The adage is true: You don’t know what you don’t know.
Having worked my way up through several credit unions over the past 20 years, I felt I had a strong grasp on the credit union movement. However, like many others in the credit union industry, my perspective was limited by my exposure.
While I attended conferences here and there across the state and regularly participated in local opportunities, there was a whole credit union world out there I knew nothing about.
But let me back up a bit. I am the president/CEO of $75 million asset Entrust Financial Credit Union in Richmond, Va. In 2006, I joined Entrust Financial as vice president of accounting.
The president/CEO at that time was a strong, passionate credit union leader by the name of Susan Adams. For seven years, she would be my mentor and challenge me to push outside my comfort zone and find my voice.
She encouraged me and spoke truthfully of my opportunities for growth. Unfortunately, we lost Susan much too soon to cancer in 2013.
Fast forward to the spring of 2017, when I received an email describing the Global Women’s Leadership Network Scholarship for the World Credit Union Conference in Austria. The scholarship was partly funded by the Susan Adams Scholarship Fund, supported by OneAZ and PSCU.
I had never heard of the World Council of Credit Unions before and I had definitely never considered going to a conference outside of the country. But in that moment, I felt inspired to challenge myself as Susan had challenged me for so many years.
A few months later, I won that scholarship to attend the World Credit Union Conference in Austria, and I was on my way.
The World Credit Union Conference was like no other conference I had ever attended. I met credit union leaders from around the world, learned about the differences in the industry from one country to the next, and gained a better understanding of the global credit union movement.
The sessions offered by the Global Women’s Leadership Network challenged me to continue my growth and to support the growth of others. They taught me the differences in leadership and communication styles, and to value those differences and bridge the gaps they create.
I came back from the conference more open-minded, with a renewed passion to continue my leadership development, support the development of those around me, and be an active part of the credit union community—locally and globally.
Working with two amazing leaders with the same passion—Patsy Smith, CEO of $69 million asset Peoples Advantage Credit Union in Petersburg, Va., and Nicole Bowen, vice president, compliance, IT, and facilities at $418 million asset Fairfax (Va.) County Federal Credit Union—we co-founded Virginia’s first Global Women’s Leadership Network Sister Society.
The Sister Society launched in January 2019 with 100 attendees at the first meeting and attendance continues to grow. We are excited to help women and men in our state sharpen their leadership skills to ensure there is a pool of qualified and diverse candidates for leadership positions; encourage them as they contemplate their career goals and push outside their comfort zone; and serve as a platform for networking, relationship building, and mentoring with the goal of empowering women to further the credit union movement and their communities.
LISA LAMBRECHT is president/CEO of Entrust Financial Credit Union in Richmond, Va.