Discovering a New Passion
André's career began in the field of Behavioral Neuroscience, where he worked as a mentor, guiding incoming college students of color through their initial steps into higher education. This experience ignited his passion for helping marginalized communities, and he sought to continue this work.
However, as he pursued a Ph.D. in the sciences and in his early years of graduate school, he encountered challenges. Some faculty members doubted his capabilities, and microaggressions were a part of his daily experience. These experiences led him to question the academic path and seek a way to support those facing similar struggles. This fueled his dedication to equity and inclusion.
Transitioning to DEI Leadership
André's journey into Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) took a significant turn. He moved away from the scientific bench research he had been conducting to actively engage in DEI initiatives, particularly within the higher education sector. His focus was on increasing representation and accessibility for people of color in STEM programs.
After completing his Ph.D., André dedicated nearly three years to this important work. Then, the unexpected happened. He was recruited by Advantis Credit Union, an industry he knew little about but was immediately drawn to. The opportunity to work in the credit union space, focusing on local communities, excited him and helped him transition from higher education to the financial services industry. At Advantis Credit Union, André applies innovative problem-solving techniques he learned from Filene's i3 program, specifically as a member of Wave 19, to expand and enrich the credit union's DEI initiatives.
The Impact of Filene's i3 Program
André's journey with Filene's programs, especially the Filene i3 program, has significantly impacted his approach to DEI leadership in the credit union industry. The program encourages unconventional thinking and innovative problem-solving, a methodology he's eagerly incorporated.
One standout lesson from Filene's i3 program is the "Five Whys" approach. This involves repeatedly asking "why" to get to the root of problems and better understand the decisions made. It's a technique that André now applies to his work, enabling a more comprehensive approach to addressing DEI issues within his credit union.
The Power of Filene's Network Effect
Filene's programs also introduced André to a network of fellow professionals who are passionate about DEI and credit unions. This network has enriched his understanding of the industry's challenges and the various ways to address them. Collaborating with peers who have diverse backgrounds and experiences has influenced his leadership skills and decision-making process.
The role of mentorship and guidance from more experienced professionals has been crucial. Learning from leaders in the field has provided invaluable insights into addressing DEI challenges within the credit union industry.
The Future of DEI Within the Credit Union Industry
Looking ahead, André aspires to be a leading voice in the credit union industry, particularly in DEI. He emphasizes the importance of challenging the status quo, spreading the net wide, and embracing social justice to bring about meaningful change.
He aims to mentor others within the industry, extending his support and ensuring that the voices of marginalized individuals are heard and uplifted. It is through these collective efforts that the credit union space can truly embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The credit union industry is evolving, with a strong commitment to enhancing DEI practices implemented throughout the organization. Emerging leaders like André Walcott, who have been nurtured and influenced by Filene's programs, play a pivotal role in driving change. Their innovative thinking, resilience, and commitment to social justice, as well as member-centric services, are at the forefront of transforming the industry to be more inclusive, equitable, and diverse. The journey has just begun, and it is one filled with promise and potential.
If you are a future credit union leader or you know someone on your team who would be perfect for the i3 leadership program—apply now, the deadline is January 19th, 2024.