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Mark Volz – Passion with a Purpose

Mark Volz has done so much in his 4 years in the credit union industry. From CRASHING multiple conferences, to serving on the Wisconsin YP Advisory board, he also devotes time to adoption/foster care, cystic fibrosis and Habitat for Humanity!

Mark does it with a contagious smile on his face and a drive to keep moving forward. He truly lives the people helping people philosophy which is why he has had so much success in the CU Space. We were ecstatic to be able to talk to Mark and discuss his involvements, how he avoids burnout, and his advice for other young professionals.

Wisconsin creates so many opportunities for YPs tell me about your experiences and what other leagues can do to help young professionals’ development?

I got lucky and was able to see many of the young professional opportunities the Wisconsin Credit Union League offers firsthand. I was on the WCUL YP Advisory Board, where I learned that our League empowers young professionals and wants to grow Wisconsin’s young professionals’ leadership skills and credit union knowledge. The WCUL YP Advisory Board consists of seven advisory board members and two YP Advisors to the League Board, the YP Advisory Board, serves a two-year term and the YP Advisors to the League board, serve a three-year term and presents YP topics. They propose what topics and issues young professionals want to learn and hear more about, that we might not get at our credit union. They also assist with all fundraising opportunities for the YP group and WICULAF.

The WCUL YP Group now has three bootcamps, HYPE formerly known as, Crash the Convention, and a YP Conference each year. With rotating topics and locations, to help engage young professionals across the state of Wisconsin. The best part is that the bootcamps and HYPE are free, thanks to generous sponsors. The YP Conference is very cost effective for credit unions too.

Other leagues can certainly mirror this but do what best fits you. We’re ten years into this program and it has had its ups and downs. I suggest looking at other league YP groups around the nation and see what they’re doing best, then take bits and pieces that you think will work for your group. Look both inside the movement and out. I am a part of a few young professionals groups, and for the most part, they’re about the same. They all give educational and networking opportunities to a segment of people, who strive to be better contributing people to their organizations, communities, and to better themselves.

I think very highly of YP Groups and the networking opportunities they provide. I have a good group of allies that I can call my “family” all across the state. We often communicate on a regular basis and plan events outside of the credit union events we usually see each other at. I always know where I can find a helping hand. It’s a great tool for retention and relationship building.

You’ve been involved in so many opportunities how do you avoid burnout and stay focused?

I have a great example to follow. Growing up, my father was on numerous non-profit boards and a partner at an accounting firm. My brother, sister, and I were all adopted from the Philippines during this time. Yet, our father was always there for us and somehow still made it to the majority of my brother’s, sister’s, and my own childhood events. He and my mother traveled to most of my brother and my soccer games across the state, and even country! They appeared at my sisters cheerleading events. My father earned that #1 Dad mug, although he didn’t drink coffee. Having been adopted, I still say that I’m on “borrowed time.” I will make the most out of everything life hands me and dedicate my life to giving back because someone gave so much for me.

My father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, cancer of the white blood cells, in 2012. Even when he was going through chemo, he still worked and volunteered his usual 60-70 hours per week.

The way I avoid burn out and stay focused is to make sure that everything I do aligns with my passions. Our movement is built on people helping people, and everything I do aligns with that. I’m also not afraid to say no and encourage you to do the same. There are a lot of things out there that I’d love to help out with, but there are only really four things that I devote all my attention and money to: Credit unions, adoption/foster care, cystic fibrosis, and building affordable and sustainable housing (Habitat for Humanity). All which give back to society and put people first making this world a better place for their communities.

Tell me about your different crash experiences.

I was fortunate to be selected to the last “crash” class for the Wisconsin Credit Union League Convention in 2016. Now known as “HYPE,” or Helping Young People Engage. There, I was served my first cup of “credit union Kool aid,” where I slammed it, and to this day continue to drink it and serve it to others. I learned so much about the movement and made so many lifelong friendships at that convention.

Through that crash experience, I was also able to help set up the community service event the following year in Wisconsin Dells for the convention. I connected the League with a friend who works in Adams County, where during the summer, kids in their school system weren’t being feed sometimes before or after school. For our volunteer project, we collected food and monetary donations and made snack packs for the kids to take home.

Additionally, I crashed the 2016 CUNA Lending Council Conference in Las Vegas and met eight of the most amazing YP lending professionals I have ever met. I am now out of the lending game, but we still communicate on a regular basis. Three of us were brought back in 2017 to speak on “Attracting and Retaining Millennials through Innovation” in Nashville. At that time, it was our largest speaking event in front of about 100 people. (It was probably only 10 people but felt like 100.)

Most recently, I was the lone Wisconsin crasher this year the CUNA GAC, where we got the high score of 100 young professionals to advocate for credit unions. Yet again, I was able to create an abundance of connections who I consider lifelong friends. I am excited to watch these truly amazing individuals’ careers develop over the next few years. GAC was a six-day credit union advocacy awareness conference on steroids. If you plan on crashing the CUNA GAC, do not do a weeklong international Habitat for Humanity trip bumping up to it, you may die. 😊 That was the longest two weeks of my life, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I still don’t know how or why I did that (it likely has something to do with aligning my passions with what I’m doing). Both events have certainly humbled and motivated me, both were perspective resets and made me appreciate everything I have and where I am in life and what I can do to help this world.

I know you didn’t ask, but I have some advice for anyone thinking of crashing… Ask your managers, senior leadership, and CEO’s to go. Your leagues and the Cooperative Trust, through Filene, have some amazing opportunities for credit union young professionals. Present it in a way that they can’t say no. Bring up how these opportunities will give you leadership and educational opportunities that you can bring back to your credit union and share with everyone. Mention that you can make relationships with people who are interested in your success. For a lot of my relationships, I don’t directly work in their specific department but am able to connect them with the right people when they have a question. None of us is as smart as all of us (stolen from Make me Smart, NPR Podcast).

Filene does tremendous work how was the innovation project / presentation project different and what do you use from that experience in your day to day?

The innovation process was so amazing! It was a fun and life changing experience. As credit union professionals, we all tend to want to solve problems right way and then move on to solve the next problem. What’s beautiful about the process is, they have you pump the breaks on looking for an answer, and instead, sit back and observe what is going on around you. They want you to think, not solve, think about why it is an issue to the person it involves and then from there uncover potential small steps to solve the problem. The first step in solving a problem is addressing there is one. Unfortunately, sometimes credit unions think they’re solving a problem, which the members don’t even think is a problem. By doing so, you get into changing human behavior, which usually takes over a year to change, depending on how long they’ve been doing it and what the change really is.

I have to mention, I have a unique position, where I work for a credit union that partners with credit unions and not with natural (person) members. Our members are credit unions. What I took away from my experience from this and use on a day to day basis, is to not problem solve right away. Instead, listen to the credit union and understand why this issue is going on and how we can better it. Of course, some issues have an automatic solution, but for some problems, there’s an underlying issue. In these cases, you can either continually put Band-Aid on it, or you can clean the wound, stitch it up, apply ointment to it until it’s better, and watch over it to make sure that it hasn’t split open again. Once it’s good to go, an occasional check-up suits its needs.

What’s next for you?

I just applied for the Filene i3 program, so I’m hoping to expand on everything I learned in the WILD program and hopefully, bring some future changes to the credit union movement. Some big, some small.

I was also in the BEST CLASS EVER for the CUDE Program, NOVEMBER 2018. I thought I knew all about the credit union movement, but there is so much more. The National Credit Union Foundation puts on the Credit Union Development Education Program, where you learn about the history of the credit union movement and previous and existing development issues, or what I like to describe as “Credit Union Space Camp.” I would love to become a mentor for the program and help share my knowledge and passion of the credit union movement with the future classes.

These are in addition to all the existing things I love doing on a weekly basis, being at a credit union, adoption/foster care, and housing volunteer and advocate. I am going to continue to meet with legislators and share our stories, so they know what’s going on with their constitutes in our communities. I also plan to volunteer at Coalition for Children and Families (Adoption/Foster Care – Non-profit), at Cystic Fibrosis events, and with Habitat for Humanity.

Any advice for others trying to get more involved?

Find your passion and align your life with what you love. My passion is helping people. Yours could be helping animals, or spending time with your family, or sports, or politics. Whatever it is, there’s something out there for you.

I’m not saying you need to join boards, or spend all your time volunteering, or donating a full paycheck to these organizations (although that would be extremely nice of you). Instead, donate a little to these organizations on a continual basis, such as volunteering with them once or twice per year. Take small steps and do what makes you comfortable. For some of my friends, who are introverts, they use their talents in other ways, helping with social media and marketing events, accounting, or providing IT consulting or coding websites for free. There are so many opportunities that people don’t publicize, but if you ask, they’d love to get an experienced person helping out. If you’re shy, bring a friend! There’s nothing else like having a familiar face helping you out, while doing something you both enjoy together.

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 #CUltivateTheMovement

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