Christian Hartley

Leadership lessons for young professionals

Seasoned leaders share how they forged their career paths.

January 26, 2021

Credit union veterans described how they forged their career paths based on their unique skills and circumstances during a panel discussion at the CUNA National Young Professionals Virtual Conference.

Christian Hartley, branch manager at $3.5 billion asset Keesler Federal Credit Union in Biloxi, Miss., was working at Chick-fil-A when a teller encouraged her to apply for a job at the credit union.

“I tell people I’m not really a numbers person and that people are my favorite thing,” she says. “I love that I get to help people every day. That’s what keeps me here.”

Hartley says Keesler Federal’s promote-from-within policy is a testament to her application of those skills.

Kristin Ryan, CUNA’s director of learning events, says her passion for education has helped her  forge a successful career path.

“I love helping people grow and find the best part of themselves,” she says.

Ryan warns against becoming complacent with day-to-day activities.

“It’s important to make every process more efficient and effective, and bring in new people who can share new ideas to keep everything fresh,” Ryan said. “But if you have a new idea, do your research. Back up your ideas with facts.”

Credit union philosophy motivates Richard Sellwood, vice president of member services at $550 million asset Reliant Community Credit Union in Sodus, N.Y. He says standing up for members during difficult financial times has served credit unions as the pandemic continues.

“The credit union movement embodies that,” he says. “So that’s how I self-check myself.”

Panel members also shared how others have helped them advance.

Hartley recalls a manager who empowered her to decide how to handle a difficult member, giving her confidence to progress in her career.

“I remember walking out of her office standing taller with my shoulders back,” she says. “On the front lines, people need to make tough decisions every day. It’s all about empowering your team members, showing them they can do it, and encouraging them along the way. You’ll get excellence every time.”

Author/journalist Antonio Neves facilitated the session.