Director of Underwriting, SBL Central Region, Freddie Mac
I love that Multifamily is ever-evolving. We’re always trying to keep up with the times and continue growing. Sometimes it makes my head spin but I like that challenges keep us on our toes.— Jessica Gonzalez
How do you describe yourself?
A: I am the type of person who meets challenges head-on. I do not run away from things or sweep them under the rug and hope they go away. I try to always maintain integrity and stay humble, which I attribute to my mid-West upbringing.
What is your business role?
A: I am Director of Underwriting for the SBL Program and lead the Central Region Credit and Underwriting team. I make sure the credit team stays afloat for the Central region by ensuring that we stay consistent with the national SBL platform. I also ensure we have transparency in our Guide and platform. And I am always continuously working to build our partnerships.
I directly and indirectly manage 34 reports. It’s a large group due to all our third-party underwriting groups that fall under me, along with our Chicago and Dallas underwriting team and UDS specialists.
How did you get started in the Multifamily Industry?
A: I stumbled into it by chance. My real estate career began in Single Family. In 2004, I applied for a position at Freddie Mac and after meeting with me, the interviewer became my advocate. We realized the position I applied for in Single Family was too junior for my experience, so instead I got hired as a Mortgage Loan Administrator in Multifamily. From there, I moved over and became an underwriting analyst, which I believe that I was the first person to cross over from the Purchase group to Underwriting. I was able to grow as an analyst into an Underwriter and developed a passion for Credit.
I love that Multifamily is ever-evolving. We are always trying to keep up with the times and continue growing. Sometimes it makes my head spin, but I like that these challenges keep us on our toes.
What is your biggest business accomplishment so far?
A: Getting the first Small Balance Loan Lab off the ground and turning it into a successful event that we now do annually. When the SBL program first started we didn’t have the robust Seller relationships that we have now and we had to strengthen those relationships. Mike Patterson came up with the idea to hold an event where our credit and underwriting team would set up live appointments with our OptigoSM Lenders and issue loan commitments on the spot. Nothing like that had ever been done so there was nothing to line it up against, but he and I jumped in and got it done. There were some lessons learned and some great achievements. This continues to be a way for us to strengthen our relationships and truly demonstrate our partnerships.
Have you experienced any challenges as a woman in a predominately male industry?
A: When I first started in Multifamily 15 years ago, there were only a few women in the Chicago office. It didn’t start to change until many years later. My only women mentors were the women beside me, so getting into new roles was a bit of an obstacle that I believe we all successfully accomplished.
What's the best part of your job?
A: The people. Your colleagues can make or break your experience because you spend the majority of your life with them. I am fortunate to have such great colleagues, as well as external partners. I have built strong relationships which makes coming to work easy. We are all working toward the same goal. I think of the Multifamily industry as a large extended family.
Did you have anyone who influenced or inspired you?
A: I grew up surrounded by a lot of Midwestern valued women. I had a lot of aunts who were all professional women with high demanding positions and had to grow in workplaces that were predominately male. Those family role models helped me understand how to approach certain scenarios. They told me how to make my voice heard when I’m in a room with 10 men. They offered great suggestions and advice to me from a very young age.
My junior high school assistant principal, Ms. Hill, was one of the strongest women I’ve ever met. She was a phenomenal role model for me as a child. She was the only woman assistant vice principal in our district. She had complete control of the students and staff of an inner-city school which said a lot. She managed to spend time with every single student there and introduce programs that would help build character.
I have been fortunate to have access to exceptional role models outside of the work place with all of the exceptional Freddie Mac leaders.
Any advice to share?
A: Choose a mentor. Choose a mentee. You don’t always have to wait for someone to reach out to you. You can do that on your own. It doesn’t have to be formal. Just get together for a coffee and to talk and ask questions. And whether you’re a man or woman, you have to have balance. You want women to empower women, but you gain a lot of insights from the men around you so don’t think for a second that you cannot grow from a male mentor. I have chosen mentors because of the guidance and experience that I hope to gain and that comes with the willingness to allow yourself to fail and try again. You will not always succeed and those situations will allow you to grow.
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