The weeks leading up to the CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec finals were a whirlwind for me. I was juggling personal and professional responsibilities, quickly working my way up the credit union ladder, plus shooting videos and writing blogs for the NTCUE competition.
My project was my passion: Creating a Sales Culture in a Service Environment at my credit union. In just a few months, we had completely restructured our corporate organization to eliminate silos, creating transparency and interdependency across all departments while improving members’ service experience and our bottom line.
I looked forward to recording videos and writing blogs each week to update everyone in the industry on my progress, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a lot of work, all in addition to the extra responsibilities I had taken on at the credit union. Many of our employees were resistant to the drastic changes being made at our organization, so change management and an increased focus on internal marketing were called for. I wore extra hats and at times felt exhausted, but looking back, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
My exhaustion was transformed into exhilaration when I learned I was chosen to be a NTCUE finalist and was going to Las Vegas where I would pitch the idea behind my project to over 300 credit union executives at CUES’ CEO/Executive Team Network. Little did I know, the most rewarding part of my NTCUE journey was soon to come.
My CEO and I arrived in Las Vegas together. He was to attend the CEO/Executive Team Network and was there to support me in my ambition to become the Next Top Credit Union Exec. We checked into the Cosmopolitan (NTCUE finalists got presidential suites courtesy of CUES) and immediately started networking. I was introduced to many credit union CEOs and executives from all over the U.S., and even a few from Canada.
Most importantly though, I got to spend time with and get to know other young professionals who were equally as passionate about the credit union movement as I. We never viewed each other as “the competition.” Rather, we drew from one another’s experience and expertise, taking advice and sharing it openly. We were there to grow professionally and personally, and it was a beautiful experience to be able to do so together.
The day of our final presentations, all of the finalists were escorted to a private room to make last minute preparations, and then to wait. The waiting was excruciating! Our nerves were going haywire and we were all anxious to present and find out who would be the Next Top Credit Union Exec. Even then, we supported one another, discussing our projects, practicing our pitches and giving and receiving feedback.
Then, it was my turn to present. I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer and got on stage in front of 300+ executives to present my project, what I had learned along the way and the results realized at my credit union due to our cultural and organizational overhaul. I was definitely nervous, but I spoke purposefully, proud to represent my CEO, our credit union and other young professionals in the industry who, like me, aim to make positive, lasting changes for our members.
I wasn’t awarded the title of Next Top Credit Union Exec that day, but I certainly didn’t lose. Contrarily, I gained quite a lot. I gained confidence in speaking in front of large groups. I gained deep and long-lasting relationships with other young professionals. I gained insight from the advice and constructive criticism from seasoned professionals. I gained the experience of a lifetime as a NTCUE finalist! I traveled, pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, made new friends, created life-long memories and ultimately grew as person.
Alexia Mavrakes, Certified Leadership Coach