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Crash Event

Colloquia and Curveballs

You think you’ve got life figured out and suddenly, destiny throws you a curveball.

That is not to say that all curveballs are bad. Google defines a curve as “a line or outline that gradually deviates from being straight for some or all of its length.” The keyword “deviates” perfectly explains the effect this curve ball has taken on my career; it has led me to question whether I should continue on my current career path or diverge into something I’ve newly discovered a passion for within the credit union industry.

While I was in high school, I decided that I would study finance in college and obtain a job as an Accountant. It was my ultimate goal. Being one of the first in my family to attend college and, furthermore, the first to obtain a white-collar job, I have accomplished that goal. Fast forward a few years and I continue to love my career. I have now set new goals in climbing the corporate ladder; Senior Accountant, Financial Analyst, Controller, CFO, etc.

Best of all, I work in a great industry where the main focus is helping others improve their lives and achieve financial goals.

Late August, the President of my organization forwarded me an email regarding the applications for becoming a Crasher at the War for Talent Colloquium in Austin, TX. Little did I know, this would be the start of something wonderful.

This colloquium and the entire Crasher experience is my curveball. At the colloquium, I was exposed to a world that I was not quite familiar with: talent acquisition and human resources. Although I have had some involvement in improving employee morale and corporate culture through my participation in the Employee Relations Committee in my organization, I have not had a direct role in the decision-making process of searching for talent, retaining employees, providing career development or terminating employees.

Every single presenter at the colloquium provided insightful information on the subject. Dr. Sekou Bermiss’ research report, The Laws of Attraction: Credit Union Recruitment in a Competitive Labor Market, provided key findings that can help a credit union become more attractive to applicants by providing a guideline as to how to evaluate the recruiting strategies as well as the organizational fit. Dr. Quinetta Roberson focused on branding and how that can have both negative and positive effects. Deedee Meyers, Rebecca Bower and Debbie Hilton all brought in different perspectives and their own experiences as recruiting agents. James Schenk, CEO of PenFed FCU, spoke of how his rather aggressive approach to obtaining highly talented individuals has benefited his organization. And lastly, Daron Roberts provided us with his remarkable story of how he transitioned from Harvard Law Student to NFL coach.

The presenters, along with all the amazing people I met (Lauren, my fellow Crashers, Visa representatives, other Filene associates) made this an amazing experience. It reassured me that I am, indeed, in the correct industry and it left me hungry for more!

I want to continue to learn and get more involved in the industry. I want to continue my path in finance while also find ways to become involved in the “people” aspect of it. I want to help make an impact on people as well as my organization and the industry.

Lastly, I want to thank Lauren and everyone at Filene for organizing the colloquium and Crashers program as well as the President at my CU for having thrown this curveball at me!

Follow A Crasher

Follow A Crasher, Week 2 Podcast: Making Credit Union Impact

Follow A Crasher

Follow A Crasher, Week 2 Blog: Life After Crash

The question we don’t ask before Crashing an event is, “What am I prepared to do after I Crash?”

Life after Crash

If you imagine doors would open at every turn, I’d say you’re about half-right. The doors are left ajar, but there is no door attendant waiting for you to walk through – that’s up to you. Creating opportunities, sustaining and maintaining the relationships you’ve started takes effort.

My life after Crashing the GAC in 2016 has been filled with excitement and learning, and then testing the boundaries of what I thought I was capable of to the realities of where I’m at in my career. By keeping in contact with my fellow Crashers and Crash mentors, I have been able to stay involved with The Cooperative Trust, Filene, and YP Groups across the nation. I’ve attended meetings with our state representatives to observe and learn about how credit unions work with their local governments. I’ve had opportunities to speak to local high school students about being successful after graduation, and I’ve been involved with speaking to foster youth over the last two years creating workshops to help improve financial literacy and organizational preparedness. Most recently, I earned my MBA – the hardest goal I’ve ever set for myself. All of these events happened after Crashing, but they were not handed to me, and the process is continuous.

The Challenge

As a Crasher, you get a firsthand look into the interworkings of the movement and your new goal is to stay there. This is the biggest challenge I’ve faced after Crashing the GAC. Going back to life after witnessing the excitement, learning, and the changes that take place is hard! After crashing, my career goal did a complete 180. I always thought I would enter into management. I now know that I am more interested in workshop facilitation, speaking opportunities, research, and information than I am in people management. This change in direction has been one of the hardest realizations to make for two reasons. First, I need to be comfortable with starting in a new field and not being an expert. Second, I need practice! I spent my entire college career (undergraduate and graduate school) presenting to classmates and audiences; I have not spent my career presenting to credit union professionals.

Crashing + MBA ≠ Job Offers

What am I Doing Now

Have you ever fulfilled a lifelong dream? It can be exhilarating; the rush that comes reminds me of my morning coffee ritual except there’s a double rainbow and a big plate of bacon and sourdough at the end. How do you keep it going? The answer is simple, you keep moving, learning, and testing. Don’t stop for anything except to reflect on your life and get better, faster, and stronger.

My next adventure will be starting in the next few weeks… I’ll be moving from California to Wisconsin to join the Filene team as an Impact Director. What will your next adventure be?

Crashing + MBA = Opportunities

Follow A Crasher

Follow A Crasher, Week 1 Video: Today is a Great Day to Work for Credit Unions

Follow A Crasher Week 1 Video: Mario Mejia from Filene Research on Vimeo.

Follow A Crasher

Follow A Crasher, Week 1 Podcast: Live by Design

Follow A Crasher

Follow A Crasher, Week 1 Blog: Crash or Burn

One thing the 2016 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference showed me was that there is no better time to be in the industry.  I realized current leaders who’ve carried the legacy of thrift, cooperative, and people helping people are shifting into transition.  Likewise, one thing that the Crash the GAC program showed me was how critical our role is in the industry.  That experience was invaluable, but the stake in the ground didn’t initially break ground there.

The road to Crash the GAC started earlier than the conference, but from that experience I’ve been able to maximize my professional progression more efficiently.  Learning from the people I admire, I’ve been able to see how my experience at GAC excelled my efforts and set me on the path I walk today.  The GAC elevated my level to perceive opportunity, and how to capture it.

I’ve realized “crashing” is a mindset that makes the best out of an opportunity when it presents itself.  Likewise, I also realize “burning” is not realizing an opportunity has just passed by.  Considering the trajectory of my foreseeable career, I see a theme of three regular occurrences where I always chose to “Crash”. Doing this has contributed greatly to where I am now.  Choose to Crash!!

Say Yes

Post-Crash the GAC 2016, I wrote a blog entitled Say Yes. I discuss how “yes”, is a mindset of readiness.  That degree of readiness can transform ideas into opportunities.  Early in my career I made the choice to ready myself for opportunities.  My CEO was my example.  He started as a teller and worked his way to where he is now.  With aspirations to become a CEO myself, I understand it takes more than doing my job well.

My yes made me understand it was essential to have a mentor but to also be a mentor.  My yes required a higher bar but also asks how can I return more value for my team, credit union and community.  Knowing that iron sharpens iron, my yes kept me involved in advocacy and connected to individuals who are smarter than me or already doing what I aspire to become.  I chose to crash and crash loudly.

From consistently crashing in these situations, I began to work by design rather than default.  And from this, I’ve created disruption in the fields of innovating, leadership, and philanthropy.  Those efforts led to both national, and regional recognition in those fields.  Crash!


Challenges come – keep it moving

Your “hell” can manifest in many different ways.  It could be political challenges, learning curves, budget, work environment, or personal life. But keep it moving.

When I originally presented the idea of an in-house philanthropic initiative as the prognosis to our staggering SEG growth, I was commended.  However, that turned to disbelief after realization set in that the powering force behind it would be our employees through monthly volunteering. Reservations rang out from budget, to consistency, to size of the credit union.  Finding a solution was in the effort to keep moving.  The question became, how can I do this?  For four months straight I commandeered personal friends to kick it off.  I’d bring success stories back to the office to create a buzz, and it wasn’t long before staff began to show interest.

Years later, that initiative would become award winning, and contribute to more than 200% penetration of my primary SEG goal.  Choose to crash.

The sky’s the limit

“The sky’s the limit,” he told me.  Now you tell me: what’s the first thing that came to your mind?  “Yea right,” is what I thought too, as I left my interview with the Executive VP at Interior FCU.  Although completely cliché, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Filene·Leadership·News Release·Updates

New Beginnings

A note from James:

Four years ago, you all started a journey with me. A journey to an unknown destination, but you came with me anyway. Four years ago, I took charge of The Cooperative Trust and everything that includes. As I write this, my part in this journey is approaching its end. Yours, however, continues onwards… What’s next for me? I’ll come to that later, but first…

The last four years have given me the chance to meet and work with some of the brightest talent in the credit union system. I’ve been surrounded by passionate, committed, kind and generous people at all times. Not once in the last four years has working with you, ever been ‘work’. You have made my life a joy to live, in all that you and this community of people have done. As I think about this time, a song comes to mind – “Swing Life Away” – there’s a line in this song that describes my time with The Cooperative Trust perfectly:

“I’ve got some friends, some that I hardly know
But we’ve had some times, I wouldn’t trade for the world”

In addition, there are also some thank-yous that need calling out by name: Brent Dixon, Theresa Jelderks (Hilinksi), Chris Fraenza, Meghann Dawson, Chad Helminak, Brianne Williamson, Heather Ristow, Tammy Wood, Lindsey Hodson. Andy Janning, Ariel Bilskey and Matt Vance.

As much as all this ‘touchy feely” stuff is what I’m all about, we’ve really achieved something too! We’ve seen the credit union system open its eyes and its arms to the need for the development of young talent, of you! We have seen more professionals than ever before come through our Crash programs and leave with a new lease of life for credit unions and what they do. We’ve seen our Crashers attend CUDE, become i3’ers and become credit union CEOs. Yes, we’ve really achieved something. I never could have imagined that we’d be here, achieving so much, together.

As for me, I’ll still be at Filene. For now, I’ll still be with the Trust helping to manage our transition. This is not goodbye, just, catch you later! I am excited to continue to help credit unions implement our vast body of research to better help Main Street Americans and credit union members all over the world.

As for The Cooperative Trust: LAUREN! LAUREN CULP. Lauren is amazing and is joining us by way of Alaska. Lauren brings a curiosity to The Cooperative Trust that will take this amazing community to the next level – I don’t want to tell you too much as I’ll let her speak for herself (below…)

Four years ago, when I started, Brent Dixon asked you to reach out to me, meet me, mentor me. As Brent asked this of you four years ago, I ask this of you now for Lauren. If my rollercoaster has been anything to go by, Lauren is sure to have 100 more loops and corkscrews and she’ll need you to help her through!

Thank you for everything. I’m not crying, you are.


A note from Lauren:

Hi everyone!

Thanks James, for the introduction! If you don’t know me yet, I’m Lauren – avid coffee lover, recent Alaska resident, current i3er, and 2016 Crash the GAC alumnus. I just moved to Madison last week after six years spent in “The Last Frontier.” In case you’re wondering, here are just a few fun things I did in Alaska:

  • Backpacked the scenic 33-mile Chilkoot Trail
  • Watched the Northern Lights from my bedroom window
  • Flew a tiny plane (with the assistance of an actual pilot) through Alaskan mountain ranges
  • Took lots of Vitamin D because yes, it is really dark in the winter
  • Spent five years working for a great Alaskan credit union

Now, I’m thrilled to be joining the awesome folks at Filene. Brent and James have done big amazing things with the Trust and have left large shoes to fill. In the coming months, I’ll be working with James and Tansley to transition into the Cooperative Trust Manager role. My first Crash in this capacity will be a really cool opportunity to Innovate with Visa in San Francisco this August – check it out!

Lots of exciting things are happening at the Cooperative Trust from earning the Herb Wagner Award to reaching the 1500 member mark. None of this could have happened without YOU, so give yourself a pat on the back and then come back for more!

In the coming months, we’ll be focusing on a mentorship program, more integration and engagement at Crash events, and an exciting new website. More on that later. In the meantime, check out the opportunities to stay involved with the Trust!

I’d like to take a moment to personally thank James so much for his fearless leadership, boundless energy, and determined commitment to young people in the credit union movement. Reach out to James ( to let him know how awesome he is (and congratulate him on tying the knot!)

I can’t wait to get to know as many of you Trust members as is humanly possible (shout out to my #CrashTheGAC16 and #Filenei3 family)! Drop me a line if you’re in town or at a Filene event – I’d love to connect, and look forward to working together to empower young adults in credit unions.


With lots of excitement,


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