I guess it all started around May of 2015 after my first taste of financial education. There were roughly 30 students (high schoolers) ambling through our financial reality fair, put together and hosted by yours truly. I barely knew what I was doing, still wet behind the ears in this credit union movement. Nervous and new, I’d experienced public relations and customer service, but never had I played ‘teacher.’
Youth of all shapes and sizes wandering around me, picking out their careers; shopping for clothing and transportation; navigating life’s decisions in a hypothetical, choose-your-own-adventure financial foray. Raucous laughter, furrowed brows, compromises, excited guffaws, friendly arguing, and more, filled the cafeteria. My cheeks felt tight from all the smiling. I was hooked.
While this first-time teaching was as a representative of the credit union where I was at the time, little did I realize that it was the beginning of a career and the initial of many life-changing pearls to drift my way. Intoxicated with passion for this new-found industry and the opportunities therein, I began researching any and everything one could take advantage of and grow with.
From local chapters to the Credit Union Executives Society, from our league to the World Council of Credit Unions, I was on a mission to learn more, be involved more, and truly shape my existence in this space. It was on this journey that I stumbled across Filene, The Cooperative Trust, and a delightfully charming program known as Crash. A Crash is the group identification name of the Rhinoceros, or in the sense I’d like to discuss now, to drop in on a party, possibly without a formal invitation.
Way back in 2008, a group of young credit union professionals decided that the largest credit union assembly in the world, the Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) General Affairs Conference (GAC) in Washington D.C., was a tad too restrictive and that white, old men CEOs should no longer be the norm for such gatherings. So, they did the next best thing: they crashed, showed up without tickets or an invite or endorsement or approvals. The Cooperative Trust was born.
Fast forward to 2017 and Michael Murdoch’s email inbox and a short and sweet message inviting him to Crash the GAC – I was beyond elated. Before I knew what hit me, I was in the air and on the way to the Capitol, where I’d be joining a handful of other Crashers at CUNA’s GAC. I’d rarely felt the level of prestige that I did during those 5 days.
Our cohort felt more like a group of celebrities. Everywhere we went folks stopped to turn and watch us or to invite us to their tables. We heard from big names in the movement, hung out with Jim Nussle, President and CEO of CUNA, watched Colin Powell speak, spoke with legislators, and were led on intimate tours of the campus Capitol. I met friends I knew I’d keep for the rest of my life and made connections that I work closely with to this day. I learned things about credit unions, and more importantly the world, that I exercise even now.
The personal and professional development, which began on the trip back in 2017, equals nothing short of magic. There’s never a day that passes without thinking about that Crash and the amazing change it brought to my life. Here and there folks will ask me about the Crash program, its details, and value, and I can always feel the onset of a twinkle in the eye. I really can’t think of many experiences in my short career in credit unions that hold as much weight as Crashing the GAC. I’m proud to be a member of the Crasher Fam.
Four years later, with a lot more under my belt, I find passion in a lot of areas of the movement – still super big on financial education – but the arena I truly enjoy most is working with young professionals. Young professionals are the future, and their skillsets and ability to adapt quickly make them prime candidates for leadership. There’s a grand resource out there in our youth and the sooner c-suite teams recruit a more youthful approach in their strategies, the sooner we can prepare for what’s next.
There aren’t a lot of things out there that can be predicted with precision. However, an investment in tomorrow can truly enlighten the outcome of today. The Crash Program states this beautifully, and I look forward to watching its growth for many years to come.