Linda Albornoz, CIO, Frost Bank

Read the full interview here

  • Linda Albornoz

    Q. Where did you grow up and what were some important early influences for you?

    A. I grew up in Corpus Christi, in south Texas. My early influences were strong working women, and that includes my grandmother and my mother, as well as the first woman boss that I ever had. My grandmother worked two jobs, as both a hotel maid and working at a dry cleaners to put her children through private school. And my mom was the first woman Head of Accounting at Mercantile Hill Bank in Corpus Christi, Texas. I really learned the value of hard work from them.

    Another important influence came from an early challenge that was given to me by my first female boss. Her name was Yvonne Schneider. She started her career as an engineer and developer in oil and gas, working on software, and she really held her own in a male dominated industry in Houston.

    She gave me my first manager’s role. She was an innovator, always looking for ways to add value, and she was really a talent spotter. I saw her give opportunities to probably 200 people over the course of her career. In that first job that Yvonne gave me, it was my first position as a leader of leaders. It didn’t go too well at first.

    After 60 days of understanding the operation, I had to present a plan. And I could tell from the questions that there were some gaps in the plan and some areas that I had not really thought through. I spent the weekend questioning my abilities and my leadership.

    And I realized that I hadn’t really engaged the team and tapped others to align around desired outcomes. The team had the expertise and they cared deeply about work, and they had a diverse set of skills and experiences to bring to the problem.

    I went back to try to rally the team. Through some active debate at the table about the best path forward — and then dividing and conquering on specific work streams — we eventually succeeded.

  • Linda Albornoz

    Q. What’s the best mentoring advice that somebody’s ever given you?

    A. I tend to want to solve all the problems and tackle every opportunity. And someone once said to me, “You have to find a way to let some things go. Because you can’t solve all of the problems. You’ve got a limited set of resources and time, and you have to fight the battles worth fighting to get to the result you’re after. You’re not going to be able to win everything, and some things don’t matter for getting to your goal. And if you don’t give up some things and prioritize, you’re going to spread your resources too thin.”

    And so, you really have to, as a leader, make the right choices in terms of the outcomes that you’re after, the priorities that you have, and where you spend your time.

  • Linda Albornoz

    Q. Have you encountered any headwinds in your career because you’re a woman?

    A. The first headwind is my own from sometimes having a bit of self-doubt. I don’t think that’s uncommon in women. Many times, women feel they need to meet every qualification before they can step into a new role. I have fallen into that category, and have had to fight against my perfectionist tendencies.

    I try to tamp that down. I think perfectionism can be really limiting. I like to go to the gym and lift weights. To get stronger, you have to lift to failure, and to add a bit more weight until your form breaks down. I think the same is true for growing in your career.

    And over my 30-year career, there’s only been one time when I really felt that I faced real bias because I’m a woman. At one point, I had a new leader—not my boss, but my boss’ boss—come into the organization. That person seemed to get along really well with all the men.

    Many of the women felt that it was really difficult to have an easy conversation with him and gain credibility. I started seeing some women leaders and great technologists leave the organization. The leaders who left showed me that it was okay to leave a bad relationship. And ultimately, I had to find the courage and do the same thing after a pretty long career in the company.

  • Linda Albornoz

    Q. What are the most common themes that come up when you’re giving women mentoring advice?

    A. For women who want their first management or leadership position, I advise them to look for opportunities to add value and to solve big problems. Be a good teammate and maintain and build your network. Then capture the value or the outcomes you achieved and look for those opportunities to communicate it. That will help you build sponsorship in an organization at higher levels, and that’s often what will get you the next job.

    The other advice I share is to look for opportunities to lead in a matrixed environment. To be an effective project manager, you have to be a good matrixed team leader and organizer. The best ones I’ve seen are really focused on those outcomes, and they hold others accountable in a courageous but nice way. They make sure there’s accountability to hit milestones and deliverables, and they celebrate successes as they rally the team. Those kinds of roles are great opportunities to show leadership and be seen.