Adriana Alexander: Credit Union Advocate by Accident
March 30, 2015
March 30, 2015
On February 19, a group of credit union advocates filled a meeting room at the Washington State Capitol. In walked Rep. Sharon Wylie, who had rushed out of a previous meeting to make it in time.
The advocates’ team leader, Danette LaChapelle, chief communications officer and senior vice president of marketing at iQ Credit Union, shared with Rep. Wylie some important data about the impact of credit unions and asked for her support for several important bills. Rep. Wylie took it all in, nodding. Then LaChapelle looked to the back of the room and said, “Adriana, will you share your story?”
A young woman in the back of the room snapped to attention. “Yes, of course,” she said. Rep. Wylie turned to listen, and by the time the time Adriana Alexander finished her story there was no doubt that her life was an example of the power of credit unions.
Adriana Alexander is the branch manager at iQ’s Headquarters branch in downtown Vancouver. But when she first encountered credit unions as a senior in high school — in Converse and ripped jeans with pink hair — it was an accident.
“I signed up for the wrong class,” she told me when I caught up with her a few weeks after her day in Olympia. She had registered at Clark County Skills Center, a technical training center in Southwest Washington. She meant to sign up for restaurant management but ended up in a financial services class.
“By the time they got it sorted out, I had gotten really interested,” she said. She stayed in the financial services class, and ended up interning with iQ at their Vancouver Mall branch. She worked there as an intern all year and, at the end of the year, was hired as a teller.
“I started as a part-time teller, then full-time, then moved up to account specialist,” said Alexander. Eventually she was asked to take on a loan officer role at the Headquarters branch.
Education at the Heart
“Finance and numbers are not where my brain is at,” she said, chuckling. When she was younger, she said, she was the type of person who got labeled a “free spirit.” But, she said, iQ is an organization that empowers its employees. “I was given the tools and training I needed,” said Alexander. “They helped me with training from inside and outside the credit union.”
Her education in financial services didn’t stop with her. As iQ empowered Alexander to help improve the financial lives of its members, that knowledge overflowed into her personal life, too.
“I come from a family and a community of poverty,” Alexander said. “I’ve been able to help change the financial lives of my family and friends. I am an individual that was changed by the education that the credit union offers, and I’m honored to continue that legacy with members and non-members alike.”
Leaders Making Leaders
Alexander said that leadership and mentorship were also critical to her success. “I attribute a lot of my success to my leaders. The CEO knew me by name really early in my career.”
She considers her branch manager from the Vancouver Mall branch, Lesley Wiese, a critical mentor. “Looking back, I would have fired myself,” she said, “but she didn’t give up on me.”
Alexander decided to seek a leadership position herself, in part due to this legacy of leadership. At the Headquarters branch, iQ cycled in a few different managers, looking for the right fit. Every time the position came open, Alexander said, “Give me a shot, I can do this.” But it never worked out.
She transferred back to the Vancouver Mall branch as assistant manager. But after two years the Headquarters branch managerial position opened again, and this time Alexander got it.
“To be able to sow into staff in the same way that my leaders have sowed into me is a great opportunity,” said Alexander. “Operating as a team out of love and caring is what makes us different.”
A Happy Accident
Alexander said that her family is proud, if a little stunned at what she’s been able to accomplish. She said they come to her often for personal and business finance matters, and that her grandmother sends her newspaper clippings of herself.
For young professionals just starting off, Alexander encourages them to invest in the industry and be patient, while always making the effort to go beyond the basics of their roles. “It’s a noble career,” she said. “It took me ten years to get where I am. You’ll have times where you feel like you’re ‘just’ a teller, but you can always be more than an order-taker. You can be the difference. This industry gives you every opportunity to learn and grow.”
She said that one of the best piece of advice she ever got was, “See it through, be faithful to the process.”
This sort of advice has allowed Alexander not only to rise through the ranks in her career at iQ, it’s given her the opportunity to touch people’s lives. Recently a member broke down in tears at her desk. She looked at Alexander and said, “I get to retire early because of the solutions you’ve helped me with today.”
Looking back to the day she accidentally walked into the financial services class instead of the restaurant class, Alexander said it’s the best accident she’s ever had.
Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790, email@example.com.
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