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Skills — Not Just Degrees — Can Help You Build a Career at Wells Fargo

Book open Reading time: 3 mins

Wells Fargo’s hiring and career development practices look at candidates holistically, resulting in increased opportunities for those without college degrees.

There’s more than one path to starting and building a career at Wells Fargo. And there’s more than one path to acquiring the skills necessary for any of the company’s many available roles.

Take Brian Armstrong, a lead business execution consultant specializing in talent acquisition. After graduating high school in 2002, Armstrong opted to join the United States Marine Corps. He’d long considered college, but felt a tug toward a military career.

“There was something in my chest telling me to join the Marine Corps; that’s honestly the best way I can explain it,” Armstrong said. “I always trust my gut with anything. I was working at a big-box retailer, and a recruiter came through my line in full uniform. I complimented him on it, we had a conversation, and I was taking the entrance exam about 24 hours later.”

For the next 13 years, Armstrong developed skills in a variety of fields that he ultimately leveraged when he transitioned into a civil career. His military career started in transportation manning heavy operation vehicles at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, a good foray into operations and logistics. Following his return from overseas, he was on point for the transportation of senior military leaders while stationed in Washington, D.C., offering him on-the-job training in risk, security, and leadership.

As with most military careers, service members move from one duty station to the next, simultaneously acquiring new skills to develop their careers while meeting the overall needs of the service. After completing his tour in Washington, D.C., Armstrong found his passion for talent acquisition while stationed in Frederick, Maryland, as a Marine Corps recruiter. His military career came full circle for his final duty station at Camp Pendleton, California, as the Battalion Training Chief. He credits the skills acquired as a military recruiter, and overall intangible experience the Marine Corps exposed him to as keys vital to his ability to successfully step into his current role at Wells Fargo within Talent Acquisition.

Armstrong’s journey to Wells Fargo isn’t atypical.

In the past few years, the company has been reviewing its career development, advancement, and hiring practices to see if there is an opportunity to bridge the gap between education and real-world skills. The company determined that while an emphasis on formal education is important, an overly restrictive approach could mean that the company was overlooking talented potential employees, especially diverse candidates, who possess valuable work experience.

In May 2021, Wells Fargo announced support for OneTen, a coalition that brings U.S. companies together to improve hiring, retention, upskilling, and advancement of Black and African American talent by creating one million family-sustaining careers over the next 10 years and fostering more diverse and inclusive corporate cultures.

“Hiring at Wells Fargo is about looking at individuals holistically and the skill sets that they bring to the table as an individual,” said Armstrong. “I, as a military veteran, (have) felt valued. I felt valued during the hiring process at Wells Fargo, and felt my skills were being considered throughout the process.”

OneTen CEO Maurice Jones shared his thoughts on companies shifting to a skills-first hiring model to open the opportunity pipeline. And the New York Times spotlighted Wells Fargo’s work with the coalition in a January profile.

“This is not an effort to discourage four-year degrees, but rather, expand the pathways to job opportunities and career advancement,” Jones said. “More broadly, this is an effort to say when we’re hiring and advancing talent, we should be looking at the skills necessary to do it successfully rather than solely credentials."