Last week, 8th grade students in our Measures of a Man program visited BBVA Compass Bank to learn about the finance and the banking industry. BBVA is currently home to 10,000 employees nationwide, with 2,800 of those employees residing in Birmingham, Alabama.
The field trip started with our students engaging in an open panel discussion with some of BBVA’s top employees. CJ Glover, Assistant Vice President Workplace Solutions Officer, asked our young men, “Why are you here today?” One student quickly responded, “To learn resumes and interviews.” Glover smiled and replied, “It’s not about what you’re going to do today, but pay attention to what you’ll be exposed to.” Students exchanged eager looks as Glover continued, “I grew up in the projects next to Legion Field. Played basketball at Wilkerson [but] I chose to focus on graduation.”
The students seemed to gaze in disbelief as they realized that they shared similar backgrounds with most of the men standing before them. “I went on a similar trip in 8th grade and that exposure is what led me to a career in finance,” Glover said.
The following speaker, Quinten Byrd, the Senior Vice President-East Region and Business Development Specialist, shared that he had been with the company for almost 15 years and now oversees 650 branches. Byrd began his discussion by asking our students which one of them wanted to own their own business someday. Hands started soaring in the air as Byrd ask the room of young future entrepreneurs what kind of businesses they wanted to one day build. Student’s rapidly and proudly responded, “video game development,” “auto body shop,” “flipping houses,” “tech company.”
Byrd assured them that their ideas were great and grand but to remember that in some cases, if not all, peoples’ first and second business ventures typically fail, but the key to having a successful business is persistence. “A college degree is part of putting the work in,” Byrd explained, “several successful business owners may not have degrees, but those are few and very far in between.”
The panel was more than what the students expected as the third speaker took the floor. Orazio Mancarella is the Human Resources partner at BBVA Compass. He opened up the discussion by telling our students that he came from the same place as them. “I’m you!” Mancarella explained. “My dad is an immigrant from Italy and my mom’s black…neither one of my parents graduated high school. [I] had to set that precedent being the oldest of 5”
Mancarella is also a Captain in the U.S Army, having served 18 years in the military and 2 years of deployment in Afghanistan and Iraq. “If you need money to pay for school, there are ways to do it. Don’t let anything stop you.” “We’re going to expose you to career choices but it’s the decisions you make day-to-day that determines your future.”
At this point, our students were all ears and anticipating the next speaker. They looked up at the screens as they heard a voice say “Good Morning.” Their jaws dropped in awe as a video teleconference began with Brian Wiggins in Houston, Texas.
Brian Wiggins is the Vice President and Card Portfolio Optimization Specialist at BBVA Compass in Houston. After going over his credentials, Wiggins reassured them the importance of making good decisions and the benefits of mentoring. “A lot of people I kept in my circle started making decisions that I wasn’t comfortable with and I had to keep my distance,” Wiggins said, “it was tough to let them go, but it had to be done.”
Wiggins continued by telling the students that he didn’t have his father for most of his young adult life, so mentors were very vital to his success. After completing his undergraduate studies at The University of Texas at Austin, he participated in a 1-year management program for recent grads that pairs them with mentors in the banking industry called LEAP. LEAP is a program that is made up of four components: Learning, Evaluation, Application, and Placement. The program exposes recent graduates to “Consumer and Commercial Banking, Digital Banking, Risk Management and other support areas” in the banking industry. It was through his relationship with his mentors that he was able to learn to adapt in different environments. The program helped Wiggins develop as a professional. Wiggins explained that the program allowed him work with people who had different cultural backgrounds than his own, and that was a big learning opportunity for him. “One thing you’ll notice when you go into corporate America [is] that you may be the only person that looks like you.”
Before continuing the field trip to BBVA’s Brock Center, Tamika Wren, Talent & Culture-VP, Sr. Talent Partner at BBVA Compass, asked the students what they learned, and many of them replied:
- “Make good choices.”
- “Never give up!”
- “Just because your friends around you are making bad decisions, doesn’t mean you have to.”
- “Where you grow up doesn’t define you.”
Our students loaded the buses to the next destination, they were greeted by BBVA employees in the meeting room where they were split into two groups. One group started their tour in the newly renovated banking center and the private ATM management and development offices, while the others started in the web development offices and break areas on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the building.
As our students gathered in the break room for lunch, Franklin Johnson, ATM Developer at BBVA Compass, left them with sound advice. He urged our students to always have a plan B if plan A doesn’t work, and a plan C, and so on. “You should do something to better yourself and help others,” Johnson added, “always have a plan.”
Before leaving, BBVA, the official bank of the NBA, gave all of our students brand new BBVA Compass basketballs and complimentary homemade popsicles provided by Steel City Pops.
Thank you to everyone from BBVA Compass Bank who helped make this special day possible for our 8th grade Measures of a Man students! Together we’re Building Stronger Men Everyday!