In Finance by Chance, at Members 1st by Design
As so often happens, Karen Christian didn’t map out her career plan. Armed with a fresh high school diploma and a desire to contribute, she took a job as a bank teller. It turned out to be one of the most fortuitous decisions of her life.
As she worked her way up into a newly formed loan division, she discovered a passion for the industry. Eighteen years ago, she moved into the world of credit unions, eventually joining Members 1st in 2014 as Senior Vice President and Chief Lending Officer. Since that time, the organization has become more than a workplace, serving as her home-away-from-home where Christian can help others achieve their financial dreams or even get back on track.
“Occasionally, we’ll have a member come to us who has suffered a hardship,” she explains. “They may be falling behind, but really want to fulfill their obligations. In a lot of cases, we’re able to work with them to find a way to manage their payments and still be able to afford their everyday needs. It’s extremely fulfilling to help these members, and it really shows what credit unions are all about: people helping people.”
Christian’s foray into finance included going to college while working full time, as well as eventually earning her MBA. Consequently, she recommends a post-secondary education for all up-and-coming job seekers. She also advises young women entering into the field to arm themselves with both knowledge and confidence: “Make sure your voice is heard and that your opinions count.” Additionally, she’s a firm believer in finding a hobby to de-stress, such as one of her favorite inexpensive pursuits, reading.
How does this self-made financial leader ensure her decisions are solid? She relies on sound advice from her favorite role models. The first, her father, taught her to be patient and do the right thing. The second, her husband, serves as sounding board and sanity checker. Finally, her son keeps her spirits high by being a never-ceasing cheering section. Christian couldn’t have predicted how accepting a teller position would transform her future. But she–and the members, volunteer Board of Directors, and colleagues she serves–couldn’t be more pleased with the results.a