Celebrating One Inspiring Journey on Dreams Come True Day

Hear from Andrella Thomas on her three key lessons to realize goals and make dreams come true

What is your most ambitious dream? What’s that big hairy audacious goal you’ve set for yourself? Perhaps it’s starting your own business, buying a home, traveling the world or writing a novel. 

We all have dreams. So why is it difficult to actualize those dreams? 

Meet Andrella Thomas, HR Consultant at Capital One. What once seemed like an impassable roadblock for Thomas actually became a doorway to her destiny. 

Thomas grew up in severe poverty, witnessing first-hand the effects of drug abuse and suffering physical abuse at the hands of a family member. Throughout her life, and early into her career, Thomas was held back by a limiting belief that she could not be successful because of her past. This National Make Your Dreams Come True Day, we spoke with Thomas about how she pushed through the pain to pursue her dreams. 

Let Go of Fear

“Our past has a funny way of fueling our passions,” says Thomas. “While we’re all presented with different obstacles and opportunities, it’s how we respond to those experiences that propels our dreams forward.”  

Often though, Thomas continued, fear paralyzes us. Fear comes in many forms – the fear of failure, rejection, loss of control, not being perfect, not being valued or understood, the fear of something bad happening. It ultimately prevents us from moving beyond the familiar. It keeps us in a state of dreaming about our dreams instead of living out our dreams. 

“I urge people to let go of fear. For years, I believed the lie that I wasn’t good enough because of the dark cloud of my past that hovered over me. I thought, because I was  a victim of abuse, I must have done something wrong. I thought I had allowed those circumstances to happen to me. I thought, surely I won’t have a good life. But, I was five-years-old when the abuse began. I was a kid. I didn’t understand what was happening to me, or know how to say no,” Thomas says. “As I got older, I realized I wanted more from life. So I started repeating over and over to myself, ‘Let go of the fear – don’t let it define you.”

Pursue Your Passions

Thomas first joined Capital One in 1996 as a collections agent. Since then, her resiliency, tenacity and desire to help others has led to promotion after promotion, eventually landing Thomas her current role consulting for our diversity, inclusion and belonging team. She explained that once she let go of her fears, she was able to pursue her passions.

“I encourage people to think about five things they’re super passionate about – topic areas they’re interested in, causes they support, hobbies or extracurricular activities they enjoy – and then translate those things into a vision statement for their career journey,” Thomas says. “When people are passionate about something, it gives them the confidence and positive energy they need to move forward in life.”

In addition to her primary role at Capital One, Thomas championed a program called HR Heart – a career development training program provided to several of Capital One’s nonprofit community partners – including Per Scholas and Samaritan Inn – to help participants build the skills and confidence needed to succeed in today’s job market.

“Many HR Heart participants come from less fortunate backgrounds,” explains Thomas. “They have gone through unbelievably challenging circumstances, but they are always the most engaged and eager to learn because they desperately want to succeed. The HR Heart program gives them access to fundamental skills to make that success a reality.”

The program encourages participants to drive their own careers by offering resume building, interview prep sessions, professional headshots and a new tablet to help boost self-confidence and aid in their search for employment opportunities.

Through HR Heart, Thomas has been able to make a difference in the lives of people who didn’t think they were worthy of success, just like her. 

“The story that touches my heart the most is, at one of our HR Heart events, a man came by and said, ‘Hey, Andrella, can I take a picture with you?’ I said, ‘Sure. Are you here as a panelist?’ I thought he was a guest speaker for the event. But he said, ‘No, I was actually sitting in the same seats that a lot of these people are sitting in today – just two years ago. Now, I work at Capital One. You’re looking at a success story.’ My heart exploded. I thought, there is so much hope.”

Maintain a Support System

Thomas said the other thing that’s instrumental in actualizing your dreams is to have a strong support system. From friends and family members to coworkers and leaders.  

“I’ve been fortunate enough to have leaders who helped me grow professionally, even at times when I doubted myself. They recognized my heart for helping others and encouraged me to explore that passion. Knowing that I have the support and respect of leadership and peers regardless of my personal background gives me the confidence to be unapologetically myself and achieve my dreams.

“I'll never forget the first big meeting I was in. I was getting a lot of push back – people didn’t think we needed training programs pertaining to certain topics (which was the very basis of my job!). But I had an ally in the room named Jackson – an older white man – and, I’ll never forget what he did for me that day. He noticed I was discouraged and feeling excluded. Finally, when everyone had given their opinion, he chimed in and said, ‘I would love to hear Andrella’s perspective.’ I looked at him with gratefulness in my eyes, and luckily, I had a presentation ready to go and was able to share my strategy. As a black woman, sometimes I’m the only black person in the room. And sometimes, I’m the only woman in the room. I have to represent both identities.”

Thomas went on to say that it’s important to step outside of our normal circle of friends and coworkers and get uncomfortable. She said we need to learn more about people with different backgrounds and perspectives. “I have developed strong, beautiful relationships because I stepped outside of my comfort zone and said, ‘You know what? I've never really had a conversation with this person, I want to know a little more about what makes them them.’”

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