How long have you been in your leadership position and what inspired you to enter into this field?

I have served as Vice President of Operations at InFirst Bank for 10 years. When I started in the field, I realized that there are so many opportunities to work in different areas that support the overall production of a financial institution and that’s what inspired me to start my career in banking. 

At the beginning of your career, what position did you hold? 

I started as a teller after completing high school at InFirst Bank and I was hooked.

What’s the best part of being a Vice President of Operations? 

I am the go-to person for every coworker when they don’t know where to go and I love it. I love puzzles and my job provides plenty of opportunities to dive into problems that were not originally scheduled on your calendar for the day. I love my role because I can perform several jobs within one day and you never know what the day will bring. You’re always on your toes and ready to help when the frontline team needs support. 

Every woman has a story to share about her journey. How has your journey shaped you into the leader you are today? 

Personal challenges have shaped me step up into the leader I am today. I always tell people, “if you haven’t had a life-shaking experience happen yet, it will.” My husband suffered a freak farming accident in 2001 causing him to sustain a traumatic brain injury which unfortunately prevented him from working and farming. I learned how to be an advocate for my husband’s health and how to stand up when I knew he was not getting better over time. His accident along with additional medical complications ultimately led to his passing. We laid my husband of 36 years to rest in March 2021. 

I don’t quit, even when the worst possible thing happens. You have no idea how strong you are until you have to step up. I believe I see things differently than I did before my husband was injured. When you have to stand up for somebody else, you need to have courage.  Because of the hardships I faced, I know I’ve become a better leader. 

Are there any challenges you have faced as a woman in banking that you’d like to share or discuss? 

Childcare is a huge part of any job, especially for women. I feel women are still the primary caregivers and all the responsibilities fall on us whether we’re working or not. I also think that as women, we have to approach situations with assertiveness but also without coming off as rude or pushy. It’s something that I’ve had to master over the years in meetings or conversations because sometimes my way of explaining things can come across as too emotional. I think this is something that most women experience in a male-dominated field like banking and finance. 

What do you wish you knew before entering into the industry? 

I wish I would have focused on college at the beginning of my career. Jumping right into my career, I truly believe the door may have been open to more opportunities if I achieved a college education. 

What’s been the biggest transition for you in your profession so far?

Becoming a training manager. This was a new role within the bank so I basically carved out the position. This role was the first time I had to take care of a team and oversee how they were performing. I strived to make my communications clear to my team and while remembering that not everyone learns the same way. I learned so much about how to manage people and how to continue to shape myself into a strong leader. 

What’s one of your greatest professional accomplishments?

I’m very proud to say that coworkers, friends and other executives come to me for advice, guidance and questions. I’m also honored to receive the Business and Professional Women (BPW) Women of the Year award in 2018. Several women members within the organization reached out to me when my husband passed away. I was going through the darkest time in my life when they sent me tons of letters and words of encouragement. I now serve as Second Vice President and will plan next year’s annual gala. I’m truly thankful for these amazing women. We all work to encourage each other. 

What advice would you give to someone looking to become a Vice President of Operations?

Be ready to learn something new everyday and remain teachable. When someone wants to teach you something, let them. Learn as much as you can about compliance regulations and get familiar with them. Understand the financial institution you work for and learn the customer base. I can’t tell you how valuable it is to know your customers and how you can help the entire team in your role because this role supports every aspect of the bank. 

What makes someone a great leader/path paver? 

A great leader is a great teacher. They don’t work in a box and can lead their team while helping them achieve their personal career goals. 

How do you find balance in your life? 

Since my husband passed away, I stopped separating home life from work life and I need to make this more of a priority. I try to leave my personal life problems at the door when I walk into the office. I know this is not always possible but I try to mentally do this everyday. My husband was my hobby. Since his passing, I started walking, reading and spending time with my grandchildren to help balance my life. 

Who is Linda 5 years from now and what’s she up to? 

In 5 years, I hope to remain at InFirst and continue to tackle daily operational challenges. I want to earn my Certified IRA Services Professional (CISP) designation and plan to retire at age 70.