SoFi’s Explorer Program Creates New Career Opportunities for Employees

With the “Great Resignation” showing no signs of slowing down, it is critical that employees have opportunities to grow and develop their careers. This is not only vital to retain talent, but to ensure each employee has a fulfilling experience, catered to their individual needs. 

At SoFi, we know career growth is a competitive advantage. That’s why we have created the Explorer Program, which is designed to give early career professionals on our Operations team the chance to learn new skills that will help them find the next step in their SoFi careers. Our Operations team is at the center of our members’ lives, delivering a world-class experience to help our nearly 4M members achieve financial independence. 

We sat down with four employees who have been a part of this program to understand how the Explorer program came to life and what their experiences have been like participating in the program. 

Meet John Davidson, senior HR business partner, Traci Grimes, senior manager, workforce management, Jared Butler, investment specialist, and Jaron Shim, real time analyst. 

John, how do we define the Explorer Program at SoFi?

Photo - John DavidsonJohn: The Explorer Program creates an avenue for our Operations employees to explore cross-functional career opportunities (both inside and outside of Operations), build new skills, and expand their professional networks.

Any hourly employee in operations can apply to participate in the program and candidates are selected to interview with the managers offering Explorer roles based on a combination of performance and tenure. To make sure we can spread the opportunity, employees can apply to participate in the program multiple times, but priority is given to those who have not yet had the opportunity. Those selected will spend six months operating in their Explorer role full-time. 

 How and why did this program come to fruition?

John: Options for our Operations employees to have growth assignments outside their current roles used to be rare and fairly informal. In an effort to make these opportunities more readily available, provide chances for internal mobility and growth, and build bench strength in some key roles within Ops, we wanted to make these types of opportunities more formal and frequent. And the Explorer Program was born! 

So how was the Explorer Program rolled out? 

John: We launched in late 2020 and since then, we've had a variety of roles available for Explorers to, well, explore. These have included roles in project management, workforce management, escalations analytics, investor relations, and issue management (just to name a few), and we are always looking for ways to incorporate new and exciting opportunities. 

Why is having a program like this so important at SoFi?

John: There are so many reasons! Employee growth and development, building bench strength, retaining our talented employees, allowing for greater understanding of how different areas of the business operate, and why and how the work our Ops employees do each day is so impactful to SoFi's success. 

Traci, we’d love perspective as a manager being involved with Explorers, but first - tell us what you do at SoFi? 

Traci GrimesTraci: I am a senior manager on the Workforce Management (WFM) team, which is responsible for supporting the outlook planning and day-to-day execution of our frontline operations business. WFM is made up of four key functions: capacity planning and scheduling, real time analysis, system administration, and reporting. 

How has this program been valuable to you as a manager? 

Traci: The Explorer program has been a benefit in multiple ways. First, it allows me to share with participants what we do in our specific group and help dispel any misconceptions of WFM that exist within the company. Second, participating allows us to develop and identify talent from within our organization! Since we have started the program, I have been able to hire five of the Explorer candidates into permanent, full-time roles on my team. Lastly, this program provides an opportunity for my team to work on their own leadership skills in training and providing direction and guidance to the Explorers.

What were your main objectives, from a manager’s perspective, in participating in this program?

Traci: To grow and share knowledge of our WFM team, and of course develop talent from within. 

Thanks for your perspective, Traci. Now let’s hear from two employees who made their Explorer positions full-time roles. 

Jared and Jaron, tell us about your experience in the program. 

Jared ButlerJared: Let me set the scene of where I was at in my career at the time the Explorer program came into my life. I was working at SoFi full-time as a Member Service Representative and had just graduated from college with an undergraduate degree in exercise science (with the intention of doing a graduate degree in physical therapy). I wound up deciding not to pursue exercise science or graduate school, which left me feeling like I didn’t have a solid career plan. I felt stuck! So, when I saw an internal job posting for a new role called an “Invest Explorer,” I lit up. 

The job would offer me the opportunity to work for six months as an investment specialist. I immediately started updating my resume, and applied for the job.  After I interviewed and was accepted, I was so excited to get started. The Explorer program challenged me to stretch and grow. You get to take out that which you put into it, and for me that resulted in the job offer I had wanted since I started working at SoFi two years ago. I am extremely grateful that SoFi took the risk on me to provide not only a great learning opportunity, but a pivoting point in my career.  

Jaron Shim.headshotJaron: At the time of joining the Explorer program, I had been at SoFi for three years as a consumer loan reviewer, reviewing applications for personal and student loans for new and existing SoFi members. Being a part of the Explorer Program was like being in an internship - something I never got to experience before working at SoFi. I was partnered with the workforce team, which as you heard from Traci, helps align staffing needs for the operations department - from forecasting and implementing future staffing needs, to the real time analyst team, which assists various departments with staffing and scheduling needs in real time. 

I was on the real-time analyst team during my time as an Explorer.  The Workforce team mentored me, guiding me through a high-level overview of what their day-to-day work was like during the first month, and slowly easing me through working small and simple projects to get me comfortable working as a real-time analyst. Everyone on the team was always open to answering my questions and showing me where I could search to find the answers on my own...and I’ll be honest I felt like I asked them millions of questions! But everyone was so kind and patient. 

Jared, what new skills have you developed since starting in this program? 

Jared: I got a lot of exposure to the securities industry, something I knew very little about before the Explorer role. This program was also a great way to practice time management and accountability. I had the flexibility to structure most of my day the way I chose to, and had to learn how to make each minute count and hold myself accountable to meeting my goals. Most importantly, the volume and pace forced me to learn quickly on-the-job. I gained a life skill that can help you achieve just about anything. 

Jaron, what advice would you have for others looking to learn new skills and grow their career? 

Jaron: My father frequently told me to understand the “why” in everything I do, and this is something I have taken to heart as it drives me to constantly learn and challenge the status quo. I also actively work with my managers to identify how I can utilize my skill set to help with projects that impact the team or the company. I have always made it a point to show my managers what my skills and passions are so that I am the first person they think about when they need help on a project. 

We’re excited to see how this program evolves, and in true SoFi fashion, how we iterate, learn, and innovate to help support the career development of our employees.

The individuals featured are SoFi employees. Their personal experiences, obviously, do not take into account your own specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. Results will vary.

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Kari Scheidt, Talent Brand @ SoFi