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Bridging The Opportunity Gap, With Elois Joseph

There are a lot of factors to the opportunity gap that affects BIPOC youth and contributes to the socioeconomic inequity that coincides with racial lines to a significant degree. But one can certainly argue that quality education is something that can help bridge that gap. It is what the Greenwood Project aims to do. In this conversation, Elois Joseph, the co-founder of this revolutionary nonprofit institution, explains how this initiative helps Black and Latinx students start to pave a career path in the financial services industry. Starting out as a passion project, the Greenwood Project is now helping hundreds of academically ambitious students from underserved communities carve their own path to upliftment and success. Join in and find out how they make that possible.


Check out the full series of "Career Sessions, Career Lessons" podcasts here or visit A full written transcript of this episode is also available at


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Bridging The Opportunity Gap, With Elois Joseph

PathWise is dedicated to helping you live the career you deserve, providing career coaching content courses, and community. Basic membership is free, so visit online and join now. My guest is Elois Joseph, who is the Founder of the Greenwood Project, which aims to introduce Black and Latinx students to the finance industry.

LOS has been leading the Greenwood Project for the last several years. Prior to that, she was a senior examiner with FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Before that, she spent a number of years at Chicago Trading Company and trade support and compliance roles. Before that, she was on the floor of the Chicago Board Options Exchange in a variety of roles with several member firms. She earned her BA in Journalism from Columbia College Chicago and her MBA from Northern Illinois University. She and her family live in the Chicago area. Elois, thanks for joining me. I appreciate you being on the show.

Thank you for having me.

Let's start with the Greenwood Project. You started this back in 2016. What was the genesis? What led to its creation?

There were a couple of different things, but one, growing up on the West side of Chicago, and if you are not familiar with the West side of Chicago, it's a very economically disadvantaged area within Chicago. Growing up there were career opportunities that I didn't know about and things that I didn't see in my neighborhood so I wasn't aware that they were available or that opportunities existed there.

When I was about eighteen years old, I got an opportunity at the Chicago Board Options Exchange. I was looking for a job, but I was presented with an opportunity that I couldn't miss out on. That was the start of a twenty-plus-year career within the financial services industry. I thought about how we can make this happen and work with other ambitious academically talented young people whose only issue is that they are in an area where they don't have exposure and access to great opportunities, and we did something about it.

How did you pick the name of the Greenwood Project?

Growing up, I'd always learned about the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is also known as Black Wall Street. Considering that a lot of our business is done in the financial sector and we are African Americans, I thought it was only fitting that we called it the Greenwood Project. It's a homage to the name, and then again, when we started it was a project, so Greenwood Project.

How has it unfolded over the last several years? How's it grown? What's the state of the organization in terms of the number of students that you are helping in a given year?

It's grown tremendously. When we started this, it was a passion project. We started with five students who we were trying to see if we took these students from either the South or West sides of Chicago and placed them at financial firms of our friends like small shops if it would work. It was literally a project. The students loved the experience and the exposure that they had.

The firms loved that the students were so coachable and willing to learn. They wanted more. The following year, we gave them more and then it kept growing and growing. Now due to capacity, we are able to accommodate approximately 100 students in our college program. We also have a high school program, and there are approximately 100 students there too.

I know the company I work for Janus Henderson is one of the companies that host your interns during the summer. How many companies do you have hosting at this point?

We have hosts and partners who don't host but donate and support the mission, so approximately 60. That's in a combination of hosting partners and also funding partners.

Does your funding come exclusively from those funding partners or are there other sources of funding that help contribute?

At this point, it's the funding partners and those individuals like foundations that want to support the mission.

How many staff at this point?


Everybody wears many hats.

We all wear many hats. I have gotten a lot of exposure and experience. Professionally, I'm a compliance professional. To even be in the nonprofit space and then going into these different areas like running payroll and things of that nature, I do that as well. I got a vast skillset from Greenwood Project.

Being in any small enterprise, whether it’s a for-profit enterprise or a nonprofit enterprise, you learn very quickly that there are no people hanging around waiting to do stuff for you. You do a lot of things for yourself. How do you select the students that you help place?

We have a selective enrollment process. There's an application, interview, essay, and also there's transcript review. The way we identify these students is we go on a road show, we go on a road show to different universities around Illinois. There's a lot of word of mouth amongst the students who are in our program and they may attend college out of state.

With social media, it's been amazing. I'm old school so forgive me if I mess this up but students are either tweeting, Snapchatting, or Tiktoking. Whatever they do, it's interesting and that's how we get our numbers and our volume up of interested candidates because they see our students having a good time learning and having a meaningful internship at firms like Janus, and now they want to know how they can get involved as well. It's organic growth.

Do you have to have an Illinois connection in some shape or fashion or do you not care about that?

We don't care about that. The only limitation that we have there is capacity. Can we afford to bring in a student from another state and provide them with housing and things of that nature? We try to keep that number low, but yet you don't need an Illinois connection.

How many students apply for those hundred spots that you are able to give in the college program or the high school program?

More than 300. It's hard because you have so many great students. You say you are down to your last person and you are like, “We have persons A and B and they are both great, but we don't have enough opportunities, so what do we do?” That's hard.

You are running an admissions process of a different type than a college admissions process. It's hard. Do you care what socioeconomic background they come from, or is that irrelevant in your process as well?

We have a profile. We don't close our doors to students, but if they are coming from an environment where they have opportunities, we don't want to take an opportunity away from a student who needs it. Our student profile is someone who is academically ambitious and comes from an underserved community. That's who we go for.

CSCL 56 | Opportunity Gap

Opportunity Gap: The student profile at the Greenwood Project is someone who is academically ambitious and comes from an underserved community.


We are a major agnostic program. We are exposing and introducing students to opportunities that they didn't know existed. We have a lot of Community Health majors, Psychology majors, and Mathematics majors who say, “I'm majoring in Math, and I don't see how my math background would be good in the financial services industry.” It's like, “Let me tell you what you can do with this skill.” That's who we go after.

Flipping from the company perspective, what's a typical placement look like for one of those 60 companies that are hosting students? How many do they host? What are your expectations of them?

We have a good mix. We have a mix of smaller shops that don't have a traditional or who may not have a traditional internship program. They will design something where they can give our students a meaningful internship. Other firms may be larger. They may absorb a student into their traditional internship program. We have firms who are flexible who's willing to work with our timeline and also accept a student who may not be a traditional Finance major and still give them a meaningful business or corporate exposure to business or a corporate environment.

Do a lot of the students that have gone through these internships end up going back on a full-time basis to the companies that they have done internships with?

Yes. Interestingly, they have. We started in 2016. This was a passion project. When we started it, there was no five-year plan. At the end of 2 or 3 years, we had a couple of students who graduated. They got a return offer from the firm that they held their internship with, and we are like, “This is awesome.”

Now we have the five-year plan and how we manage a student's life cycle through Greenwood Project, getting them to and through college and then into a full-time opportunity. As of 2019, that's when we started seeing our student body matriculate to full-time employment opportunities, and the numbers are growing as the students age up and age out of our program. It's been wonderful watching that growth cycle.

For college students, do you pick them up in the summer between their first and their second years, or do you pick them up later in their college journey?

We are open to all levels within their college years. As long as they have at least their freshman year under them, that's when we take them. Any student who's either between their junior and senior year in high school, they go to our high school program and can matriculate into our college program.

If you get into the college program as a first year and you go work for a company between your first and second year, are you part of the program all the way through college if you want to be, or do they have to reapply every year?

They do not have to reapply every year. We ask at the end of the current year if they are interested in returning because we don't want to hold a student and make them feel like they don't have any control over their life. If they had a great experience, we will survey them and ask, “Do you like to return to us next year?” A great majority of them returned. The retention rate has been incredible.

I can imagine once they have gone through one of those summers if they have had a good experience like if they want to do this again. It's a substantial help in finding a great internship in the program that the company is excited about and you are doing a ton to facilitate it. It's great that they have that option to continue through.

They have the option to continue through. It's interesting. We are dealing with young people and college students. You know how kids are. Sometimes they think they know more than the adults. Even though we are saying like, “Stay here. This is a great opportunity,” they still want to go and explore, and that's fine. We allow them to go and explore.

In 2019 and 2020, that year, we had a number of students want to go out and try something different. Now they are back at our door like, “We want to come back. We didn't like it. We tried it on our own.” We are like, “We only have 100 spots now. We aren't this organization where you can pop in and pop out.” That's been tough as well.

Some of them got that first year. My son did a brief experience with the hedge fund between his 1st and 2nd years of college. He came out of that six weeks and said, “This is not what I want to do for a living.” That was good and useful information for him, and he went in a different direction the next summer. You have some part of your population that does that too.

We do. We have a great part of our population that does that. Here's the thing. We are major agnostic. You may have a community health major. They will go to a desk and try something like marketing, but then they will say, “I saw the compliance department while I was at this particular company. I was interested. How can I get into a compliance position, maybe at that company or somewhere else?” We try to give them exposure and an experience within a compliance department. One thing about staying in-house with the Greenwood Project is that we can probably partner and match you within our program but with a different partner who can give you the experience that you are looking for.

CSCL 56 | Opportunity Gap

Opportunity Gap: One thing about staying in-house with the Greenwood Project is that we can partner and match you within our program but with a different partner who can give you the experience that you are looking for.


You were a compliance person. Was this your first real foray into the nonprofit world?

I always did volunteer work during the summer around the holidays, the philanthropy and charity things of that nature, but this was my first time stepping into the world of nonprofits.

Apart from the fact that everybody wears many hats, what else has surprised you the most about leading a nonprofit?

My goal was to become a chief compliance officer for a financial firm, possibly an options prop shop. Surprisingly, I have fallen in love with what I do. The money isn't the same, but there's some type of gratifying feeling that I can't explain, but it's very gratifying and rewarding to be able to reach back and help a young person who's trying to find their way and give them the tools that I didn't have so that they could be successful and find their way.

It's very rewarding to be able to reach back and help a young person who's trying to find their way and give them the tools they need so that they could be successful. Click To Tweet

Something that I say is, “Can you consider yourself having made it if you don't help anyone else make it?” I'm living up to that. I go into these communities. I meet the students where they are. They see that I'm a person who has come from the community, grew up in public housing, was educated by the Chicago public school system, and went to a state school and earned my Master's degree.

They are like, “Wow.” They see a success story and they believe that they can achieve it as well. It's one thing to have professionals around. Mentors are great, but when you can see someone and believe that you too could walk in their shoes and they have a story similar to yours and they have made it, now it feels tangible. It feels like you can do it, and that's what I provide to the students and I love it.

I was watching a video of your visit to the New York Stock Exchange. You got the gavel in your hand and you could see the pride on your face. It's an amazing experience to get to do that. To be up there on the balcony with the kids around you is pretty darn cool.

That moment was so surreal. It's like as a child, I have watched the news and saw the opening bell and the closing bell and just to be standing in that spot. Taking it all in was surreal. It truly was. I don't know if the students understand the gravity of that moment, but for me, it was heavy in a good way, and I appreciate that moment.

You are leading a nonprofit, helping a couple of hundred students in the course of a year, and leading a team of five. How would you describe the leadership style that you try to bring to the organization?

Considering we are still in startup mode, we have so many students. This isn't one of those environments where it's like, “I'm the boss. What I say is what goes.” It's more of an environment where there's feedback. We are pivoting sometimes on the fly because we are still in startup mode. We are still learning as we grow, and the diversity in thought is appreciated. It's how we grow.

I'm leading from a place of playing a position in the front and the back. I have hired some great people with strengths that I don't have and I don't know it all. When it's their time to lead, I step behind and do what they say is best because I hired them to be the expert in that particular place. For example, I have a director of education. She has an amazing background, and that's why I hired her.

When you have got an organization that set the size you are right now, every hire matters. Had you worked with any of the people before, or are they all new to you?

They are all new to me. The chemistry and work ethic is great. Our chemistry and energy is we don't shut off at 5:00 when it's time to go home. If there's something that needs to be done, we are going to work later to get it done because we believe in the mission, we believe in our students, and we understand that we are a five-person team, but it doesn't feel like work. The team, we all feel like we are contributing to something great. That's an amazing feeling. I always tell the team, “Log off. Don't answer that email tonight.” What are they doing? They are answering that email anyway. That's a good feeling.

There's a huge purpose-driven element to what you are doing. For people who come to work in that environment, it feels different than probably for most people who work in a for-profit institution that they don't feel maybe a strong sense of purpose that I would imagine your team does.

I would agree. Coming from that environment, I get it. I see the difference. I have lived the differences in both arenas and I'm in love with what I do.

What's a typical day look like for you?

I wake up at 5:00 AM to have some me time because, at 7:00 in the morning, that's when I'm digesting the emails from the previous day looking at notes and my task list for the day. I then block off a couple of hours to respond to emails and get notes and things like that together. Roughly about 9:00, that's when the students are calling, and now I'm speaking with firms and checking in with my team about 10:00 in the morning and whichever direction the day goes in for the rest of the day, until about 6:00. That's when I try to wind down a little bit, but all the students have my direct number.

My phone is ringing like, “Can you help me answer this question? What do you think about this particular internship? How should I dress for the interview? Is this color okay?” They call me their second mom, so it's interesting. The team at work calls me their work mom, and I'm like, “I'm not that much older than you guys,” but they still call me their work mom. That's funny and cute all at the same time.

I would imagine there's an ebb and flow to the year too. In your summers, you have got everybody placed but you are probably monitoring and making sure they are doing okay on a day-to-day basis. You then get into your selection period and your matching period. It's got to have a rhythm that plays out over the course of a school year.

It's a rhythm. Every cycle is a busy season because like you said, we have our recruiting, placement, program, and fundraising seasons. We are always in a busy season. It's which busy season we are in at this particular time. We do have a great flow.

You have commented multiple times about how much you love what you are doing. Would you change anything if you had the power to change it?

I wouldn't change a thing. I would go bigger and start younger. That's what I would change because the impact that I have noticed that the team and I have made it's been an extraordinary impact in such a short amount of time. The training that we invest in the students is four weeks. To see a real change, I would love to start a school and work with kids in elementary school to give them a shot at a good education. We have a lot of STEM and finance focus classes so that the students are aware earlier of the financial services industry, the various firms, and the various opportunities that are available to them and are prepared to enter them.

Let's talk a little bit about your pre-Greenwood background. You mentioned a few times that you were a compliance professional. You were working for FINRA, the financial industry's regulatory body. Describe a little bit about what you were doing when you were working for FINRA.

I was a senior examiner, and it was member regulations and sales practice. Those are monitoring, trading activity, employment practices, electronic communications, and everything that goes into a FINRA exam for licensed professionals at financial institutions. I was on the exam team that traveled. I got to visit a lot of great states and a lot of great cities and met a lot of great people. I conducted a lot of exams.

We had a great experience. I got a lot of knowledge from doing that type of work because prior to working for FINRA, I worked for a Chicago trading company, which is an options prop shop, and I spent the great bulk of my career there. I got to see compliance from the inside, working from a firm's perspective. To see it on a bigger scale working from a regulatory perspective was much different. The rules still applied, but as far as the exam and what goes into an exam and the auditing of records and things of that nature was a great experience. There are lots of institutional knowledge and lots of great training.

I see a lot of people go back and forth between being in compliance for a firm and being in a regulatory organization. You can carry a lot of that back and forth. To your point, on one side, you are inside helping maintain compliant activity, and on the other side, you are coming in from the outside making sure that what everybody's doing on the inside is compliant.

Also, something about being a compliance officer, no one ever wants to invite you to their parties. If you go to the table to sit with someone at lunch, they are like, “What did I do wrong?” It's like, “Can I sit here with you? Can I sit next to you?” No one ever wants the compliance officer around. Once they know you work for FINRA, they don't want you around. I'm happy to be in a place where people are inviting me to come to sit down at lunch and invite me to their parties.

You spent time with the Chicago trading company before moving over to FINRA. You were doing some other things besides compliance when you work there.

When I started out on the trading floor of the Chicago Board Options Exchange, I was something called a price reporter. That was the entry-level role that updated the ticker anytime someone made the last sale of an option. I was hired to do that. At the time, they were paying $10.25 an hour, and that was a big deal in 1997 because the minimum wage was $4.25, and I had worked at Taco Bell.

I was an eighteen-year-old kid fresh out of high school. I had worked at Taco Bell at McDonald's making $4.25. I worked for a little while at UPS, and they paid $8 an hour, which I thought was great, but they went on strike after the holiday. That's how I landed this amazing opportunity at CBOE. I started out as a price reporter in the equities and went to the index, the OEX. From there, someone poached me and I became a clerk, and then I was poached two more times after that.

There was a layoff, and I went to CTC to be a battery runner. This is when everything was converting from paper to digital and the battery life was 20 or 30 minutes. I took the job and said, “If I could get my foot in the door, I'm going to do well,” and that's what I did. I got my foot in the door. I ran batteries for probably 60 days.

I had worked the phones from Mark Duffy, who was the Chairman of the Board for the Chicago Board for the CBOE. I was standing in a pit, the phone rang, and the trader was busy and I jumped on the phone, took the order, announced it, and let the market maker fill the order, and he's like, “You can do that?” I was like, “Did you see my resume?”

Before you know it, we started a brokerage execution service called CTC Success. That started something different. I went on become this when I started compliance immediately after that and spent thirteen years. I then went out to FINRA because I wanted to become a chief compliance officer. I knew that FINRA will catapult me into that type of position.

Coming out of the West side of Chicago, an economically challenged area, and getting that opportunity, what do you remember when you look back on that time as your biggest learnings, like the biggest eye-opening moments?

I still see myself as that little girl on the West side of Chicago who had all this hope. I hoped for something great. I didn't know what something great was, but I knew I wanted something better. Let me preface that by saying I was filled with love and support. I just didn't know I was in an underserved community. Now that I look back on it and I'm able to help so many others, it's a full-circle moment. I feel amazing. I have another little story for you that is so fitting for this moment.

CSCL 56 | Opportunity Gap

Opportunity Gap: I still see myself as that little girl on the West side of Chicago who had all this hope. I hoped for something great. I didn't know what something great was, but I knew I wanted something better.


When I went from working in the equities to the OEX pit, there was a man named Grant. I stood next to him in the pit and I would enter it pretty much enter his tickets the majority of the time. One day he said to me, “My clerk is leaving in two weeks, which you happen to know of a person who's interested in a clerking position.” From my limited perspective of the world, those people who held trading positions were White males, and the clerks were young White males.

When Grant asked me this question, I'd only been at CBOE for maybe three months. I was determined to go out and find a young White male to tell him about this amazing opportunity because I wanted somebody to get this job. When I told Grant, I said, “Give me a few days. Let's see if I can find someone who would be interested in this role,” because, in my mind, I wanted to go find a young White guy to come and take this role.

Grant said, “What do you mean? Why not you?” I said, “You are right. Why not me?” I went home, I got my resume together on my electronic typewriter, and I got my good interview suit. I interviewed for the job. I was told by many of my peers that, “You are not going to get this job. They don't give us these types of jobs.” Guess who got the job? I got the job. I was poached by another firm and another firm. I was told that I wouldn't pass my series seven test. I have a series 7, 4, 63, and 65, and so on and so forth. What do you think I have learned from that is? Just do it. Why not you? Maybe that should be the name of my book, Why Not You? if I should write a book.

When you think about the different things that you have done over the years, what are the consistent strengths that have helped you be successful?

I like challenges. It's interesting the way that my mind works. You hear people say, “If you want to start this, you need to sit down, create this plan, and understand the process, and then your A, B, or C if this doesn't work.” I like to do things and learn along the way. I do sit down and think about it. Trying to draft this perfect plan that may get derailed once you get to step number two doesn't work for me. I like to get in there, get my hands dirty, and make it happen, and that's how Greenwood started. I called up my friend and said, “Can I take your child down or your college student down to the CBOE with me?” They are like, “Sure.” I didn't have the plan to start Greenwood. I just started.

Are there areas that you feel like you have had to work to develop over the years?

Absolutely, because I jump into these different arenas. I read a lot. Thanks to YouTube. I'm able to watch some YouTube videos and learn things online quicker than I would if I were to take a course or things like that. I take courses as well, but there are gaps in my understanding of things. I'm okay with that, but I'm also willing to do what it takes to make sure I can close those gaps. I'm always learning. I'm always looking to learn. I'm always looking for feedback and how to do better.

Always be learning. Always be looking for feedback. Always be looking for ways to do better. Click To Tweet

Do you have particular areas that you are focused on learning right now?

The fact that Greenwood Project has grown at the rate that it has grown and that my background is pretty much in compliance, I would like to have a better understanding of people management at this level. Here's the thing. I'm responsible through Greenwood projects for the livelihoods of people with families. We are making sure that I'm in tune with empathy but also being a manager that gets results. I think that those two can coexist. I want to make sure that I'm aware of my blind spots and that I'm a good leader.

Do you have other than the way that you start your mornings? Are there particular routines or habits that help make you effective?

I'm starting to get into affirmations and understanding how powerful they are. I am starting to believe in the power of manifestation and things of that nature. That's something that I'm learning about and trusting myself, and then also making some time for me because, for several years, I have invested so much time into the Greenwood Project, into developing the student and a program. There's so much that went into that. The improvements that I'm doing for Elois are to be better in the workplace. I would love to start doing more improvements on Elois the person so I got to stop neglecting me.

This is especially hard when you are in an entrepreneurial environment, and you are. It's just a nonprofit entrepreneurial environment. I saw the other day a list of Y Combinator guidance for an entrepreneur. There was one thing about taking care of yourself and getting enough sleep because you let yourself get consumed to the point where you don't take care of yourself. You aren't living a healthy life when you are in the midst of one of these things.

Also vacation and me time and understanding now that me time is not taking a bath. Me time is investing in me. As women and moms, we are trained to believe that your me time is when you are taking a bath. No, that's a necessity. That's not your me time. Your me time should be a time that you take away from everybody and everything to invest in yourself whatever that means.

CSCL 56 | Opportunity Gap

Opportunity Gap: Your “me time” should be a time that you take away from everybody and everything to invest in yourself, whatever that means.


What are the things that you do to help you recharge and stay energized?

I have been intentional about putting time on my calendar to go out to dinner. I haven't been to the movies for several years. I went to the movies for the first time. I went to go see Dungeons & Dragons. That's an old-school favorite, but it was the first time in ten years going to the movies. I went skiing for the first time in November 2022. I was intentional in putting that on my calendar.

I hadn't been on vacation since then. I went somewhere twice last 2022 and it wasn't business related, and I turned my phone off so that I wouldn't get any phone calls, emails, or anything, and it felt good. I am starting to be intentional about the Elois. In order to take care of Greenwood, I have to take care of me first, and I'm starting to realize and understand that.

What's ahead for you? What's ahead for the Greenwood Project?

We have an exciting 2023 coming up. We finished onboarding our incoming students. We are ramping up getting everything together with the programming and fun nights with our students like taking them to meet with the Chicago Bulls and things of that nature. They are excited. The students are calling, the families are calling, and the posts are going out on social media with excitement. I'm looking forward to diving in and having an amazing summer, anticipating the success stories from the firms, the students, and the families.

You mentioned four weeks of training. Do you take the students on your own for a period of time and then they go out to the companies that they are assigned to for the summer?


What are the things you look to do with them in that four weeks?

We have a summer intensive training program that each student must complete when they are entering our program for the first time before they are allowed to go to one of our partner firms. In that summer intensive training, they receive professional development. They receive interview prep. They receive resume workshops and mock interviews. They participate in a lunch and learn daily. They meet industry professionals so they can ask questions about the jobs, the role, the college majors, and things of that nature.

They also get a bootcamp style introduction to accounting and the basics of finance. They also learn DCF modeling during that time. We are major agnostic. Before we send students who are non-traditional Finance majors out to a company and they are not even familiar with the lingo, we bring them in-house, we give them their professional training, and we bring in our education partner. They give our financial training, our DCF modeling, our accounting, and things of that nature. They must pass that with a stock pitch competition at the end of their four weeks, and then they are off to the training firm that they have been matched with.

I literally wrote an article about financial skills and how important they are even if you are not a finance person. I have worked with so many people over the years who don't understand the basics of revenues, expenses, profit margins, fixed costs, and variable costs. You don't have to understand all of the intricacies of how something is going to be accounted for on a balance sheet, but at the same time, you need to understand how the company works to make money and whether they making money. It's good that you do that for them. A couple of last questions, when you look back at the early part of your career, what do you wish that somebody had told you back then that you know now?

I wish there was a Greenwood Project around so that I could have participated and gotten all of this good training and mentoring. I got my first mentor at 35. There are people who took me under their wing and they may have shown me some things within the industry, but coaching and developing me for a specific role or opportunity or just developing a skillset, I didn't realize the power of a mentor until I was 35 and wish that I'd been intentional about partnering with a mentor at least two decades sooner.

I have always had great working relationships, but I did not understand the power of a mentor and also someone who's a champion for your career. That's something that I teach my students. Get a mentor. It may not be asking a person, “Can you be my mentor,” because professionals are pretty busy. Mentoring seems like a time commitment that they probably can't commit to. If you can go to them and say, “Can I get fifteen minutes to run this process by you and you give me your feedback?” that's coaching and mentoring without the mentor realizing that they are committing time even if it's fifteen minutes.

It's good that you point out the difference between a mentor and a sponsor champion. They do play their overlap in the roles that they play, but they are also a bit different. A mentor's going to give you guidance, but they are not going to take you under their wing and pull you along. Back to your point about whether you have made it if you don't bring others with you. That's what that champion sponsor role is and it's important.

It's very important. If I could do it all over again, I would look to work with someone as a mentor and for someone who's a sponsor.

If you can find yourself in those situations, it's a good place to be. It's hard. You were 35 before you feel like you had a real mentor. Better late than never, but that's late. You missed out on that for the first fifteen years of your career. Any last career lessons that you'd want the audience to take away from our conversation?

Some of the takeaways that are very important are 1) Work with a mentor, 2) Understand your manager's managerial style and if they are a boss or a sponsor for your career because those are two different things, and try to align yourself with a sponsor. 3) Why not you? Do not listen to outsiders saying that you are probably not good enough or you will probably never get this job. Try it. There are training, coaching, and ways to be developed if you have the right personality. Go for it.

Don’t listen to outsiders saying you’re not good enough or you will never get this job. Try it. There are a lot of ways and resources to help you develop if you have the right personality. Go for it! Click To Tweet

Great advice. Thank you for spending the time. You and I met only briefly last summer when I was out in Denver, and the company was hosting that get-together for other companies and students. I was certainly impressed by what you had created. That was my first drill exposure to the Greenwood Project. I'm glad we got a chance to meet then, and maybe I will be out there when you are out there if you are back out in Denver. I will be out there at some point. I don't know when yet.

I'm looking forward to it. It was a pleasure meeting you as well. Thank you for this opportunity to join you and talk about the Greenwood Project and my background.

You are trying to help a population of kids who otherwise wouldn't get exposure to the financial services industry. For me, this is a passion project. You are trying to help people find better purpose and happiness in what they are doing professionally because too few people have it, and that seems like a tragedy to me that so many people are not feeling that sense of fulfillment in their careers. That's what led me to start this.

Thank you for doing this. It's very much needed.

I appreciate that, and have a good rest of your day.

You too.


I'd like to thank Elois for joining me to talk about the inspiring work that she's doing for Black and Latinx students at the Greenwood Project, as well as talking about her own career journey. If you are ready to take control of your career, visit If you'd like more regular insights, you can become a PathWise member. It's free. You can also sign up on the website for the PathWise newsletter and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Thanks, and have a great day.


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About Elois Joseph

CSCL 56 | Opportunity GapElois Joseph is the co-founder of The Greenwood Project, which aims to introduce Black and Latinx students to the finance industry.

Elois has been leading The Greenwood Project for the last 7 years. Prior to that, she was a Senior Examiner with FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Before that, she spent a number of years at Chicago Trading Company, in trade support and compliance roles. And before that, she was on the floor of the Chicago Board Options Exchange in a variety of roles with several member firms.

Elois earned her BA in Journalism from Columbia College Chicago and her MBA from Northern Illinois University. She and her family live in the Chicago area.

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