Sarah Buck -A Nerd for Knowledge
Updated: Mar 24
If you think of credit unions and young professionals in the NW corner of the states, one that jumps out is Sarah Buck. We’ve followed and interacted with her for a while on social media, finally saw her on some zoom’s and have been friends ever since. Sarah has a passion for the industry that is carried through everything she does. She has grown in the industry over the years and is an advocate for YP’s and to never stop learning. Check out our chat with Sarah!
How did you get your start in the credit union space? Also, tell us about your current role and what you do.
I got started in credit unions completely out of chance. I was working in retail and wanted a more structured schedule. My mom had been a teller at a bank around my same age at the time and told me how much she loved it, so I thought I’d just see what was out there. I had quit my retail job at this point without anything else lined up, so I was applying pretty much everywhere. One day I got an email from a credit union, having no idea what a credit union was,but they wanted to have a phone interview with me, so I said yes! And I am so glad I did because they hired me as an entry level teller and the rest is history.
My current role is Director of Experiences - I am responsible for the experiences of all who come into contact with the credit union. So, I oversee our Learning and Development programs, new employee onboarding, culture and community engagement. No day is the same, and I get to work with each team member in different aspects and I love it.
That sounds like an amazing position. You’ve grown considerably since joining the industry- what keeps you here?
It’s the collective cooperative movement of this industry. We are all on the same mission of providing financial wellbeing for all and working together to get the message out there that credit unions are for ALL people; I can never get enough.
Funny enough, I tried to get out of credit unions about 6 years ago. I didn’t see my path going any further than where I was, I didn’t know there was a “movement” or much beyond my credit union’s walls. The credit union I was at was very small, we kept to ourselves, and I still really didn’t truly understand how we were different from a bank. Then I had a co-worker who had come from another credit union who convinced me to attend my first Chapter meeting, and that was the night it all changed. After that I wanted to meet more people, find more ways to get involved, and really dive deeper into the purpose behind what I was doing every day and share that with anyone who was willing to listen.
Love that! You found a bit of the Kool-Aid. You are a CUDE and a CCUFC, tell us about the process to obtain those designations and how they could benefit other YP’s?
Yeah I am so proud to be a CUDE (Credit Union Development Educator) and a CCUFC (Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor). At my previous credit union, it was an expectation by the CEO that each team member was to become a CCUFC to better serve our members and community. So, it was a high priority in my first couple months to dive in. It was tough but worth all the hard work.
I had been wanting to become a DE for a few years when my chance finally came about. I was all set to attend in person, and then of course, COVID happened. However, Chad and the rest of the NCUF team put on a fabulous virtual training and it was truly an experience I will never forget. It was an intense program over the course of several weeks over Zoom, but I leaned in and trusted the process - which I am so grateful I did. In the end, I gained a surplus of knowledge and so many new friends. It is something I recommend to everyone – especially YPs.
Both programs can benefit YPs in various ways but each of them gives you fundamental and foundational knowledge on who and what credit are and actions to take on how to implement your knowledge into your members, your community, and your own credit unions. It can root your passion even further and give you that extra spark to think bigger and not be afraid to take some chances. They also open doors by being able to meet fellow credit union folks from all over the United States. The connections we make by participating in these programs are priceless.
Absolutely priceless. Tell us about your involvement with the Cascadia Chapter and some things that group has accomplished or goals they have.
I was part of the Cascadia Chapter for nearly 4 years, the last two as President - 2021 was my final year serving. It was such a wonderful time of collaboration and digging deeper into how as a collective group we could bring awareness and opportunities to our peers for furthering their credit union and community engagement - which is always the goal.
Over the course of the last two years, COVID of course changed the way our events operated. We were used to meeting in person and overnight that all changed. But, we immediately got to work and were able to come up with several new and innovative ways to bring people together. Many of those events were in collaboration with YCUP PDX to reach as many folks in our footprint as possible - and beyond. The new virtual structure allowed us to open our events to anyone who wished to attend, which was a really exciting thing to see happen. We even had someone from Australia join our seminar with Antonio Neves!
I love that! You crashed GAC in 2021 virtually, tell us about that experience and how you keep in contact with your class of crashers.
Yes, I did!. I was so happy to see that the Crasher program was going strong while we all needed to stay home. It was such a phenomenal experience. We got the opportunity to speak to many inspiring folks like Antonio Neves, Gigi Hyland, Jim Nussle and so many more. It was really special because of course our experience was and will always be unique, but The Cooperative Trust and Cortney Angeley did everything they could to make sure we got to take advantage of as much as we could. Getting to sit in on any session we wanted, learn, and connect with folks from all avenues in the credit union advocacy space will always be a career highlight! I hope to make it in person one day.
I keep in contact with many of my crashers through various aspects – but social media mostly. Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s fun because it keeps our personal connections growing and then we can still cheer one another on with our professional accomplishments as well. I also love when I see familiar faces and names on Zoom calls as well.
Seeing a familiar face is always the best! Tell us about any mentors you have and how they have helped you grow in your career?
I don’t have any official mentors, but I have a few wonderful friends who I know will give me sage and real advice.
Michael Murdoch is one - He is one of the most passionate people I have the pleasure of knowing, and I am constantly inspired by the work that he is doing within the industry. MIchael is someone I know that I can trust wholeheartedly to give me invaluable advice, encouragement and feedback. He always gets me to see anything is possible and helps me believe in myself and inspires me to do more.
Another is Mark Gonzalez – he is the one who took me to my first Chapter meeting and helped me understand the world that is the credit union movement. He and he and I can talk for hours about trials and tribulations, high and lows, and I always leave our conversations feeling grounded and confident in whatever next steps I need to make.
Also, Tiffany Pillars – a powerhouse in the credit union space! I constantly tell her I want to be like her when I grow up because she knows her worth and always stands up for what she believes in. She is determined, intelligent and sees all obstacles as a challenge and won’t stop until she overcomes them.
That sounds like a great group of people to have in your corner! Tell us about some of the things you’ve done/ continue to do/or hope to do to help advocate and grow the credit union movement?
Last year I got the opportunity to be a YP Mentor through the NWCUA YP Lead Program. This was a program I was so thrilled to be selected to participate in as a YP in 2017 and to be able to come back full circle and hopefully give the new leads 10% of the inspiration and guidance my mentors gave me (shout out to Nick Fugal) then I am satisfied. The future of credit unions IS YP’s and helping to amplify their voices and involvement will never not be part of my mission.
This year I was selected to serve on our associations Advocacy Sub-Committee and Value Creation Task Force. These committees allow me to be at the table having the conversations about advocacy and discovering innovative solutions for credit unions to continue to serve their members – I feel so lucky to be a part of that.
As part of my work at Forrit, I have implemented Credit Union History and Movement training into the onboarding program at my credit union, whether they come from another credit union or not. To know the story of where credit unions started and where we are going is crucial to the steps we take in working with our members.
Also, I am currently trying to expand my involvement deeper into my community. I am in the application process for a Emerging Professionals board with a local non-profit that is dear to my heart. My goal is to take everything I have learned from credit unions and bring that knowledge to this board to get myself and the credit union community involved.
I’m also a nerd for knowledge – so any webinar, networking event, article – I am attending if I can, reading and sharing. I can’t get enough.
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 CultivateYP@gmail.com