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EP 266: Reaching Senior Level Management after Relaunch: Keita Young's Exciting Career Path

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Episode Description

Keita Young is an attorney who is currently head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at FanDuel. After practicing employment law earlier in her career, Keita took an 11-year career break from the legal profession. During that time she was an entrepreneur - owning a children’s specialty boutique and eventually relaunched her legal career through JPMorgan Chase’s ReEntry Program. She was selected for the inaugural 2014 Legal ReEntry cohort and over the next 8 and 1/2 years, Keita rose in seniority in the legal department, moved to Human Resources to program manage a global diversity strategy and eventually rejoined the legal department to serve as JPMC's Global Head of Outside Counsel Engagement. Keita left JPMC to become the first head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for FanDuel, the fast-growing sports-tech entertainment company. This episode is the podcast version of a previously recorded video interview, aired in its entirety on the iRelaunch website.

Read Transcript

Carol Fishman Cohen: Welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss return to work strategies, advice, and success stories. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. Today we're focusing on relaunchers who have been back in the workforce for longer periods in order to understand their career.

Once they relaunch, and there's no better example of this than Keita Young. Keita serves as Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at sports tech entertainment company, FanDuel. In this role, she's responsible for developing and leading FanDuel's DE & I strategy. Keita joined FanDuel from JP Morgan Chase, where she was an attorney in the legal department and was actively involved in JPMC's DE and I efforts, that's diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, over her eight years with the firm. Keita relaunched her career through JP Morgan Chase's career reentry program called ReEntry in 2014 after an 11 year career break, during which time she founded and ran a successful children's consignment boutique. And prior to her career break, Keita practiced employment law for six years.

Keita, welcome and thanks for joining us.

Keita Young: Thank you for having me.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Well, it's thrilling for us to see your career progression over time and I'm so happy that we have the opportunity to talk about it. And I really want to spend most of our time talking about your career progression since the time of your relaunch, when you started in 2014 at JP Morgan Chase.

Can you talk about, first, those first couple of years, when you started there and how you started and what you were doing.

Keita Young: Sure. 2014 really, that's probably the year before 2014, my youngest, I have three children, I'm a practicing lawyer for years, had my first child and thought that I'd stay home maybe one year.

Well, one year turned into 11 years and three children later. So, maybe when my daughter, my youngest was around two, I was kind of itching thinking, I think I wanna get back into the workforce full-time. I had ran a children's consignment store, like you said. But I wanted something more. So, I had heard about this reentry program at JP Morgan Chase.

Ended up, I remember going to an introductory session where they were explaining the program and there had to be hundreds of women in this room. And I remember thinking, I remember them getting on stage, they said, we're gonna hire five people. And I was thinking, I'm never gonna get this, like, I'm never gonna get this, you know, that self-doubt. But I ended up getting the reentry in the reentry program and even then thinking, I said to my mom, I need you to come up from Philadelphia and be Keita for 11 weeks, 'cause I'm gonna be coming back home after 11 weeks. Halfway through the program they said to me, Listen, we think you're great. We'd love you to come back full time. So I ended up coming to JP Morgan Chase through the reentry program. So I was one of the inaugural participants in the Legal Department's ReEntry Program. And interesting, I had been practicing employment law before I took my break and thought that I was going to go into the employment section in the legal department.

But I ended up, they said to me, we've tapped you for another department, the Root Cause Analysis Department. And I remember thinking, Why, I don't know anything about this, like why would they put me in this department, but it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. It was a new department that just got started. They were really looking for like talent to bring this group off the ground and I was selected to do that. So I ended up going to the Root Cause Analysis Department, practicing law, really helping JP Morgan look at risks, essentially that was associated with customer complaints, legal, reputational, and legal risks.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Oh, ok.

Keita Young: So I had that. It was great. Ended up serving , in that department for two years, and really enjoyed it. It was something new, something that I had never done before. But it really gave me exposure to the company that I probably wouldn't have gotten if I had gone to into the HR department.

I got to meet senior leaders and it really was the launch of my career at JP Morgan Chase. Those early years, people always ask me, how was it, coming from 11 years off into the legal department at JP Morgan Chase had no financial background before, I was at a law firm, but hadn't worked in the financial industry. But, all I really kind of utilized the skillsets that I had developed in law school. I ran a business, so I understood my skillsets around Excel and PowerPoint. I was actively involved in my kid's school doing all, running this auction, running that event at the school.

So I kept my skillsets ready. So what actually, when I went into JP Morgan, I really had to learn a new area, but I really leaned on the skill sets that I had developed, one, when I was practicing law, and two, the things that I had learned and experienced during my time off, which I think made me successful.

I didn't grow up in JP Morgan Chase. I wasn't like homegrown, but I brought a different perspective that I think they respected and honored and valued really, that I had gained over the years.

Carol Fishman Cohen: You are encapsulating so much of why career reentry programs exist in the first place with everything that you just said.

I wanna point out, that first of all, you said you didn't have a finance background per se. you had a legal background. Of course you're going to the legal area of the finance company, but still, sometimes people just assume that you have to have that finance background to be working in a financial institution.

So that's really important. The broad perspective and new perspective that you brought, all of that, is fundamental to why career reentry programs are started in the first place, and JP Morgan Chase's program is one of the oldest programs. And so, you're such a testament to that program also because of the eight years that you spent there.

So after the initial part where, I didn't know that's the area of law that you were in the root cause department, interesting. I have to research out myself now. But you then pivoted more into a diversity area and I wanted to know how did that come about? Did they suggest it? Did you suggest it?

And what happened during your time in that part of your organization?

Keita Young: It was interesting, when I came to JP Morgan, I was practicing law in the legal department. But I was also involved, very much involved in the diversity efforts in the legal department. So that was like my second job that I actually wasn't getting paid for because I was a lawyer practicing, but I've always had a passion for diversity.

And JP Morgan had a robust legal diversity committee and I was actively involved. So I guess after two years of being in the legal department, there was a new diversity strategy that Jamie Diamond said that he was implementing called Advancing Black Leaders. And this was a strategy that had a department, it had a head, it was like funded.

It was someone's job to actually look at a strategy, develop a strategy around the black employees at JP Morgan Chase. And so it's funny, I was networking, meeting a lot of different people, I had met a lot of people in the diversity space and I met a woman who was tapped to be the head of that group advancing black leaders.

And she and I started talking and she was like, why don't you come and be my program manager and help me develop this strategy around advancing black leaders? So many opportunities open up to you that you don't even realize how they come about and how important they are. And I remember speaking to one of my mentors at JP Morgan, who's head of the consumer and community banking, and I was telling him about, I've been offered this position to come leave the legal department, go into HR, work with this fabulous woman on this global strategy.

And you know what he said to me? He said, Keita, you will always be a lawyer. We hired you after 11 years of not practicing law and being a stay-at-home mom, opening up a business. If you wanna go and work in HR, go do it. You can always come back. And that to me, just like, it was like a light bulb went off.

I was like, he's working. This is my passion. This is what I wanna do. So I ended up leaving, going over, and that's where I really learned about developing a strategy, a global diversity strategy about attracting, hiring, retaining and developing. And it was a wonderful experience. I was there, I was, for the first time I got to look at the company from a global perspective outside of legal, it really opened up so many doors in terms of understanding the HR aspect of a company, which I wasn't too familiar with at all, working in legal. And that's how I ended up in fully immersed in, diversity, equity inclusion, and I had that opportunity.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. Okay. So again, so many things that you're mentioning, first of all, you had a mentor and was this person a mentor who you started out with when you were, as part of the reentry program or someone who you developed a relationship with over time because boy they, did they give you a really important perspective at this pivotal moment?

Keita Young: Yeah, and you know what's funny 'cause at JP Morgan, they assigned us to mentors and I had a fabulous mentor who was wonderful, but , the person I'm talking about was probably more like a sponsor.

He was head of the relauncher community, very senior person who had actually taken an interest in me and was like someone that I could bounce ideas off of, was very interested in my career and who I was as a person. so I was just talking to him about it, and that's what you do.

You network, you meet people, you know a group of people who guide you through your career, and he was one of them. So it was really important to me, and I'll never forget that. It was because of him that I said, You know what I'm gonna go do this, like, of course I could do this.

So I ended up leaving the legal department and went to into HR.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. And I guess that's the other thing is, you said, opportunities open up when you're not exactly looking for them. And I'm hearing you say, you knew, you ended up knowing this person who ended up with this really important role for the advancing Black Leaders program, I guess the important role, head of it, and that conversation or knowing that person led to this opportunity, something you, it wasn't like you were strategizing or trying to position yourself. It was just happening.

Keita Young: Yeah, it was just happening and I think I've always known that I've had a liking for diversity. And so I would always talk to people about what I was doing in the legal department and how it was a passion of mine and meeting people. And when they started this group, this office, I was so intrigued by it.

So I just started talking to people about it, like, wow, they're funding a whole office, it's focused on black people and strategy around that. And that's how I just started talking and that's how I ended up having this wonderful opportunity.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. Okay. So can you talk to us a little bit about how long you, were in that role and then this more senior role you moved into after that, and maybe bring us through how that part of, part of it happened.

Keita Young: So I was there for a little over two years, and then again meeting people, right? And just talking and networking and building relationships, which I think are really important.

I met a woman who was in the legal department of JP Morgan Chase. And now when I left, I will tell you, everyone said you could always come back, Keita, you can always come back to legal. So I had done this great work for two years. Helped out the strategy, it was really fabulous, met wonderful people. And someone said to me, I was out, I think having coffee with someone in the legal department said, why don't you come back to legal, but be on the operational side this time, Keita. We looked at you as a relationship builder, right? That you develop relationships. We need someone to serve in a role that's head of our outside council engagement efforts, which essentially serves as a relationship manager between JP Morgan Chase and our outside counsel law firm.

Now they said, this is relationship management is a piece of it, there's also another piece of the rate negotiations, but there's also a third piece that will interest you, diversity and leading the legal department's strategy around the use of diverse counsel. So diversity was involved, it was also a greater platform.

I ended up going back in the legal department but on the operational side, and that's what I did for almost three, three years, almost four years. Almost four years I was there in that, which was also great. So ended up leveraging my legal background, career, knowing law firms, knowing lawyers, how they operate, also leveraging what I had learned when I was in HR with the, from the diversity aspect, and then also taking on a new area of the rate negotiations, which I had never done before, but that was all like a platform that was larger, a bigger platform. And I went back into legal and I did that for a couple of years.

It's so interesting. It's like the world's collided and then you had this role that had this big overlap, between the two. And I think that role was, ' cause was looking at your LinkedIn profile, Global Head of Outside Counsel Engagement, and you had relationships or managed the relationships, like 800 law firms.

Well, we have over 800 law firms in our inventory. So I was, I was literally the relationship manager between JP Morgan Chase and our outside counsel law firms, which are over 800 law firms. So in that role, I was the point of contact really between JP Morgan and our outside counsel law firms, and dealing with any issues, concerns, celebrations, whatever.

That relationship entailed was a part of my, my, my remit.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. Okay. I'm just thinking about this from the perspective of our audience who might be watching, where people are already relaunched and they're thinking about, how do I manage, how do I navigate my career now that I'm relaunched? And they're listening to you talk about how these different, how this path was formed as you moved up.

And I want to now focus on the part where you had spent almost eight years at JP Morgan Chase, you made this big career switch to a completely different company now returning to the diversity space, and I want to know if you can talk to us about how that happened.

Keita Young: Yeah, so like I said, there's a common theme here, right?

That I've always had this passion for diversity and I did think at a point in time that I wanted to be head of a diversity, equity and inclusion group, leading the efforts for a company. At JP Morgan and had really been there that, they're special to me 'cause they gave me a start.

But now there was time really to fly, and really do what I wanted to do full-time in a position where I was leading the efforts, establishing a strategy, taking all the learnings that I had gotten from JP Morgan and really taking it to another level at another company. Interesting, one day I'm just sitting on the couch thinking about, what's my next step? What am I going to do? I think a lot of the things before my past, they've actually kind of came to me, me being proactive in trying to go and figure out, but I knew, I was like, I can do this. I know that I have lots of talents and good ideas and can lead a strategy and develop a strategy.

So I just happen to be looking on LinkedIn, and FanDuel had just, I believe in, in, in fate, and I think that they had just posted, or I saw it for the first time and I ended up applying and I, I sent in my resume and, a couple months later here I am, Chief Diversity Officer, at FanDuel. And oftentimes, one, a wonderful company that is up and coming brand new.

It's no longer in the startup stages. I think we're moving out of the, we're moving out of the startup stage, but it's just a very good match for me and my personality and what I can bring and the culture and the environment. Our CEO, Amy Howe is a woman and she is just phenomenal and great.

I have a wonderful boss, the chief people officer, who immediately, I think our interview was supposed to be a half an hour, ended up being like almost an hour and a half. There was such synergy between us, and her leadership team, it was just a natural fit. But I pinch myself every day thinking, I think about eight years ago, I was a stay-at-home mother with three kids, and now I am in an executive position with a wonderful company, with a wonderful platform that we know that we're going to do groundbreaking things in this industry around diversity.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah, there's so many topics that I wanna talk about based on your answer there. First of all, how unusual is it to see an opening on LinkedIn or somewhere and apply, and then move forward in the process and get hired. So I'm assuming you didn't know anyone at the company and you just, I don't know how that happened.

Keita Young: It's interesting. I did know a co I knew some people who had left JP Morgan who had gone there. And after I applied, I, I reached out .

But I think that they very much kept them out of the process, in terms of because I know, and, speaking to Amy after I get an offer, she's said, Keita, this was a very critical role that we were trying to fill and it needed to be the right person.

You were that person. It took us find you, but once we did, we knew it was you. And I felt the same way about this company. Every day I walk in and I just have a pep in my step because it's just such a nice match and synergy between us that I think, the company can feel it. I can feel it.

And I think it's been, it's been a very good match.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. I can feel it too, just by the way you're talking about it and I'm also thinking when you're talking about the stage that the company's at and you're the first person to be in this role, that you really have this opportunity to set strategy and for the long term.

Like it's a really big deal.

Keita Young: That's what really excites me about this is that it's like a blank slate, right? They're coming in and they're like, I've only been here four weeks now, but it's been like a listening session, learning the culture, learning the people, what's what they've done.

They have done some like grassroots efforts, but they're really like, looking for someone to define the strategy, really implement something that is really sustainable, that will be long-term for the company. So I'd love that I've been given that opportunity. And I think also too, like one of my, one of the things that, and no one's told me this, and this is just on my own saying, is I wasn't,

I came with a different perspective. I wasn't the traditional chief diversity officer that's gone from place to place. I was someone who was in diversity for two years and developed this, helped develop as a strategy. And then I was in the legal department and I've done employment law and I've done, I've worked with leading the legal department strategy around outside counsel engagement.

And all of that together has made me ripe for what's happening right now at FanDuel, which I think is exciting.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah, really exciting. So what was it like when you were leaving JP Morgan Chase to take this job and how was the sendoff and what sort of, what were some of those dynamic?

Keita Young: Yeah, listen, it was, I this is funny, the last day when I was in the office, there was nobody there. It was a Friday and it was the last day. And I remember getting really misty-eyed. They had a celebration, they had a party for me, Stacy Freeman was fabulous, in terms of Keita, I'm sending you off and she's talking to me about JP Morgan's strategy, you know what I'm saying?

It was, it's like a, they're kind of, we know she's gotta go and do this. It's her time right now. This is it. It was really great. And I remember I was sitting in my office and a good friend of mine from LA just happened to call me and I said, God, I just needed a friend right now because it was a little bittersweet leaving. I was ready to go, but I'm leaving some place where I always have, will have allegiance to. They gave me my start after 11 years. Yeah. I remember sitting, and this, I'm going back a little bit when I was a stay-at-home mom and I was saying to my husband, I, I think I wanna go back to work.

And I was like, I think I'm gonna apply to help out in the library around the corner from my house. I was like, what kinda job am I gonna get? And now, eight years later, I'm like, it's fabulous. And the thing is, I don't doubt my qualifications. I don't doubt that I could do this job, that I'm gonna kill it. I'm, I'm gonna do a great job. But it's like, when you're in that state, when you're at home and or you're taking care of a family member, you're not in the workforce, you're kind of like, who's gonna do it? But programs like iRelaunch, ReEntry and just companies that value those that have left the workforce and can bring a perspective, a new, fresh, energizing perspective, are really those companies that are going to get a value add to any other person that they would've hired for a position.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah, for sure. Wow. I'm getting chills just here thinking about it, thinking about your whole, the whole arc of your career at JP Morgan Chase and how, I can see why they might have said that about you, this is your time and you've grown up through here, they're the home of your relaunch, all of those things, together. Really moving. So Keita as we're wrapping up, there are a couple questions I wanna ask you, one is that your career path is such a model for other relaunchers who are trying to navigate their careers post relaunch, and I wanted to know if you have any advice for them, in navigating this process.

Keita Young: One, I would say, get rid of the self-doubt. I know it's there. I had it. I remember thinking, no one's ever gonna hire me. Like, how am I gonna ever get back? And I have people say that to me like, how do you take 11 years off and then go back to work? Who's gonna hire you? Keep your skill sets up.

I was very active in my kids' school. I was very active in an organization called Jack and Jill of America. I started a chapter, I was president, I was vice president. So you know, all those leadership skills that had, I needed to develop or enhance. I was able to work on them in these different organizations that I wasn't getting paid for, but I was actually involved immensely in. I would also say, make sure you're networking with people. You never know, like where an opportunity is going to land just by talking to people, finding out what they do, finding out what your passions are, and just try to get involved, even if it's from a volunteer standpoint, right? You just never know what could lead to something else. That's what I've learned in my career. Just by talking to people. Telling them like what I don't like, Even the reentry program, someone actually told me about it because I was like, I'm thinking about going back to work. And they worked at JP Morgan. They're like, Hey, we're doing this reentry program. That's how it just got started.

And then also, like even when I was at JP Morgan, I remember, and even now, I am proud of the fact that I relaunched and that I took time off. Like I, I'm not embarrassed. It's not something that I don't talk about.

It's a part of my story and that's who I am and I'm proud of it. So I think celebrate that. It makes you unique right from other people. And then, also I think one of the things I, when I was trying to get back into the workforce, one of the things I really tried to do, like you have to have a story, I think.

Yeah. And you have to be able to say it in a way that people hear you, believe you, and really wanna advocate for you. And my story was, I practice law, I took time off, I started a business. I didn't own a business before. I didn't know anything about owning a business, but I did it. And it was successful.

I went back to work through the ReEntry Program at JP Morgan Chase in Root Cause Analysis. No idea. I didn't even know what that was. But like I, it was like, but my story was, If you invest in me I know I can do the job. I've done it. I've done things before that I haven't had any knowledge in, but I've got skillsets.

I've got a, I've got a drive that will, that you'll see will produce results. I think also here, coming to this job, I wasn't chief diversity officer, but I had so many things that added to my plate and my brand and who I was, I was like, of course I can do this job. Of course I can come and I'm passionate about it.

I've got experience in it. And I got hired for it. So a lot of different nuggets to take. I'm an example of someone and I, and I wake myself up every day very blessed in feeling like it's possible you can do it. And you can go on and be successful as you were before you decided to take some time off for whatever reason.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. Oh, I love what you're saying and I was actually part of my, the, my last question was, do you retain your relauncher identity? Do you still think about that and I'm hearing you say loud and clear. Yes. It's part of my story and here you are, with me interviewing you about your relaunch and really being out there all these years later with that still a big piece of what the career path looked like.

Keita Young: I've been going around, I've been doing these fireside chats here, and people wanna get to know you and who you are, and my fun fact is I took 11 years off. That's what I talk about. That's what I'm proud.

I took 11 years off. And look where I am right now. Yeah. And it's just a testament to who I am as a person. It has made me who I am and given me so many qualities and values and understanding that I probably would not have had, if I hadn't taken that time off. So yeah, it's definitely a part of who I am. Listen, when you called me and said, you know would I do this, this podcast. I was like, of course. I love talking about this stuff. I was. And another thing I just wanted to add, I've gone and I've been speaking to individuals here and employees here at FanDuel, and someone said to me in one of our sessions, like you, I know people have been out of the workforce who are trying to get, I was like, that's my story.

That's diversity of thought. That's diversity of experience. That's what we're also looking for too, right? When we consider diversity. So that's something, and I'm like, That's me. That's my identity story, right? That's a part of me who makes who I am as a person, and I'm proud of it. Proud of it.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Keita, thank you for talking to us about your entire career paths for being such a role model. For relaunchers about what that career path looks like, post relaunch years out and in the senior role. Congratulations. We're so excited for you in this new role, and thank you for joining us.

Keita Young: Thank you. Thank you.

Carol Fishman Cohen: To our listeners, thanks for listening to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss return to work strategies, advice and success. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, the CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. And once again, I wanna remind our listeners who are actively relaunching to make sure to register and upload your resume to our iRelaunch job board because that's where employers who are looking to hire relaunchers are regularly perusing to find candidates for their career reentry jobs and programs. Be sure to visit iRelaunch.Com to access our many return to work tools and resources and to sign up for our mailing list so you can receive our weekly return to work report featuring career reentry, jobs and programs.

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