Q&A: Richelle Ray
EECU IT project manager brings dynamic personality to technology.
Richelle Ray joined Educational Employees Credit Union (EECU) in January, the latest step in her 14-year career as an information technology (IT) professional.
As IT project manager at the $3.1 billion asset credit union in Fort Worth, Texas, she meshes her IT knowledge with her passion for communicating, team building, and seeing projects through to their end.
Credit Union Magazine: What drew you to IT?
Richelle Ray: Happenstance. I was going to the University of North Texas and pursuing a career in political science when I saw a listing for an IT student worker. I was like, “I’ve always been good at computers. Let me see if I can hone in on this skill set.”
As a big public college in North Texas, you had the old-school tech people who know everything. I’m this spring chicken who wasn’t even pursuing a career in technology and they were super sharp and open to sharing information. It made me stay in technology, knowing that it’s a huge field and it will continue to grow.
Q: What do you like best about IT project management?
A: Project management is a way to learn how to bring people together and move toward a common goal. In the credit union world, IT is part of any project. I’ve been told I’m a chameleon in the IT world, but IT has become more inclusive. People realize that personalities matter. I like to engage with people, and project management was a path I felt I could engage.
Q: What are your career aspirations?
A: That question makes me nervous because I’m an overachiever. When I say I’m going to do something, I have to achieve it.
Where I am currently, I have a seat at the table. I want to be one of those stakeholders—the person driving. I want to be someone who’s not necessarily paid to do, but to think and come up with solutions.
My aspirations are to be on the C-suite level of a credit union. I could see myself possibly being a chief information officer (CIO). And I never thought I would say this out loud because it’s ambitious, but I would like to be a credit union CEO.
Many CEOs come from marketing or finance. I don’t understand why there are not more former CIOs as CEOs because technology is a huge component of any organization.
Q: How do you succeed in a traditionally male-dominated field?
A: In the beginning, I struggled. I don’t know if that was due to the actual tension of being a female in a male-dominated world or my perceived tension that I didn’t belong. I felt like I had to stand my ground.
When I saw myself grow in a male-dominated field is when I stopped seeing myself in a male-dominated field. I saw myself as someone with tasks that needed to be done and stopped worrying about the background noise. Once you remove that noise and focus on the task, you’ll succeed.
Q: What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
A: My mentor gave me this advice: When you ask someone to do something for you, make it easy for them. I use that in every walk of life.
Also, follow up and follow through. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. Following through will force you to be present, be engaged, and be where your feet are.
Q: What do you like to do outside of work?
A: I’m a nerd. I’ve started to engage more with reading. It’s something I’ve always loved to do, but could never find the time.
I also sew and make clothes, and I got into roller-skating during the pandemic.
This article appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of Credit Union Magazine. Subscribe here.