Game Changer Carla Mori-Chavez, a principal consultant at NTT DATA, reveals what she loves about rock climbing and her work helping a top 4 bank scale a regulatory “wall,” and what her mother taught her about hard work.
Q: Tell me about what motivates you?
A: My mom is the strongest woman I know. She immigrated to the US from Peru about 26 years ago, so right before I was born. She came to this country by herself with no support, with nothing. She came for the American dream. She started her own cleaning business from scratch. And I remember when my brother and I were little, we used to go help her clean houses. She’s always demonstrated perseverance, determination and grit, and she’s the best role model I could’ve asked for.
On my last project, my colleague said, “One of the things that makes you stand out is that you just persevere—you are a workhorse. You put in the time and energy, no matter what.” I’ve learned to work hard from my mom, but I’ve also learned to work smart.
Q: What does “working smart” mean to you?
A: Working smart means working more efficiently and understanding how you can do things in a better way. When I moved to Charlotte a year ago, I started rock climbing. I love the physical challenge. When climbing, I’m using muscles that I didn’t realize I had. But rock climbing also challenges me mentally because there are a billion ways to get up the wall. You can work hard and use brute force to get up, but the more experienced climbers think strategically about it, too—they stand back and assess the wall; they map out a route—that’s what I’d call working smart. There is something to be said for having skill and the understanding to ask, “Do you place your hand here?” “Do you place your foot there?” So, thinking strategically is something I do in climbing but it is also something that we help our clients do as consultants.
Q: I love the idea that NTT DATA helps our clients think strategically about scaling a wall or overcoming whatever obstacle is in their way. Can you share a recent example of how your team did that?
A: Sure. Recently, my team helped a top 4 bank close an MRA (matters requiring attention) in the third-party vendor space. The regulators determined that our client’s processes for managing their portfolio of third-party vendors was flawed. These vendors, such as payment processors, provide critical operations for the bank, so it was vital our client address the problem.
The regulators needed to see a standard best practice when it came to vendor oversight, but our client’s 11 business groups were, if you will, scaling the wall in 11 different ways. So, our team was brought on to help define the best route up the wall. It’s not that our client wasn’t working hard, but they needed to learn to work smarter and follow the same route.
Our Third-Party Risk Management team came in and in one month we helped to standardize processes, streamline procedures and train bank employees on what execution best practices look like. With these changes, we’re confident our client will be able to close this regulatory matter this summer.
Q: You’re 26 years old, at the start of your career. What made you want to be a business consultant at NTT DATA?
A: After college I moved back home to be close to family and boyfriend in Greenville, NC. At the time, I was working for a large financial institution as a merchant services project manager. But the pace of town and the pace of the work was slow, and I wasn’t excited about my work.
I bumped into a former college classmate, who was working as a consultant for our bank. She had a lot of exposure to cool projects and smart leaders that I didn’t. Within six months, I had interviewed with NTT DATA and moved to Charlotte.
Not only is the work of business consulting interesting, but the people at NTT DATA are friendly and really care about doing good for our communities. For example, I was able to help organize a local NTT DATA team to support the Charlotte YMCA Corporate Cup 5K fundraiser. I’ve also helped coordinate an International Women’s Day event for NTT DATA’s local WIN (Women in NTT DATA) chapter. WIN’s mission is to raise awareness about gender bias, which I think is really important to do in a male-dominated industry.
Q: How has the coronavirus outbreak and the work-from-home order changed your work and your work relationships?
A: It’s been difficult. I think the best way to get to know people is face to face. I am very much a people person and I thrive off others’ energy. I miss being able to walk into my client’s office and ask, “what do you need?"
But our team still finds ways to stay connected. We’re using a lot of FaceTime, Teams and Zoom. And we’re doing virtual happy hours and we’re having a virtual end-of-project ceremony to celebrate our team members and what we’ve achieved.
That said, I appreciate the flexibility working remotely gives me. I can work late at night in my pajamas, if I want to, and I can just walk over to my kitchen when it is lunchtime.
So for now, I am back home in Greenville with my family. Unfortunately, I am not getting to rock climb because the gyms are closed right now. But my boyfriend and I have picked up a few new hobbies. He’s planting an outdoor garden; I’m water coloring, and we’ve done quite a bit of fishing together since we live close to the river.
My mom is currently unable to work because of the pandemic. It’s not easy to watch loved ones go through this, but I’m grateful for my family, and I’m grateful for my job. My mom is the reason I persevere.
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Post Date: 6/23/2020