Alejandro Alaniz - Original Iowa CRASHER
It is a rare event or conference that you do not see Alejandro Alaniz in attendance networking, promoting the movement, or helping someone get more involved. Today, as a Regional Manager he is more passionate than when he got his start as the original ICUL CRASHER back in the day. Alejandro is authentic, passionate and above all determined to pay it forward as others have done for him in this industry. We sat down with him to discuss his journey and what he has learned and taken with him along that way.
We have known each other for quite a few years now, some days I feel old, but we are still real young compared to the rest of the industry. What has been the key to your success over the years?
Yeah, I feel that too but when you look around, we are still young, we're just the more established youth, at least we can just tell ourselves that. My biggest key to success is to listen. Whether it is sitting in a senior team meeting or a daily teller supervisor meeting, you get the opportunity to see and hear how the organization runs from top to bottom. Being an active listener also allows me to bring ideas to the table given I have a full understanding of the day to day as well as the executive initiatives. Today, my day to day starts with reaching out with my teams to see how they are doing and what they may need for the day or the week. I cannot succeed if my staff is not successful, so I dedicate majority of my time to them and their development. I prefer face to face interaction so most days I start at an actual location meeting with my staff and being present for the team.
Being present is so important, especially with the struggles we are facing today. Tell me how you were able to achieve the ranks of Regional Manager?
To be honest I was able to reach the regional manager role by being open to doing the work and learning how the different aspects of how a Credit Union works. Throughout my career I have had the opportunity and pleasure of working for a small Credit Union, a medium sized Credit Union, and now one of Iowa’s largest Credit Unions. Along the way I have not taken things for granted, stayed eager, and tried to learn and understand as many positions and aspects of the industry as I possibly could. I really feel having been in other people’s shoes I can be a better leader for them because I know the struggles of their day to day.
Relatability, I love it. What else helps you and your staff?
I am a big advocate for peer to peer learning, having mentors, and networking. My involvements over the years with the Iowa Credit Union League, local CU Chapters, CUNA, and YP Groups have really helped me build a network and grow as a young leader. Many young professionals have been doing great things in this industry for years and it is difficult to stay on path and keep attending but it is some of the best experiences, opportunities and learnings that are out there today for YP’s and after a while it all pays off. I guess what I am trying to say is stay hungry and keep attending and taking advantage of opportunities.
Networking is so powerful; I remember being new to the industry and CRASHING just months into my job in the Credit Union movement and being like wow all these people just share ideas and care this much about the success as a whole, over their own individual accolades and success.
That is when we met, 6 years ago, I remember how eager you were, we all were. It is great to see how eager we all still are. I was introduced to networking by Brent Helen, who basically kind of pushed me into it. I was shy and had no idea what I was doing. He asked me if I was interested in attending an event, and being new and shy I was not, he said it would be good for my career. I attended my first event at the Greater Des Moines Partnership networking event in 2008. So, long story short, for me networking has been a great avenue to meet professionals that are as passionate in their careers and that drives you and makes you ask yourself if you are as passionate in what you are pursuing. I now take any networking opportunities and try to gain as much as I can out of it.
Thinking back, Brent also pushed me to apply for the first CRASHER program that ICUL hosted in 2011. I honestly had no idea what it was, but when your CEO tells you to apply, you better do it. I was fortunate enough to be chosen for the program. I have to be honest; I have never been prouder and more fortunate to work for a Credit Union then for those three days. After that I was even more dedicated, and I wanted to be as involved in any program that the league offered. I was also fortunate to be able to participate in the first class of of IIG, the Iowa Innovation Group, with Filene Research Group. Both experiences were what helped me find who I was and wanted to be in the industry and I am a better leader today because of it. I tell my staff my story and to remember that I was a shy kid when this all started and now, I’m able to help my staff and other YP’s reach their full potential. I have read some YP spotlights from CUltivate and I love this idea and what it does for the future of the industry and sharing YP’s experiences.
Thank you man, it is tough some days and weeks can get very long but we are know it is for the greater good. How do you avoid taking on too much and the dreaded burnout?
Avoiding burnout is actually a very important thing to me. You must be able to find the right balance of work and home. The way I avoid burnout is when I come home and get amazing hugs from my four kids. Bringing work home and being home are two separate items. Finding the right balance for yourself is important. It is difficult to give advice because everyone’s role and jobs are different, but I would recommend finding a routine that separates work from home life. Maybe it is something on your drive home, maybe it is putting your laptop and phone somewhere, something you say to yourself, whatever works for you, but it is important to have something. To me getting hugs is a restart to my day, it identifies to my brain okay now it is time to be home, this is the reason why I work so hard in my day to day, time to spend time with my family.
I really like that idea of identifying it is time to step away from the workday. I am assuming that approach was developed over time, what is one thing you wish you would have known when you started your career?
A couple things I wish I would have known about before I got into my career. Patience. It is hard to have for almost anyone getting into a new career. You want to do your best, make impressions, and move up quickly. Being patient, taking the time to listen, and develop yourself would have been the best advice for me to listen to. That’s easier said than done, because you want to be making the big bucks, paying off your debt, and overall showing off your progress to the world. The more conferences I attended the more I wanted to do in the industry and at my Credit Union, it is difficult to balance eagerness and patience. We are a generation of getting stuff done and most importantly getting stuff done now. Joining a larger Credit Union really put that into perspective for me. The day to day is much busier and usually higher stakes. Prioritizing is important, while also understanding some things just take time has been an area I have really grown at.
Very well said, as a member of this “generation now” I can completely relate. You have had a very impressive background as we discussed earlier, what is next for Alejandro?
To be honest with you Chris, the next chapter I would love to be in is being an Executive and be involved in member engagement or community engagement. Community is so important to me and as life gets more hectic and we have less time in our day to day I really have grown in passion for my community and its members.
I’d like to continue the great work that Credit Unions do for their communities and their members. On a personal note Chris, what we're going through now with COVID-19 is really difficult for me. It's hard for me to see my staff scared, and for the members that I work with to have no idea what's going on and to be truly scared as well. As a leader you never want to see your staff scared or not sure how to react. I have spent a lot of time trying to make sure we are all prepared for this, but it has really tested me as a leader. I care a lot about my staff, community partners, and the Credit Union industry as a whole. Thank you for allowing me to be vulnerable. I know I'm going a bit further than your original question, but what you are doing is great. It will further our industry, grow trust in it, and capture those that really love it.
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