A Grameen America Leader in the Making

At just 24 years old, Jannet Ramirez is a Grameen America staff member on a steep rise. She joined the organization as Trainee Center Manager in our Indianapolis branch five years ago, then became Center Manager, and is being promoted to Assistant Branch Manager. We spoke with Jannet about what drew her to Grameen America, how she has grown in the job, and her future career plans.

How did you come to work for Grameen America?

My mom has been receiving loans from Grameen America since 2013. When she first told me about the organization, I didn’t believe her; it sounded too good to be true. I was in high school at the time. She invited me to join her at a few of the Grameen meetings, but I never went.

After I graduated from high school, I started working at a fulfillment warehouse, packaging all kinds of products and putting in more than 50 hours per week. One day when I was at work, I got a call from a strange phone number. I thought they mentioned Grameen, but I wasn’t sure, so I hung up. I got home later that night, and I told my mother that I may have gotten a call from someone at Grameen and she said that she had mentioned to her Center Manager that I was looking for a job. I said, “It would have been nice if you had let me know!” The next day, I called back, and the Branch Manager asked me to come in for an interview.

I did the interview, and was soon offered a job recruiting and managing members (women borrowers) in the community. After receiving training, I started right away. I was just 19. I had no experience, and it was my first stable job. I’ve been here ever since.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with Grameen staff at the Indianapolis branch and in New York. They’ve helped and motivated me to reach my full potential. They’ve told me, “You’re going to be Branch Manager one day.” But I never really believed it till now.

What kind of business does your mother have?

She’s a single mother; she raised me and my two sisters. We came here from Mexico because my father was an alcoholic and was abusive towards her. She decided to leave him after 20 years of marriage, and we came to this country with literally nothing. I was the first person from my family to graduate high school. Now, my little sister is a junior, and she’ll be graduating next year.

For a long time, my mother worked at a warehouse, assembling gaskets for all kinds of machinery. She worked 7 days a week and was always worn out. She wanted to do something on her own but never had the means or the time to actually start something. One day, she was invited to a Grameen meeting by a friend. She joined the program, and eventually started her own bridal shop, at a local flea market. She has received eleven loans from Grameen so far, her most recent loan was for $5,000. She is doing very well; I’m so happy that she no longer has to wake up at four in the morning to work twelve-hour shifts every day.

How does your mother being a member of Grameen help you on the other side in your work as a manager?

I always refer back to my mom. She is not part of my center, but I always think what if she was sitting in that chair asking for a loan or making a repayment? I treat all of my members as I would my mother. I always try to be the best person I can be, even if I’m having a bad day. I try to always have a positive attitude toward the women because at the end of the day, that’s what keeps them in the program.

I see them week after week, for years. They’re happy to see me, and I’m happy to see them. I’m not just the person who comes to collect their payment every week. Customer service in a store is not the same as what we do because you’re only seeing the customer that one time; you’ll never see them again.

We’ve built a family through Grameen—which is the best thing. I love the job, and I love that I get to work with all kinds of people.

How have you changed since you began working with Grameen America?

I’ve gained basically all of my work experience through Grameen—which I’m grateful for. I grew up professionally, mentally, and every way that I could.

I’ve become more responsible with everything. Timewise, now I hate being late. When I was in high school, I was late to every class! Now I can’t be late. If I’m asking discipline of the Grameen members, I have to have the same discipline myself.

I have also gained a lot of knowledge. I’m so thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given because I know that most branch managers have degrees and certificates, and I have only graduated high school. Yet, I am being given the same opportunities that they have. If I ever leave Grameen, all the experience I’ve gained will stay with me for a lifetime.

What keeps you motivated?

It’s the members that keep me going. I’ve had ladies go from selling food from their houses to having food trucks and restaurants. Seeing their progress and their achievements is the most rewarding thing for me. Maybe it’s not my money, but somehow I made a difference in their lives.