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Careers·Change·Collaboration·Conferences·Crash·Crash Event·Crash the GAC·Creativity·CUNA·Filene·Gen Y·Governmental Affairs·Ideas·Leadership·Meetups·Mentorship·News Release·Perception·Professional Development

Say Yes.

Let’s get up around 6am daily and potentially stay up until 2am nightly.  On a daily average let’s do 13,000 steps and burn 3,500 calories without hitting the gym.  But it doesn’t stop there, let’s push through the joint pain, muscle aches and any other bodily issue that may fall to fatigue or soreness because trust me, places that you didn’t know could ache will show themselves during this timeframe.

High-fiving Crash Facilitator, CUNA’s Ariel Bilskey!

However, let’s not forget conditions that require emotional and mental preparation.  Although these conditions may vary, they could include but aren’t limited to: being alert every waking hour, managing hunger or the feeling of being hangry (hungry +angry), dehydration or over hydration, seeing every moment to make an impression for future follow ups, photo opts, converting strangers to friends or family, massive social media updates, patience of a grade school teacher, stamina of long distance runner, and smiles and handshakes, oh yes many many smiles and handshakes for everyone.  Lastly, let’s make sure we are equipped with two very important skills, the electric slide and a new or current dance.  For this example let’s say the Whip and Nae Nae but, it’s ok to only prepare for one or the other, this is a judgment free zone.  Who fills this role and what calls for this type of conditions?  Is it a professional athlete, a politician, or movie star?  Is it a sporting event, campaign, or an awards show?

No, it’s a Crasher at the CUNA GAC (Government Affairs Conference) 2016 and I’m proud to be one.

I can still remember the stages of excitement vividly as the days changed throughout the week.  Although originally nervous, I was at ease entering into this conference thanks to the preparation, structure and leadership of James Marshall, the Crasher team captains, and The Cooperative Trust.  It didn’t take long before the nerves fell by the waste side and were replaced with adrenalin.  Looking back, I am thankful for memories that will last a lifetime.

Carrying my flag at the opening ceremony, in front of almost 5000 people.

I can recall how exciting it was to meet my fellow crashers after many weeks of discussions and online activities.  I’ll never forget my heart pounding as I walked with my association president carrying our state flag surrounded by the claps, shouts and positive energy to kick off the conference.  I’ll recall the unity while everyone bowed their heads in prayer for a divine blessing for the conference and each attendee.

Although 5000 people were estimated to participate, it was the consistent message and unity that I felt throughout the conference.  I remember other defining moments such as the feeling of honor and admiration to meet some of the current leaders of the movement from NCUA, CUNA, and NAFCU, to mention a few.  Knowing that individuals such as Jim Nussle, Rich Meade, Gigi Hyland, Ryan Donovan, and Monica Davy would take their time to invest in us was unbelievable.  To be able to hear their personal stories was a highlight of the conference.  It’s not every day that anyone can get personal time with so many leaders of the movement.  All of this can transpire in one day at the GAC and its worth every moment.  It seems overwhelming, and it is.  Yet in this environment I found the culture had a way of keeping me energized and wanting more.

My experience at the GAC made me even more proud to be a credit union professional.  The feeling that I can effectively create change through advocacy or community reinvestments, to increase financial wellness is incredible. But it was at the GAC where I saw the credit union culture at its best.  The GAC served as a platform to hear the stories across the nation of kindness and courage to fight for what’s right.  From conversations with representatives in congress to random conversations at social events, it was easy to see how the culture of people helping people was contagious.  Information sharing wasn’t frowned upon, in fact it was the norm.  The culture of every individual I came into contact with broadened my understanding of the impact our not for profit cooperative has on the nation.  Every moment was invaluable at the GAC.

For future crashers, it’s important to know that a crasher isn’t one person who is selected to get shipped to Washington DC to meet 51 other strangers from across the nation.  We aren’t just gung-ho credit union advocates under the age of 35 with time on their hands to travel.  A crasher is a person who has said yes and believes in it. That’s it!

But this yes has probably been said a millions times in the mind of a crasher even after several no’s.  This yes is also a readiness.  The GAC is the

Saying YES to singing our National Anthem on day 1.

largest credit union advocacy event of the year with a duration of 5 days, but what about the other 360 days.  That yes is a consistent drive in the movement of a crasher from day to day.  That yes makes them get up early to tend to the needs of members and coworkers a like that isn’t in their job description.  That yes enables the mind of a crasher to innovate, create and establish new ideas that may disrupt the way we used to do things to be relevant to the new needs of a changing society.  That yes understands the social and economic needs of tomorrow and works to get them in place today.  That yes transfers the mind of a crasher to seek out mentors while being a mentor. That yes says I understand the call to action and I am available.  That yes represents the credit union difference.

That, is the heart of a crasher.

Future crashers of the world are the successors that will join hands with the current leaders now.  That is why the GAC is so important.  That is why you are so important.  It is at the GAC where that transfer can begin to take place.  Crashers go through an incubation process in a safe environment and it has the potential to change both your professional and personal lives forever.  Crashing the GAC was a defining moment in my life and it can be the same for you.  All it takes is a yes in your spirit and the rest can make history.

Careers·Community Development·Conferences·Crash·Crash Event·Crash the GAC·Creativity·CUNA·CUNA Mutual Group·Filene·Gen Y·Governmental Affairs·Innovation·Leadership·Meetups·Mentorship·News Release·Professional Development

Crash Course in Crashing

(1) Selfie with Jim Nussle. (2) Meeting with my representatives. (3) Group shot with my fellow crashers!

When you sign up to be a crasher, you create these expectations in your head. You might think “Oh, I’m just going to meet a few credit union people, learn some cooperative stuff and not embarrass my CEO at Thunderpunch.” Ok, we did all these things (maybe not that last one), but it’s just hitting the surface of this amazing experience.

Crashing personifies our feelings as young professionals. We are the future of the industry, and it gives us the opportunity to learn how to be ambassadors of our cooperative brand. When you Crash, you can expect to:

LEARN.

Being a lifetime learner is the cornerstone principle of the “Young Professional.” I think we pride ourselves on this quality because it’s admitting that we don’t know everything but we WANT to know more.  Crashing is like an extreme professional apprenticeship. You take in volumes of information in a short amount of time, but you leave with a new appreciation for your job. Yes credit unions help people, but crashing teaches us that we actually help each other too.

CONNECT.

This experience was full of starstruck moments. It is totally intimidating to rub shoulders with people like Jim Nussle, Gigi Hyland and Stan Hollen. But any insecurities you may have had wash away because you are surrounded by bright like-minded individuals ready to hold you up and make you feel included. I compare this feeling to going away to college for the first time: everyone is a stranger at first, but the bonds you create are life-long.

GROW.

I left DC with a spark *queue “this girl is on fire” by Alicia Keys*. I didn’t just come home with knowledge, I brought ideas. Crashing will do that. Blame it on the group dynamics, but I am motivated to share my experiences, encourage others to Crash and build an advocacy program at my credit union. Crashing has opened doors that maybe didn’t even exist, but now I feel empowered to create them.

As I sit here reflecting on these experiences, my phone continues to blow up with messages from fellow crashers. It reminds me to hold on to that excitement, stay motivated to learn more and continue to share the #CUdifference! Thank you for this amazing opportunity. The energy is real, and together we are going to do amazing things.

Crash·Crash Event·Creativity·CUNA·CUNA Mutual Group·Filene·Finance·Gen Y·Ideas·Innovation·Leadership·Meetups·News Release

Crash Montana is a-comin’

Billings, MT. May 2015. Crashers descend.

For the first time, the Montana Credit Union Network, thanks to CUNA Mutual Group, will have a group of crashers at their annual meeting. During the 3 days onsite in Billings, our Crashers will work together to help assess what credit unions need to do to serve the next generation of members. Looking at products and business models which are needed to do so, before standing up and talking to Montana Credit Union CEO’s on the final day. So without further adieu, here they are:

  • Ally Haegele, Rocky Mountain Credit Union
  • Benjamin Endicott, Park Side Credit Union
  • Beth Musso, Park Side Credit Union
  • Danielle Servais, McCone County Federal Credit Union
  • Jalena Maughan, Trico Community Federal Credit Union
  • Jamie Redmon, Park Side Credit Union
  • Jess Mosby, Trico Community Community Federal Credit Union
  • John McEwen, Rocky Mountain Credit Union
  • Katelyn Bykari, Missoula Federal Credit Union
  • Katelynn Piper, Park SIde Credit Union
  • Kelly Fleiner, Rocky Mountain Credit Union
  • Kelsey Hovey, Park Side Credit Union
  • Kelsey Fandry, Rocky Mountain Credit Union
  • Kelsey Kamera-Stephan, Horizon Credit Union
  • Molly Berg, Missoula Federal Credit Union
  • Sara O’Hara Rocky Mountain Credit Union

We can’t wait to see all the incredible things they do!

Creativity·Ideas·Innovation·Leadership

On being terrified…and scars

Buzzfeed: Scared of Santa

In the final months of 2008 I was a snotty-nosed 29-year old working at a mid-sized credit union in North Carolina. Out of the blue, my phone rang. The caller ID said “NCUA.”

While there were a million reasons why the NCUA should not be calling me, of all people, my heart sank as I tried to shuffle through my mind the topics I had covered on my Credit Union Warrior blog. Had I gotten my credit union in trouble? Am I in trouble? Am I about to be fired?

I was terrified.

“Members Credit Union, this is Matt Davis. How may I help you?”

“Hello, Matt. This is Gigi Hyland.”

I had done it now. Not only had I gotten into trouble, this had gone all the way to the NCUA board. My career’s over. My marriage is over. My life is over.

“We’re celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Federal Credit Union Act in Washington, D.C.,” Hyland continued. “We’d like to you present on a panel about the future of credit unions with Bucky Sebastian and Guy Messick.”

Before I could think it through or even look at my calendar, the words “I’m flattered…of course I’d love to participate” came out of my mouth. As I ended the call, my mind raced.

“I didn’t ask permission…oh no, I just screwed up.”

“I’m totally going to get fired for this!”

“Why me? What will I even talk about?”

“Bucky Sebastian and Guy Messick?!? They’re credit union legends! I’m going to look like an idiot.”

I was terrified.

I was not a public speaker, I was a writer who was brave/stupid enough to occasionally talk to groups of people. (Next time you see me, ask me to say “Rural Route”). But this was an opportunity for me to get my message out, and I couldn’t pass it up. Over the next few months, I created a presentation called “Oprah, Chicken, and the Future of Credit Unions.” I spent hours every night rehearsing the talk to make sure I nailed it. For a 15-minute presentation, I probably worked 100 hours. I took vacation time to go so I wouldn’t have to ask permission. It was one of the best moments of my career.

Later in 2009, I applied to be a speaker at the Partnership Symposium, an event held by FORUM Solutions and Trabian in Fishers, Indiana. In the credit union social media scene of the time, the speaker and attendee list read like a who’s who list. I spent countless hours creating my video application, complete with laser beams, a warrior helmet, and recreated Gladiator scenes (looking back, the video was horrible). As the public votes were tallied, I somehow ended up being named the guest speaker at that year’s event. So, I happily went.

As I walked onto the stage to set up my laptop for a presentation on how credit unions can promote thrift through social connections, I peered over my screen to see the audience. I saw Tim McAlpine, Shari Storm, William Azaroff, Brent Dixon, Ron Shevlin, Denise Wymore, Trey Reeme, Doug True, Robbie Wright, Gene Blishen, Jeff Hardin, and at least 30 other people who I considered to be more knowledgable on the topic. They were the experts, not me!

I was terrified.

I was awful.

My voice shook. My memory left. My confidence was non-existent. It was the most painful 30 minutes imaginable. I hated it. The audience hated it. It was one of the best moments of my career.

Just last month I finished development on a front-line employee performance management platform called gameFI. I’ve spent nearly a decade planning its creation, and about a year rethinking, building, testing, and reworking gameFI until I got it just right. Then, I climbed on stage last month to announce publicly for the first time what I had been secretly building.

I was terrified.

And I still am. I’m at this weird place in my career at which I’m young enough to usually be among the youngest people at credit union events, but old enough to feel very reflective about my past 11 years of service to the movement. I’ve listened and learned and tried and failed and succeeded and screwed up so many times that I know hurt is in front of me. I know there are people who won’t like my creations. I know that I’ll mess up my words when I’m on stage. I understand the political and reputation risk of my actions. I expect success, but am prepared for failure.

It’s terrifying. And it hurts.

And the only thing that keeps me going…that keeps me creating and trying and working and pleading and exposing myself to almost certain pain is looking back at what pain has caused. I’ve spent my entire life being fearful and embarrassed of scars, literal and otherwise. But instead of running away from things that terrify me, maybe I should spend the next 35 years seeking them out. They’ve given me confidence because even when I’ve fallen spectacularly, I’ve been able to dust myself off and try it again. They’ve given me perspective because I know first-hand how hard it is to do the things that speakers and creators do. They’ve given me friends who have stuck by me through it all. They’ve given me hope that one of you is willing to hurt and grow like I have.

big. bright. minds.·Careers·Collaboration·Community Development·Conferences·Crash·Crash Event·Creativity·CUNA·CUNA Mutual Group·Filene·Gen Y·Ideas·Innovation·Leadership·Lending·Meetups·News Release·Professional Development·Updates

November is Crash-tastic!

Can you believe it’s almost November already? (Or it might be November when you’re reading this – in which case, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?). What does November bring? A change in leaves? A change in weather? Thanksgiving? A countdown to Christmas? (As I write this, it’s just 62 days until Christmas day!). 

But you know what else November brings us?!?! TWO CRASH EVENTS! That’s right… TWO! Our Crashers have been selected and we’d love for you to meet them.

Head over here to meet our Crashers for Crash CUNA Lending Council in San Diego, CA.

And go in this direction to meet our Crashers for Crash big. bright. minds. in Tucson, AZ.

The Cooperative Trust is a Filene community. Everything we do is made possible by Credit Union National Association. Crash CUNA Lending Council is supported by Twenty Twenty Analytics and Crash big. bright. minds. is supported by CUNA Mutual Group.

Change·Collaboration·Community Development·Conferences·Crash·Crash Event·Creativity·CU Water Cooler·CUNA·CUNA Mutual Group·Filene·Gen Y·Ideas·Innovation·Interviews·Leadership·Meetups·Mentorship·Professional Development

#CrashCUWCS – a recap

A hurricane just flew through Austin, TX. No, not what you’re thinking – it was our Crashers!

We’ve just this moment finished an incredible 5 days. I’m sitting in a coffee shop, taking advantage of their free wifi, trying to note and account for everything that we learned and to give you something to learn too! Where to start… I have no idea. But let’s try this…

So, arriving the day before the symposium kicked off we got our Crashers together and really set out some goals which they decided on themselves. We asked them: “what makes Crash the CU Water Cooler Symposium a success at the end?”. As you can imagine, the conversation took off! When the dust settled though, we decided on 3 key things that our Crashers wanted from their experience:

  1. To network and make real connections.
  2. Find an idea or innovation which they can take back to their credit union and implement. 
  3. Build a support network for themselves.

So – if we achieve these things, Crash CUWCS is a success. What happened next I hear you say (through my secret spy equipment currently positioned conveniently near to your current location….).

The symposium kicked off with a cool networking event at a local arcade / bar. You could feel the energy straight away and we couldn’t wait to get things started. I would love to give you a full overview of every speaker and every session but let’s be honest you don’t have the time to read that and I don’t have the time to write it. So I’m going to leave you with some themes and takeaways from the sessions in a short a form as possible:

Symposium Day 1:

  • The man who invented Pringles was so proud of his creation he was buried in a Pringles can. What will you do to make you that proud? – Matt Davis.
  • We have fantastic tellers who we then ask to become sales people. You don’t say congratulations to your dog for being a great dog and then ask them to become a cat! – Shari Storm.
  • Save water, drink beer. – Linda Bodie.
  • Savour the time you have now, enjoy life’s moments. Look at life through 30 year goggles. When you look back, what will be those moments you remember? – Andy Janning.

Symposium Day 2:

  • No one ever started a cooperative who wasn’t pissed off! – William Azaroff.
  • Take every chance, drop every fear. – Ronaldo Hardy.
  • Children have the freedom to just ‘do’. Adults seek instruction, let’s rediscover the freedom to be creative. – Brent Dixon.
  • Mistakes allow us to make our most beautiful creations. – Charlie Trotter.
  • An idea is nothing unless you get up and do something about it. – Jimmy Marks.

And as quickly as it had started, the CU Water Cooler Symposium was over. But not for us! For those of you that don’t know Crash events – throughout whichever conference we are attending, we run our own separate track alongside to bring something a little extra.

On that note I’d like to thank our guests: Brett and Corlinda Wooden, CUNA Mutual Group, Currency Marketing / It’s a Money Thing, Andy Janning, Larky, Jimmy Marks, Matt Davis, Charlie Trotter, William Azaroff, Gene Blishen and Brent Dixon.

Saturday morning we came back together to talk about whether or not Crash the CU Water Cooler was a success. The answer, a resounding YES! We made connections, we found innovations and within our own group built a support network that will last a life time. I would love to tell you how the conversations on that day went, but I want to throw that challenge to our Crashers – go out. Tell the world what you learned. Make a difference. Share your success, recognise your failures… But most of all, above anything else – don’t forget how lucky you are to be a part of this wonderful thing that we call the Credit Union System, love what you do.

Finally, thanks must go out to Credit Union National Association to making all that we do at The Cooperative Trust possible, to CUNA Mutual Group for supporting the Crash the CU Water Cooler event and to CU Water Cooler themselves for having us.

Until next time, check out our storify to catch up on all things #CrashCUWCS:

Change·Collaboration·Conferences·Creativity·Ideas·Innovation·Leadership·Professional Development

Don’t be a “Future Leader.” Lead Now.

Image Source: World Council of Credit Unions

“We need to drop ‘future leader’ from our vocabulary and start leading now.”

- Elkanah Odembo
VP, African Region, World Council of Credit Unions
& Former Kenyan Amabassador

I recently returned from the World Council conference in the Gold Coast of Australia where I participated in the World Young Credit Union People (WYCUP) Program. It wasn’t the first time I participated in that aspect of the conference, but it was a truly amazing experience once again. Talking with young professionals around the world, it’s exciting to see how they all share the same passion for helping people achieve their financial dreams through credit unions.

We talked about leadership throughout most of the WYCUP sessions and Mr. Odembo’s remarks above during the conference hit home with a lot of us. Young professionals in programs such as “Crash-ing” or WYCUP are often referred to as “future leaders,” but in order to get in positions of leadership, we need to make a difference now. You don’t like how something is being done? Say or do something. Take risks. Share your ideas. Ask for help (that’s part of what this network is here for). Go the extra mile. Ask for forgiveness, not permission when you need to. Besides, you spend at least 40 hours a week at your credit union, why not make it as awesome as it can be?

You are reading this because you care right? You’re involved. Invested even. You know that working at a credit union isn’t just a job, it’s a way to improve people’s financial lives. It’s economic democracy on a global scale.

The credit union movement was built and sustained by people that fought tirelessly for the credit union difference. Filene, Bergengren, Doig, Herring, Raiffeisen, and others were evangelists. It certainly wasn’t a job to them either. They lived and breathed credit unions. It was social and radical change to put ownership of money in the hands of the people. They built a movement. And we need your help to keep it moving.

“Youth is too serious to become obedient” was something that founder Ed Filene once said. Follow Filene’s words. Mr. Odembo also pointed out – correctly – that youth is the most vibrant part of our movement right now. Let’s harness that energy together and keep moving forward.

The credit union difference is amazing. You know that. So be the difference. Don’t wait until tomorrow. I know that sounds daunting, but think about this: If all of you make even a little bit of wave, the cooperative efforts of us all will be a tsunami of positive change for credit unions. And when the waters clear, you’ll be glad you stood up when others shrugged their shoulders.

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