Promoted from within: Three women share career success stories

Feb. 14, 2019

This paid piece is sponsored by MetaBank.

From a recent college graduate to career professionals, the women you’re about to meet prove that a career path doesn’t need to look like a ladder at MetaBank.

It can look much more horizontal, with opportunities to move into new areas and grow with mentorship along the way.

From intern to manager

Erica Anderson was a few months shy of graduation from Southeast Tech when she landed in the teller’s chair as an intern at MetaBank in 2013.

Before that, Anderson had worked in the restaurant industry. But with an associate degree in business administration looming, a job at the bank’s Minnesota Avenue branch seemed like a good starting point.

After a successful internship, she earned one. But she didn’t stay an entry-level teller for long.

“Shortly after that, I was promoted to a senior teller, and I worked my way through,” she said.

She became a personal banker, assistant manager and finally branch manager – about three years after she originally walked in the door as an intern.

“Looking back, I give a lot of credit to the leadership I had and the mentors I had in the bank,” she said. “My first boss was the best mentor, and I felt like she was the one pushing me to go for more and advocating for me to move on to the next step.”

Then, on a whim, she reached out within the bank after seeing a position posted in human resources. She didn’t pursue it, but a couple of months later her contact reached back out to her.

“She said the opportunity was still available and asked if I wanted to just meet with the hiring manager,” Anderson said. “I’m never going to turn down an opportunity to talk to someone, so I met with the woman who would become my next boss.”

She’s now a human resources generalist. Along the way, she also went back to school and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Sioux Falls.

“It’s so crazy looking back,” she said. “I would have never thought this path was going to be open to me. But the biggest thing has always been the culture: The community feel we have, the fact we know all our customers and that our employees are very close. That culture was something I’d never had in a job, and it’s what’s kept me here.”

She also has been able to help foster that culture, serving on the leadership committee for Meta’s Women’s Network for three years.

“I tell people at job fairs that there is a group for everything here, and you will find a group who will support you in getting where you need to go,” Anderson said. “And if you’re willing to come in and work hard, you’re going to get the opportunities you’re looking for. I’m a prime example of that.”

Executive opportunity

Nichole Price knew financial services was the industry for her the first time she worked on an audit for a public accounting firm.

“I’ve been fascinated with banking ever since,” she said.

The Watertown native took that initial internship experience as a student at USD and parlayed it into roles at Eide Bailly LLP doing audit and tax work and then Wells Fargo where she spent eight years as an accounting manager in the student loan division.

“I had heard quite a bit about Meta in the news,” she said. “I knew it was a publicly traded company but had more of a community environment within the workplace. I was very intrigued by that. In a big, corporate world it can take you two to three years to get one small thing done, while Meta is growing fast and we get a lot done.”

Price quickly experienced how rapid Meta is evolving.

She was hired in 2015 as vice president of accounting, working on financial reporting, unique products, special projects and acquisition activity and managing a team.

Fast-forward less than four years and the overall accounting and finance teams have grown from 25 to 70 people. Price is now senior vice president and controller.

“It has been amazing to be part of this group,” she said. “We in the accounting team have tripled in size and now have staff in Sioux Falls, Texas and Michigan. It’s a big-company experience in South Dakota. A lot of people think you have to go to the coasts or the Twin Cities or Chicago to get that public company exposure, and we have it right in Sioux Falls.”

Price also was attracted by Meta’s significant female leadership.

“It’s heavily women, which is unique,” she said. “We have women in executive leadership roles, several senior vice presidents, and often you don’t see that in higher roles in public companies – especially in the Midwest.”

But no matter what your gender or background, Meta is filled with opportunities, she added.

“Even though you have a numbers background, that doesn’t mean you have to be in accounting or finance. You can cross that over into technology and operations and project management and learn more about the business. We very much promote that internally.”

As a mom of two teenagers, she also finds she can still have a fulfilling career with a busy household.

“The environment here is fantastic,” she said. “I love that everyone here is extremely focused and wants to be the best. Our team is so focused and filled with some of the most intelligent people I’ve ever worked with. People are extremely driven to do well but with just a really positive attitude.”

Career longevity, variety

Karen Waller can trace her career at Meta to a time before it was known as Meta.

Her story starts in 1987 in Manson, Iowa, a small farming community where she and her husband returned home after working in other states.

Waller had worked in customer service and new accounts for a bank in Colorado and then in mortgage in Davenport, Iowa.

But the role available at First Federal Savings & Loan when she moved to Manson was a teller. Waller took it and quickly was promoted.

She became assistant branch manager, branch manager and then regional manager. That meant a move to Storm Lake, Iowa, where she was introduced to MetaBank.

“I called then-CEO Tyler Haahr and told him I was looking for a different opportunity,” she said. “I wanted something in Des Moines, but he said he had something in Sioux Falls.”

She wasn’t sure about the move, but gave it a try and became vice president branch coordinator for Meta in Sioux Falls in 2005.

“And then after a couple years of that, bank president Kathy Thorson asked if I’d ever thought about trying commercial lending,” Waller said. “I hadn’t. All I had done was consumer lending and management, but she said she thought I’d be good at it.”

So Waller tried it in 2007, and the fit was right.

“I really enjoy the variety and opportunity to work with so many great clients and the projects themselves,” she said. “They’re all different. There’s always a different nuance, and I’m always learning and that’s what I enjoy.”

Her commercial lending role has changed a lot in the past 12 years too.

“I started working with small clients and a small portfolio, and I’m now working about $170 million in business lending,” she said. “I do a lot of hotel lending and construction-to-permanent financing, and I work with clients whose projects are all over – Sioux Falls but also Colorado, Kansas, Michigan – so it’s fun.”

There are always new opportunities at Meta and people encouraging others to pursue them, she added.

“They’re just very accommodating, and the bank often promotes from within,” she said.

“It’s never the same. And Kathy has been very supportive of anything I’ve wanted to accomplish and helped me meet people and grow relationships. There’s nothing better than working for someone who supports you. And they’re very supportive of your family life and volunteering and being in the community. They support your passions.”

MetaBank bucks industry trend with majority female leadership

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Promoted from within: Three women share career success stories

From a recent college graduate to career professionals, the women you’re about to meet prove that a career path doesn’t need to look like a ladder at MetaBank.

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