My Path: Denise Hayes
Our diversity is our greatest strength at Keypath. Our My Path series shines a light on Keypathers from diverse backgrounds, as we learn about their life experience, values, and what led them to Keypath.
In this My Path edition, we speak to Denise Hayes, Student Enrollment Advisor, based in Keypath's Chicago's office.
Which Keypath core value resonates with you most?
The Keypath core value that resonates with me most is, “Being Committed.” It means one's dedication is unmatched by anyone or anything that can potentially compete with one's success.
Life can have its challenges, and when I was homeless in 2002, I became committed to making a better life for my children and me. Through hardships and adversity, my commitment to persevere has never swayed. I attended college for the first time at the age of 43, and although it took 8-years to earn my Associates Degree in Business, I was committed to not only finishing that degree but moving on to the next one.
When I walked across the graduation stage at 53-years of age, earning my bachelor's degree in Business, I was brought to tears. My commitment to bettering my future and being an example to my children brought me joy, and I am proud to be the first person in my family to earn a bachelor's degree. My children are now adults, and they have seen my example, seen the desire in my eyes - for something better.
The commitment to something better for my family and me pushes me forward every day I work at Keypath. I know I work for a company that believes in me, not just my career. They allow me to help pave the way for students who want a better life for themselves. I am committed to helping students achieve their goals and achieving mine as well.
How has your path helped you develop at Keypath?
I didn't realize myself until coming to Keypath that underneath all of my motivation and winning spirit, I was an emerging leader. Not necessarily a people manager, but a hardworking, results-oriented leader. I have always wanted to be the best (nobody remembers 2nd place). Some might call me competitive; this drives me in my daily work.
I will never forget the day Tracie Comeaux (Associate Director of Recruitment) told me she sees me as a leader; I was surprised. She told me people pay attention to what I do. Even though this feels like added pressure, it has been a motivator for me. I am glad Keypath has leadership that has uncovered my potential and is working to develop me personally and professionally.
What aspirations did you have when you joined Keypath?
Honestly, at my age, I was looking for a company that would pay me my worth, and then I planned to keep my head down and get my job done. I have been working with students for 7-years and have always been a top-achiever of business goals.
I was previously burnt out from the constant sales environment, never feeling like I was good enough for more than the moment I hit my goals. It was sad leaving a place I was so familiar with, people I cared about, and, of course, leaving for the unknown.
Changing jobs after 7-years was scary, but it has been amazing to come to Keypath, have people believing in my abilities, and showing my team what I can do.
How has Keypath helped your career progression?
Keypath is my silver lining. I moved up through admissions and had reached my plateau without a bachelor’s degree. Once I earned my degree, I was ready for the next step. My friend Amanda, a fellow Keypather, suggested I apply for a position at Keypath. She told me about the great culture, amazing people, and the diversity.
I found the job I love! After I applied and met with the hiring managers, I thought I ‘tanked’ the interview; I remember telling a story in my interview, and was close to tears, about how I was so worried about my numbers at that job that I tried to force a student to choose between her health and our school. I swore I'd never do that again.
After that admission, I was afraid Keypath would not hire me. I even apologized to Amanda for the referral; I hoped it didn't make her look bad. Well, 4-days later, I got a call from HR. Susan Cece (Talent Acquisition Manager) asked me if I was ready to leave that job and come work for Keypath? I was floored; I was stunned. I even asked her if she was sure. The best phone call I had in a long time.
I think my career progression has been different than some. I know my worth, understand my need to feel successful, and my desire to perform well on the job. I am not looking for a management position, but I need a place where I can do meaningful work, impact people's lives, and then I will be ready to retire.
Keypath has a career path that I consider my silver lining. There are opportunities to advance and be appreciated for the hard work. I am excited about the next chapters to come; for now, I am grateful I get to do what I love most, helping students!
What aspect does Keypath strive for that brings you joy every day?
Keypath leadership listens. It brings me the greatest joy knowing that I am being heard. There were years of fighting to be seen in my last job, not be overlooked, be understood, and accepted for who I am. Well, I can finally say I am at a place in my career that gives me peace for all those reasons.
I have only been at Keypath for 14-months, but at that time, not without a bit of struggle, I have felt supported by my leadership. James Morgan (Global Vice President Admissions), you have helped me more than you know just by listening to me. You have helped steer me on my career path.
My amazing boss, Tracie, knows I am an emotional person. In fact, I cry when life moves me. I believe there is strength in my tears because they allow me to purge those good and bad feelings and move onward. Tracie will ask me almost daily, "how can I help?" and "what do you need from me?" These "mom" questions make my day and remind me that she cares. Every member of our team feels her sincerity. For me, these "this is what I need” moments are ones that matter most. Tracie shows up, listens, and helps me every day.
The most important thing right now; I feel at peace working at Keypath. Although I work daily with Tracie, James, and Catalina Rosellini (Managing Director), the leadership starts at the top with Steve Fireng, our fearless Global CEO.
When I first met Steve, we bonded over K-Swiss tennis shoes. He had on a pair, and it reminded me of when I wore them in high school. We laughed about them being "old school" and comfy and stylish. From that moment on, he waved and smiled every time he saw me. I like to think he remembered our conversation. Whether or not he does, he is the most approachable CEO I have ever known.
What I find most remarkable is Steve's response to heightened times of inequality in black and brown people; his words and actions were front and center for us to see. Not only did he step up and say there are areas of opportunity for us at Keypath, but he also was transparent about his feelings and let us know, he stood with us. By creating the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, led by Robin Washington (Global Vice President Student Services), he showed me he is committed to change and understanding. I am proud to say I am a member of the D&I Committee.
Knowing that I work for a company that embraces me is possibly one of the best feelings. Once someone knows me, they know I speak from my heart. I am too old to worry about what others think of me; I can hold my own.
I carry the weight of my family's success on my shoulders every day, including being a black woman in America, almost always fighting to be seen. Today, part of the joy in my life is that I can say I am successful at a job, I love doing meaningful work, I have people in my life that help me grow, and I love me for me. I couldn't ask for more.