January 10, 2018

Have you seen the recent flyers of HDF loan products? Then you might see the face of Alba Castillo, our Business Development Specialist! Alba connects HDF with the outside world and hosts outreach events. Today, we chatted with Alba about how it is like being in her position.

What is a typical day like for you at HDF?
I’m the Business Development Specialist. My normal day is 9 to 5, but it goes a little off-script when I have events. I do training events with banks and loan officers about HDF’s policies and procedures. Many times there are new loan officers that are just learning about HDF. In addition, I host first-time homebuyer seminars, and also present at seminars organized by partner banks. I work a lot with outside parties, including at employer outreach events.

How did you come to know HDF?
HDF was not totally new to me because in my previous job as a real estate paralegal, I worked with Winifred Bailey and Gwen Robinson to close purchase transactions. But I had been looking to make a career change to a field that is more socially minded. Back in grad school, I had an internship in micro-lending, and from that experience I knew I wanted to be involved in financial inclusion and to work with those that are underserved by the financial industry.

Finally, in late in 2016, after a long time of looking to make a career change, I decided to see if HDF had any job openings. I asked for help from the attorney I worked for at the time. He put me in contact with Joan Carty and we ended up meeting for coffee.  A couple of weeks later I met Kelly Almanzar for lunch. I was very excited about the possible merging of my mortgage industry experience and HDF’s socially conscious mission. By the end of December I knew I would be working at HDF and I remember telling Joan over the phone that she had made my year!

How did you come to work in the real estate industry in the first place?
While in college, I worked with a temp agency to earn extra money during school breaks. And after I graduated, they placed me at a mortgage company in Stamford. The company was very busy and I was hired full-time as a processor. I started to learn more about the real estate industry and enjoyed the operations side of mortgages. Within a year, they trained me to become an underwriter. Eventually, I moved on to work for a few other banks, but after the mortgage crisis of 2008, I thought I would leave the industry and go to graduate school.

Could you tell us about a rewarding experience you have had at HDF?
I’ve had many. Sometimes it’s as simple as connecting the right people to solve a problem. And I’m always happy to help solve problems. Other times, the rewarding experience is helping a client see they have the potential to become a homeowner. Even when a client realizes they need a few months to work on their credit, or to save more money, they are happy to know HDF can help once they are ready to proceed.

Could you name one person that you most enjoyed working with, especially someone outside your department?
I like working with the Development and Communications department, especially with Mary Trent. They’re always willing to help and we work well together. My face is on most of the new fliers the Development and Communications team made. I had to get used to that approach, but now I like it, and I even bring it up during my presentations at outreach events – it’s a good ice breaker (laughing).

What are your work goals for the next two years?
I want to learn more about this position and more broadly about community development finance. Again, because the whole idea of financial inclusion is what drives me. I want to make the most of my position and get more people to know HDF. It can be life changing to buy a home and to have that shift in a family’s life. It’s a big deal. I believe in our mission, and I want to keep learning more about community development.

Could you share the most important lesson you have learned during your time at HDF with us ?
So many! I’ve learned that it’s ok to not know everything. I like to be challenged with new tasks and information, and with that comes many moments of learning.

What are your hobbies?
I try to go to a gym about 3-4 times a week. I also like hiking and hanging out with friends and family. My parents and sisters are all pretty local so I get to see them often. My immediate family moved from Ecuador to the US when I was 10.

What is your favorite animal?
I think dogs are pretty awesome. But I have a cat at home because they are more low maintenance. My cat’s name is Bella, meaning beautiful in Spanish and Italian.

If you have 24 hours off from work and unlimited amount of money, what will you do and why?
I would definitely travel. It would be to an amazing tropical spot in Hawaii or Fiji. Traveling is big for me, if I didn’t have to worry about work. I traveled a lot more in college. With my school, I went to Cuba, Ireland, and a number of other places in Latin America. I’ve never touched Asia or Africa at all. There’s a lot to see still.

Thanks Alba for sharing your experience working with HDF with us.