How Jessica Ali Harnessed Relationships to Progress Her Career
No experience is wasted. Our past experiences enable us to draw from a deeper level of understanding and perspective. We had the chance to sit down with Bank of America's very own Jessica S Ali, whose career trajectory illustrates this. Her words and anecdotes further explain her journey into financial services, her opinions on internships, and the importance of Black role model visibility.
How the journey began
Ali's story begins in West Africa. "I was born and raised in Ghana. So my actual career journey started with local internships, which then led to further opportunities." In her third year of undergraduate studies, she interned at a leading financial institution within the HR department, setting a solid foundation for her financial career. "After that particular internship, I got the opportunity to study abroad in the US, and that was when the Bank of America internship came about. I applied to the London office and made it through." Five years later Jessica became a Business Support Associate, covering regulatory change and strategic initiatives for Markets and Banking.
Internships and their importance
With the combination of talent and ingenuity, she strategically leveraged internships and first-hand professional experience to gain career upward mobility. Despite having completed education at degree level, coupled with her internship experiences both in Ghana and abroad, she encourages those interested in internships to seize the opportunity. "Take every opportunity you get, whether it's a job, shadowing experience, take it." She advises that taking such chances helps to build resumes and expand. "It helps you identify the specific areas of the industry that you have an interest in and the best ways to navigate."
Black role model visibility
Ali’s story is the epitome of the value of Black role visibility. Building relationships and connections with other high-achieving Black professionals in Bank of America has been a catalyst in her development and professional growth. "Having the opportunity to see people that were doing great things, that also looked like me pushed me. It made me say if they can do all this, I can do it as well." The famous saying "You can't be what you can't see" is relevant here and shows how necessary it is to have a diverse range of professionals in any establishment.
Sponsorship vs Mentorship
Mentorship encourages and empowers career and skill development, whereas sponsorship consists of external investments in one's career. Whilst appreciating the importance of mentorship, Jessica puts forward her stance on sponsorship and why professionals should try their best to engage in both. "Think about what you want career-wise, ask yourself how do you want to grow in the next five years? That will help give clarity in the direction you go in." Knowing which direction you want to take will influence your decisions about what type of sponsorships one should look for.
Why Bank of America is your next best bet
Having amassed over five years of experience with Bank of America, Jessica has witnessed the bank's internal changes concerning diversity & inclusion. When asked what separates this investment bank from others and why BYP members should apply, she assuredly highlighted that Bank of America has moved, with the intention, providing opportunities for genuinely passionate individuals. "There has been a lot of growth for us, especially because we understand it's a recurring journey. We make room for conversations here and work with intentionality." She finishes off by proudly spotlighting the community like work culture at Bank of America. "The culture is great but it's also the people. When you work with people who are just as passionate about the change, it is important and also makes for a better experience."
To learn more about Bank of America or to apply for their upcoming roles, please visit their BYP jobs board here.