As a college student, Nicole Arneson’s career plans involved working with prison inmates, not credit union core processing systems.
“I accidentally fell into this,” says Arneson, assistant vice president, core operations, at $1.8 billion asset Columbia Credit Union in Vancouver, Wash. “I didn’t even own a computer when I moved into the information technology (IT) department. I just had a boss who liked my attitude and knew I could be taught anything as long as I was willing to learn.”
Arneson was a criminal justice student when she talked to two Columbia employees one night at a TGI Fridays. They heard she was a member and wanted her feedback.
Shortly after that conversation, Arneson joined the credit union as a part-time teller. She was assigned to the branch near Columbia’s operations center, and the IT manager—one of the individuals from the TGI Fridays conversation—would often ask Arneson to serve as a tester on projects.
After two years, Arneson moved into a role in the IT department, eventually working her way up to her current position overseeing the core operating system. She’s been a key player in core conversions, credit card conversions, consumer and business mobile deposit, new ATM installations, job scheduling and automation, and new branches.
“Our team is responsible for anything that touches the core or any third party that needs integration to the core,” she says. “In some way, every piece of software touches the core.”
Arneson enjoys the variety of challenges and the constantly changing nature of her position. Having the freedom to try new approaches to solve problems and implement projects is key to her success, along with the “gets stuff done” attitude her co-workers say she has.
“I don’t like being told I can’t do something,” she says, adding that she likes figuring out solutions that lead to improvements.
That desire to make improvements for the credit union and members drives Arneson to find solutions to business challenges.
“I had a colleague once tell me that I was like a dog with a bone. I don’t ever let something go until I’m completely done with it,” she says. “I need to have the satisfaction of getting it figured out, being done, and turning it over to the business line that’s going to manage it going forward.”