Patty Gong Q&A: On success and not being afraid to ask questions

In honor of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we reached out to several prominent AAPI leaders in the housing and mortgage industry to celebrate their success, learn from their experience and gain insight into the challenges facing the mortgage industry. Today, we’re happy to share this interview with Patty Gong (Executive Vice President of Secondary Marketing at Parkside Lending).

Patty discusses her path to leadership, how women can succeed in their career journey, and why it’s important to let yourself shine.

Congratulations on being named one of the MPA’s Elite Women in 2016. Can you tell me a little about your journey in getting to where you are now?

I entered the industry straight out of college, never intending a career in mortgage banking. I’d worked for my friend’s mom as a loan processor during their busy summer purchase months during college. When I graduated, only a mortgage company and a finance company offered me a job. I was so blessed to land in a place where the owners were really lovers of our industry and mentor leaders.  Anita Kwan and John Vong, both industry veterans, lead Integrated Capital Group. Most of my tenure there, I reported to Anita, who became my early role model as a strong Asian American woman in business.  At ICG, I was given the chance to learn processing, underwriting, inside sales, doc drawing, and finally secondary marketing. She also gave me my first exposure to being a manager, and since Anita believed in me, that helped me believe in myself.

Next, I worked at Alliance Bancorp, where I continued to grow in capital markets. Alliance Bancorp was also a minority-owned company, with Mehrdad Elie as one of the owners and my direct boss. I was in my twenties and trading with seasoned professionals, so I had to learn to be confident but be comfortable to ask if I didn’t know something. Finally, at Parkside Lending, I set up our hedging protocol from scratch and built our mandatory trading policies. Again, here, I’ve been blessed to report to someone who is himself a lifelong learner, Matt Ostrander. I’ve watched him model not being afraid to ask and learn and grow. I’ve been handed some projects that seemed daunting, like build a pricing engine in our own proprietary system, and so I learned to break things down into bite-sized pieces, deliver it and then move to the next item.

Looking back at your professional trajectory, what advice would you give to your younger self and why? 

My professional trajectory is not typical of many in our industry. In the over 25 years of being in mortgage banking, I’ve worked at only 3 companies. But I love that. My advice to my younger self would be: Learn broadly but also deeply. Be a subject expert but also gain broader knowledge. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

There aren’t many women in the mortgage industry, especially in C-Suite roles. What advice would you give young women aspiring to succeed in their career journey?

Don’t be afraid to be visible. In the past, women often took a supporting role, but it’s okay to take the credit and to let yourself shine.

Moving into a more personal topic, can you tell me about your cultural background and how that has played a role in your personal and professional life?

I’m a Chinese American, born in Taiwan. I’m fluent in Mandarin (but I always joke that it’s at a 7-year-old level). The Chinese culture is deeply ingrained into my personal life, with many of our favorite traditions centering around food. One of my favorite holidays is Lunar New Year, when we go and visit the older generations in their homes. We also have a feast, with each food symbolizing something that we wish for in the new year. It often has to do with a word that sounds like another word, like “fish” sounds like luck, so we eat steamed fish to symbolize luck in the coming year. We also pass out red envelopes to the kids, which they love. In my professional life, my cultural background comes out in more subtle ways. I have given many of my colleagues their Chinese zodiacs. But more seriously, I think my culture comes out in how I revere experience and how I take advice.

We’re celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May. Can you tell me what this means to you? 

Being Asian wasn’t something I really had any deep feelings about until college when I minored in Asian American studies.  Opening my eyes to the rich heritage and to how Asians have shaped the history of the United States and been influenced by moments in its history enlightened me to the struggles that previous generations endured. My family is blessed to be able to build from that legacy. We would not be where I am now without those generations paving the way for us. There are many great examples of Asian American community activists, suffragists, politicians and scholars. As a group, AAPI are still underrepresented, so I’m so pleased that MGIC is showcasing AAPI in May.

It’s very unfortunate to see so many acts of anti-Asian racism happening throughout our country. Is there anything you would like to say to fellow Asian individuals facing these unfortunate times? 

The narrative of a sudden resurgence of anti-Asian racism is a little misleading. Asian Americans have had a history of being treated poorly in US history. What is new about the more recent wave is that the attacks are not predictable and are diverse and geographically broad. I believe the recent fear against Asian Americans has been fueled by ill-advised comments by political leaders about the pandemic. The path forward is going to be complicated and will require recognizing that this discrimination is a part of a larger structural issue and to work across communities to fix and fight that.

Can you tell me the role Parkside Lending has played in supporting diversity and inclusion? 

Parkside Lending is very diverse. Parkside’s commitment to diversity is written into our Values and behaviors, and People Operations conducts trainings to reinforce these values.  The two that demonstrate this best are: CARING – we take every opportunity to make a positive difference in people’s lives and in our community. COMMUNITY – Parkside is a place where we feel safe, equal, empowered and supported.

In addition, harassment and bullying are not tolerated. Our People Operations team conducts training to draw awareness to our diverse workforce and educate our employees to be proactive in reporting any form of harassment to the People Operations team (or their supervisor), whether they are the victim of, or witness to, harassment or bias.

But most importantly, we support diversity in our hiring and promoting practices. Notably, 34% of those who identify as AAPI hold a supervisor, manager or executive position, and 53% of our supervisors or higher positions are women.

Patty Gong, Executive Vice President of Secondary Marketing at Parkside Lending

Patty Gong joined Parkside Lending, LLC, in September 2007 as Executive Vice President, Secondary Marketing. Ms. Gong brings over 25 years of industry experience of executive mortgage banking leadership. She is responsible for mortgage pricing at Parkside, including setting rate sheet profitability and determining which loans should be retained for the servicing portfolio. Ms. Gong manages interest rate risk at Parkside, including active daily TBA trading. In addition, she is responsible for managing the Lock Desk, Pricing Engine, Investor/Client Relations, Shipping, and Post Closing teams at Parkside Lending. Ms. Gong is also a member of the Executive Committee and Credit Committee at Parkside. Prior to joining Parkside, Ms. Gong worked for Alliance Bancorp, holding first the position of Secondary Marketing Manager, then Director of Secondary Marketing, and finally, Director of Capital Markets. At Alliance, Ms. Gong was responsible for structuring and negotiating whole loan sale transactions to both Wall Street and conduit firms through mandatory bulk or specified trades; in addition, the Lock Desk and Transaction Management teams reported to her. Ms. Gong was responsible for the interest rate risk management for the enterprise. Ms. Gong grew up in San Francisco, California, before graduating from the University of California at Davis with a degree in Organizational Studies. Ms. Gong currently lives in the East Bay with her husband and 2 children.

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