Welcome to Refinery29's Why I Do It, a series where we ask inspirational, successful people 29 questions about what fuels them on and off the clock. Because, let's face it: life is about so much more than chasing inbox zero.
Kristina Sicard is *busy.* As a senior business consultant at JPMorgan Chase, she works one-on-one with minority entrepreneurs to help them scale their business by coaching and mentoring them on areas like getting access to capital, navigating cash flow, developing a solid business structure, assembling a team of advisors, and more. “The most rewarding aspect of my job is getting to work with folks who look like me and helping them be successful,” Sicard says. “There are racial and socioeconomic disparities that affect communities of color, so to be given an opportunity where we can help repair some of those issues, level the playing field, and create an inclusive global economy, is amazing and really important.” Here's why she does it.
What’s the very first thing you do when you wake up? I think about the goals I have for the day, so I can come up with a plan of action.
What’s the last thing you do before you go to bed? I’m into self-care these days, so I’ll put on an inspirational YouTube video (like Abraham Hicks) or a podcast before I go to bed.
Power nap or power workout? I'm on my self-care journey, so power workout.
Early bird or night owl? Retired night owl. I find myself waking up at 5 a.m., and I’ve embraced it, and now I try to go to bed early.
How many unread emails do you have in your inbox right now? About five.
Iced coffee or hot coffee? Hot coffee.
What’s your favorite thing that you keep on your desk or work space? My jade elephant. My colleague brought this back from Japan and it represents luck, prosperity, and good health. I love it, and I always keep it on my desk facing straight ahead.
When was the last time you felt like a success? Last year, Chase for Business sponsored a home-buying seminar event with Earn Your Leisure. I was a business keynote speaker and held an hour-long dissertation on the power of capital in front of a crowd of about 1,500 people. It’s so amazing how, even last week, people have walked up to me and said, “Hey, I saw you speak at this event.” That was a really big milestone for me. It’s an honor to help businesses access funding to make their dreams come true, and I get really excited about educating business owners on how to expand their access to credit and ways to scale their business.
What do you do on those days when you don’t feel that confident? I try to remember some of the high points in my career, like being recognized as a National Achiever, where top-performing bankers across the country get to travel to our annual national conference and partake in a weekend of fun activities, interactions, and meetings with our leadership team, including Jamie Dimon [JPMorgan Chase’s CEO]. I also think about my wins with my clients. For example, my client Lorraine Beharo of GlowRX Skincare said, “You really poured into me and you gave me hope and courage to keep going when I was ready to give up,” which was so special to me. Whenever I'm feeling down, thinking about my clients makes me feel confident about myself and reminds me why I do this every day.
What’s one thing you do every day, without fail? I give gratitude for all my accomplishments. I write down a couple of things that I'm grateful for.
What’s something you wish you did every day? I have recently started posting more on LinkedIn, but it’s something I wish I did more and something I’m working on. I want to share more of my financial and business knowledge with people.
What’s your favorite piece of advice that you’ve gotten? The importance of time management and to come up with a plan early on. It's something that has helped me a lot in my career, and it’s also something that helps my clients learn how to prioritize things in order to see results.
What’s your least favorite piece of advice that you’ve gotten? Someone once told me to do a job interview, even though I probably wouldn’t get the job. I ended up getting the job anyway, but I think it’s a lesson I learned: to not ever let people put you down. Always go for what you want, no matter how high other people may think the aspiration is. You have to know your worth and do what’s best for you.
Who inspires you the most? I'm inspired by so many people. I have two aunts — one’s on my dad’s side, one’s on my mom’s side. One's an actress and I'm inspired by her successful career in Hollywood. My other aunt immigrated here from Haiti, and she became a nurse, went into real estate with my uncle, and was able to retire in her early 50s. I'm inspired by people like Thasunda Duckett, who used to be the CEO of the retail bank at Chase and is proof that you can authentically show up as yourself in the C-suite and run a business.
Who, if anyone, do you try to emulate? My grandmother. She came to America from Panama and became a career woman. She was the first woman of color to buy a home in her neighborhood. She was able to provide and be a really strong matriarch to the family. She would still come home, cook, and have Thanksgiving dinner ready before noon. She made it look so easy.
What’s something people ask you for advice about often? Everyone always asks about access to capital. How can they get more money? What I say: If you want to get access to capital, you need to build relationships. And the starting point is to have a conversation with business consultants like myself at Chase. I am one of 50 consultants across the country that provides free one-on-one coaching and mentorship to minority business owners to help them understand their financial picture, how to access capital, and develop their business. Depending on the stage of business our clients are in, we’ve been able to help them leverage many of our Special Purpose Credit products, which have increased credit approvals in targeted zip codes. We've helped them manage cash flow issues with some of our Chase Ink cards, along with becoming certified as minority-owned companies to gain access to corporate diversity supplier programs that have set aside spending for minority vendors. Get to know your bankers, know your goals, and figure out how you can get your business to where it needs to go. There’s a lot of opportunity to learn and find resources and capital, whether it’s through a bank, angel investors, crowdfunding, or grants — you just need to go out there and network.
What’s a piece of advice you felt proud to give? What I already stated: The opportunity is there. The world is everyone's oyster, and you just need to come up with the plan, find the right support team — a great banker, lawyer and accountant — think through next steps, and then execute it. Don't give up.
What is your most-used app on your phone? Instagram.
Where do you put your phone while you’re sleeping? On my nightstand.
What do you do when you feel yourself burning out? Plan a vacation.
What’s something you consider a secret weapon? My gift of gab.
Where are you, compared to where you thought you’d be at 12 years old? I thought I would be a civil rights attorney. A banker and an attorney aren’t too far from each other, in that both professions are about working one-on-one with people and being their advisors, so I'm on par with where I thought I would be. I’m coaching clients on how to grow and scale their businesses every day.
If you could change one thing about your professional life, what would it be? Similar to many small business owners, I sometimes feel like there are not enough hours in the day. So, I guess I would tell my boss to give me an assistant.
What’s been your biggest pieces of support, helping you get to where you are? Much like the support I give to my clients to reach their goals, I have had sponsors who support me in achieving my career dreams. I've had several sponsors in my firm — people who believed in me and gave me an opportunity to get to the next level. Coming into business banking, Frank Apollo helped me achieve my career goals. And when I transitioned from New York to D.C., my director at the time, Hasan Mannan, believed in me, and I was the first business relationship manager to transfer from New York to what we call our expansion market. At that time, Chase was in 28 states and now we're in 48 states. He gave me an opportunity to grow my career, and it was the best move I've ever made. Having key sponsors is really important for people to seek out — mentors who can support you, provide you with resources, and push you forward, especially in rooms that you're not in. As a mentor, it is my goal to create impact with all of my clients and have them walk away a little, if not a lot, better than when they started.
What do you do to start your workday? Play some music, have a cup of tea, look to see what’s going on in the world, and then start my day.
What do you do to end your workday? Lately, a workout to close out my day. Or watch something on YouTube or scroll through Instagram.
What's the last song you listened to? “Cuff It” remix by Beyoncé — I just came from her concert.
What’s the last photo in your favorites folder on your phone? My sister's wedding.
If you could go back and do one thing differently in your career path, what would it be? As a mentor and business consultant I always tell my clients to shoot for the stars and to not let doubts set them back. Earlier in my career, I could have taken this advice better myself, but I'm quite happy with where I landed.