It takes a special someone to climb the ranks of a top 50 national mortgage lender. Starting as a receptionist, Will Larson advanced to Cornerstone’s Director of IT Support in just 11 years. As Will explains, “This is a rare place, and that motivates me every time I encounter a challenge.”
What happened: ‘The company where I was working went out of business.’
Before Will joined Cornerstone Home Lending, Inc., as a receptionist, he worked in oil and then in real estate marketing.
“Prior to Cornerstone, I’d never really worked anywhere for more than a couple of years. A lot of those companies didn’t have what I’d consider a good culture. I spent a lot of time working in the oil industry. It’s high-paid, but they don’t really care about the people.”
Working in oil as a software developer wasn’t just a bad fit. Will considers it his worst career decision, one that taught him a lesson. As oil prices fell in 2001, it led to mass layoffs for as much as 60 percent of the workforce. Hard as it was to navigate, Will says the experience gave him an appreciation for well-run companies.
When the marketing firm Will was working for during the housing market collapse in 2008 suddenly went out of business, he knew it was time to seek something different.
What came next: ‘I was determined to find a company with a strong vision.’
“After that, I was determined to find a job at a company with strong corporate leadership. One that had foresight and vision.”
It wasn’t long before Will’s next opportunity presented itself. A friend who worked at Cornerstone referred him to his first job as a receptionist. Cornerstone, according to his friend, was just like a “second family.”
When Will learned in the interview that Cornerstone actually had its best year that year — when its competition was going out of business in droves – it made his decision easy.
“I decided this was the place for me.”
Even the hiring process reflected Cornerstone’s commitment to excellence. Will was surprised by how seriously the branch manager took his interview. After undergoing a screening that included a personality profile, a skill assessment, and more, it became clear that Cornerstone only wanted to hire incredible people, even for a relatively minor position.
“I found that inspiring and brought my A-game from day one.”
In his time at Cornerstone, Will’s developed new skills that have set him up for success professionally — with project management methodologies being a big one. Improving processes, reducing waste, and supporting team member contributions has had a great impact on Will and his career. Will attributes this to the time and training given to him.
Another good example can be seen in Will’s work on automations. From the time he was gifted a computer by his grandmother as a child, Will says he realized technology was the skillset of the future. Self-taught at coding, Will began creating workflow automations to eliminate manual tasks while working as a branch receptionist.
His diligence caught IT’s attention, and the rest, Will says, is history. What started as an entry-level receptionist gig led to a series of promotions — with a big leap to the corporate IT department — that Will didn’t see coming.
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“Coming to work at Cornerstone has been my best career decision. I’ve learned a lot about integrity working here. Cornerstone makes its decisions based on values rather than circumstances. This is something I have embraced personally and professionally. The difference this has made in my life has been wonderful.”
What the future holds: ‘We’re just going to continue to grow.’
When Will started at Cornerstone over a decade ago, the company was much smaller, with lower funding volumes and an IT department of about 11 people. Now, Cornerstone has expanded to three times its former size, with funding volumes that have increased many times over.
Will predicts this growth won’t stop until Cornerstone is one of the biggest mortgage lenders in America.
“We’re in an interesting line of work because we can’t create new mortgages. So, the way we grow is by creating market share, made possible by attracting talented people. I think Cornerstone has outstanding relationships and an authentically caring environment compared to other lenders that move through the boom-and-bust cycle of hiring and firing their people. Cornerstone doesn’t do that.”
While Cornerstone has changed over Will’s 11 years at the company, he says its heart has stayed the same. Will wants to see the company grow and prosper so that it can give the next generation of team members a home that will be as important to them as it is to him.
As for Will’s personal growth, he aims to learn something new every day. When he encounters a task he doesn’t know or understand, he considers it a challenge.
“Since I’ve worked here, I’ve always thought, ‘How can I contribute to the success of the company?’ I’ve never looked at something as not being my job. And I’ve always been curious about other people’s jobs, to see how all the pieces fit together. Having that curiosity and openness to learning is one part of it. I’ve also always tried to treat every person as if they were a customer.”
Over the years, this commitment to customer service has enabled Will to build strong relationships in multiple departments. As a result, when positions opened up, Will was considered for new roles — not necessarily based on his level of experience but on his reputation.
“Always be curious. Learning is the key to career advancement — especially at Cornerstone.”
A few more fun facts about Will. He’s currently ranked in the top 9 percent of players in North and South America for his position in a popular esports game. He relaxes by gaming, reading, playing guitar, and cooking. He also whistles extremely realistic bird calls.
Give him good coffee, a comfy chair, sloths, sans-serif fonts (only), and a great team to be a part of, and he’s in his workplace “happy place.”
And he’s planning to stay awhile. “I thought the era of well-run companies who care about their people, and that you could work at for 20 or 30 years, was over. It’s encouraging to know there are still companies that are run with values and believe in treating people well. That’s the kind of thing that can keep you motivated and working hard for years, beyond just a paycheck.”
What really sets us apart: Our team members won’t leave!
The average tenure of salaried workers in professional occupations is only 5.5 years.* At Cornerstone, our average tenure is over 12 years, a number that’s increasing with each passing year. We’re always looking for top talent who are in it for the long haul. See which departments are hiring.
*“Trends in Employee Tenure, 1983–2018.” Employee Benefit Research Institute, Feb. 2019.
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Sources deemed reliable but not guaranteed.