I remember the first time I stepped into a bank when I was 8 years old. Before drive-throughs and electronic check deposits, I walked into a bank and watched a banker advise a customer about their financial needs. I immediately noticed how professional and put together the banker was, and the best part was that she was a woman! I remember thinking to myself I can do that. I told my mom immediately that I wanted to get a job in banking.
During my sophomore year in high school, we had career day and that impossible question was asked: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I had known the answer for years, so I proudly told the teacher that I was going to get a degree in finance and go into banking. He told me I should be more realistic, because being a minority woman in that industry wouldn’t give me a high chance of succeeding. I told him I had seen it with my own eyes, but he insisted on showing me other career options.
After this experience, that dream started to fade and I wondered if I would always be considered as less than my male counterparts. I wasn’t applying myself like before, my grades began to slip and my confidence quickly started to fade.
Thankfully, the next year, the school hired Malcolm, a new advisor who challenged me to not give up on my goals. Malcolm is Black and was able to connect with me in a way that other teachers could not. He told me to try Running Start, a program where I could take classes at the community college and receive both high school and college credits. From there, I didn’t look back.
This was my first true experience with mentorship and I can honestly say that he changed the trajectory of my life.
I went to college, obtained my degree in finance and my first job in banking. Eventually I went back to school for my MBA at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix (go Lopes!) and graduated with honors. The majority of my career has been in banking, from consumer finance to commercial finance focusing on a variety of industries. I’ve been with Chase Auto for 13 years. Chase Auto helps customers purchase cars they can afford, enables automotive dealers to sustain and grow their businesses and supports manufacturers with customized lending solutions. I felt at home in the auto industry from the beginning; dealerships are the heartbeat of the economy and the communities within which they serve, and the people are just amazing.
I am now an executive director in Dealer Commercial Services, supporting minority-owned dealerships. Less than 10 percent of dealerships across the U.S. are minority-owned, and in my role, I provide specific programs focused on financial literacy, industry insights and succession planning, advisory services and a full spectrum of financing capabilities to provide access to capital to these dealers. I am passionate about helping to close the wealth and knowledge gap of minority automotive dealers. The work we do is so much bigger than helping them buy a dealership. It’s about creating wealth for minorities for generations to come, which will help the auto industry and the nation become more inclusive.
After someone took a chance on me, I love paying it forward and helping others achieve their dreams.
I also make it a point to get involved within the community here in Phoenix by working with organizations like Arizona Black Chamber of Commerce, Valley of the Sun United Way and Girls on the Run Maricopa County. It’s critical to uplift and give our youth the tools that they need to find success and achieve their dreams. Sometimes all it takes is for you to listen, guide and support them to completely change their life.
I’ll admit that with each accom- plishment in my life, I think about that teacher who discouraged me and I wish I could tell him: “Look at me now!” Although I am in a White male-dominated industry and I have faced my fair share of discrimination, I am thankful to my personal and professional mentors who helped me believe in myself and not lose sight of my dreams and goals.
I will never let another person tell me I can’t do something because of my race or gender because I can. I am smart, I am powerful and I am resilient. So are you.
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I can vouch for the fact that Arabah is smart, powerful, and resilient and envisioned her career path at an early age. I am so grateful for mentors like Malcolm who encouraged my daughter to pursue her dreams! One proud mama!
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