Cinthia Lopez* shares how embracing change fuelled her career and offers tips to help other women can do the same.
What can you learn from 20 years spent with a dynamic company like Capital One?
In my experience, quite a lot!
I’ve taken on many unique opportunities in my career and my personal life, including immigrating to a new country, three distinct career shifts and moving my family from the East Coast to Texas and back.
The one thing that has rung true throughout all of my experiences is the importance of acting on the growth opportunities and sharing lessons learned along the way.
My career journey has led me from a job offer right out of graduate school to helping others find success and belonging within the Capital One community as a leading executive.
I have learned many things in the past 20 years and I hope these lessons will help you with your own career journeys.
A new beginning in a new country
My story begins with the exciting opportunity to attend college in the US, thanks to a generous scholarship.
I left Honduras, where I was born and raised, and moved to Arkansas to start my college education.
It was a thrilling time for me. I was taking all kinds of classes, and discovered a passion for political science.
But also a nerve-wracking time because I was in a new country, speaking English (which was not my first language) and had to build a new normal in a totally new place.
But this first taste of change was also a lesson that I’d carry with me throughout my career, the importance of taking on new challenges and experiences confidently and boldly.
I learned in these early years of college that change is something we have to work through in order to see what the next exciting opportunity on the horizon brings us.
For me, that next opportunity was graduate school in Washington DC and then a career at Capital One that far exceeded my expectations.
After finishing my degree in Arkansas, I began my graduate studies at Georgetown University in foreign services with a focus on Latin America.
I was so excited to take this knowledge and apply it to a career with a global business. But I was advised to get a job in the corporate world and gain experience so I could move on to that part of my career.
I learned about Capital One in my job search and was excited to see that they would be able to offer me work sponsorship, so I could stay in the US and start my career.
The more I learned about Capital One though, the more excited I was to hopefully join the company and become a part of the exciting work they were doing.
I was so thrilled to be offered a position as a Product Manager in our Mainstreet Card business.
Building a career and evolving myself
In my 20 years at Capital One, I’ve had three distinct careers and numerous chances to grow personally and professionally, while shifting my focus to new and different fields within the business.
I enjoyed working closely with Business Analysts in the Card business in my first role.
We spent our days bringing ideas and products to life to better serve our customers and improve the way we do business.
There are so many unique perspectives on our teams at Capital One and, to me, that was such a huge advantage to the work we do.
This collaboration reminded me of the importance of building connections and forming a network with those you work with closely.
I have made some very good friends and lasting connections through these bonds.
For example, my recruiter from 20 years ago was Rolddy Leyva, he is now the MVP of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging, and I am so grateful that we’ve been able to remain connected through our career journeys and still collaborate in our current work to foster an inclusive culture at Capital One.
After meeting and marrying my husband, who also works within the company, in my early years at Capital One, we made the big leap to move to Texas from the East Coast. With that move, I also took on a new role in Auto Finance Regulatory Risk Management.
It was a completely new role for me, with a new skill set to refine and grow.
I really felt like I was living out our company values in that role as well. My focus was to help keep customers in their vehicles and on track to pay their monthly car loan payments.
We as a company did – and still do – everything we can to help our customers make their payments and stay on track.
It is so rewarding to me to have a hand in those moments. But it was also not really where my true career passions were.
So after doing some soul searching, I moved over to the Human Resources side of the company, which led me to my current role.
Finding my calling in helping Students and Grads
Even since my school days, I felt a calling to help others and focus on diversity and inclusion.
I loved the idea that in Human Resources (HR), our product is people and we have to make sure everyone is thriving and feels able to bring their full selves to work.
It is incredibly rewarding to do this work while also growing my own skills and abilities to handle new situations.
I took on leadership of our student and graduate recruiting programs in 2018, and have greatly enjoyed the transformations and exciting growth I have been able to oversee.
Being a graduate hire myself when I started at Capital One, I know firsthand how important these roles are for new professionals coming out of school and beginning their careers.
Through the work we’ve done to streamline the programs and evolve them to reach more students from all types of schools and experiences, we can continue bringing together diverse perspectives and new approaches.
This helps everyone find their place and feel valued for the work they contribute to drive innovation.
Ultimately, I love that I get to make a huge difference for these new hires and ensure they have the best experience possible, whether it’s an internship, a rotational program, or the next step in their career.
I have learned many lessons in my career but here are the top 4 I have carried with me throughout my 20 years at Capital One:
1. Never be afraid to dive into a new experience, you never know where it may lead you.
I never expected to spend 20 years or make 3 different career moves with Capital One when I first started here.
But as soon as I was a part of the organisation and saw how much support and growth opportunity there was without having to leave the company, I knew it was a place I wanted to invest my time and self into.
2. Focus on the moment you’re in and give your all to the job you currently have.
Don’t lose sight of your current job when you’re considering a new role.
You want to leave a great impression behind, so keep your work strong in the meantime.
3. Keep making connections and maintaining them.
You never know how much you’ll be able to rely on and collaborate with those you meet in your journey or how you can help them.
Always be open to making new connections and keeping in touch so you have a strong and active network, be sure people know they can count on you.
4. It’s not who you know, but who knows you.
Make sure your work is seen by peers and leaders and you speak up to share your insights. You never know who is watching or listening.
Making sure your impact is noticed and seen will help you feel confident in your skills and make connecting with others easier, as they’re aware of the great work you do.
My career has led me down a rewarding and exciting path with many great experiences and chances to grow personally and professionally.
Keeping an eye out for the next opportunity that excited me, while making sure to continually deliver impactful work in my roles helped me to build this career that I love.
Ultimately, following my passion to serve others has helped me find a career that brings me the most meaning and satisfaction.
To others looking for their career fit, I say keep exploring your passions and things that excite you. You’ll find the right role, often when you’re not expecting to.
*Cinthia Lopez is a Vice President at Capital One who has served in US Card, Financial Services and Human Resources.
This article first appeared at fairygodboss.com