Close collaboration between colleagues from two different industries is essential at Pennymac, a fast-growing fintech company that helps clients make informed decisions about buying or refinancing their homes. Serving millions nationwide, this mortgage lender and loan servicer relies on both mortgage industry experts and skilled technologists to drive its business. That’s because its team’s mission is twofold.
Pennymac aims to empower customers to achieve and sustain aspirations of homeownership. Simultaneously, the company’s vision for mortgage’s more seamless digital future involves internally developing applications to improve automation and transparency across the industry.
At work, a growth-oriented culture treats employees’ development as an extension of this push toward progress. Whether based remotely, at the company’s tech headquarters in Agoura Hills, or at any of its nationally distributed hubs (in Raleigh, North Carolina; Plano, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona; and Moorpark, California), team members have come to expect that Pennymac will cultivate their careers for the long term, so they can feel fully at home where they work.
With more than a decade under her belt at Pennymac, Manager of IT Enterprise Risk Management Udeshika Ranaraja said higher-ups have supported her professional development across all five roles she’s held to date, consistently encouraging her to develop new skills in different departments. In her current position, Ranaraja oversees a yearly SOX compliance audit, verifying financial statements and the company’s management of its internal controls. “My work is always evolving,” Ranaraja said. “I’m constantly learning and feel 100 percent comfortable, with that challenge, that I made the right choice.”
For both AWS Certified Site Reliability Engineer III Jorge Ruiz and First Vice President of IT Finance Reese Martenies, each of whom first joined Pennymac through its internship program after graduating from California State University Northridge, continuous growth has been similarly critical.
After starting out in IT infrastructure three years ago, Ruiz worked his way into full-time engineering roles, later reaching a senior position on his team. Describing Pennymac as “a hub of friendly geniuses,” Ruiz said that he owes his success in part to managers who supported his upskilling at every turn. “Management has played an amazing role in my career growth,” he said. “They have provided me with guidance and counseling on my next steps, and they have shown me the resources that I’ve needed to reach my dream role.”
Martenies, meanwhile, was first focused on analytics before rising into finance-specific middle management. After six years with Pennymac, he said the company’s technological evolution has in particular accelerated his own professional journey, bringing about “limitless opportunities” for career development.
“The rising tide raises all ships,” he said. “If you’re willing to learn something new and go the extra mile, you’re able to fast-forward your career.”
Tell us a bit about your early experiences at Pennymac.
IT Enterprise Risk Management Manager Udeshika Ranaraja: Pennymac was in its early stages when I joined. I’d been underwriting at Bank of America, and I thought it would be great to be a part of a company that was just starting out. It felt like I was taking a chance on the company, but I wanted to be a part of something and see where I could get to in my career.
First Vice President of IT Finance Reese Martenies: I started as an intern, so it was initially something to do that summer. I stayed because I was working toward a degree in accounting, but the recruitment processes for accounting at big firms seemed stuffy and didn’t match my personality. Being in an IT internship, it was a come-as-you-are environment. There were dudes with neck tattoos, for example, who were high up. IT has its own culture, which is separate from the rest of the business. If you walk through our office, there are Nerf guns on half the desks.
What’s particularly important about Pennymac’s approach to career development?
AWS Certified Engineer III, Site Reliability Jorge Ruiz: Pennymac has it all, and cross-team collaboration exposes you to different practices and points of view. Whether you’re an enterprise database engineer, a developer or an architect, Pennymac has niche roles I didn’t even know existed. One of the highlights of my career is working with teams such as information security, application release management, incident management and vendor management.
Martenies: I saw the most speed of change in my career path and development once I started to put myself out there more, making suggestions and pointing things out. Early on, I was more focused on doing what was being asked of me. Once you start to identify problems and make recommendations to fix problems, you’re putting yourself out there as a problem-solver. At least at Pennymac, I’ve been rewarded for doing so. There’s less emphasis on “This is how we’ve done things in the past” and more emphasis on “How should we be doing things?”
How do managers approach employee career growth at Pennymac?
Ranaraja: Managers let you know what needs to be done, but they’re open to you doing it. A great manager also supports you when they know you want to grow within. It makes a huge difference to have those managers. Communication is key. If you stay quiet, nothing’s going to fall on your lap, and no one’s going to know where you want to get to at the end of the day. Having open lines of communication, and a manager who supports your growth potential, are crucial.
Martenies: All the managers I’ve had at Pennymac have been supportive. Even when I’ve messed something up, it’s never a question of, “Why did we do that?” It’s always, “How can we get better next time?” No one asks why we tried in the first place, and everyone wants to understand the drivers behind our actions. Incremental improvement is never driven from the top down, and leadership gives us agency over our work. No one’s micromanaging the process, so you’re given free rein to be more artistic around how you’re approaching your work.
Ruiz: Operations center management truly cares about the well-being and growth of engineers. It’s amazing to have leaders look out for you and your own personal growth. Leadership provided me with training courses, resources and support to achieve the certifications I have achieved. I have two associated AWS cloud certifications I wouldn’t have achieved without support from management. Ops management also goes out of their way to ensure team members are in a good mental state. They see you as a human being, not as a machine that performs repetitive tasks.
Pennymac is not purely a finance company, given the availability of tech roles there. How do employees from these two spheres interact?
Ranaraja: I was initially on the other side of the business and later joined forces with IT. Each area is integrated and works well together. You need both sides to make Pennymac operate, and I see all these teams as puzzle pieces.
Ruiz: There are days when I find myself focused on tasks that pertain to cloud architecture, and there are other days where I’ll be doing incident management. I am not necessarily on either of those teams; however, our culture allows us to immerse ourselves and learn from each other. This changes on a daily basis, and it is truly something I look forward to every day when I show up to work.
How do you continue to push your careers forward in your current roles at Pennymac, and what types of resources and tools do you take advantage of in growing your skills?
Martenies: Coming from an analytics background and moving into finance, I take a data-centric approach to my work. Whether I’m budgeting for headcount or softwarm, I make a point of only entering in something once. Making sure that I can link together Excel sheets or Google Sheets has removed redundant work. I learned that from other people in tech and have picked up on small things here and there. Being around other people who are smarter than you forces you to learn and adapt. My personal growth has been accelerated in this environment.
Ranaraja: My professional trajectory has helped me out in my current role, because of the relationships I built along the way on the business side. When it comes to certain systems we’re auditing on the IT side for SOX, the knowledge I have of those systems does help. Other IT individuals don’t have as much insight into how exactly those systems operate. I put my whole heart into my job, and I don’t see it as just a paycheck. At the end of the day, I am passionate about what I do. I wake up excited for what the day is going to bring. When it comes to audits, something is always going to come up. It’s that challenge to prove the auditor wrong: “That’s not a deficiency, and here’s why.”