As Farm Credit East’s recruiting manager, I have had the privilege to travel to multiple universities across our territory to meet some truly spectacular students and individuals. Throughout all my visits, I am consistently asked for advice as these students are about to embark on their lifelong career. Every person has their own story and we can all learn from each other how to grow as individuals, and within our careers.
Recently, I was lucky enough to interview two of my co-workers: Cynthia Stiglitz, branch manager in Farm Credit East’s Middleboro, Mass., office and my first manager in my professional career, as well as Austin Weaver, an up-and-coming accounting associate in our Geneva, N.Y., office. We had wonderful conversations about their career journeys, both offering different vantage points on how they’ve built their careers and their takeaways thus far.
First, we’ll chat with Cynthia to learn how she built her career to become a vital leader at Farm Credit East. Stay tuned for my second interview with Austin.
Max: How did you discover Farm Credit and why did you choose Farm Credit East as a career path?
Cynthia: A professor at Virginia Tech worked closely with the Farm Credit System and, being from the Northeast, he sent me to Western New York for an interview.
Max: Tell me a bit about your career.
Cynthia: I started as a credit trainee at the Warsaw office in Western N.Y. I was there for about seven months before starting at First Pioneer Farm Credit as a credit representative. At the time, the Middleboro, Mass., office had a limited aquatic portfolio and I started getting many applications to finance fishing vessels—scallopers in particular. I wrote a white paper on the scallop and groundfish industry. A few years later, my office hosted an aquatic lending training. Because of the white paper and the training, First Pioneer became more comfortable lending to these industry segments. I feel this was a big help to my career.
I became acting branch office manager (BOM) in 2004, and full-time BOM in 2005.
Max: Tell me about your current roles as branch manager.
Cynthia: As branch manager, I handle a small but active portfolio. My primary daily responsibilities include managing my portfolio, delegating workflow and guiding my small team of six full-time and two part-time employees.
Max: What have been some of the greatest challenges you have faced in your role?
Cynthia: Staff turnover. I have had some brilliant individuals come through my branch. Some stayed with Farm Credit East, moving up the proverbial ladder, while others moved on to different careers. Losing people is hard, especially on our clients, but it also gives others opportunities. Consistent, customer-facing staff is key to maintaining customer relationships.
Max: What has helped you become a good leader at Farm Credit East and what advice would you give to aspiring leaders?
Cynthia: Be forthright but empathetic. My staff challenges me, and I challenge them. It’s exciting to see people achieve goals and reach even higher.
Max: What has been your most memorable experience with Farm Credit East?
Cynthia: Not an experience, but a relationship. I have a client who has been with me since he first applied back in 1996. We have an excellent understanding of one another, and what we each need to make the relationship work. He has always been loyal to Farm Credit East, and I’ve done everything I can for him, within reason. Sometimes I’ve had to say no, but that mutual relationship allows for those honest conversations.
Max: What is your favorite part about working here at Farm Credit East?
Cynthia: My favorite part of working here has to be the people — both customers and those working for Farm Credit East. Flexibility has also been an important aspect, and the ability to see and learn new things.
Max: Any final advice for folks looking to build their career?
Cynthia: Take on the assignment that seems impossible. Do your best work, no matter what it is you’re working on. Ask questions, be open to feedback, and be honest and kind when giving feedback.
Cynthia was my first professional manager and has remained a constant source of support and guidance in my career. I want to thank her for not only taking time to provide valuable insight into her career, but also equipping me with the tools to become a better individual and a better co-worker.
We can learn from our peers. They each can provide diverse and valuable insight at different stages of our careers. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, listen and push yourself to be better!
If you or someone you know is interested in building a lifelong career at Farm Credit East, check out our current opportunities at FarmCreditEast.com/Careers.