Growing up in Nashville, Tennessee, Donna Sullivan always pictured herself working in a big downtown building.
Her path to achieving that childhood dream wasn’t conventional. Several of Sullivan’s family members, including her mother, didn’t graduate high school. No one in her family went to college. The first person to seriously talk to Sullivan about a college education was an Army recruiter at her high school, who explained that she could attend college for free.
That was enough of a sales pitch for Sullivan, who joined the Army after high school and spent 20 years in the service, rising to the rank of E-7 Sergeant First Class. Today, she’s a Senior Information Technology Auditor for Ally Financial at the company’s uptown office in Charlotte, North Carolina — exactly the type of building where she envisioned herself working all those years ago.
“I think it was destined to be part of my journey that I ended up here,” says Sullivan, who joined Ally in June 2015. “I saw myself here as a child, and here I am today. Who knew I would take the path it took to get there, but I think it’s been an awesome journey.”
Sullivan is one of many Ally team members who joined the company after serving in the U.S. military, using their unique background and values to help shape Ally’s culture and drive its success.
Excelling in math as a young student, Sullivan was interested in finance from an early age. She had several finance-related jobs while in the Army, including serving as a Finance and Accounting Manager, where she ensured military personal and their families received their checks and had access to their money.
In addition to her financial background, Sullivan says she was drawn to Ally because of its culture. Her time in the Army instilled her with a strong work ethic, as well as an understanding of and appreciation for diversity and inclusion — two of Ally’s core values. The alignment of Ally’s core values with the Army’s seven core values — loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage — which Sullivan strives to live by each day is a big reason Sullivan decided to join the Ally team.
“Having a strong culture or environment — and one that supports my own value and belief system — is important to me,” Sullivan says. “When I came to Ally and experienced Ally’s culture, I felt like this was home for me.”
Home for Sergio Rosales (pictured above) as a child in Cahuilla, California, where he worked the fields with his immigrant parents.
When Rosales — a first-generation Mexican-American — first told his parents that he wanted to join the Army after high school, he received pushback. Then he told them his decision was made out of respect for all they had done for him.
“My parents already did the hardest part, coming to this great country as immigrants,” Rosales explains. “It was only fitting I became part of the force fighting to retain our way of life.”
Rosales spent five years in the U.S. Army Reserve unit, working as a heavy equipment operator on the engineering side and training and developing future soldiers — which turned out to be the perfect fit. Since April 2016, Rosales has been an Ally Customer Solutions Supervisor/Team Leader in Lewisville, Texas.
It’s a career he didn’t necessarily envision at first but knew it was possible because of the skills and discipline he learned in the Army.
“The values you are taught in the Army easily translate into civilian life, even in a company like Ally,” Rosales says. “How you conduct yourself, portray your yourself, and present a high level of professionalism… [Those skills are] needed daily to perform in the workplace when you’re running meetings. And when you’re with direct reports and higher-ups, it really comes into play here to be successful.”
Those leadership skills helped Rosales quickly transition to Ally, where he has been a recipient of the company’s LEADing the Way Award, which recognizes employees from across the organization who consistently live out Ally’s LEAD core values by excelling in what they do and how they accomplish it.
“Having that award made me proud to be here and be a part of Ally,” Rosales says. “Just having the opportunity to share those practices and leadership skills that I developed in the military here is something I’m very proud of.”
Blake Boelke can relate to that sense of pride. He grew up wanting to follow in his family’s military footsteps.
“My grandfather was in the Army, my cousin was in the Navy, and I had a lot of pride in that,” says Boelke, an Operations Associate at Ally Invest in Charlotte. “I wanted to serve my country like my grandfather did.”
Boelke served four years of active duty in the Navy after joining as a 17-year-old fresh out of high school. He was a Security Department Training Member and conducted qualification training for patrolmen, dispatchers and Chiefs of the Guard in support of combat operations, including Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Inherent Resolve.
Boelke says his time in the Navy taught him valuable lessons in teamwork and leadership that have stayed with him as he balances his career and going to school fulltime.
“Leadership is huge in the military and I put in charge of 20-plus people at a time, making sure they were watching posts correctly and making sure they were following standard operating procedures,” he says. “I learned a lot about teamwork and being a team player and a lot about leadership, staying organized and disciplined.”
Ally’s team members who are military veterans demonstrate every day what it is to be a good ally to their coworkers and customers, helping the broader Ally team hold itself to a higher standard of dedication and service. Ally is honored to have them among their ranks.
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