TONYA PLEAR – FELLOWS SPOTLIGHT

What is your occupation and how did you come to work in this field?

My current occupation is Chief Administrative Advisor supporting the Corporate Trust - U.S. Client and Business Development segment at BNY Mellon. In my role, I work to manage and align resources to strategic projects and initiatives that support sales, relationship management and client service functions for the division including: regulatory and compliance related actions, client programs and initiatives, technology, talent management, employee engagement and other initiatives that are in alignment with BNY Mellon’s Plan to Win.

After building my career on the client side of the business as a relationship manager at both The Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation (DTCC) and BNY Mellon, I transitioned into my role as a Chief Administrative Advisor to broaden my general management experience. As a relationship manager, I developed a great understanding of many operational aspects of the financial services industry and expanded client relationships. However, after several years, I felt I could better position myself for greater exposure and leadership opportunities by transitioning to business administration.

I am also actively engaged in diversity and inclusion initiatives at BNY Mellon and currently serve as a Co-Chair of the IMPACT NY/NJ Metro regional chapter, a multi-cultural business resource group that fosters diversity and inclusion, promotes career development and advancement and engages employees in thoughtful conversation with a particular focus on the recruitment, retention and development of multi-cultural employees.

What is the biggest challenge of your work?

The biggest challenge of my work is working to connect the dots. At any given time I may be working on 10-15 different projects/initiatives and often begin working on a project in the middle of the process. Additionally, I receive information from a variety of stakeholders who seemingly provide updates with only their needs in mind. So begins the sift and sort process where I work to determine the key points critical to my next step to effectively support the business process. I also have a strong desire to learn and understand the nature and scope of the project/initiative I am working on which often requires additional reading and information gathering to have a full picture of: what is taking place and if there are similar initiatives in existence or in the project pipeline, what information and action steps need to be communicated to employees or clients, and most important how to minimize touch points and redundant requests to clients and/or employees.

What is your proudest achievement?

One of my best achievements to date is my participation on a cross departmental team that developed a plan to transition a segment of the department’s work group into a Center of Excellence, which was a new concept, in the organization, at the time of the project. The team was challenged to create an innovative plan that would offer an effective and streamlined structure that incorporated continuous quality control over processes, consistent client service and ongoing training and development for employees. I proposed one of the key recommendations for this new process which was the implementation of a work flow tool to manage work requests electronically and create associated metrics to manage productivity and completion status. I am happy to say a tool of this magnitude has been enabled and is being continually improved to enhance daily operations. Because of the success of the project the team received a divisional Above and Beyond Award for our collective efforts and contributions.

What leaders, thinkers or doers do you admire most?

There are so many people doing great work these days and there are many attributes of leaders that I admire tremendously. Mellody Hobson’s dedication to and ultimate rise at Ariel Investments is very inspiring. I have heard her speak about commitment to her work at Ariel and the sacrifices she made to succeed in her early career. One of my favorite non- profit leaders is Joi Gordon of Dress for Success. There is a great deal of authenticity in her leadership and support of women. The passion she has and shares when she speaks about her work is awe-inspiring.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

In 10 years I hope to be living and working at the intersection---where my professional work, my life’s purpose and my daily pursuits---intersect at a point where I can inspire greatness and transformation in people. I hope to be doing this work as a diversity thought leader and talent management executive. The two key areas of interest where I want to focus my efforts are:

  1. Issues that pertain to the empowerment, education and progression of women in the workplace and the readiness of girls to advance their education and career aspirations, especially in non-traditional fields.
  2. Enhancing the talent pipeline of underrepresented students into industry, especially students who attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and also talented, underrepresented students who live in cities and towns without educational non-profits and other like organizational resources available to enhance their educational and professional pursuits.

Although we have made significant strides in diversity strategies and recruitment within industry, there is still a great amount of work to do to create sustainable and meaningful change and to broaden the reach of existing programs that have been proven to be successful.

Did you have a mentor or do you mentor someone else? How has that experience changed you?

Mentorship is such a critical part of the development process for both the mentor and the mentee. I mentor and have been mentored however I spend much more time in the role of mentor. It’s a very comfortable space for me and people are easily drawn to me for this reason. I grew up in a family of educators and doers that were committed not only to educating children but serving the greater community. Whether by nature or nurture this has become a core component of who I am and compels me to mentor when asked in most situations. I have and continue to learn a great deal from the people I currently mentor.

The mentors I’ve had throughout my career have played a critical part in my professional and personal development. I appreciate the challenge my mentors provide more than anything. It’s great to hear what you do well and to get guidance on prescribed professional steps for success…. but challenging my thoughts, my perceptions and my actions while offering a different insight/viewpoint is what I find to be most beneficial and thus what creates the greatest amount of personal and professional growth for me.

What do you hope to gain from your CUP Fellows Program experience to help you make a significant and positive impact in your community?

The CUP Fellows Program has enhanced what I believe is my core self. I have been actively engaged and committed to community work for a long time but the two critical learnings for me were the power of effectively building, managing and leveraging relationships/networks; and engaging with others in consideration of different social styles. These learnings are important for me because relationship/coalition building, diversity of thought and ultimately consensus building are critical to effecting change and creating a positive impact.