When Breshai Gleaton first learned about American Sign Language, she had no idea that it was going to change her life. Her best friend was joining their high school's ASL club and Gleaton, who didn't know anyone who spoke ASL, decided to give it a try. "I thought it would be cool to be able to communicate in another language, and I hadn't had a lot of luck with spoken languages," she recalls.
Gleaton fell in love with ASL, and chose to continue learning it during college, even after her friend dropped it. Today, she puts her ASL fluency to use in Washington, D.C., where she works as a bilingual Associate Banker in a Chase bank branch that is designed specifically to serve the deaf and hard of hearing community. “I knew I wanted to combine my passion for service with finance, which was my major," she says. "I stumbled upon a job posting for JPMorgan Chase, and it ticked those boxes."
What does success look like to you?
I'm definitely succeeding if I have my inner peace. I want a work/life balance where I'm satisfied with work and am actually having a positive impact on my community or the customers that come into the bank. I need to feel like my work is worthwhile. I've always felt a passion for service, so if I am fulfilling that, that is success for me, and that aids in my inner peace, as well.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
I know this sounds so clichéd, but I have to say my mom. Especially as a black woman, she is absolutely who I look up to. Her work ethic is insane. She is the definition of Super Woman. She works, comes home, takes care of her kids, makes sure we are all doing well, makes sure my dad is doing well, and also makes time for herself.
She has this radical self-care that I would love to model one day. It doesn't necessarily mean facials or spa treatments, though it can. For her, it's about taking care of herself so that she is able to help people. For example, if her day is really busy—work, kids, everything hitting all at once—she will make sure to find 30 minutes to just take a walk, just to breathe and be with herself. When I was a kid and I saw that, I was always like, “Um, ok, I guess if that's what you want to do," but now I see the value in taking time to just be you and not have the pressures of the world pressing down on you.
What do you consider the most valuable piece of advice you've ever received and where did it come from?
My dad taught me that “no" is a complete sentence. You don't have to explain yourself when you say it. If you are uncomfortable doing something, you should be empowered to just say no. It's actually a really important thing for me to remember in a customer-facing role like mine because a lot of people will say things to make you doubt yourself.
What is the biggest obstacle you've overcome in life?
College. Growing up, I was always the student with all As and perfect attendance, and I just generally exceeded expectations all throughout school. Then I got to college, this new environment. I had all this independence and I had to adapt very quickly and I was not at all equipped for it, especially because I did finance, which was very male dominated and required a lot of group work and that made me doubt myself.
My first year I did fine, but my second year got a lot harder and I struggled. I had to learn, in terms of my mental health, not to take on too much. That's a lesson that now helps me professionally, because I know what I can handle and what will push me too far. But I graduated, and I came out of it great. And honestly, I am very grateful that I had that bubble that is college to at least learn those lessons in because in the real world those lessons are a lot harder to learn.
Work-from-home, go to the office or a mix of both?
Going to the office, because I feed off of other people's energy. Talking to people, being with my customers, that's where I like to be.
What got you interested in personal finance?
Weirdly enough, my last year of high school my school required all of us to take a personal finance class. I was not happy about it because I was almost out of there and didn't want to add some random class. But they were like, "Nope. You gotta take this class," and once I was in it, I was like, "Wow, I actually like math and playing around with numbers," and so I just kept going with it.