My Path to Leadership in Tech: Insight from Freddie Mac's Cynthia Andal
When Cynthia Andal graduated with a double major in Economics and Public Administration, she was still trying to figure how to jump-start her career.
“I didn't know what I wanted to do next,” she shares. “A few options I considered were to continue with my master's and eventually a Ph.D. if I wanted to be an economist, or pursue a teaching career, I was open to other things, but didn’t know where to start.”
One day she received a message from a Freddie Mac recruiter that ultimately erased her uncertainty and set her on an unexpected path to a world of opportunities and, eventually, a managerial tech role.
We spoke with Cynthia to learn about her journey to becoming a Workforce Technology Manager at Freddie Mac and the resources she utilized along the way.
Entering the Tech World
Although Cynthia lacked formal training in tech, she caught the attention of an IT recruiter from Freddie Mac and was invited to interview for their College Hire IT Rotation Program. Initially hesitant, she was comforted by the recruiter's words of encouragement.
“She was very reassuring,” Cynthia explains. “Acknowledging the analytical skills I acquired with my college degrees, the recruiter convinced me to give it a try.”
Cynthia now felt confident that she could leverage the transferable skills she picked up studying economics to help her during the interview process. After a successful interview, she was invited to join. The program consisted of detailed training in IT that covered concepts such as system requirements gathering, system testing, and communications skills followed by three rotations between various roles within Freddie Mac’s IT department.
During her second rotation, deeper connections were made. “My second rotation was three months long, testing HR systems,” she says. “I was approached by one of the managers, who said that if I wanted to try testing a little bit longer, I could move and work under her for my next rotation. So I did that and ended up becoming a tester for four years. Testing PeopleSoft HR paved the way to me becoming an HR systems administrator.”
In 2012, Freddie Mac implemented Workday, a software program that every Freddie Mac employee uses day-to-day. Cynthia was given the opportunity to be on the implementation team. This project was the most challenging she had worked on at Freddie Mac. Cynthia says, “I am forever grateful for that opportunity because it was what pushed me to learn more and do more in the world of technology.”
To and From Freddie Mac
Grateful for the knowledge, experience, and opportunities Freddie Mac provided, Cynthia decided to scratch her itch to travel and began working as a digital nomad consultant.
“I was still in my twenties, and I wanted to try consulting,” she recalls. “I wanted to travel and see the world. For two and a half years I did some consulting, implementing the same system I learned at Freddie Mac for other companies.”
But after some time, her new lifestyle began to wear on her. “Those two and a half years were a great experience, but it was a lot of work across time zones,” she explains. “I was ready to go back to the one-time zone and one company.”
Serendipitously, around that same time, Freddie Mac reached out to her inviting her back to work maintaining the system she had previously tested. So, Cynthia returned and has since been working as a Workforce Technology Manager.
Consistent Company Culture
Given Cynthia’s history at Freddie Mac, she has witnessed many changes in the company, like new CEOs and leadership, but highlights the consistency that remains.
“One thing that doesn't change at Freddie Mac is the culture,” she points out. “The culture of making sure that our employees are well taken care of, that we're still the best in business, that we're using the best tools, the best technology to stay ahead of the game.”
She also emphasizes how she’s always learning something and being connected to different areas of the company through various projects.
“I'm consistently learning something new and engaging with different areas. A project may be long and demanding, but in the end, I realize how much I’ve learned and appreciate the relationships I make throughout the way,” she says.
Along with the company culture, Cynthia also appreciates the diversity among the staff and describes how, even in the cafeteria, she comes across different cultures and languages.
Mentorship with HITEC
All of Cynthia’s hard work at Freddie Mac has earned her several awards. She was a 2021 CEO Award Winner, the company’s highest honor. And earlier this year, Freddie Mac’s DEI Division nominated her for the Hispanics in Technology (HITEC) Emerging Executive program, a nine-month-long cohort program that pairs mentees with a Hispanic C-suite executive.
Cynthia raves about the program and how much her mentor has helped her. “I can talk to my mentor about anything. She’s there to guide me and help me navigate difficult conversations,” she says.
This mentorship has given her the confidence to take the initiative to ask about managerial and leadership roles, encouraging her to ask questions like “Can I be on this project? What steps do I need to take to get to the next level in my position? Can I expand the skillset on my team by managing additional staff?”
In addition, the program hosts weekly online presentations to help mentees improve leadership-related skills like public speaking, strategic relationships, and successful negotiation strategies.
Advice for Women Seeking Roles in Leadership
Cynthia’s journey to a role in tech has been made possible through the mentorships and leadership she found along the way.
“I've learned so much in these 10-plus years and it's all because of the opportunities that I've had at Freddie Mac. I'm very grateful to this company, the DEI Division, and my management for giving me so many great opportunities,” she says.
For those looking to take on more leadership roles, Cynthia offers the following advice.
- Weigh out your options. “If you feel stuck, weigh your options and make sure that you have the necessary support and that there's transparency with leadership.”
- Be open to feedback. “Be open to feedback because what's next might be something that you may not feel ready for, but you can work towards it if you're willing to put in the effort.” And feedback from team members is a great way to continually develop.”
- Reach out to mentors both inside and outside of your company. “The world is open to so many different opportunities and sometimes what it might take is having a mentor outside of your company to get a different perspective. You may even realize you have the growth potential you’re looking for where you are right now.”
- Keep going. “Don't let the little things discourage you because those hiccups are going to be everywhere no matter what company you're at, even if you're working for yourself. It's about how you move forward. and how you choose to learn from mistakes.