Selah Cosentino - YPs Helping YPs
Updated: Mar 11
We all got the chance to see Selah Cosentino in action last week when she took over our Instagram stories and mentored the 2021 CRASH the GAC. Now let’s take a deeper dive into getting to know Selah and her story.
Tell me about your day to day as a Senior Communications Specialist. How long have you been in the credit union industry and how did you get your start?
I joined the credit union movement when I started working in my current position at Vantage West Credit Union in February 2019. I had just moved back to my hometown of Tucson, Arizona after living in southern California for 8.5 years, where I attended college and started my career at a creative agency in the radio industry.
Like many people in the credit union movement, I was surprised to fall in love when I discovered credit unions. I didn’t know much about credit unions until I found Vantage West, and I started learning about what makes them special when I started working here. When I tell my friends my simplest definition of credit unions—and there’s of course much more to it than this—I say that credit unions put a heart into banking.
What I love about my role as Senior Communications Specialist is that I get to work with nearly every department in my organization. Almost everything I do comes back to making sure the public and our Members know what we’re doing and how it benefits them.
A big shift in the nature of my work over the past year was adding COVID communications to my list. I’ve been working with a team to write the Member emails, social media posts, and landing pages to keep Members updated on modified branch operations, government aid, reminders of all the ways they can self-serve if they choose to manage their accounts that way, and other pandemic-related updates.
We made sure to combine all those important details with authentic human empathy in our communications. Members and colleagues alike have expressed appreciation for the approach and information in these communications. I’m so glad to be a part of helping Members connect the dots between what’s going on in the world and how we’re coming alongside to support them in these challenging times.
Another project I’m proud of is #YourStoryIsOurStory. This campaign tells the “CU Difference” story through the personal lens of credit union advocates who currently work at or previously retired from Vantage West Credit Union, and who live the “people helping people” philosophy in their daily lives. It was a blast to manage the launch of this project and collaborate with my Marketing & Communications colleagues to invite interested coworkers to share their stories. Then I got to collaborate with colleagues across branches, back office departments, and all levels of the organization to publish their stories.
On every post, we include the hashtag #YourStoryIsOurStory, highlighting how every one of our individual stories make up the broader credit union story. We publish these stories on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. We didn’t put any budget into boosting these posts. They have all been strictly organic, and Members and employees have both received them enthusiastically—often sharing thanks and encouragement in the comments.
In short, a typical day usually involves several meetings, writing content for our organic social media and blog presence, managing inter-departmental projects including our annual scholarship, International Credit Union Day, internal social media trainings, and Member communications that support our strategic initiatives. There are additional duties as assigned, depending on the project or goal, but writing, developing communication strategies, and managing projects are my three general roles in most of the activities I’m involved with.
I love the whole philosophy behind #YourStoryIsOurStory. Tell me more about your story and your involvement in the community. How did the pandemic change this for you? I see via your Linked In you have worked with the Ronald McDonald House Charities; I had a cousin who stayed there and they are amazing people.
Being involved in my community is very important to me. Growing up and in my earlier adult years, I spent most of my volunteer time at church, which I still enjoy. But I wanted to start volunteering at other organizations, too, and wasn’t sure where to look.
Working at Vantage West has opened my eyes to the many amazing nonprofits right here in my city and the surrounding communities, because Vantage West has a long history of partnering with many organizations. Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) was the first place I volunteered as a representative of Vantage West. I got to serve on the committee that planned the annual Walk for Kids event, which Vantage West was also sponsoring. Prior to meeting the RMHC team through Vantage West’s support of RMHC, I didn’t know much about Ronald McDonald House Charities. Similar to falling into unexpected love with credit unions, I fell in love with RMHC as I learned more.
What was beautiful about the committee was that the professionals who made up the team came from varied backgrounds and truly united over one cause—to help families have a place to call home when they’re traveling for critical medical reasons. In addition to helping plan the event, I got to create the social media strategy and manage the RMHC Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook pages live during the 2019 event. You can see the “Walk 2019” Instagram highlight on their page: @rmhctucson.
I didn’t have time to volunteer on the virtual committee planning the Walk for Kids in 2020. But what I did get to do is still participate in the event. Instead of one big event, The Walk was anywhere that participants chose to do it. So I went to a path near my home and shared an Instagram story on my personal page that RMHC was able to re-share to help get people excited and show community Members participating across town. I try to support local businesses as much as I can with even just comments, likes, and encouraging DMs.
What was GAC like in 2020? What do future Crashers need to know? What has changed for you since Crashing? Tell us more!! Crash the GAC 2020 was transformational. I wrote a blog on that you can see at Filene’s website for all the details. If you’re crashing for the first time, I recommend reading that blog because I explain how Crash started and why it matters.
Since I crashed, I have gained additional knowledge and confidence in the industry and in my CU, and I credit a lot of that to the incredible managers and team I report to and work with, as well as my 2020 Crash experience. I was SO excited to be attending virtual Crash the GAC this year—as a mentor!
The Instagram Takeover was extremely informative, and we cannot thank you enough for showcasing Crash the GAC on that level. I see you have taken and received several LinkedIn Learning courses and certificates. Tell me about this experience and how it works.
Thank you for the opportunity; I enjoyed sharing 2021 Crash the GAC behind the scenes all week. We had a terrific GAC Crasher Group! Regarding LinkedIn Learning, I am so thankful that Vantage West offers that tool as a development resource to all its employees. I have taken courses on soft skills as well as strategic/technical skills. Every course is different. Some instructors create quizzes, handouts, or other check-ins so you must pass the comprehension test before moving onto the next section of the course. Others are just a straight lecture or podcast feel, and I can listen to them while I work on other things. When you complete a LinkedIn Learning course, LinkedIn asks if you’d like to post the certificate to your LinkedIn profile and/or share that you’ve completed the course as a LinkedIn status update.
I love that we have access to this broad range of educational resources. I’ve added courses to my “saved” list to take later, based on seeing colleagues share what they’ve completed. Especially with branches across four counties and the back office team I’m used to seeing every day working from home, taking a similar class or seeing what our colleagues are learning about, is another touch point to connect us.
How do you stay motivated and informed on the movement? I follow @cultivateia on Instagram to see what other credit union YPs are doing and learn from what keeps them inspired and informed. I also follow on social media and/or subscribe to both credit union/financial services and social media trade publications:
Filene Research Institute
Federal Trade Commission (I help educate Members about fraud prevention, so this keeps me updated on the latest scams the FTC is seeing)
Mountain West Credit Union Association (my local league)
Some of these publications and others also have podcasts and I listen when I can. I also make sure to listen to podcasts that provide leadership insights regardless of industry. My go-to for that is Coaching for Leaders with Dave Stachowiak. For social media marketing and management, I listen to Social Pros with Jay Baer.
I also believe it’s extremely important to make time for relationships. Attending The Cooperative Trust events and crashes has been integral for my success and development. There are friends I met last year at Crash the GAC who work at various credit unions across the country. We have scheduled 30-minute calls over the past year to talk about projects that one of us has done and the other is working on doing. I’ve been able to help colleagues at my credit union get ideas and expedite projects they’re working on, by reaching out to the #CrasherFam.
My last comment on staying informed and motivated in the movement is to use LinkedIn. Following and using #CreditUnions and #CUDifference in LinkedIn posts helps me see what others in the movement are talking about. It also has brought me new connections from across the CU movement, and I’ve had a few neat conversations with fellow credit union professionals and advocates by posting engaging credit union content on my personal LinkedIn page.
In summary, I love meeting fellow credit union professionals, and I have a very special place in my heart for young professionals who are trying to find their place in the credit union movement. I’m always happy to talk about any of these topics—please connect with me on LinkedIn if I can ever help you! https://www.linkedin.com/in/selahcosentino/
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