Born in the Bronx, N.Y., both of Janelle Coluccio’s parents grew up in the Dominican Republic. When she was five years old, she moved with her family to the country located on the Caribbean Island of Hispaniola to care for her ill grandfather. It was a life-changing experience for Janelle.
“The Dominican Republic is very special to me because that’s where I spent my childhood and where I learned the value of hard work,” she said. “It’s my family’s home. It’s a place I never thought I’d leave.”
But she did. When she was 12, Coluccio’s parents decided to move back to the United States to a small town in Pennsylvania. Suddenly, she was the new kid in school, adjusting to American culture, sports and learning English—and without the support of so many of her family members she left behind in the Dominican Republic.
The importance of family
According to Coluccio, the best way to describe her family culture is her mother’s saying, “Uno para dos y dos para uno,” which translates to “One for two and two for one.” Janelle’s mother instilled this in her three children. Coming from a big family, Janelle’s mother is from a family of 12 and her dad is one of seven children.
“The fact that I was able to be raised with my aunts, uncles and cousins is something I will forever be grateful for,” she recounted.
While Coluccio’s mother’s side of the family still lives in the Dominican Republic today, her father is Lebanese and most of his family is spread across the U.S.
“I grew up having Dominican food for some Sunday suppers, but some of my favorite memories are around Lebanese-cooking with my grandma and aunts at my abuelo’s house,” she said. “I was raised with support and love from my entire family. I think that alone has contributed to my success, perseverance, drive and ability to overcome challenges.”
Establishing a career
While Spanish is her first language, Coluccio became fluent in English and graduated from Temple University in Philadelphia. Throughout her college career, she wanted to re-connect with her Dominican roots, so she immersed herself in Philadelphia’s Latino culture, volunteered in the community through Prospanica and also created the first bi-lingual newscast at Temple University.
Shortly after graduation, Coluccio attended a university career fair where she met several members of Lincoln’s Leadership Preparation Program (LPP) who had also recently graduated from Temple. She remembers the immediate connection with them and the excitement and great things they had to say about the program and the company.
“I wanted to know more and when I was invited to the two-day LPP interview process, I met a Lincoln leader named Linda Skibik, who saw my potential,” said Coluccio. “In fact, her exact words were ‘Lincoln needs you.’ I always say it only takes one person to believe in you. Linda, who is still with Lincoln today, was that person for me.”
Coluccio later learned she got the job she applied for in Lincoln’s marketing department and became one of only 18 participants selected to join that year’s LPP program cohort. That was in 2015.
Embracing her heritage
Upon joining Lincoln, Coluccio became a member of the company’s Multicultural Awareness Committee (MAC) and the Latino Business Resource Group. Janelle has since continued to gain leadership roles within the MAC and BRG. She was appointed as the MAC chair in 2016 and has been the co-chair of the Latino BRG since 2017. In addition to her active participation in these employee groups, she has also been involved in non-profit organization to provide development and career opportunities for young professionals. Janelle recently attended the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) convention to represent Lincoln and hold some of the same conversations with prospective talent that others had with her eight years ago.
“A lot of what I have accomplished in my career, I attribute to these committees because they have allowed me to develop skills and relationships that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to develop within my day-to-job” she said.
Coluccio has held many progressive roles across Lincoln Financial Group, starting within marketing, where she introduced Lincoln’s first-ever advisor digital educational platform and won marketing partner of the year in 2018. Today, Coluccio is a senior consultant who manages digital transformation strategic planning and engagement in Lincoln’s Information Technology (IT)/Digital organization. In her role, she leads strategy development, planning and implementation with a focus on enterprise initiatives and new capabilities. While she acknowledges Lincoln’s supportive community, she believes that before someone can embrace you, you have to embrace yourself, your culture and where you come from, but also have a vision for your future. You can’t depend on the world to bring you opportunities, you have to go out and get it yourself.
Outside of her day-to-day job, non-profit organizations and her commitment to the Lincoln committees, she is also currently attending University of Florida for her master’s in business administration.
“Lincoln has opened doors for me to make a difference in the Latino community and professionally in the markets we serve as we provide financial security and protection,” she said. “But you must want these opportunities for yourself. My mom always told me, ‘Si quieres, puedes’ which translates to ‘If you want, you can.’ I have always lived my life thinking that if I really wanted to succeed in something, I could achieve it. Aside from my parents instilling grit, perseverance, confidence and the belief that I could be better, do better and lead, I attribute a lot to my heritage. In my experience, the Hispanic culture is very loyal and relationship-driven, and we want to help others.”
She also underscores the importance of establishing strong relationships inside and outside of the company, giving back, helping others and mentoring young diverse professionals. That’s why Coluccio spends a lot of her time focusing on giving back to the community and finding opportunities for young professionals.
“My heritage is who I am, how I show up to work and how I lead through life,” said Coluccio.
“I have a beautiful story and all the experiences, good or bad, in my life have led me to who I am and where I am today; they all have led to me to a better version of myself. This came from pure determination, personal integrity, and a willingness to do what others are not. These are the values I try to share with younger generations. Regardless of where you come from, you can change your circumstances, but you have to take ownership of your life and the future you envision for yourself!”