Sometimes, all it takes is one dream to change a person’s life forever. Somalian refugee-turned-banker to the wealthy elite, Dega Nalayeh, created the blueprint for her success early on in life.
After migrating to Canada with her family at the age of 11, Nalayeh had to overcome a few feats including adapting to the country’s cold weather and learning English. As the daughter of a former Somali politician, she knew the power of decision-making and would soon develop a love for math and science, mainly because of her school’s lack of ESL courses.
While she managed to find a balance between staying on top of her school work and working a newspaper route to help support the family, Nalayeh had no idea what she wanted to be once she grew up, but she did have hard-working supportive parents.
“My parents made it exciting, that I was a girl with this freedom in a country where i was safe and had choices,” said the 49-year-old in an interview with Insider.
It wasn’t long before she used her love of numbers to work toward her career as a professional banker. Now, her clientele includes some of the biggest names in entertainment and sports. What’s more, she has garnered major success, touching roughly $6.4 billion throughout her career.
How It All Started
After moving to Atlanta after college and needing to open a checking account, a trip to NationsBank — which would soon become Bank of America — set the tone for a decades-long career with the company.
“I walked into this beautiful building right in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia, and I’m opening my account and saw this young woman and she just had a lot of excitement. I saw the traffic of clients that were coming in and out,” she explained.
It wasn’t long before she inquired about landing a job there, which ultimately led to her position as a personal banker for the company.
During a community service program, Nalayeh soon met a player for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, and before she knew it, she had landed her first big-name client.
Life Changes, But The Vision Does Not
As we all know, life has a way of changing the course of things, which happened for Nalayeh after she found herself newly divorced, with a child and feeling as though she “couldn’t be a mother and an advisor at the same time.”
Luckily, she was wrong. After successfully landing a high-net-worth client, Nalayeh soon realized that she did not have to go out late at night just to secure big profile clients.
“I would talk to anyone from the soccer field to the bakery,” she explained. “I would try to network anywhere that I would go to as a mom because I had to get home. I’ve made my business around my family.”
Today, most of Nalayeh’s clients include heavy hitters in the entertainment and media spaces. Plus, she uses her story to encourage other women entrepreneurs.