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Building Connections, Growing as a Leader: Erika's Path with Filene's Crash and i3 Programs

From her initial bewildering introduction to Filene and its innovative programs to her current commitment as a Filene i3 participant, Erika’s journey perfectly encapsulates the transformative power of diving headfirst into opportunities. Here’s Erika’s insightful account of her involvement in Filene’s leadership development programs, the Cooperative Trust’s Crash and Filene i3, and how they’ve shaped her growth and understanding of the credit union industry.

As the Manager of Asset Recovery at Zeal Credit Union, Erika stands out with her exceptional leadership, fueled by her vibrant and enthusiastic demeanor. Her dedication and charisma mark her as an indispensable part of not only her organization but the entire credit union community.

Stumbling upon Filene was a pleasant surprise for Erika. A mysterious email about her nomination as a crasher introduced her to Filene’s world of young, energetic credit union professionals. Despite initial confusion, Erika found herself falling in love with the passion and drive that Filene cultivated among its participants. 

The Filene Research Institute's Crash program, according to Erika, has been instrumental in fostering connection among young professionals in the industry. "Being around young folks that have the same energy and passion as I do is amazing," she shares, "What Filene’s done is bring all these young professionals together with the same type of drive and energy." 

What Filene’s done is bring all these young professionals together with the same type of drive and energy.

Participation in the Crash program and the i3 class has offered Erika a plethora of opportunities for growth and learning. The experiences she has gained through these programs have not only helped her establish meaningful connections within the industry but have also played a significant role in her career trajectory.

According to Erika, her participation has been life changing. She notes, "If I give 10%, I'm getting 100% back. I’ve seen a big growth trajectory and great things happen in my career as a result."

The Importance of Belonging

For Erika, belonging aligns with the core values of her personal and professional life. It is about aligning oneself with the organization's mission, in this case, people helping people — the heart and soul of the credit union industry.Participating in the Crash program and the i3 class has helped Erika develop a strong sense of belonging within the industry. It has opened her perspective, enabling her to see the bigger picture of the credit union industry and understand the cooperative mission on a deeper level.

Erika fondly recalls her experience with the GAC, where she felt an immense sense of belonging. Her interaction with CUNA CEO Jim Nussle, who emphasized the importance of young professionals as the future of the industry, left a profound impact on her, solidifying her sense of belonging and commitment to the industry.

When discussing the potential consequences of not feeling a sense of belonging within their professional environment, Erika uses an apt metaphor of a misaligned vehicle. She emphasizes the importance of aligning personal values with the organization's mission and how misalignment can lead to disarray and discomfort.

When asked about a piece of knowledge or insight she’d like other leaders to be aware of, Erika spoke fondly of United Teletech Financial FCU President & CEO Leo Ardine and National Credit Union Foundation Chief Impact Officer Chad Helminak and their session on leading with empathy. For her, leading with heart and meeting people where they are is a fundamental principle of effective leadership.

Looking ahead, Erika expressed interest in understanding more about the factors that lead people to leave the credit union industry. She is eager to uncover the allure of fintech companies and banks and find ways to enhance the credit union industry to win.

Those interested in participating in the next big Crash event can apply now for Crash big.bright.minds 2023 APPLY HERE! happening in December or email [email protected]

If you’re interested in learning more about Filene i3, or email [email protected]. Applications for the next i3 class will open at the end of the year.