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Make Way For The Headway Maven

Nancy Obando Rises Above Expectations In Her Climb Up Industry

Headshot of Laura Brandao
Laura Brandao
Nancy Obando

This issue I had the pleasure of speaking to Nancy Obando. Based in Palos Verdes, Calif., she is the senior vice president of strategic products for Mountain West Financial.

Nancy came from a background where women were not expected to work in the business world, but rather to marry, have children, and look after a home and husband. Those were the expectations for her growing up, but she learned early on that she wanted more in her life. She has worked hard and overcome many obstacles, both internal and external, to achieve the success she enjoys today.

How did you get your start in the mortgage business?
Nancy: I started as a bank teller. The manager of my branch saw something in me and the way I did my job and promoted me to a position as a banker. He felt I had a knack for sales and would do well working directly with the customers to help them navigate their financial matters.

From there, I had a client of the bank convince me that I should come and work for him at his real estate construction company. I was the office manager and enjoyed the work immensely. In 2007, however, the real estate market fell into turmoil, and I moved on to a position at Union Bank as an assistant in the mortgage department.

Despite the problems in the residential real estate market, the refinancing business picked up significantly, and I was now learning in a new role in the finance industry. I also found I had a great interest in being a loan originator.

I noticed there was a gap in the originator market that had created an underserviced market of low- to middle-income earners and first-time homebuyers. None of the big lenders wanted to work with these segments, but I saw a need. This could be something I would be passionate about, so I stepped in with both feet.

During the intervening years, I had my two sons, and I kept my hat in the ring working with several real estate associations which were committed to the niche in the market I was interested in. I managed to build a solid network of connections, and it was through that network that I found myself being offered the position I am in today with Mountain West Financial in charge of developing new products and strategy.

What does being a trailblazer mean to you?
Nancy: I like to use the term “headway maven.” I coined that phrase while giving a presentation to a group of industry leaders not long ago.

A headway maven is someone who leads the way along a new path and creates a trail for others to follow by taking risks and reaching for opportunities. She also is someone who overcomes her own obstacles to reach for a goal or dream. By setting that example for those following her, she can provide a valuable learning opportunity and one that lets them know they aren’t alone in the feeling that they are attempting a difficult climb.

> Maya Angelou

Where do you see yourself and women in general in the industry over the next five years?
Nancy: I want to see many more women in leadership roles in our industry. The progress is there, but it needs to continue and to grow. There is much more work to be done to convince women that not only do they have the skills and the drive to advance, but that they are fully capable of earning their place as leaders and the only thing holding them back in most cases is their own fear and doubt.

For myself, I am working toward finding myself a seat at the table in the C-suite and using that position to encourage and support other women toward their goals in their chosen career.

What is your professional superpower?
Nancy: My professional superpower is strategy. I am a person who loves a challenge, and there is nothing more challenging than being handed a problem and working to figure out the best way to resolve it.

I am committed in my daily job to determining what our clients’ needs are and developing products and services that meet and exceed those needs.

Nancy Obando Asian Real Estate Association of America
Nancy Obando speaks at an Asian Real Estate Association of America Foundation fundraising gala in Denver. She is secretary for the AREAA Foundation.

Tell us something about your career in the mortgage industry that was pivotal to your achievements today.
Nancy: For me, having mentors and a solid network of clients, colleagues and others in our industry was instrumental in getting where I am. Developing and maintaining a support network of people you trust to give you sound advice and constructive feedback, whether positive or negative, is a critical part of success in this and any industry.

Both having and being a mentor are incredibly important in any career.

A mentor can help you identify and augment your strengths but also note your weaknesses and areas that you can work to improve upon. Having someone to offer you a unique or different perspective on a problem can provide insight and solutions you might never have thought of.

Being a mentor is of equal importance. I work with an organization called Mana de San Diego, which helps young Latina women with applications for jobs, school and teaches them about the fundamentals of things like writing a good resume or how to approach an employer to ask for better compensation.

For many young women, asking for what they deserve is something they do not know how to do, nor, in many cases, do not think they have earned. It is no accident that women generally make less money than men or are offered fewer opportunities.

Part of the issue is that women are more likely to accept what they are offered rather than speak up and ask for what they are truly entitled to. Being a mentor to young women and encouraging them to ask and receive what they have truly earned is empowering and satisfying.

What advice would you give to a woman entering or trying to move up in their mortgage career?
Nancy: The first person you need to lead is you. Taking responsibility for your success and failure and being willing to accept feedback and learn from it are all critical components of moving forward and getting noticed when promotions are due.

Building and maintaining a strong network of supportive and trustworthy people will also be vital for you as you move through your career. You should have people in your circle who will give you critical and encouraging advice as needed and have your best interests at heart when giving you that advice. Not only will this help increase your confidence but can help you to avoid decisions that might not be as beneficial to you.

What does success mean to you?
Nancy: For me, success means happiness. All the money and accolades in the world are meaningless if you aren’t truly happy with what you are doing, who you are with, and how you are contributing to your organization and to society.

I am grateful every day for the work I am doing and for the people I love who are in my life. That doesn’t mean I want to become stagnant. I still have goals to accomplish and things I want to learn and do.

One of the things that makes me happy to be in the position I am in is being able to impact the lives of women who are in this industry and can see me having reached a leadership role. I want to be a positive example of what can be achieved when you believe in yourself and work hard to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.

Nancy Obando MBA's Advocacy Conference
Proud to be your Mortgage Action Alliance California State Captain at the MBA’s Advocacy Conference.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Nancy: My husband, two boys and I love to spend time together as a family. We like to cook and bake and have a lot of fun doing that together.

We also spend a lot of time outside walking and enjoying the peace and beauty of nature. I love photography, and we often take pictures on our travels. Nature has the best box of crayons, and we take advantage of them when we can.

We also like to travel as a family and have fun and exciting experiences and adventures.

How do you recommend navigating change in an industry that is always changing and growing?
Nancy: Change is a constant. And it is a positive force in life and in business. It is also in times of change that opportunities appear that might not otherwise be apparent.

My advice is to stay current and keep learning. Ask questions and seek feedback about how you are doing and what you need to do to keep moving forward. Talk to those around you with experience and use their guidance to find paths you might not have considered.

How do you find your voice?
Nancy: I have always been an advocate for the underdog. I had to overcome some difficult obstacles in my own life, and I learned to value myself and my abilities because of the challenges I faced. I became comfortable with being uncomfortable. I speak out for others because I know not everyone can speak for themselves.

Speaking up for yourself or for others is not easy nor is it something everyone feels confident enough to do. But it is something we need to learn to do if we are serious about succeeding and reaching the goals we set for ourselves.

One of the ways I found my voice was by putting myself in situations where I would need to speak in public. I joined and became a certified spokeswoman for the National Association of Women in Real Estate & Business and the president of trade organizations. Taking on these roles meant I had to become accustomed to stepping out in front of large groups and offering my opinions and ideas with confidence.

Nancy Obando family
Nancy Obando with her husband Wesley Uyema and their sons Benjamin and Samuel.

What is your biggest fear and why?
Nancy: My biggest fear is becoming outdated and falling behind in my professional knowledge.

I spend a lot of my time learning, asking questions, and keeping myself abreast of what is happening in our industry and in the world. Information is the currency needed to afford success, and I want to have enough to reach all the places I want to be.

Being proactive about keeping current and informed is also something that will get you noticed by the people who have opportunities to offer. You will be far more attractive to them if you are seen to be making the effort to have a full database of knowledge and the drive to keep it up to date.

How do we propel more women into leadership roles in our industry?
Nancy: Mentoring and training are two of the things that are vital to getting more women into senior and leadership roles in our industry.

It is equally important that women who are in senior roles now make concerted efforts to look for women who want to move up in their careers, and support and encourage them in that direction. Helping them to gain confidence, ask the right questions, ask for what they have earned and learn to seek out and pursue opportunities will mean that they are far more likely to succeed in moving up into management roles and beyond.

The goal should always be to have as many women in the C-suite as want to be there and have earned the right to be there.

I would also like to encourage women to be brave in facing down obstacles in their personal and professional lives. Use your passion and your discomfort as fuel to move you forward toward your goals and dreams.

There is no reason that a woman should not be entitled to a seat at the boardroom table, and we need to start teaching women that from a young age. We are driven, talented, intelligent, and capable, and we need to start to recognize that in ourselves and ask to be taken seriously and offered the opportunities we deserve.

My hope is that through women like myself who have achieved a senior role in our industry, we can keep encouraging more women to join us by offering a hand up and the support, training, and confidence they need to succeed.

This article was originally published in the Mortgage Women Magazine May 2023 issue.
Headshot of Laura Brandao
Laura Brandao,
Chief Growth Officer

Laura Brandao is Chief Growth Officer at EPM.

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