Jodi Hall is the founder of DandaRoad Consulting, a company that provides strategic advice focusing on mortgage technology for lenders and tech companies through strategic management and execution education, process automation and business coaching. Jodi is the former president and chief operating officer of Nationwide Mortgage Bankers Inc. and she is currently based in Cambridge Ohio.
Jodi grew up in Summerfield, a small farming community in southeast Ohio. She credits her upbringing with giving her a strong work ethic and giving her a grounded and community-based approach to life. She recalls her parents and grandparents as being the hardest working people she knows, and that example has been a guiding principle for her in her life and career.
How did you get your start in the mortgage industry? Jodi Hall: I was a graduate student at John Carroll University in 1999 working as a graduate assistant and making $400 a month. I needed to make a better salary, so I attended a job fair at the university and was recruited by Ameriquest Mortgage.
Two weeks later I was handed a 10-inch-thick binder of training documents and a phone book and instructed to study in the morning and make cold calls out of the white pages in the afternoon and evening.
I hadn’t really considered the mortgage industry before that, but necessity led the industry to find me.
What does being a trailblazer mean to you? JH: I think being a trailblazer means being the first person to be willing to step out and take a risk. It takes courage and determination, but it shows others that the path is open and able to be traversed.
When I was a kid, I played baseball on the boys team. It wasn’t something girls usually did, and I was the first. I simply asked and insisted on being allowed and they let me. In my mind, there was no reason that I shouldn’t play for a team just because I was a female.
Later in my teen years, I again set a precedent when I went to work at the local marina. Traditionally, they had the girls waitressing at the restaurant and the boys pumping gas and working on the docks. I didn’t want to waitress, so I asked to work the docks. Again, I lobbied successfully and was given the job that appealed to me, regardless of what gender was usually hired there. It never occurred to me that my being a girl would be a barrier to the job I wanted. I suspect that confidence translated to me being able to set my own rules in the game.
I have continued to push those boundaries in my working life. I am always looking for the next opportunity and I don’t limit myself based on my gender. I think that is what being a trailblazer is defined as. Being confident enough to be the first and not letting unreasonable obstacles stand in your way.
“No one gets an iron-clad guarantee of success. Certainly, factors like opportunity, luck, and timing are important. But the backbone of success is usually found in old-fashioned, basic concepts like hard work, determination, good planning, and perseverance.”
Where do you see yourself and women in general in the industry over the next five years? JH: I see myself continuing to chase my goal of playing a part in revolutionizing the way the mortgage industry does business. I want to be an influence on the next generation of industry leaders and shape the way they see technology and innovation driving the business to grow. When I am retired and sitting sipping a bourbon on the porch at my farm, I want to be able to feel proud of my role in shaping the way the mortgage industry has embraced technology like AI that takes the mindless, repetitive tasks away and let us focus our energy on serving our clients better and in a faster, more efficient way.
I see women being leaders in this drive to improve the way the industry works. We are present in every facet of the business now and our ideas, energy and passion are being recognized and valued. I want to see that trend continue as more and more young women immerse themselves in technology and the huge part it will play in growing business into the future.
What is your professional superpower? JH: Grit, passion, and perseverance are the cornerstones of what I do every day. My superpower is never giving up or letting an obstacle get in my way. I see them as challenges to be met, conquered, and learned from. I have never considered myself to be the smartest person in the room, but there are very few who can match my drive when I am working toward a goal.
Tell us something about your career in the mortgage industry that was pivotal to your achievements today. JH: The most pivotal part of my career was a failure. When I was at Novastar Mortgage, I worked my way up from processor to underwriter, operations supervisor and on to regional ops manager. When the subprime market started to unravel, my employer decided to remove a layer of regional management. Instead of letting me go outright, they decided to let me interview for a higher supervisor’s position. I did, and I was not selected.
My ego was badly bruised, and I thought about walking away. Then they offered me a position as an underwriter. I put on my big girl pants, took the job and as soon as the opportunity arose, I asked to be trained as an account executive. They agreed and I made Sales Rookie of the Year within the next year.
I took my endless determination and channeled disappointment into an opportunity. That experience further fueled my drive to move up and forward no matter what roadblocks popped up in my way.
What advice would you give to a woman entering or trying to move up in their mortgage career? JH: The most important thing is to start. Get your foot in the door and don’t take no for an answer until you reach your goals. You will work hard and have doubts but don’t let those take hold in your mind. You are good enough, smart enough, and deserving of success. Let your passion support your perseverance and just keep going.
What does success mean to you? JH: I feel successful when I know I have helped another leader grow into their role and work towards fulfilling their mission. I feel specific success when that mission is one that I too am passionate about.
I once hired a person that I thought I had made a mistake with. But after a business coach and I worked with this person, and they made the effort to study and learn, I watched them speak up in an executive meeting and voice their concerns about a potential solution to a problem we were having. I was immensely proud and that made me realize what success was in my mind.
From the day of that meeting, this person continued to learn and grow and, I think, surpassed me in their strength of leadership of our team. Their success was my success and very satisfying.
I feel successful when I know I have helped another leader grow into their role and work towards fulfilling their mission.
What do you enjoy doing outside of our industry? JH: I love getting home and spending time with my wife and our pets. We have a farm in southeastern Ohio, and I enjoy working on the land and looking after our horses.
On weekends, you can usually find me cutting trails in the woods with a chainsaw and riding our horses or ATV’s.
I also adore being Aunt Jojo to my nieces and nephew.
How do you recommend navigating change in an industry that is always changing and growing? JH: You must always be learning and growing but also looking forward to what the industry is going to look like in the future. Like in a game of hockey, its important for the winger to head to where the puck is going to be and not where it is.
Spending the time to pivot and adapt to changes on the fly is the only way to keep things moving ahead and keeping up with the pace of change in business today.
Accept your failures, learn, and move on. Dwelling on what went wrong instead of studying it and using it to make changes to your approach is a waste of precious time. If you fear failing, you’ll never have the courage to try.
Do you think it’s important to have a mentor? JH: Absolutely. I don’t always want to be the trailblazer or the first to try something. It can get tiring being the one in the front all the time, so I like to lean on my mentors for advice and guidance when I need them.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers so bouncing ideas off someone you trust and admire can be a relief and a very effective way of avoiding issues you might not want to have to tackle on your way to a goal.
How do you want to be remembered in our industry? JH: I would like to be remembered as someone who made the industry better than I found it. I want home ownership to be more accessible to everyone and to be a mentor to those coming along behind me.
No one will remember the number of closes or how many companies you started and grew. They will remember how you made them feel when they asked for help or needed support. I want to be remembered for making my colleagues and team members feel valued, encouraged, and confident.
How do you find your voice? JH: First, figure out what makes you feel happy and useful. Next, start talking to anyone and everyone who will listen and share your ideas, concerns, and solutions. Don’t give up, even if you feel it is falling on deaf ears. Someone who can recognize your value will pay attention and be willing to work with you. Actions can also speak louder than words so be active in your pursuit of what you want to accomplish.
What’s your biggest fear and why? JH: My biggest fear is being complacent. No great achievement was ever recognized by sitting still and waiting. If I am not moving forward, I’m not happy.
I have never considered myself to be the smartest person in the room, but there are very few who can match my drive when I am working toward a goal.
What’s your favorite book or podcast that you would recommend and why? JH: I have two books that I highly recommend. “Fixed — How to Perfect the Fine Art of Problem Solving” by Amy E. Herman, and my all time favorite, “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.
The first book uses art to show us how we need to look at things differently and clean our lenses of bias for solutions to be sustainable.
The second one teaches how to lead. One of my goals is to strive to be a level 5 leader. I am a work in progress and the book is a wonderful guide and inspiration.
How do we propel more women into leadership roles within our industry? JH: We need to recognize that women are truly unique leaders in their own right.
I think women are less likely to let ego get in their way and will use empathy to work with their team and get great results. Women possess all the business sense, experience and negotiating skills that their male counterparts have and can use them just as effectively when given the opportunity.
Women’s servant leadership promotes a healthy work environment and culture that can drive performance and encourage those around them to strive to be their best.
Would you like to share anything else?
JH: Anything worth doing requires passion, drive, and perseverance. And it is just as important to enjoy the journey.
There will always be doubts and unfairness. You will hear “no” more than once in your career. Do not allow those things to deter you or damage your confidence. Learn from failures and obstacles and keep going. Use your leadership skills to move forward with persistence and grit and you will find success and be gratified by the effort.
This article was originally published in the Mortgage Women Magazine November 2023 issue.