Kate Bellino’s FirstBank career has been eventful to say the least. In little over a year she’s held two positions and weathered a pandemic. She’s seen nationwide protests and found a passion for social justice in the process. Now, in the midst of it all, she’s making a move to the nation’s capital. Like we said; eventful. But for someone who at times was slated to be a concert pianist, a wedding planner, and a banking officer, uncertainty is part of finding your path.

Changes

When Kate Bellino was growing up in Evergreen, Colorado she had dreams of being a concert pianist. Okay, more than a dream; it was a relentless pursuit.

“Piano was my life. I was either attending piano camps, practicing or competing,” said Bellino.

Kate was a talented player, even performing with world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma. However, even skilled players require constant practice. Kate was dedicating so much time to piano there was little room for much else and by the time she was nearing her high school graduation, Kate had enough. She made the difficult choice to stop competing altogether. Not long after, she graduated high school and entered college because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right?

“Very quickly I realized that college wasn’t right for me because I wasn’t ready for it and it was having a negative impact on my mental health. I had to leave to get well and honestly it was tough having that conversation with my parents, but it was necessary.”

After leaving school Kate worked a series of jobs including  a bartender and a wedding planner’s assistant before starting her FirstBank career as a New Accounts representative in May 2019.

Finding FirstBank

“I was doing yoga at the time and the studio was next to a FirstBank branch. So I would drive by and see this big orange cube, which is pretty hard to miss. I had accounts with FirstBank and I would see it listed as one of the best places to work online, but apart from that, I never thought about working in a bank,” she said.

She was eventually persuaded to apply by another FirstBanker and was hired.

“I’m so glad I applied because it’s helped me grow personally and professionally. By the time I was hired, I made the decision to go back to school and working here gave me the flexibility to do that. Not to mention taking advantage of the tuition reimbursement put some money back in my pocket.”

Navigating Uncertainty

Kate’s first year at FirstBank was action-packed. At the start of 2020 she was chosen to participate in an NPR series exploring the day-to-day tasks of various U.S. jobs. Less than two months after being thrust into the national spotlight, COVID-19 forced many into quarantine. Others, like small businesses, were also faced with an uncertain future. Kate then shifted gears and was part of the team that helped customers navigate the Paycheck Protection Program. By the time FirstBankers had processed nearly 13,000 loans for struggling business, Kate’s focus had changed once more.

Finding Your Path

When protests calling for racial equity began in May, Kate felt compelled to help. She started educating herself, getting involved in community initiatives and encouraging others to do so as well.

“My Instagram feed went from the latest Bachelor gossip to social justice topics. I felt more enriched and motivated to do more for my community. Most importantly I realized that although these things weren’t specifically impacting me, they impacted the people around me and that I had a part in changing them.”

These were not things Kate thought about growing up as a an adopted Chinese-American living in a predominantly white community. She didn’t have to think about the issues so she didn’t, she said. But once she did, she had found her calling.

“I realized that I could do better, and I think we’re all realizing that. FirstBank does a darn good job of raising awareness and supporting their customers and employees. I think we, as a company, have a leg up because we project our values of diversity and inclusion in a direct way. The challenge for the company, for me, and for everyone, is wondering what comes next,” she said.

Following Your Path

What comes next for Kate is a permanent move to Washington, D.C. to pursue a career in social justice. It’s a hard move in a time of such uncertainty, especially considering she’s leaving the security of a job she likes.

“I’m leaving FirstBank even though I love working here and that’s a tough decision to make. But this year has shown me there are a lot of people working to help others, whether that’s processing PPP loans for struggling businesses as FirstBank has, or protesting injustices as others have, I just want to be a part of that process. If this job has taught me anything, it’ that opportunities to grow are always there and it’s important to embrace them as they come.”

You can follow Kates’s entire FirstBank journey by listening to NPR’s Marketplace series.  

Find out more about FirstBank’s commitment to inclusion by visiting our Diversity page.

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