Last year around this time, our holding company CEO, Corey Chambas, called me into his office. Naturally, I panicked; at the time I was a credit analyst, so it was a little nerve-wracking when the CEO of the company wanted to talk one-on-one. Thoughts streamed through my head as I made the long walk downstairs to his office. Had I used up too many coffee cups over the past year? In a sleepless state, had I double parked his car this morning? I had no idea what to expect.
It turns out that Corey had heard other people compliment my work and he wanted to offer me a special opportunity. After managing to contain my surprise, I heard him say he wanted me to go away from the company for four months. At first, I was a little confused. Our CEO had just complimented me and then asked me to leave, and called it an opportunity.
Corey explained that First Business is a strong partner of United Way of Dane County, a local nonprofit that makes large community impacts in education, income, and health. He talked about how one of the ways we support the United Way is to fill a four-month position in the form of a United Way Loaned Executive. The Loaned Executive program is a partnership with local businesses that temporarily “loan” rising stars to United Way to help with fundraising campaigns. Given what he had heard, he wanted me to assume this role. After that, I’d return to First Business with a new promotion. Although the promotion sounded great, I must admit, the prospects of being a Loaned Executive made me a bit nervous.
I was comfortable in my position as a credit analyst at First Business, and my immediate concern was that this opportunity would take me out of my comfort zone. I work in a consistent, yet challenging, environment focused on cash flows, spreads, and research. I was content with working behind the scenes and not interacting with clients. And, with a year and a half of credit experience now under my belt, I had finally found my flow. Could I handle a situation involving a lot of unknowns and possibly skills I didn’t have?
I contemplated this for a while, talking to co-workers, friends, and family. They were all sympathetic but ultimately encouraged me to take advantage of this opportunity. They kept saying I was young and had nothing to lose – and who knows, I might even learn something about myself and develop more skills I never knew I’d enjoy. Frankly, I was scared accepting the Loaned Exec position, but I knew it was something I had to do if I wanted to better myself.
Right off the bat, working as a Loaned Executive was incredibly different. I went through two weeks of intense training at United Way of Dane County where I learned about my role and responsibilities raising money for United Way. Details and guides bring me comfort, so this I liked. Then, the last day of our training, they tossed me in the deep water with 25 accounts and told me to proceed. They said I’d figure it out as I went along. This was not so comfortable. I would’ve never imagined myself doing this, and now I had no choice.
I started researching and calling my clients. I’d pitch well-thought out ideas, but then need to think fast and troubleshoot problems that came up as I went along. Eventually, I prepared to present to the company’s staff – which was daunting as someone with very little public speaking experience.
There were a lot of sleepless nights as I did my first few pitches, and some of my early speaking opportunities ended up falling flat. However, I slowly started to get more comfortable with these skills over time. By the time I was scheduled to present to my co-workers at First Business, I (almost) felt confident. It was exciting to see everyone again, and appear before them representing such a great organization with newfound skills I had never planned to develop.
As my unanticipated career in front of crowds wrapped up, I was so happy to return back to First Business Bank in my new role as Investment Associate within the First Business Bank Private Wealth division. Although I know I’m truly comfortable back in an environment of cash flows, spreadsheets, and behind-the-scenes research, I also often discover my new skills come in handy. The Trust & Investments team relies heavily on a team approach to solve problems and provide the best recommendations for its clients. With my newfound skills, I find that I am more comfortable sharing my work and input, thinking quickly on my feet, and collaborating with others. Thanks to Corey and United Way — and getting (way) outside my comfort zone for four months — these are skills I happily draw on almost every day.
Thinking back to my meeting with Corey, I’m so glad I took advantage of this growth opportunity. The skills I learned as a United Way Loaned Executive have and will continue to serve me well throughout the rest of my career. Have you reached outside your comfort zone lately? Maybe you could use a push.