The opportunity for development is one reason young employees join credit unions.
When Christian Hartley applied for her first job as a teller at $2.7 billion asset Keesler Federal Credit Union in Biloxi, Miss., the interviewer made her eager to join Keesler’s team.
“She told me, ‘Once you get your foot in the door, we love to promote from within,’” Hartley recalls.
Hartley set out to prove the truth of those words. Over 16 years, she advanced through the ranks, working as a financial services representative, a floating loan officer, assistant branch manager, and then as branch manager. She now manages two branches.
Along the way, she learned from great managers who offered coaching and opportunities, and honed Hartley’s critical thinking skills by walking her through the process of developing her own solutions to problems.
Becoming a Crasher was “one of the biggest things that’s happened to my credit union career,” Hartley says. She cherished attending the 2018 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) and being in a room with C-suite leaders from throughout the credit union movement.
“This was a chance for us to let these leaders know ‘we want to learn from you, so when it’s time for you to retire there’s a network of people prepared for that chair’ because we’ve been developed and mentored for it,” Hartley says.
Since her Crasher experience, she has co-founded Leaders Engaging in Action and Development (LEAD) for young professionals at Mississippi credit unions as a way to pay it forward.
Mayra Alcaraz, marketing data analyst at $917 million asset Farmers Insurance Federal Credit Union in Los Angeles, applied to become a Crasher after CEO Laura Campbell urged her to apply. The “magnificent” experience opened her eyes to how well credit unions’ mission matches her core values.
“It took me from having a 9-to-5 job to having a purpose in what I do,” says Alcaraz, who began as a staff accountant. She also founded a young professional group at the credit union.
“That whole process—putting together a proposal, conducting research, founding, and chairing the group—contributed significantly to my development as a leader,” Alcaraz says.
Having informal mentors at the credit union and a formal mentor through The Cooperative Trust made a “huge difference” in her career.
“I have yet to find a credit union professional who isn’t willing to share best practices, ideas, and insights,” Alcaraz says. In return, she aims to improve credit unions’ engagement of “people of color and diverse backgrounds” in leadership development.
“Doing so will help them build credit union warriors and future leaders who, like me, will devote their passion into this amazing industry.”