NAWRB’s Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council brings you the story of NAWRB Certified Delegate Spokeswoman, Leora Ruzin. With our Story Tree, we want to showcase the ups, downs, and in-betweens of our team’s careers and lives. Help us grow our tree by sending in your own leadership stories!
My story is one that has been told before, and it is not totally out of the ordinary. I had a troubled childhood; one that was fraught with abuse and neglect. I was often left to take care of myself, and that self-reliance is the foundation for everything I do. I grew up far quicker than I should have but having a level of maturity that early on has served me relatively well in my adult life.
Well, before I graduated from high school, I knew I wanted to do more in life than what my small town would afford me, so I graduated early and joined the Army. My time in the service is one that I look back on fondly, and one of the biggest regrets I have from my younger days is that I did not retire from the military. I would re-enlist in a heartbeat if I knew they would take me back, and the life lessons I learned have helped shaped the leader and person I am today.
I have dealt with unimaginable loss in my life, and nothing has had a lasting impact on me quite like the death of two of my children. While I am blessed to have four children, losing Victoria and Hayden in infancy is an indescribable experience. While it took me a long time to recover from the losses, I truly feel the experience has made me a better mother and a more compassionate person. I understood the importance of giving love and praise as often as possible, not only with my kids, but my family, friends, and colleagues. Life is fleeting and you never know when the next comment you say to someone may be your last.
When I got into the mortgage industry in 2007, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. My background was in accounting and human resources, and I was largely ignorant of not only the industry but how much it was in turmoil during this time. All I knew was that, as I was learning more about the business while handling the office manager duties, I became more and more entrenched. Before long, I was not only managing all the payroll, accounting, and HR, but I was instrumental in building dedicated mortgage back-office operations. I stood up a closing department, post-closing department, and oversaw all the licensing and compliance for the company. The rest, as they say, is history.
Over the last 20 years, I have battled ovarian, cervical, and colon cancer, and am happy to say that I have been in remission since 2016. I have endured so many surgeries, treatments, and stays in the hospital, and there are times where my body reminds me of all I have been through. I have battled depression, anxiety, and a severe panic disorder throughout all of this, but I never let it get in the way of me achieving my goals and dreams. I will not lie in that there have been moments in my life where I wanted to give up, especially when I was also faced with misogyny, sexist and discriminatory treatment in the workplace. As a victim of rape and sexual assault, combined with a childhood filled with being told I was not “good enough” or “pretty enough”, it has been easy for me to believe it when I was told I was not worthy of the positions that I have worked so hard to attain.
As I entered my 40’s, I experienced a paradigm shift in my way of thinking, after dealing far too long with discrimination. With the help and support of my most trusted friends and colleagues, I made the decision to invest in myself and got into a coaching program that literally changed my life. Through this coaching, I have gained valuable tools to advocate for myself, promote my own self-worth, while removing the negative space I was letting the “haters” rent in my head. When I combined this mental shift in thought with a renewed focus on improving my physical and mental health, after a recent medical scare and the unexpected death of my mother, I can happily say that I am stronger than I ever have been. While I still encounter misogyny and discrimination and am still working on my mental health issues, I am now equipped with the tools to rise above them.
My goal and vision as a Delegated Spokeswoman for NAWRB are to be able to use my life experiences to help other women who have a story like mine. In addition, I want to take the passion I have for this industry to help others achieve the American Dream of homeownership. I specifically want to help our veterans and service members have a better and more secure transition from military to civilian life. I want other women who have had to suffer in silence to know that they are not alone and that they can achieve their goals. With the tools I have access to through NAWRB, along with the network of phenomenal women who are also Delegated Spokeswomen, I am excited to see what I can accomplish in the months and years to come.