CHICAGO – Shabana Rahman is thriving in the world of banking after an interesting chain of events that happened half a world apart.
Growing up in India, Rahman idolized her teachers at Raymond Memorial Higher Secondary School and dreamed of becoming one herself. Years later, her dreams became reality when she earned a bachelor’s degree in education and taught geography, Hindi and English for 12 years at the Seventh Day Adventists school in Kolkata, India.
Even though she loved her job and owned a successful business with her husband, Rahman knew she wanted more, so she filed immigration papers to move from her home in West Bengal, India, to the United States.
My motive was to provide a better life. In India, we have this idea that life is better in the United States and that the educational opportunities are better. With a newborn son, this second priority was particularly important.
Rahman and her family waited 11 years for their immigration papers to clear, and in February 2013 she finally moved to Chicago, where her sister-in-law lived.
Shortly after moving, Rahman realized that she had an unrealistic impression of life in America. Most problematic among these realizations was that despite her 12 years of experience with middle school and high school students, she could not teach in the United States without a valid teaching license.
“My sister-in-law tried to explain that I would need a license, but I didn’t understand that. I only found out when I applied for jobs and nobody would hire me,” Rahman said, before adding with a reluctant sigh: “Life is not as easy here as we thought it would be. Things are quite different than we expected.”
Needing a job so she and her husband could provide for their family, Rahman began working at a fast-food chain and department store while her husband worked at a large discount retailer.
After securing their new jobs, Rahman and her husband needed a bank near their home. Rahman found the employees at her local PNC Bank branch to be kind and helpful—a welcome change amidst the challenges she faced every day.
“In India, we didn’t have online banking so you had to stand in a huge line for hours at the bank, and when you finally got to the front, they could close the window and say it was time for lunch,” she said. “It was very bureaucratic.”
After talking with the branch manager during her visits, Rahman explained that she was working in retail because she could not secure a teaching position. She remembers the manager, Katarzyna Kochowicz, saying, “Shabana, you’re better than that,” before offering to help her apply for an open position at that same branch.
In July 2014, just over one year after moving to the United States, Rahman began her new career with PNC as a branch financial sales consultant – working for Kochowicz. Her new job as a banker is not so different from being a teacher.
Just like teachers, I help my customers learn. I’m imparting my financial knowledge and explaining accounts until they understand how the bank works. I go step by step and repeat things as we go, always checking that they understand before I move on, because it could be simple for me, but not for someone hearing this information for the first time.
This customer focus is something Rahman learned during her first jobs in America. “Whether you’re serving hamburgers at a restaurant or helping a customer open a loan, it’s all the same—you make sure the customer is happy.”
Her desire to please customers and teach them about banking has led many to unknowingly remark that Rahman would make an excellent teacher—a comment that always encourages her.
Outside of banking, she puts her teaching experience to use by serving as vice president of the Parent-Teacher Organization at the school of her two sons. She also works with their teachers to learn more about the American educational system and its differences from India.
Even though her own teaching now happens in a bank branch instead of a classroom, Rahman said that she’s proud of her job.
“One of my proudest moments is getting this job. I’m finally doing what I deserve to do,” Rahman said. “I have a long way to go, but I’m still hopeful that one day I can go back to school and be a public school teacher.”
Shabana Rahman is proud to work with customers as they learn about banking
My most memorable moment of teaching was when a mother cried and told me, ‘I gave birth to my son, but you gave him life.’ He’s successful now and still calls to thank me.
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