Women in Business

Taking the Risk of Being Professionally Bold

It’s important to us that our employees can truly be themselves. You should be able to be who you are and celebrate who you are.

Jan 01, 20214 minute read

Employee growth, engagement, retention, inclusion: These are just a few of the many passions Shanita Byrd, our Executive Vice President of Employee Engagement & Development possesses.

“I made the decision to come to AB after learning about the culture. If the culture is not right and does not align with who I am, then it’s not a good fit for me. It has never been about the money or the position, it’s really about the company and the culture,” Shanita says, just three weeks after starting at Atlantic Bay.

Getting her start in HR

Shanita got her start after a manager told her she should consider pursuing her Master's Degree in Human Resources.

She took his advice, attending classes every weekend for two years at Central Michigan, (Hampton University for her Undergrad). After that, Shanita moved from training to employee operations and relations, where she found her true passion.

“Seeing people grow and develop, that’s what I love to do,” she says. “I’ve helped people turn their performance around, and being able to be a part of their development brings me joy.”

As you can see, over the years she’s found what aspects of her career drive her. We also asked her about the hardships she’s experienced in her role. She narrowed it down to two things:

“When you see the potential in people but they don’t see it in themselves and you want it more for them than they want for themselves. It’s challenging because you give your all and they don’t do anything with it. The second, of course, is telling someone their position is no longer needed. That’s never easy, at the end of the day it’s someone’s livelihood. You still have to treat them with dignity and respect. People have actually thanked me after the fact especially if it’s a situation where they realize that it wasn’t the right position for them.”

An ever-changing industry

Shanita reflects that historically, human resources positions have been perceived as more of an administrative role, but over time the industry has transformed into more of a strategic role.

"It’s exciting now because we’ve got a seat at the table; companies see us as a valued partner. People really want to listen to what we have to say,” Shanita says.

Being a part of the strategic direction of Atlantic Bay, including its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts, is something that excites Shanita.

"People weren’t thinking about DEI five or ten years ago, so to see that it’s a focus in the industry is a great thing. That’s shown you that times really have changed,” she says.

A welcoming and accepting workplace

For Shanita, a company’s DEI efforts is all about valuing and celebrating everyone. It’s not simply about race or gender or religion. At Atlantic Bay, Shanita’s involvement with DEI centers around what makes us all different and how can we value each other and celebrate those differences. “For me, it’s about making sure everyone feels included in their workspaces, and me being the dreamer that I am, that everyone feels included in the world,” Shanita explains.

“For Atlantic Bay, it’s important to us that our employees can truly be themselves in their work environment."

Shanita also reflects that people should feel comfortable and not feel they have to hide anything.

“I find it so sad when people come to me and say, ‘Don’t tell anyone, but I’m gay.’ You should be able to be yourself, you should be able to be who you are and celebrate who you are.” Shanita’s role at Atlantic Bay as a leader of DEI initiatives gives her the ability to continue to chart a path forward for the company.

“Atlantic Bay is on the right path. I have seen more individuals value and embrace diversity here than I have in my past life,” she says. “With our DEI initiatives in place, we have pillars that we are working toward, and we want to get some traction behind that. We are ready to stop talking and start working.”

On dealing with barriers to her success…

Shanita’s perspective and insight into DEI efforts are rooted in personal challenges she’s faced in her own career.

“From a female standpoint and from an ethnicity standpoint, I’ve seen some barriers to growth,” she reflects.

Shanita recounts that she has been in situations where she’s seen people previously in her role able to do certain things, only to have the tables turned when she was in the role.

“I’ve been a part of that, and it doesn’t feel good, but at the same time I’ve been able to work my way up. I’ve had to have some uncomfortable conversations with people. But I think sometimes people behave in certain ways not knowing that they are doing it. So, you need to have these conversations in order for them to see their unconscious bias and to break down those walls.”

Shanita’s advice to those working through those challenges is to be professionally bold and courageous enough to have those crucial conversations. “A former co-worker would tell her managers that they need to be professionally bold and this stuck with me over the years. You have to speak your opinion, tactfully and share a different viewpoint. I have been in situations where I’ve been the only black female in a room full of white men. Being able to bring a different perspective is key while staying true to yourself. Your work speaks for itself.”

Lead by example

To Shanita, a great leader is someone who sets the vision, sets the expectation as well as leads by example. You must be able to communicate, build relationships with others and genuinely care.

She’s learned from her experiences and how to overcome certain situations, she’s even learned how to be professionally bold.

She speaks from the heart when giving advice to the next generation of female leaders. “I would tell (them) not to put limits on yourself, you can do anything you put your mind to and work hard.” Shanita says “It’s sad to say, but in 2020 there are still some people that think that some roles are only for females or for men. I’ve heard recently that some roles are just better for females. Believe in yourself and your abilities, take the risk.”

These are personal anecdotes from each individuals experiences that are unique and not representative of Atlantic Bay's views or practices. Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group, L.L.C. NMLS #72043 (nmlsconsumeraccess.org) is an Equal Opportunity Employer.