Learn how Joana Nushi achieved her dream of home ownership

Nearly three years ago, Joana Nushi and her husband Armand moved to the United States from Albania. Shortly afterward, she found work as a teller at a local bank. Within a few months, she was promoted. But she longed to work at a larger bank where she would learn more about the banking business and start to build a career. So she left her job thinking that it would be easy to find another one. To her disappointment and surprise, she searched for weeks without getting an interview, much less an offer. In this interview, Joana explains how she came to Career Collaborative and how it changed her life. 

Q: How did you learn about Career Collaborative?

A: I was in the library which is where I would research job openings and I found a little note about Career Collaborative. I checked their website on Google and I began to feel hope. Their mission was simple but powerful. Help people like me to get a job that will bring joy, satisfaction and financial stability.

Q: How did you start?

A: I went there and met with a staffer who told me more about the program and I enrolled. A week later got a job offer from Citizens Bank as a Relationship Banker! I could have dropped out if I wanted to, but my new job training with Citizens wasn’t going to start for three weeks, and I didn’t want to leave Career Collaborative so quickly. So I decided to finish the whole program.

Q: Was it worth it?

A: Yes, I really enjoyed it. I learned so many things that I never would have otherwise, like financial literacy and budgeting, salary negotiation, and even networking. I met so many interesting people from different backgrounds.

Q: What was one of the most helpful things you learned at Career Collaborative?

A: I’m very proud to say that I can walk in and out of an interview fully confident. Their practice interviews are gold. I know exactly what recruiters are looking for and I know how to deliver it. They taught me the most valuable lesson ever: The art of making a deal.

Q: It’s been a year since you completed the program at Career Collaborative. How are things going?

A: After careful consideration, which included talking with my coach at Career Collaborative, I have accepted a new challenge and additional responsibilities by accepting a Branch Supervisor position in another bank. While my decision was a tough one to make, I am sure that my new role better fits the career path I am looking to follow. In five years, I would like to be a wealth manager. This new position will provide me the experience and skills to get such a position.

Q: What advice would you give someone who is looking to build a career but isn’t quite sure where to start?

A: For anybody that is looking for a job I want to say be bold and believe in yourself and call Career Collaborative. I have referred so many friends and all of them got a great job and turned their life around. Even my husband was part of that program! Give them a shot and they will show you that, no matter where you come from or what culture you represent, you can still  find a job that will fulfill you. I can’t thank them enough for what they do. At Career Collaborative you will meet a great team that is there to help you succeed. You are not alone—Career Collaborative will change your life.

Q: Aside from your new job and your confidence, what’s the biggest change in your life since coming to Career Collaborative?

A: I will celebrate Christmas in my own house this year! Buying a house was a goal of mind and I’m proud to say I’ve achieved it!

Career Collaborative holds informational sessions every Thursday at 1pm at our office at 77 Summer Street, Boston. Anyone who wishes to learn more about our three-phase program and two years of post-job career coaching are welcome to attend.


Taking teamwork seriously

Steve Vittorioso has been a volunteer at Career Collaborative since May 2017, serving as a class instructor for our evening Job Readiness and Job Search Course, which we launched last year with funding from Robert Kraft. He’s taught participants how to prepare for job interviews, negotiate salaries, and—perhaps most valuable—how to network, among other important lessons.

What Vittorioso loves most about teaching Career Collaborative participants is the diversity of their experiences and their deep motivation to jumpstart their careers. In teaching a cohort of Job Readiness and Job Search Course participants last fall, for example, Vittorioso enjoyed seeing the growth in his students’ confidence and their willingness to do the hard work of landing a job.

“They were so motivated and so excited to take on new opportunities and new challenges and share themselves with everyone,” said Vittorioso. “It made teaching a three-hour course more like having a three-hour conversation because they were just so passionate, so excited to talk about experiences with job interviewing and what are some dos and don'ts there.”

Vittorioso came to volunteer at Career Collaborative through our community partnership with Bullhorn, a firm that develops software for staffing and recruitment firms. The company, which was founded by Art Papas, the chair of our board of directors, has generously supported our work financially and through the volunteer efforts of employees like Vittorioso. The 33-year-old is Bullhorn’s senior media relations manager.

After joining the company in 2016, when Vittorioso learned about Bullhorn Cares, its corporate philanthropy initiative and the work it was doing with Career Collaborative, he says he knew immediately that he “wanted to get involved because giving back to the community is something that's so important.”

On a more personal level Vittorioso was drawn to the opportunity to be a volunteer teacher because two years ago he tragically lost a cousin who was very active in her community and devoted much of her volunteer work to tutoring others. “So this was a great way for me to help carry on her legacy and her spirit, and it's really been a truly rewarding journey,” said Vittorioso.

It's a journey through which Vittorioso has also been a learner.

“I’ve learned that it takes everybody in society to come together and flourish,” Vittorioso said. “In order to make our community a better place, we can’t leave anyone behind. Everyone has to be involved. This whole experience has sparked my passion for teamwork, partnership, and collaboration."

Meet Robert F. Smith—Our 2018 Leadership Breakfast Keynote Speaker

Today he’s a billionaire businessman and philanthropist who makes the cover of Forbes and is the subject of lengthy profiles in the New York Times and the Washington Post. But Robert F. Smith knows, as do our successful program participants, how important persistence and making a good impression are to one’s career.

Growing up in Denver, CO, the son of public school teachers, Smith became interested in computer science after taking a course as a high school junior. He contacted Bell Labs, which had a research facility nearby, and asked if they offered internships. The company did, Smith was told, but only for college seniors. Undeterred, Smith called Bell Labs every day for two weeks to ask for an internship interview. When the human resources director stopped taking his calls on day two, he simply left messages with a receptionist. After two weeks of unreturned calls, Smith changed tactics and began calling every Monday, dutifully leaving his name and number. Five months later, Bell finally called him back when an MIT student failed to show up for their internship. They needed Smith to start right away. He wound up sharing an office with a chemical engineer who would become his mentor.

“The persistence to get that job led to me working at Bell Labs for the next four years, becoming a coop student, and ultimately finishing with a degree in chemical engineering from Cornell,” Smith said in a 2015 commencement address at American University. “All from being persistent.”

We’re thrilled that Smith will be the keynote speaker at our 2018 Leadership Breakfast on Oct. 12. The annual event highlights the impact of our program, and celebrates the hard work and contributions of our participants, volunteers, and supporters.

Smith is the founder, chairman and chief executive of Vista Equity Partners, an investment firm with over $30 billion in capital commitments that specializes in buying, growing, and selling off software companies. Under Smith’s leadership Vista has become known for its unique hiring practices: rather than recruiting tech savants from the ranks of the Ivy League, Vista looks for workers who demonstrate leadership potential and innate analytical skills using a personality test that gauges technical and social skills along with interest in the arts and humanities. The result, as the New York Times noted, is that Vista jobs often go to unlikely candidates who turn out to be very successful:

“One of Vista’s best software salesmen used to be a roofer. Another previously worked at a Verizon store, and went to making $240,000 a year, from $22,000. In Iowa, a pizza deliveryman took the Vista aptitude test, got an A, and was offered a job paying $43,000 annually.”

“I look for a complete package. When someone is a complete package, they are more engaged, more excited, more passionate about what they are doing,” Smith explained to the the Washington Post of his hiring practices.

Smith is also a social-justice minded philanthropist with a particular interest in creating opportunities for women and African Americans. He attracted a great deal of attention for his $20 million gift to the Museum of African American History and for becoming the first African American to sign the Giving Pledge, in which he committed to contributing half his net worth to philanthropic causes during his lifetime. Through his Fund II Foundation, Smith donated $27 million to the Susan G. Komen organization, which funds research into the cure and prevention of breast cancer, and contributed $50 million to an effort to increase the enrollment of women and minorities at Cornell’s College of Engineering.

In addition to his business and philanthropic ventures, Smith serves as chairman of Carnegie Hall—the first African American to hold the post—and chairman of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. 

We’re excited to learn more about Smith’s inspiring story and learn more about what it takes to build a successful career—no matter our educational background or experience. We hope you are, too! Tickets and sponsorships are available online. Or you can be in touch with our Executive Director Susan Yule if you have any questions. See you in October!

Experienced finance executive pays it forward

Heidi Lewis Ivey has been a Career Collaborative volunteer for nearly eight years, preparing participants for job interviews, presenting during Lunch and Learn sessions, and leading business learning workshops. 

Heidi found Career Collaborative while working at Bank of New York Mellon, where she was a vice president of investment manager services and looking for opportunities to mentor young women just starting out in the banking industry. As a Black woman in a profession overwhelmingly populated by white men, she faced additional obstacles to success outside of the simple challenges of the work.

“I really wanted to help a Black woman just starting out who could learn from my experiences so they wouldn’t have to walk the same route I walked,” Heidi says. 

As a VP, Heidi was well positioned to offer someone else the guidance and mentoring she lacked as a young professional. While she never did find an organization that matches experienced businesswomen with younger women, she did find Career Collaborative, where she has not only had the chance to work with Black women but has found “the opportunity to work with people of all races and ethnicities to be incredibly fulfilling.”

The Career Collaborative approach to career readiness also matches Heidi’s. “What I really like about the program is that the people who come to Career Collaborative have to do the work to succeed,” says Heidi, who is now a business engagement manager at Wells Fargo. “I’m a firm believer in the old saying that if you give a man a fish he'll eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish he'll eat for life.” 

That work—teaching people the skills they need to achieve independence through a career—is something Heidi excels at. She recalls a recent coaching session with a woman who had an excellent résumé and in-demand skills. “I really couldn’t figure out why she didn’t have a job,” says Heidi, noting that program participants sometimes need assistance explaining gaps in their work history or coaching on how to demonstrate that they’re qualified for a job—but that wasn’t the case with this woman.

As they went through the mock interview, Heidi asked why she had left her last position. With that question, “everything about her changed,” says Heidi. “Her facial expressions changed, her body language changed, and I knew there was a story behind why she left the previous position.”

So Heidi stopped the interview and asked what had happened. The woman confided that she had made a mistake that resulted in her firing. “I listened to her story and I said to her, ‘You're going to have to deal with that. You're going to have to go home, sit with it, come to terms with it and figure out a response because as soon as I asked you the question everything about you changed.” 

Heidi also told her that her inability to explain why she had left her last job was preventing her from getting a new one. “I told her that while she was saying one thing her body language was saying something else.” 

Heidi also discussed the woman’s plight with the career counselors at Career Collaborative, explaining that the woman’s inability to reckon with her firing was holding her back. They also strategized with Heidi about ways to help, and shortly after that breakthrough the woman landed a new job. 

Given her enthusiasm for helping others jumpstart their careers, it’s not surprising to learn that in addition to traditional volunteer tasks, Heidi also served as a mentor to a Career Collaborative participant, meeting with her monthly after she finished the program until the woman moved from Boston.  Heidi was thrilled to attend her mentee’s college graduation from New College of Business and Finance, in 2012.

In her role as a business engagement manager, Heidi manages Wells Fargo’s technology projects pipeline, ensuring that lines of businesses get funding for their projects. When she’s not reviewing funding pitches, Heidi often spends time engaging her colleagues in Career Collaborative volunteer projects. In the coming weeks a group of co-workers will present “Hands on Banking,” a Wells Fargo program that teaches the basics of personal financial management, such as budgeting and the proper use of credit.

She also talks up the organization every chance she gets. “I tell everybody I know about Career Collaborative, and each time somebody says they're looking for a job or they need help, Career Collaborative is the first place I recommend,” she says. 

Returning to the workforce and landing a job

Tata Sanor is a housekeeper at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital in Jamaica Plain, a job she obtained after completing our four-week Job Readiness Training course.

Prior to her enrollment, Sanor (pictured left with Career Collaborative instructor Maddy Lawson) was a full time stay-at-home mother. Though she was serious about finding employment outside the home, she was initially skeptical about spending four weeks to prepare for her job search.

“I was like, oh my goodness, a month to take a class? Just to get a job? I said, that’s too much,” recalled Sanor.

Nonetheless, she visited Career Collaborative to learn more and came away impressed by the enthusiasm of the people she met. “That gave me courage to come back,” said Sanor, who decided to apply to enroll in the course.

Sanor does not regret her decision. By the third week of the Job Readiness course, she said, “I didn’t want to leave. It was so enjoyable.” Sanor singled out instructor Maddy Lawson for being particularly helpful. “She taught me a lot, to be honest,” said Sanor. “As a teacher, I learned a lot from her.”

Having been on only one job interview, Sanor said the job interview training was invaluable. “Today, I’m very grateful and very happy. Every week they taught me how to talk to people, how to do the interview [and] you know, practice,” she said. “It helped me a lot.”

Indeed, Sanor strikes a note of confidence when discussing her interview at Brigham and Women’s, noting how she impressed the person who is now her boss, along with the hospital’s human resources staff.

“I went there one time [and] I got a job,” she said. “It was not difficult at all.”

Sanor has some advice for others who may have doubts about committing to Career Collaborative’s approach to building a life-changing career: give it a try, because the benefits are worth it.

“I’m working hard. And I get my check every week, so that’s great,” said Sanor, smiling. “And my advice is to never give up. Come, take the class, give [it] a shot, just try your best, and you’re going to get a result.”