all of you in this article because of the collective voice of women in this space.
Megan Anderson is a well-known professional speaker, teacher, and winner of HousingWire’s 2020 Women of Influence award. She is also the winner of the 2019 40 under 40 award and 2019 Women with Vision award. She has introduced systems and platforms that effectively create content and increase engagement.
She is vice president of Marketing at MBS Highway, the industry’s leading platform for mortgage sales professionals. Megan has helped eliminate the fears and obstacles mortgage and real estate salespeople have in creating video content. Her innovative pieces of training have transformed salespeople into local celebrity advisors.
Megan is a highly sought-after speaker and coach who is passionate about helping others grow their business and gain more confidence in themselves. She is also the host of the podcast Behind the Breakthrough, a podcast telling the untold stories of success.
Five hundred forty-five days ago, my father’s St Patrick Day Party was canceled. Canceled for the first time in fifty-nine years. This was the first time we collectively understood COVID as a real threat. The last time Daddy’s party was canceled was because he was drafted into the army in 1961.
On March 17, 2020, family members Zoomed into my father’s back patio, affectionately known as Pop’s Pub, to toast my father.
“SLAINTE, may the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sunshine warm upon your face; the rain fall soft upon your fields, and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.” [sidebar]
Since the day we Zoomed into Pop’s Pub, we have celebrated another St. Patrick’s Day, dozens of birthdays, births, engagements, and yes, even a socially distant wedding during the COVID Pandemic. The one thing we haven’t done, I mean the one privilege we had stripped away entirely, was one of the great passions of my life and my marriage: the privilege of travel.
This month Russ and I weighed the risk versus the reward and decided to fly our vaccinated selves to Iceland! The Land of Fire and Ice offers both of us what we love most about travel. For him, it is solitude, peace and quiet, natural beauty, and otherworldly exploration. For me, it is EPIC EXPERIENCES; I love the type of experiences I will remember fondly on my deathbed.
Iceland has no shortage of items on our wish list and also ranks as one of the least populated and greenest countries on our planet. Here’s a fact to consider: Iceland is about the same size as Kentucky. In comparison, as you think of Kentucky’s bluegrass pastures and rolling vacant hills, the state actually crams 4.6 million people into its borders. Iceland, on the other hand, a mere 350,000. I guess if you want to socially distance yourself to reduce the risks of contraction, it’s probably among the safest.
Oddly, Iceland is extremely affordable to fly to, only five hours from the northeast of the United States. We elected to leave from Boston in mid-September and can you believe a round-trip economy class ticket can be purchased for as little as $240. We have accumulated so many unused points over the past two years we were able to fly Iceland Air’s Premier Saga First Class Seats for just a little bit more.
Five hours of flight and four hours of time change puts us in Kef International Airport at 6:00 A.M., well rested from the large comfy seats, spoiled from incredible service, and eager to explore our Icelandic Adventure.
The ION Adventure Hotel www.ioniceland.is is located on Iceland’s famed Golden Circle framed by mountains, a geothermal hot spring was wafting steam through the valley, and Thingvellir National Park’s only 5-star accommodations. Pingvallvatn Lake highlights hundreds of idyllic waterfalls and bright green moss-covered lava fields. After a light breakfast and a quick jetlag nap, we headed out on our first exploration. We happened upon Gullfoss Geysir, and public hot tubs (they’re called “spas” but no massage, no facial, and no mani-pedi), just a massive tub of water heated by volcanic activity 2000 plus feet below the ground.
Day two was all about the South Coast, and what a trip of a lifetime. My husband accidentally struck up a conversation with a Scandinavian supermodel and asked her for one local recommendation American Tourists never see. She pointed to a ferry called Landeyjahöfn; it turns out INGA the Icelandic Princess lives on Vestmannaeyjar and escorted us on the 45-minute ferry. The Westmann Islands or Home Island was the hidden gem of our trip. Words on paper couldn’t explain the experience, and one-dimensional photographs would be passed over as regular. At some spots on Home Island, your breath was stolen, your heartbeat quickened, and your cup spilled over from the dreamlike beauty. Upon our research, we discovered less than two percent of Iceland tourism ever makes it to the Westmann Islands, and if the only purpose of this article is to make you one of them, I would be proud to have acted as the catalyst. When we returned to the mainland, we still had time for Black Sand Beaches, Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Gljúfrabúi waterfall, and Skógafoss waterfall, the four national treasures of the South Coast.
Suppose LIFESTYLE is the game, then Bubble Hotel is the name; we highly recommend one night in a bubble under the stars, the moon, and the anticipation of Northern Lights. This temperature-controlled transparent plastic sphere hosts a king-sized bed, a bottle of champagne, and a few fresh strawberries for good measure. We hardly slept at all, as we reveled in the awe of it. The hotel is known as a Five Million Star resort for the most apparent reasons, especially when you snuggle under the covers, under a dome, under the (living, breathing, moving, fascinating) galaxy.
If you have the time, a week or more, you have to rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle and brave Route 1. This Ring Road connects the dots around the island. Hundreds of camper vans make the voyage and plenty of two-wheel drive sedans do as well, but for me, the all-wheel-drive made us feel safer, especially when the snow falls in the Highlands. Less than 20 percent of Icelandic visitors allocate the time for the Ring Road, but 100 percent should. I hope this translates and inspires the way it is intended to; I want you to imagine George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Walt Disney, and Peter Jackson conspiring to create a set for your travel itinerary. This 12-hour drive over several days and several quaint hotels takes your mind, heart, and body on an exploration of senses never before discovered.
As we descended the great mountain range into Egilsstaðir, I was moved to tears by the largest moon rising during daylight hours. The sun was setting behind us, and the moon was rising in front, and the orange, reds, and blues can only be held in one’s memory as Shakespeare himself couldn’t articulate it with justice. The evening’s ride into the Gistihúsið –Lake Hótel Egilsstaðir (www.lakehotel.is) for me will forever be the pinnacle of EPIC EXPERIENCES in Iceland.
The northern run feels a bit like a quest to visit Santa and his reindeer, Ice and Snow, and a particular Secluded Nordic Coffee Shop sitting in a dozen-mile icefield. The great surprise of Iceland is we never lost our cell phone signal, even in the most remote outposts of our trip. Iceland also adopted a 911-like emergency roadside service, so you are always just three digits (112) away from rescue. We saw a few stuck thrill-seekers, and a few flat tires get changed, yet most of our contemporaries traveled safely through in climate-controlled comfort as we did.
Just below the West Fjords on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula rests the finest dining and hotel experience available in Iceland. We discovered this gem at www.cntraveler.com; Conde Nast Traveler. Hotel Budir www.hotelbudir.is offers twenty-eight elegantly rustic appointed rooms and a farm-to-table dining experience fit for a king (or a Viking, I guess). The peninsula is welcoming though isolated; the only neighbors are a hundred-foot waterfall, the famed picturesque black church, a deep fjord, and a dormant volcano with a sprawling lava field. On the peninsula, I learned the Icelandic word fjord translates to English as a narrow inlet of the sea between cliffs or steep slopes.
EPIC EXPERIENCES for me in Iceland included the secluded hot spring, the famed Diamond Beach, and I heard someone say Iceland has more waterfalls than people; while I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate, I can indeed acknowledge it is the most beautiful and abundant waterfall scenery I’ve experienced anywhere on earth. The only thing I saw more of than waterfalls might have been the number of spas, natural hot springs, and well-placed hot tubs at every turn.
We closed our trip at The Heart of Reykjavik. This was the name of our Airbnb, a private flat in downtown Reykjavík so we could walk to everything the capital city had to offer. Fine dining, pubs with live music, a frozen ice bar, and a few relaxing cups of cappuccino at the world-famous bakeries, and you will have touch, tasted, and smelled why Reykjavik is the tourism destination for most visitors. The two most touristy things we did on tour were the active volcanoes hike and the world-famous Blue Lagoon retreat. Think Epcot complete with tour buses and international herded crowds, but you have to do both or you will surely regret it.
While this article felt strangely self-indulgent, bordering on braggadocios, I guess it’s the reason 20/20 Vision asked me to be the only Lifestyle coach and author of the Lifestyle column in the first place. I hope you live a little bit vicariously. Still, most importantly, my wish is to inspire a work ethic and business strategy deserving of 5-Star World Travel and EPIC EXPERIENCES for yourself.
Lifestyle with Kerry Fitzpatrick
Everything Kerry touches turns to gold! She has traveled extensively through Europe and the Caribbean. Kerry currently splits her time between residences in Ft. Lauderdale, New Orleans, and The Smokey Mountain region of North Carolina. Kerry is passionate about entertaining, fashion, and managing an incredible quality of life.
Kerry Fitzpatrick holds a Bachelor of Education degree and a Master of Administration degree from Nova Southeastern University. She worked as a first-grade teacher in a low-income school, spending her time and resources, giving back to her students, and making a significant impact on their lives. Wanting to make a bigger difference in the education of her students, Kerry advanced her career to administrator.
Kerry had a desire to start a family. To fulfill this dream, Kerry resigned from the school board. She was soon recruited to work in the residential real estate industry and found a position where she could express her unique vision for making a difference. She quickly became intoxicated by the struggling masses in the industry, noticing a void in pass-me-down wisdom. She recognized a palpable, if not desperate, need for education in residential real estate. Her real estate brokerage quickly became known as South Florida’s Premier Teaching, Training, and Coaching Organization, offering live in-office coursework multiple times per week.
Kerry was instrumental in creating an education system inside of Exit Team Realty. The formula Kerry developed helped the brokerage grow to over 500 associates. By 2004, Exit Team Realty, rooted in Kerry’s vision for education first, had quickly become a RISMedia Power Brokerage (Top 300 brokerages in the U.S.) and was twice featured as a national company to watch in residential real estate.
In 2009, Kerry launched a broader, subscription-based online education center known as Associate Worx. The fee-based broadcast followed Kerry’s agent education formula and immediately went viral among real estate brokerages and the agents they served. Mortgage bankers began to seek Kerry out to sponsor and be featured in the Realtor Broadcast phenomenon. One bank offered a statewide exclusive relationship white-labeled as AEM WORX in Florida, Missouri, and North Carolina; Academy Home Mortgage Worx in Utah and Colorado; Southeast Mortgage Worx in Georgia; AmeriFirst Worx in Texas and Oklahoma; and finally AnnieMac Worx in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
AnnieMac Home Mortgage built a realtor centric culture in the mortgage industry, and they made it around Kerry Fitzpatrick’s AnnieMac Worx Productivity Platform. AnnieMac negotiated an exclusive white label that dramatically affected recruitment and productivity for their mortgage professionals in 32 states.
Today, Kerry runs AnnieMac Worx, The My Worx Suite Technology Solution for Realtors centered in education and pass-me-down best practices in residential real estate.
Written by Ana Maria Sanin
Where were you on Tuesday, October 5, 2021? If you’re in business and working to build your client lists, your fan base, or even communicating with current customers, you may be like a few of my clients and friends who were literally stopped in their tracks with no clue what to do. The internet stopped. This is an exaggeration, but Instagram and Facebook were DOWN!
So, what’s a marketer in this industry to do? This is exactly why the Vitality of your messaging, and a good messaging mix, is so important to the success of your brand.
If you’re collecting emails and connecting on multiple platforms, then no need to fear, a simple email could have been all you needed to stay connected, whether it was a quick update, a note of gratitude, or a noteworthy occurrence. What happens though, in a loss of internet scenario, if you aren’t collecting emails and growing your tribe along with at least four unrelated social media platforms?
This real-life exercise showed the world who was prepared and comfortable in their interactions and those who would have had no other way to communicate without these platforms. While Instagram and Facebook are two of the most significant software applications in our recent history, the importance of a strong brand messaging structure and the ability to engage with your followers so they take measurable action to further connect is more important than ever. Here’s what you can do NOW to build up the messaging vitality of your brand.
Slide into their DMs.
Tell them about an upcoming event, or simply just connect. Tell them, “I almost lost you and you’re too important to me to never hear from you again! Here’s how I’m going to solve this. I’m starting a community via email where I will give a TON of content you can only receive there.
I’ll give tips, tricks, and freebies only to the people on this list and we’ll be able to stay in touch if our social network connections ever turn off again.”
Go ahead and use this as a place to start, write something similar or steal it. But the trick is to execute.
From this point, it’s time to discuss what’s next, and this is up to you. It’s how you want to show up to your followers. Are your followers potential clients? Are they an audience? What do you do for them and why do they come back? How can you add value to what you are already doing on one platform and expand on via another platform and in emails or YouTube videos? The Vitality of your brand and the messaging of the brand lies in your ability to connect and serve even if the internet shuts down.
Understand the pillars of your brand and know the marketing mix you’re using. Know what happens when one tool isn’t available And understand your contingency plan.
Map out what each tool is used for and where your expansion can grow.
The beauty of having multiple tools and ways of communicating is each one can be magnified and used to accentuate the strengths of your brand. They can touch on your periphery and can show you have more abilities and expertise than what a single platform may offer. The secret is the strength of your brand and the most valuable asset you have is your LIST. Nurture it and provide your audience with controlled options and it will pay you exponentially.
How do you build your database without going crazy and being able to focus on what you need to do to get deals closed, put people in their dream homes, and stay on top of your game?
Glad you asked.
Here are blank tips for you to receive the results you need from your marketing messaging by working smarter and NOT harder.
- Understand where you are starting from and admit the most valuable thing your business owns is your LIST. Now that you’ve established your list keep in mind it is the most valuable resource your business owns; treat it accordingly.
- Put every single email in a database. This doesn’t mean it has to be fancy. Many of you are lucky enough to be provided a CRM (Customer Relationship Management system) through your affiliations. Take advantage of these if you can! If not, it’s ok if you’re using a spreadsheet to input contact information and create a list to work from. Start there.
- Looking at an Excel list or a CRM and feeling completely overwhelmed? That’s ok too, it just means it’s time to outsource. There are a lot of great services like Upwork and Fiverr to find inexpensive virtual assistants and digital nomads who just “get it.” They’ll have your list loaded and programmed in no time.
Now the question is: What comes next? Nurturing your database is important and building out your email list is just as important now as it ever was. If anyone tells you email is outdated, I invite you to just reference what occurred on October 5 and wait for them to even try to respond with something well thought out or remotely profound.
First things first. Anything you share on social media should have a purpose behind it, so define your purpose. It may be an event you’re hosting, an announcement for another client served, or the latest tip to get approved in our crazy market right now. If you can post about it, it can go in a newsletter with a longer caption and a link to your social media. Get more out of each piece of content by using it in more than one space and linking back to the original source. This way, you keep people in your circle of online influence.
Think of the Internet as if it were real estate. Each platform is a major metropolitan area. The better you show up in each neighborhood, the better return on investment you’ll receive. Now, if you put a sign on each property stating whose property it is and who represents them, you’ll have more traffic to your other neighborhoods. (Or at least a genuine interest in the person on the sign with the great headshot!)
Once you are clear on how to reuse media and content, you can start mapping out your email campaigns. Another HUGE time-saver is to plan in advance. You want to make sure the bulk of the content is something you know. Every month, you know there are certain holidays. You know seasonally what your slow months are. You can start predicting trends when you study the market. You understand what renters are looking to do, and you know how to speak to investors. These are five subjects to post and send emails on right there.
It can absolutely be overwhelming if this isn’t something you are comfortable with and if you really want to focus. Here’s another secret I’ve learned over the years. DELEGATE. I have been creating brands for clients in the mortgage industry for years and have seen enough professional, forward-facing marketing content to really appreciate effective work.
Your work is a direct reflection of you. Your nurtured database is a reflection of your work. I cannot stress enough how important this is to the vitality of your brand.
In summary, keep in mind the strategies listed below:
- In order to stay top of mind with everyone who is on digital overload you must remain consistent and deliver quality content.
- Don’t be afraid to keep giving value. Give as much as you can. Believe me, you still have more you can charge for!
- Once you have a social media footprint, start sharing among other platforms and create actionable posts and content which encourages people to interact with OTHER pages and subscribe to your email list. This is imperative when you’re preparing to communicate with your audience and you don’t want to assume where some people are more active than others. You wouldn’t believe how many people have transitioned from Facebook to TikTok and some who only work off of LinkedIn and email.
- Once you have the contact emails upload them to a database. Remember, databases don’t all have to be fancy. A Spreadsheet works fine if this is how you choose to start, but the key is to start!
- Schedule and pre-plan the bulk of your content ahead of time so you aren’t scrambling and it doesn’t take away from your functional time. If you find this is too hard, or you don’t have the time or desire, it’s time to outsource and delegate. This part can’t be ignored!
Don’t forget: You aren’t alone in your brand development. What are you doing to strengthen your brand’s online presence and communication? It’s never too late to work on creating or bolstering a brand filled with Vitality.
Ana Maria Sanin is a Personal Brand Strategist for whom Faith is at the foundation of all she does. Her passion is to impact the community and to assist women professionals and businesses build a personal brand and establish an Influence their communities.
Her journey as a young single mother taught courage goes where confidence dares not. That path has brought her to this point in life. As the Confident Executive Officer at Confident Closers, her goal is to assist Women to build a Personal Brand to establish Influence and attract more opportunities to their life and business. She believes in building solid, long-term relationships and the power of team-work. There’s an individual fulfillment that comes with serving others. She considers this to be the pathway to real significance. Her mission is to lower the number of women who reach the end of their lives, regretting the things they never did because of fear and lack of courage.
Our Tell Your Story Marketing option provides the story-based advertising our readers report they prefer. To be seen and remembered and receive the best bang for your buck, experts say to make your marketing personal. Telling your story is about as personal as it gets. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for our rate card and additional details.
Mortgage X Podcast
On this episode, we hear from some of the Top Mortgage Brokers and Women With Vision Award winners. Jackie Dunlap, Chasity Graff, Amorette Hernandez, & Lil Abee join Frazier to talk about what it means to be a Woman With Vision.
Christine Beckwith of 20/20 Vision for Success Coaching and Jason Frazier of Mortgage X Creative bring you the Mortgage X Podcast. Guests range from visionaries working hard to evolve our industry to meet the needs of the modern consumer to the industry’s biggest producers, advocates, legends, thought leaders, partners, and lenders.
Coaching is about building a foundation for results and knowing how to step into action based on that foundation. Turning vision into reality requires trust that the bedrock beneath the vision is sound. Coaching with 20/20 Vision begins by building and strengthening your foundation and ensures you remain focused on the vision for success.
Vonk Digital, an industry leader in website and marketing tools for mortgage originators across America, is a proud sponsor and hosting partner of Women With Vision Magazine.
To learn how Vonk Digital can help you leverage the “New Way” to build your brand, authority & credibility with our website platform and tools visit us at www.vonkdigital.com
Our Tell Your Story Marketing option provides the story-based advertising our readers report they prefer. To be seen and remembered and receive the best bang for your buck, experts say to make your marketing personal. Telling your story is about as personal as it gets. Please reach out to us at email@example.com for our rate card and additional details.