‘It’s a 24/7 kind of thing’: A day in the life of the Greenwood Project team
- The Greenwood Project is a nonprofit organization that aims to help Black and Latinx students pursue a career in finance.
- From interviewing candidates, to raising funds, to recruiting new students, here’s a day in the life of three of the people behind the Greenwood Project.
Slowly but still noticeably, the financial services industry is putting more of an effort into improving diversity in the sector.
The Greenwood Project is a nonprofit organization that introduces academically ambitious youth from underserved communities to careers in the financial industry. Since its inception in 2015, Black and Latinx high school and college aged youth have received training and exposure to careers within the financial industry. The college cohort has a 100% career placement record with 79% obtaining careers in trading, compliance, fintech roles, and more.
The founders of Greenwood are Elois and Bevon Joseph, both of whom come from careers in finance. Elois has two decades of experience as a trading and compliance professional. Bevon worked at Chicago Trading Company. He was a trading systems manager for five years. Before that, he worked in trading floor desktop support at ASI System Integration..
It was their experience as a “person of color in a not so colorful financial sector” that drew them to the idea of making a difference in the industry.
The idea of the organization itself came to them while sitting on their living room floor, playing with their one-year-old daughter.
“We were just talking about the different opportunities that she will have available to her once she's in college,” said Elois. “How our backgrounds, our network, and our work experience will afford our daughter opportunities that we didn't have when we were growing up.”
Elois, specifically, grew up in the West Side of Chicago, an area where the median household income is $32,000 annually.
“Resources were extremely underfunded,” said Elois. “Our school books were 20 years old, probably older.”
And so the two started brainstorming how they could bridge the gap between the financial sector and smart kids from underserved areas -- students who share similar experiences to Bevon and Elois’ upbringing.
“We said, ‘how can we support students who are academically ambitious and live in underserved neighborhoods?’”
They realized that if they wanted to change the system, they’d have to show students that there’s opportunity for change to begin with.
“You have to see it to be it,” said Elois. “Kids can't be what they can’t see.”
The Greenwood Project came about as a way to show these kids that there are opportunities available for them and that a career path in finance is not out of reach.
“We thought, well, what about if we take some of these kids to some of our friends’ companies and show them what a day in the life of a trader, or a financial engineer, or someone else working in the financial sector looks like.”
Today the organization has introduced over 300 students to career opportunities in finance.
On top of that, the team of two has doubled to a team of four, with Charles Turner, program coordinator, and Diane Rodriguez Rand, director of partnerships, now on board.
Here’s what a typical (pandemic-specific) day for the Greenwood Project team might look like, according to Bevon, Elois, and Diane:
Morning to noon: daughter starts e-learning, parents start e-working, and a 30-minute breakfast break
Elois: On a perfect day, our schedule will start off at about seven o'clock in the morning. So we get the kids up, and get our daughter ready for e-learning. Her classes start at 8:30, so that’s when we deal with some actual Greenwood Project work.
Bevon: We have a daughter in kindergarten. And kids are not in school right now in Chicago. So Elois helps her navigate the technology stuff.
Elois: Yeah, and then at nine o'clock, she gets a break. So that's breakfast for everyone. So we try to get breakfast done in 30 minutes. And then Bevon goes to his computer, and he's with our teammates, Diane and Charles. So while they’re working together, I branch off and tend 100% to the kids. And then at the end of the day, maybe 10 o’clock, is when I jump on and do Greenwood work, like checking emails and looking through some things Bevon has done throughout the day.
Bevon: It's pretty non-stop. And you know, some of this stuff is high priority. People are reaching out to us a lot. Like just this one morning, I woke up and the first email I saw was that I got nominated for a global award from the Thomas Long Foundation. So it’s stuff like that. They emailed me last Friday and said, “Hey, by 1pm, we need this,” and luckily I had Diane, who could write it up and send it over for me, because I was at a doctor’s appointment.
If I do turn off my phone completely for like, two, three hours, we might miss a bunch of really great opportunities as well. So, again-- it’s 24/7.
Afternoon: Lots of meetings, recruiting season, and embracing chaos
Diane: The types of meetings we might have throughout the day could be with corporate partners who help us by opening their doors to our interns. So we might be working with them to acquire the job descriptions that we're going to need to share with the students.
We might be working with an education partner, a university or a high school, since we have both college and high school programs. So we might be working with a network of high schools to get our message out to students that the applications are live on the website and that we're ready to take applications through February. So we might be coordinating that.
We might also be working at a governmental level to help folks understand what we're doing and maybe provide funding for the work that we do.
And then there are coalition groups -- industry groups, like Fintech in Action, that we work with, who have members who help us with internships and in other ways, so we might be working with them.
So it’s a lot.
Bevon: We're also in the peak of the recruiting season for Greenwood right now. So we are trying to recruit a lot of college students and a lot of high school students.
We’re also interviewing people for Greenwood itself. Right now, we’ve had close to 200 candidates apply for a recent job we’ve posted. So we're trying to figure out how to interview and screen all those candidates, as well.
And then lately, I've been doing a lot of presentations at high schools, colleges, and even companies or other organizations, so I'm almost like a salesperson now. So the afternoon period of the day has turned into the presentation type of stuff.
Elois: There's no way to have a set schedule, because things get thrown at us from each and every direction. We definitely respect our appointment times. But if we try to stick to a set schedule, there's no way things will get done. That's just how much comes at us.
And prior to having Diane and Charles on our team, we were working 23 hours out of the day, literally that much.
So now we're four people, it's still a lot. But when Bevon and I were doing this alone, it was very, very challenging.
Evening and night: Dinner, more to do in the background, and incorporating a baby’s sleep schedule
Elois: Right now, with us having the help of Charles and Diane, Bevon is actually able to join in with us for family time.
He's always been able to eat dinner with us, or at least try to, but then he would have to go right back off, and I would tend to the children.
So right now, because of the extra hands that we have on deck, we have a pretty normal evening, where there are still emails, there are still payments that have to get out, there are still presentations. But right now, Bevon has more time to actually be involved with the family.
And that's something that started last year. That was when we brought on Charles. Bevon actually had time to sit down and watch television with the family. And it was so nice to feel like a family and again.
But in our evenings, we’re still finalizing presentations, having meetings with our team, and just exchanging ideas. We respect and want to hear and welcome everybody's ideas and perspectives.
We also talk about what we have going on for the next day, and what we thought about a conversation or some meetings that we had during the day.
So I would look at evenings as a time for debriefing, planning, reorganizing, and tweaking.
Bevon: Yeah, and I would say, if I were to leave my phone, or my laptop in my office and not take them upstairs, then that's how we stop for the day.
But otherwise, I can look at my computer at any time of the day or night and there will be something to do.
Diane: And sometimes, they’re up in the middle of the night with the baby, you know. And so I’ll get up at 5:15 in the morning, and I'll look at my phone. And there's a note from Bevon because he’s been up in the middle of night with the baby and he's doing whatever he's doing. And he's also thinking about the Greenwood Project.
So yeah, it's a 24/7 kind of thing, which is great, because it requires a 24/7 kind of commitment.