Natasha Cartagena Spencer
Embracing the Challenge of Change
She describes herself as an “introvert by nature” but how many people can say they have made a trip to Kauai, Hawaii by themselves to hike solo along the Na Pali coast? After graduating from the University of Miami with a B.A. in Sociology and minors in Biology, Chemistry and Business Administration, Natasha Cartagena Spencer dropped the idea of pursuing a Masters in Medical Sociology and decided to reinvent herself by jumping into the world of real estate.
After that leap into the unknown, she tried her hand in the wholesale broker environment, but wasn’t comfortable with the fit. Finally, she landed in residential mortgage banking, delving into underwriting, where she earned her Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VA and USDA designations. Moving up the ladder, she eventually became Vice President/Branch Manager of GB Shelter Mortgage, a subsidiary of Guaranty Bank.
One person she credits with her success is Kim Shelpman, her predecessor. “I was her AVP/Operations Manager and she fed me to the wolves in order to prepare me to succeed her. She threw me into the sales field with some truly strong male characters, primarily builders, where accolades or ‘job well done’ were very rare. Looking back, I now understand why. This business requires a very strong backbone and the ability to think outside the box every day. You have to wear many different hats, sometimes at once. For someone who’s analytical like me it took a lot of work.”
Changes & Challenges
But adapt she did, and now it is the continually evolving and changing environment that excites her about her profession. “No two loans are the same; no two builders, brokers or realtors are the same. Relationship building and getting to know your customer is the key in developing, as well as, meeting long-term goals.” Adding, “You have to be passionate about the business you’re in and wake up every morning feeling so. But no matter how optimistic you are, getting out of bed, you have to be prepared if a difficult and challenging day ensues.” Then describing her ongoing motivation she said, “Ultimately, we’re making the American Dream a reality, helping people become homeowners and further assisting those who are homeowners on reducing their principal and interest payments via a refinance.”
That evolving environment along with the opportunity for adventure is also something she likes about living on the Space Coast. “In comparison to Orlando, Miami, or New York, it’s fairly laidback, but it allows you to truly concentrate on quality and balance. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the ocean is only minutes away.” Adding, “I love to find a dune, sit and study the water or write in my journal.” But there is more. “I love cruising. My trips now number in the double digits – out of Port Canaveral on a Thursday and back on a Sunday morning. But my long-term goal is to learn how to sail, own a sailboat and venture off on spontaneous adventures. I jumped out of an airplane 18,000 feet over Kennedy Space Center just two weeks after getting married! I have a long bucket list (sometimes to the dismay of my husband), but he’s coming around and getting outside of his comfort zone and will be either joining me or watching me.”
Tipping the Scale
Though the population scale still tips towards Baby Boomers in Brevard County, Natasha feels this is a great place for young professionals. “Many YPs hit the metro markets thinking more money, more nightlife, it’s a hip area. There are too many YPs who go after the dollar signs and don’t evaluate the entire picture before committing to a new community and hence we see many come and go. Of course, in order to attract more YPs we need more jobs with comparable pay to the metro areas, such as Orlando, Tampa
Then she concludes, “Sometimes, I am asked to consider relocating to a larger metro area. Would I find a younger pool of employees to recruit? Yes, but … I also have to think about my own quality and balance and where my heart is as a leader; this is where I’m the happiest, this is where I’m grounded, and this will lead to more effectiveness, long-term.”