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Learn as much as possible - Dawn Lepore

We had the privilege to sit down with Dawn Lepore to discuss her credit union journey, young professionals in the movement and burnout. Dawn is a leader in the industry and we really valued our discussion. Read below.

You have over 8 years’ experience at Vantage West talk about your journey. How have your different roles prepared you for the next steps over the years?

Though I have branch experience prior to coming to Vantage West, I’ve spent my whole credit union career in operational roles. I’ve always been more operationally-focused – I’m detail-oriented, good at removing barriers, and admittedly a recovering perfectionist, and these traits have helped me excel in my work. I enjoy solving problems, so operations was always something I was drawn to even while I was working in a branch. I started my financial services career as a teller and, in each role I’ve had, I always strived to learn as much as possible.

I think everyone I’ve worked for would tell you that I’m one of the first to ask for more responsibility or new experiences, and this has helped me get as much knowledge as possible out of every position I’ve held. I encourage everyone to think about what they want to get out of their career and be vocal about it. Ask to shadow or cross train with another department if that’s an area in which you’re interested or work with regularly to find new innovative ways to work together. Volunteer to help with a new project (especially) if you don’t have much experience with project management. You can learn so much by not being afraid to admit that you don’t know something and taking the time to educate yourself, and by putting yourself out there you’ll also get to connect with people who can help support you in your career journey.

I love that mentality, it is so necessary to grow, so many people are afraid to admit when they don’t know something. You came from the banking world, tell me about your move into the credit union industry.

I know this may be “taboo” in credit union land, but I did enjoy much of my time working for one of the big banks. I learned a lot there, but ultimately one of the most important things I learned was that I wasn’t going to be happy in any role more focused on sales than service. You could probably guess by my love of operations but I’ve never been drawn to sales. What I do love the most, is helping people succeed financially. What keeps me in the credit union world are the cooperative principles by which all credit unions operate. As cooperatives, credit unions truly have a mission of serving people first. Our members are our owners, and we only exist to be of service to them and to do as much as possible to improve the financial health of our membership. The cooperative model has so much power to transform communities, and that excites me every day.

You must be passionate about what you do, it appears that you might have an education background, is that true?

Does being a parent count? Joking aside, I have no “formal” background in education, but I have always been drawn to training. I wouldn’t be living out my own values if I didn’t share any information that’s helped me with others, and I love watching a new skill “click” for someone. I do genuinely see this a lot in my son because he’s 2.5 years old so he’s learning new skills all the time, and it’s incredibly rewarding to play a part in how he discovers himself and the world around him. I find the same joy whenever I work with others in my credit union or my professional network – if I can pass on something of value that helps someone else grow, that’s one of the best feelings there is. My husband is an educator by profession, and I’ve also learned a lot from him.

What do you think young professionals are struggling with in their careers today?

A lot of young professionals want some degree of autonomy. We want to be given the chance to prove ourselves and be trusted to make decisions. Along with that, I see a lot of young professionals struggling to balance their work and personal lives (myself included). There's a lot to juggle and many of us are burned out. Everyone benefits from a supportive work culture, so companies need to be providing options that help people take care of themselves and their families, beyond just a paycheck.

Burn out is the real deal, we took a little break from producing original content as well just to make sure we didn’t get burnt out of it. What can we all do to help prepare the future of the workforce?

Give young professionals as many growth opportunities as we can. Help us get engaged. Many young professionals want to work for companies whose values align with theirs, so we can help young professionals get engaged in those parts of the company that they feel passionate about. Everyone who has positional authority should be mentoring others – if we're further up on the "success ladder," we need to be reaching back to help pull others up along with us. Investing in people takes time, but it's worth the effort.

Great stuff, what’s next for you?

I just took a new position a couple of weeks ago, so I'm settling into my new role and trying to tackle as many high-priority projects as I can. Whatever I do next will be in the continued service of my community and will also be focused on ensuring that we have equitable and inclusive practices in my organization.

CUltivate is people helping people with our mission to spread the word, connect the people, and give an outlet to share your stories. Know someone in the industry we should interview? Drop us a line at


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