Simmons has learned to be bold and unapologetic and works tirelessly to open doors and opportunities for other Black leaders through her work at Wells Fargo and as an advisory member of the Black Boardroom of Leadership Institute.
Candice Simmons, vice president and senior business execution consultant at Wells Fargo, is a shining example of determination, resilience, and the power of growth. Her journey from a small town in Florida to becoming a successful professional is a testament to her unwavering spirit and commitment to making a difference.
Simmons describes herself as determined, innovative, and creative.
Her innovative thinking and willingness to embrace new challenges have continued to open numerous doors for her throughout her career. Simmons’ career in banking has spanned 24 years, during which time she has held various positions at multiple banks; including nearly 14 years with Wells Fargo.
Candice is an exceptional leader with strategic focus and a relentless passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Her creativity and ability to cultivate ideas into action has been instrumental to Wells Fargo’s DE&I impact in Orlando.Derek Jones, Wells Fargo Central Florida Region Executive
Simmons leverages her expertise to create opportunities not only at work, but through leadership programs like the Black Boardroom Leadership Institute (BBLI) where she serves as an advisory council member.
“As a founding funder of the BBLI program, Wells Fargo recognizes the importance of increasing visibility, voice and opportunities for diverse board leadership in Orlando’s nonprofit sector,” Kate Wilson, Senior Vice President, Community Relations at Wells Fargo said.
From fitting in to making her own space
Simmons’ journey took a significant turn when her family made the bold decision to move to Orlando. This leap of faith, leaving behind the familiar comforts of home, marked the beginning of a remarkable chapter in her life.
Her early years were simple, with her father working in construction and her mother holding a job at the post office where she often took on overnight shifts. Simmons vividly remembers seeing how hard her mother worked.
“All I can think of is all the sacrifices my parents made and their unwavering commitment to my upbringing and education. I am eternally grateful to them. Looking back, I was like the poor Black kid growing up. But my mom just fought to create this wonderful life where I didn’t feel it,” she said, followed by a small laugh.
While in high school, Simmons landed her first job in a bank call center. She excelled in her role and quickly discovered that she had a passion for assisting customers and helping them make financial decisions. As a young Black woman entering an industry predominantly led by older white men and women, Simmons remembers with regret feeling compelled to fit in on the job.
“I spent half of my career trying to act and dress like everyone else in the room,” she said. It wasn’t until Simmons moved to Orlando that she learned to embrace her authentic self.
“I also learned, unfortunately, that when you hide your true story and your identity, there are others who need to see that. The more I grew my voice and understanding [of] who I am as a Black woman, other Black women followed and said, ‘Oh my goodness, I heard your story’ or, you know, ‘Thank you for those words. I’m battling the same thing.’ Moving here [to Orlando] was pivotal.”
Being bold and unapologetic
A pivotal moment for Simmons came with the murder of George Floyd, prompting her to reflect on her own role in perpetuating the silence and inauthenticity in her career. She realized that it was time to be her true self and to use her voice to challenge the status quo.
Simmons recognizes that her success is influenced by those who serve as role models for her and she’s grateful that her professional path led to the Central Florida Foundation. Since joining, she has collaborated with Sandy Vidal, a Foundation committee member, to address the lack of diversity on nonprofit boards in Central Florida.
Recognizing the need to create spaces for Black leaders to authentically bring their talents and experiences to the table, they embarked on the journey of establishing the BBLI.
I remember some of those initial conversations. We were not trying to solve the problem because it wasn’t about the solutions. First, it was about understanding the problem and the why. For me, I was able to vulnerably share my experience; as a young girl growing up in the South, I was not exposed to the concept of a board of directors unless it was the deacon board of the church,” Simmons smiled as she spoke about her experience.Candice Simmons, vice president and senior business execution consultant at Wells Fargo and BBLI Advisory MemAdvisory Council Member
BBLI, which aims to empower Black leaders and diversify nonprofit boards, has become a source of solace for Black professionals to be vulnerable, honest, and proud of their identity. Simmons says she is grateful for the support her employer provides not only her, but the program.
Simmons’ role in BBLI is to create a safe space for Black leaders, as she has lived the experiences and challenges that many of them face. She encourages investors and potential board members to meet and engage with the remarkable talent cultivated in the BBLI.
“It is not just about joining any board; it’s about understanding the value and purpose of your presence. At BBLI we have discussions on the various climates and cultures within nonprofits organizations. We also equip Black leaders with the tools to navigate that space before they go into it. The most essential factor I emphasize with Black leaders is that it’s key to choose a board that’s the right fit for them. I remind them; you are the gift, you are the prize, not the board that you’re serving on,” Simmons said.
Her journey and her commitment to empowering Black leaders through BBLI serves as an inspiring example of the transformative power of authenticity and the importance of diversity in leadership.
“To truly thrive, we must be able to heal, have essential conversations and a safe space to grow. And BBLI, creates [a space] that if it’s a leader’s first time in their professional industry, that it is truly a safe space for them to be vulnerable, honest, inspired, and encouraged. And to be proud to be Black in that room is what is so unique to BBLI,” Simmons said.
To learn more about BBLI visit Orlando.org/BBLI.