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Sara Portis - All In

Updated: Aug 16, 2019

When we think of the word “all in” we immediately think of Sara Portis. She continuously volunteers to help her community and young professionals, seeks out members to strike up conversations and is always looking to support the movement. Having spent 9 years working inside Coastal Credit Union Sara was recently promoted to Digital Sales Manager and we caught up with her to discuss her promotion, her experiences, and any advice she may have for all the other hardworking credit union employees.

Congrats on the recent promotion, this seems like a very exciting time for you tell me what’s next for Sara.

I like to say that I have a great life and have had many blessings along the way but in all honesty, I do owe a lot of it to my career at Coastal. Over the last nine years I have encountered many opportunities both personally and professionally that have allowed me to move into new roles, take on new responsibilities, create new challenges for myself and the people around me, and at the end of the day, learn something new. I am constantly looking for ways to make things better and try to focus on what the next 12-24 months looks like while always keeping a people first mentality. My passion is to energize results which matches perfect with my new role as the Digital Sales Manager. (The exciting part is that the job description and title is something that was created by myself and my VP.) So, what does that mean? I know you may be thinking ‘Sales’ in the credit union industry, no we are not Wells Fargo. Yes, it is our duty and commitment that we are promoting our products and services to our members. Education, Training, and Information is one of our seven cooperative principles and telling our members about our products and services will allow them to stress less and know they can trust their credit union.

In my role, I have been tasked to lead a team of 15 which includes our Outbound Call Team and Digital Sales team to ensure we are meeting members needs via the phone, email, and our digital banking platform. Our primary focus is to call all online share and loan applications that are submitted by members and to reach out to new members who come through our indirect channel. For the next 12-24 months, my focus is to continue the development of the team as we are currently making some process changes for employees to work more efficient, leverage their strengths, and ensure we are providing the right service to our members through a virtual channel. What’s next for me… I have challenged myself to continue to focus on finding new ways to serve our members through a virtual channel, so more to come on what’s next.

You are so involved in the Movement and your Credit Union, how do you balance work / life.

People first mentality allows me to believe in work life integration. As I mentioned, I’ve worked in our industry for a little over nine years and for the last six, I feel like I do not ‘work’. Serving people, rather it’s my team members, my peers, my community, friends or family is what I enjoy. The commitment that we have to our members is what I love so much about our industry. When I am out on the weekends or in the grocery store and I see a Coastal debit card, I always strike up a conversation. When I mention that I work at Coastal, I am always asked a question around our products and services and then hand over my business card. I realized that Coastal follows me everywhere so when I learned to embrace it, life became easy. Most importantly, my paycheck allows me to live life, pay bills, travel, invest in real estate, donate to local charities, and spend money on my niece. I make work and life a priority and while this sounds so easy to do, at times, I find myself overbooked and needing to learn to say no.

What advice can you give others who want to get more involved but have not gone all in yet?

Going “All In” reminds me of the speech from Gian-Paul Gonzalez who took the stage at GAC when I #CrashedtheGAC2018. He stated “We are faced with decisions every day at which time we can decide to be fully committed or all in.” As I have mentioned, my commitment is people. I found an industry that has the same commitment and I said, “I am ALL IN”. My advice is to “Show Up”. Showing up and getting involved is how I created my personal brand of who I am. Every outside company or volunteer event that we have, I am always there. Use these opportunities to build the relationships with management and other employees. Within working hours, try to find ways to always say YES, even if it is taking the UPS envelopes to the box, being a tester or validator on a project, or simply cleaning up after a potluck. Ask management to go to lunch or what projects they have going on. From day one, I have always owned my career and always asked for the next thing or to get involved in something. By doing this, it will allow opportunity to open for you and will give you the choice to say yes or no.

If you are being told that you do not have the experience, then find the experience. Five years ago, I applied for a branch manager role and of course was told, you do not have management experience. I was frustrated, but I got creative both in my current role and outside of Coastal to gain that experience. I started to look for local non-profits that fit my passion and landed a few opportunities to join as committee members. I then was offered a board seat with Women for Success which was a Young Professional fundraising arm for Dress for Success in Raleigh. A year later, I was given the opportunity to be board chair and lead 11 likeminded women to fulfill the mission of Dress for Success. Shortly after that, I was offered a management role within Coastal. I was determined to lead people and I got creative to gain the experience that I needed.

I encourage you to own your career and try and find ways to give yourself that experience so you can get involved and go all in.

Give us your tips for social media, how can others get more vocal and more involved with social media.

Ah, good ole Social Media. You either love it or hate it but everyone should be on board with it. I use my social platform as a tool to build relationships with people. I scroll multiple times a day to see what is posted but I always follow up with an in-person conversation asking about their post or photo. Social media gives a lot of information about people and you should use it to your advantage. If you know that you will be meeting someone, check them out of social to learn a little more about them so you already have questions to ask them. The other part of social is to use it as a learning tool. LinkedIn has become my go to place daily to read one new business article that is posted by one of my connections. This makes it a fun learning experience and helps me generate ideas and to think different about things. Social media is the new water cooler and I see no end in the future. Just another one of those things we must adapt to.

Tell me about your YP and crashing experiences.

As a YP, there are so many opportunities for one to get involved within the industry and your community. I believe in having a good mix of industry and community base experiences since our industry serves our community. I have had the opportunities to take part in Raleigh Chamber of Commerce YP group, Young Leaders Society of United Way, Boys and Girls Club, Triangle CUaware group, and Women for Success. My most unique and memorable YP experience was participating in the Carolinas Credit Union Leagues CUaware Protégé competition, which then allowed me to Crash the GAC in 2018. The protégé competition is cool, as it is across North Carolina and South Carolina.

It starts within each credit union where they have an internal competition. I had to create a five-minute presentation on a credit union topic and present it. I won the Coastal competition, the Tarheel chapter competition and placed 2nd runner up at the final competition against six other YPs. I then had an amazing time Crashing the GAC in 2018. If you were or are privileged enough to attend a #CrashtheGAC, then you experienced a pivotal point in your career. A point where you realize you’re here to make a difference and it’s not about the Benjamin’s. As Antonio Neves said during his powerful session to us #crashers, “Don’t let this be the best experience you have had in your life.” And Gian Paul Gonzales, “When you keep going, when others tell you to quit, when you don’t stop when other people tell you you’re wasting your time, go #Allin and make #Allin a LIFESTYLE.”

Thank you so much Sara, this has been great, do you have any closing remarks.

I challenge each and every young professional to keep the fire alive. The feeling of success you feel now, the inspiration you feel watching your mentors, and the promises you all make to yourself must be kept alive. You must remember the voices in our head that told you – you’re awesome! You’re a star! You’re going to make real impact. Let’s make a difference. Together, we can make a positive change in our community and make this world a better a place – One Member at a Time.

Stay Hungry - Keep Leading – Define your Brand - And let’s have a reunion when we reach the top!


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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