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Career Story: From Ballerina to Finance Leader

Amanda Harper made the unusual jump from ballet to banking. As she made the transition, she learned dance provided her with many transferable skills. Once she noticed them, she was able to bring the same love she had for dance into her banking career.

 

 

Amanda Harper (Director of Servicing Strategy, Capital One) spent her entire childhood and early adult life obsessing over dance. Her passion for it was “baked into her soul”. She joined her first professional company at the age of 16 and continued to build her life around dancing into her twenties. But then, the door to her ballet career closed. She was without purpose and direction for the first time.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do for the rest of my life. I spent every waking moment up until then being a ballerina.”

She had no choice but to turn away from the only thing she ever knew. She decided to go to school and landed a role as a call center agent at Capital One after graduating. As a newcomer in the world of banking—an industry with seemingly no similarities or connections to dancing—Amanda concluded that she needed to rebuild herself and her approach to work.

 

Here are a few of the lessons she learned as she made her transition from ballet to banking.

 

1. Advocate for yourself.

While doing her job as a call center associate, Amanda noticed another team that was at the forefront of caring for customers. She was captivated by their work and applied to join them when a position opened. Disappointingly, she didn’t get the job, but that didn’t stop her. When her upset subsided, she let her leader know what her goal was and asked what she needed to do to get there.

As a result, members of that team started sending her work that they did. In between taking calls, she learned and practiced with the materials they sent. When a role opened again, Amanda landed it.

“This was the first time I learned I can ask for the things I want, and there are, surprisingly, a ton of people that are willing to help.”

 

2. Always show up. You never know who’s watching.

While attending a 3 day interactive certification workshop, Amanda couldn’t help but let her excitement and passion shine through. As groups worked to solve problems together, she confidently took the lead and guided her team with enthusiasm. When the event ended, she was approached by an attendee she didn’t know. He took notice of her work ethic and wanted her to join the team he led. She created a great opportunity for herself without being aware of it.

“He didn’t know anything about me. But, during those three days, he had watched the way I showed up. He watched how I interacted with others, communicated with them. I was building a brand in that session that I didn’t even know I was building.”

 

3. Don’t shut out the things you’re passionate about.

When Amanda walked away from dance, she decided not to look back. She didn’t speak about her life as a ballerina or share the enthusiasm for her former career with any of her colleagues. Then, she met a mentor who had two daughters that danced. The pair talked about it and Amanda opened up about her love for ballet. As she talked about it more and more, she realized that the worlds of financial services and dance weren’t entirely different. In both, she failed forward and needed to learn quickly, had to listen carefully, and actively communicate.

By finally embracing her past, she was able to build a bridge between ballet and banking. That bridge allowed her to bring all the love that she had for dance into her role at Capital One. She encourages others to embrace their paths saying, “Your path is really important and the things you learned on that path play a big role in where you are today.”

 

Hear Amanda tell her story in the video above.