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Taylor Yezek - Be The Change

Taylor Yezek is the Marketing and Communications Lead at Collins Community Credit Union in Cedar Rapids. She has CRASHED multiple conventions, been named a top young professional and is just getting started in taking the credit union industry by storm. We were lucky enough to get a bit of her time to ask her about all things credit union!

First things first, tell me about your experience in the credit union industry.

My name is Taylor Yezek. Currently, I serve as Marketing and Communications Lead at Collins Community Credit Union headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

I joined the Collins team in 2013 right out of college and six years later, I’m still there! I quickly realized working in the credit union industry was the perfect fit for me because the cooperative principals of the credit union industry closely aligned with my personal values.

I’m actually surprised I landed the gig because I distinctly remember saying, “Ummm so, will I get some kind of training on what a credit union is?” in my interview. Being new to the industry, my manager recommended I start attending the marketing roundtables hosted by the Iowa Credit Union League. Then, in the fall of 2013, just seven months into my role, I CRASHED the annual Iowa Credit Union League Convention and the rest is history!

In 2016, I was named the Iowa Credit Union League’s Young Professional of the year. In 2017 I was a top 15 contestant in the CUES Next Top Credit Union Executive Competition. In 2018 I graduated from the University of Iowa with my master’s degree in Strategic Communication, and in 2019 I CRASHED CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference.

You recently attended CUNA’s Governmental affairs conference in Washington D.C. Tell me about your experience and your biggest takeaway?

Having the opportunity to attend CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference was truly a once in a lifetime experience. I’ve always had a passion for politics and to represent Iowa credit unions on the national stage was an honor. When I left for D.C., I had no idea of what I was getting myself into. I met amazing new friends, had the opportunity to hear from Secretary of State, John Kerry and Vice President, Mike Pence, and speak with credit union executives from across the country. It seems so cliché, but my biggest takeaway was to “be the change”. Whether you’re passionate about politics, education, or your community, you have the opportunity to use your voice to make a positive impact in the lives of others.

What was it like being at the nation’s capital advocating for Iowa credit unions?

O.M.G. It was amazing. As I said, I’m super into politics so I was a total fangirl. You better believe that I owned that selfie with Abby Finkenauer and gave her a hug (even though I’m not her constituent or a hugger for that matter). Having the opportunity to stand on the steps of the United States Capitol with one of the first women from Iowa elected to the U.S. House of Representatives was so surreal. I felt inspired and empowered.

There are so negative stories in the media these days about big banks and this was my opportunity to speak with some of the most influential leaders in the world to advocate for our movement. Not only was I representing myself, but I was speaking to these leaders on behalf of 80,000 plus Collins Community Credit Union members, and 1.1 million Iowa credit union members.

While you were in D.C. you documented the CRASH experience on social media, can you tell us more about that?

While I was in D.C., not only did I document my journey on my personal social media accounts, but I also had the opportunity to participate in a social media takeover on behalf of the Cooperative Trust. I was one of four CRASHERS out of 100 that was selected to manage the Cooperative Trust’s social media for the week.

I often get asked by my teammates what it’s like to CRASH or why they should apply and it’s always been hard to formulate words because it’s such a unique, impactful experience. My goal for the week was to curate a compelling story and strong visuals that gave followers a behind the scenes look of the CRASH experience.

What was your favorite place in D.C.?

I’ve had the opportunity to travel a lot during my career with Collins, but this was my first visit to Washington D.C. While the CRASH agenda was pretty jam-packed, I definitely made time to do touristy things. I really enjoyed visiting the National Museum of Natural History, walking past the White House, and checking out the monuments on the National Mall.

Being a successful woman in the financial industry can be a difficult thing, who would you say inspires you most, and how do you continue the motivation to want more?

I would say that in any industry, the most important thing is to establish a personal board of directors, a diverse group of trusted individuals who you can tap on for feedback and advice in different situations.

At Collins, I have the unique opportunity to work for a female CEO and a female Vice President of Marketing who take an active role in advocating for women in the credit union industry. In 2018, they established the Global Women’s Leadership Network’s Iowa Sister Society. The Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN) was established by the World Council of Credit Unions in 2009 to tackle our industry’s gender gap while leveraging resources to strengthen the economic security of women and their families. According to its website, the Global Women’s Leadership Network is the industry’s only internal platform dedicated to addressing and facilitating greater gender balance among leadership positions.

As women, it’s important that we speak up, raise our hands, and empower one another.

One of our goals at Cultivate is to connect young professionals and allow them to share their stories. What advice would give to those who may not understand how important the credit union movement is, and who might not know how to get involved?

The landscape of banking is changing. Apple is launching the Apple Card this summer and things like personalization, technology, and member experience are becoming more of a consumer expectation. The unfortunate reality is if we don’t adapt, the industry will die. The amazing thing about this shift is that consumers are craving choice. They’re sick of the big banks and are seeking a financial alternative. Why can’t we be exactly what they're looking for?

As emerging leaders, we have a responsibility to advocate for the protection of the cooperative structure of our industry and to tell our story. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, share your ideas, and get involved. The easiest way to learn more about the industry is to participate in events hosted by the Iowa Credit Union League. And, if you ever have questions don’t hesitate to reach out to other credit union professionals even if you have never met them personally. This industry was built on the cooperative spirit, we share, we mentor, we advocate, it’s just what we do.

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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