NextGen Leaders: Jimese Harkley

Jimese Harkley
Philanthropy and Community Relations Manager
$1.3 billion America's First Federal Credit Union 
Birmingham, Ala.
Follow Jimese on Twitter 
Follow her on LinkedIn 
Watch Jimese’s CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec video

Give us the elevator speech about your project (as in how would you describe your project to someone you meet in an elevator?):
The Community First campaign is an employee-driven fundraising initiative created to enhance our contributions to causes in the communities we serve. America’s First employees reach out to their network of people to raise donations via sales, while promoting literacy and awareness for three local non-profit organizations. This campaign is designed to enhance our presence in the community and embrace our responsibility to be good corporate stewards.

What is your long-term career goal?
My long-term career plans consist of passing the Alabama State Bar examination and receiving certification to practice law. This certification provides the opportunity to interpret and draft credit union policies, advocate for regulation, and protect the organization against legal liabilities. In five years I would like to be a senior vice president of governmental affairs and community relations. Within 10 years I would like to be the president and CEO of a credit union.

Online voters and a panel of past finalists narrowed the CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec field from 20 to the Top 15 applicants. The challenge, held in conjunction with DDJ Myers and administered by Currency, searches for emerging leaders age 35 and under from within the credit union industry.

The Top 15 will blog about their project.  And to provide additional value to the competition experience, they’ll each receive an executive coaching session from DDJ Myers, a CUES Supplier member and strategic provider. A judging panel of two CUES members and Deedee Myers of DDJ Myers will then score the Top 15’s applications and blog posts, narrowing the competition to five finalists.

The five finalists will receive additional coaching, airfare, accommodation and registration to CUES’ CEO/Executive Team Network™, Nov. 8-11 in Scottsdale, Ariz., where they will give their final presentations. The 2015 CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec will receive further coaching, airfare, accommodation and registration for two CUES’ CEO Institutes, a total prize package valued at $20,000

Fill in the dots: The future of credit unions will be bright if ...
… we create programs to enhance financial literacy in the communities we serve. Members, and nonmembers, deserve coaching and education to improve their financial lives and make healthy monetary decisions. Credit unions can make a huge impact by helping people make decisions that will improve their credit and encourage saving, while getting low- or no-cost quality financial services. This can be done by hosting financial literacy webinars, fairs, and seminars at no cost to the public. The more we help people, especially those being negatively impacted by previous decisions, the longer communities will continue to support our mission.

What my generation brings to the credit union movement is …
… a deep commitment to helping people attain the American dream. Credit unions were founded on the proud and purposeful premise of changing people’s financial lives. We are committed to improving our technology, products, and community involvement, while offering the same quality service that has retained members for generations.

People consider me a leader because …
… I am dedicated to my work and the contributions we make in local communities. I find value in building mutually beneficial relationships with those around me. I will not ask anyone to complete a task that I have not done myself. I am dedicated to learning new things and taking responsibility for the tasks necessary to carry out our mission. Most importantly, people can sense the enjoyment and fulfillment my job gives to me. I am very happy in my role and others constantly acknowledge their recognition of my commitment.

Who is your hero and why?
My hero is Condoleezza Rice. She grew up in my hometown of Birmingham, Ala., during a time when receiving a quality education was a challenge. Ms. Rice is a motivational individual who has shown young girls in our area that embracing education, rising above historical challenges for women, and loving football can be a healthy equation for success. She is a tenacious hard worker, distinguished scholar, humanitarian, and recipient of countless accomplishments and awards. She is my hero, not only for her outstanding achievements, but also for her strong will and determination to excel professionally. Rice is the epitome of great success for little girls from Alabama.

Who is a must-follow on Twitter?
James Marshall, @jamestrustcoop, is a must follow in the credit union industry. His work with Filene allows him to travel all over the country to connect credit union leaders with young people who are inspired to make an impact. He is a connection to the credit union world and helps you understand that the movement is larger than your credit union.

Does your credit union have Twitter/Facebook/YouTube/Pinterest/LinkedIn/Instagram other social media accounts? Please provide links:

What is your favorite CUES member benefit? Or, if you are a new CUES NextGen member, what benefit are you most looking forward to using?
I am excited about webinars and dedication to providing continuing education. Free registration, to sit at my desk, and learn about a topic that interests me or changes in the industry is invaluable. This opportunity also provides access to other professionals who may have the same concerns, allowing them to communicate with one another for better understanding. CUES bring the credit union world to its members instantly.

CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec team