Q: What led you to the credit union sector and to Spectra?
A: After a dismal experience at a private organization directly out of college, my mother recommended I apply to work for the credit union that I had belonged to my entire life. I was 22 with only retail experience, but I was fortunate to be hired as a teller. It did not take me long to recognize that credit unions were where I wanted to be. The mission, the culture, the philosophy — it all fit with my desire to make a difference in people’s lives. The rest is history! Almost 30 years later, I am still in the industry. I began working at Spectra five years ago when presented with an opportunity to be the COO. The former CEO retired soon after I arrived, and I was selected as her replacement. It was my dream to be the CEO for a credit union, and I cherish every minute that I am able to lead this amazing organization.
Q: What is your leadership style? How do you lead an engaged team?
A: In a word, my leadership style is ‘flexible.’ I adapt to the current situation. I am open, honest, ethical, empathetic and I truly enjoy interacting with people. I understand the important role the team plays in producing outstanding experiences for our members, and I get immense satisfaction from coaching and mentoring people to their highest potential. I believe in having fun at work, while setting clear expectations, goals and objectives. Teams, especially those that are high-achieving, need to be continually challenged. To achieve this, my foot is never off the gas! We are always looking to improve, add or enhance something to move forward.
Q: Why is community service and philanthropy important to you and Spectra?
A: Community service and philanthropy are vital parts of my personal life through volunteerism and donations. I served as an EMT-B, as well as the treasurer for our local fire department. I’ve also volunteered and served as treasurer for a local animal rescue and, currently, I volunteer for local faith-based organizations. I am fortunate to live my life and recognize others may not be as fortunate. I believe it is my duty to give back to the community. This philosophy matches that of the credit union industry. To be meaningful members of the community, we must offer services to the underserved, host educational events, volunteer for community organizations, and make financial donations to organizations in our area with the most need. I proudly serve as the Secretary on the Credit Union Miracle Day Board, which sponsors the Cherry Blossom 10-mile run in Washington, DC each year in support of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. My family has used the services of Children’s National in DC many times, so this cause is especially important to me. Community service is at the heart of a credit union’s. That doesn’t just mean financially, but rather in whatever way is needed.
Q: How do you prioritize diversity and inclusion, both within your credit union and in terms of the community you serve?
A: The recent social climate highlighted the need for my organization to shift our views on diversity and inclusion. We always thought we were doing a great job, as our staff is very multicultural, but diversity and inclusion extend much further than just the makeup of our staff. Over the past year, our director of Human Resources obtained a certification in DEI to help lead the organization in our efforts to be more inclusive and diverse. We changed our hiring practices, eliminating names and addresses from the initial screen of resumes to remove unintentional bias, and we are consciously aware of how each decision affects our DEI practices. This is especially important in our marketing materials and campaigns. Most recently, we rebranded the credit union to Spectra, which represents the entire spectrum of colors, reflecting the diverse community we serve and our goal of providing a wide range of banking products for all. We are a low-income designated organization and are ready and able to help the underserved. All are welcome at Spectra credit union.
Q: Over the past year, what has the coronavirus pandemic revealed to you about Spectra’s strengths and challenges?
A: The coronavirus pandemic presented unexpected and unprecedented challenges, yet Spectra thrived in performance and service. We quickly prioritized the physical and financial safety of our employees, volunteers and members. The credit union procured supplies, added fixtures, enhanced cleaning processes within our facilities and introduced several contactless services. This experience demonstrated the resilience, determination and grit of the Spectra team. The team is willing to do whatever it takes to fulfill the credit union’s mission. The biggest challenge for our team has been transitioning to remote teamwork. Although we were able to succeed, there is a drain on our people because we are not together.
Q: What advice do you have for other executives also trying to lead their teams through this unprecedented crisis?
A: Showing grace for all is critically important. Employees, members and volunteers are stressed. There are pressures everywhere — financially, socially and with family. Everyone is doing the best they can. Allow employees the space they need to get their work done. Be flexible with granting time off, show employees you care and be empathetic. The organization must also be flexible enough to adapt to change. Be willing and able to flex when necessary, and if something doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to stop and move on to something new.