Vision 2020

illustration of a woman using telescope standing on top of a mountain looking at landscape
By Lorrie Candiotti, CCE

3 minutes

Completing CEO Institute inspires more learning.

During the first day of CEO Institute III: Strategic Leadership Development, University of Virginia Darden Graduate School of Business Professor Alec Horniman posed a question that would resonate with me. That question was: “What’s possible?

During the week, Professor Horniman encouraged discussion about cases featuring ordinary people doing extraordinary things. It became clear to me that more than we realize can truly be possible.

Applying the Learning

All week I thought about how that key question relates to me. Unlike most of my colleagues in executive roles, I do not have a college degree. I began my career as a teller after graduating from high school to help my mom pay the bills. I had no aspiration at the time to become a C-level executive. My priorities over the next 20 years were to raise my daughter and focus on my career journey, not the destination.

In my early 20s, I applied for the management training program in my organization and was politely told that without a formal degree, I could not be considered. I never took “no” for an answer. Instead, I sought out other ways to prove I could do the job. For example, the management training program required entering an annual regional speech contest. I voluntarily entered and won, which caught the attention of senior management. My plan was to continue relying on will and resourcefulness—and it worked. By age 27, I was managing the main branch at headquarters.

None of what I have said here is meant to minimize the importance of a formal education. It’s a foundation for future success. But with mentoring by a few great people, experience, resourcefulness and tenacity, I progressed in my career. After becoming a branch manager, I was never denied a job due a lack of a college degree at any organization. Some may believe I have just been lucky, but to me the definition of luck is “where opportunity meets preparation.”

CEO Institutes I and II helped me apply the knowledge I gained during class in the workplace. For example, my two between-segments projects focused on developing a formal change management process for my CU and performing an audit of our strategic plan, including recommendations for enhancing the plan.

CEO Institute III made me realize that you are never too smart or too experienced to continue learning and strive to be the best leader (and person) you can be. The experience reinforced my belief that we can all make a difference.

Going Beyond

After racking up a lot of semester hours toward a bachelor’s degree over the years, I recently enrolled and will earn my Bachelor’s of Business Administration (with a concentration in human resource management) by 2020.

I am not pursuing a degree to impress a potential employer. Rather, I am taking ownership of something that is very personal and important to me. Although I know the lessons I learn in college will help me make important contributions, this is truly a personal mission. I mentioned not being too smart or too experienced to continue learning. I would like to add “or too old” to that list because I will be 60 when I earn that degree!

I would be remiss if I did not thank my CEO (CUES member Joe Mirachi, a strong advocate of continuous learning), who not only hired me for a key role at the CU with no college degree, but also afforded me the opportunity to attend CEO Institute. Joe and the institute are responsible for me being fully able to understand Professor Horniman’s question, “What’s possible?”

Lorrie Candiotti, CCE, is SVP/chief operating officer at $797 million Launch Federal Credit Union, Merritt Island, Fla.

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