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“Do your best at whatever job you have,” Melissa Ott’s parents always told her.
She took that advice to heart.
In 2000, she began part-time in the file room at Pelican State Credit Union in Baton Rouge, La., while studying accounting.
Recently, Ott became the chief financial officer (CFO), responsible for the institution’s $269 million in assets.
“I always wondered what value I would find in doing accounting," she says. "I actually started my college life debating whether I should study psychology or physical therapy. I wasn’t sure which direction I should go, but I knew that either way, I could help people.
"As I progressed in college, I realized that my comfort zone was in the numbers,” Ott continues. “As I grew in this role in the credit union, I began to realize that it was so much more than the numbers.
"Maintaining a healthy balance sheet meant that we could grow the credit union, reach more members, employ more people, reward more people—both members and employees—and really make a difference.”
Pelican State takes pride in educating members. The credit union focuses on financial literacy, employs six certified credit counselors, and sees life-changing results because of it, Ott says.
Further, employees demonstrate community service and kindness through a program the credit union calls the “Beak Squad.” The squad works together to raise money for charity.
Although she’s quick to shine a light on colleagues, Ott does a lot of heavy lifting: As the CFO she oversees accounting and finance, marketing and business development, human resources, risk management and compliance, and member solutions (collections department).
“It’s challenging every day,” Ott says. “But I consider it a blessing to work with a great team.”