When the Girl Banker blog launched, I was very diligent in posting a regular “Girl Banker of the Week” where a woman in banking was highlighted. Somehow, through the busyness of work, life, and building this blog, I strayed away from that weekly post. I’m thrilled to bring back that focus with “Girl Banker Spotlight” that highlights various women in banking from all over the country through their own girl banker stories.
Amada Alvidrez | Regional Retail Manager | Equity Bank | Guymon, OK
I was born in a small town in Mexico that only had 2 paved roads. The town in which I lived only had school through junior high, so kids had to go to other towns to continue their education. Growing up, I had 4 older siblings who were mostly away from home continuing their education. I grew up with a younger brother. When I was a baby, my dad was away working in the US. I just remember him visiting in the summer and bringing a large sack of peanuts home for Christmas. I had an amazing childhood in that little town. When I finished 5th grade, my mom told my little brother and I that we were visiting my dad in the US for our summer vacation and she just never took us back!
My parents decided to enroll us in school in the United States. At that time, there was no program for non-English speakers. The school principal decided to hold back my brother and I a grade, so I went through fifth grade twice (and passed both times!) I really did not want to go to this new school. I was not expecting my family to move and I was looking forward to being with my friends in sixth grade. At my school in Mexico, we had an assembly every Monday morning and there was color guard from sixth grade that would parade in front of the school with the Mexican flag as we sang the national anthem. I had trained to be the captain and my biggest worry after I moved was that no one would be there to lead the squad. Oh the mind of a 6th grader!
My first year of school in the US was a huge adjustment. The school subjects were very similar, but the culture and school structure were much different. Because there was no program for non-English speaking students, I was placed in a classroom with a boy who spoke Spanish named Arturo. I will forever be grateful for my sink-or-swim program! Math was super easy! I had a little more trouble in the other subjects, but I had the kindest, most accommodating teachers. My English teacher had me work with a phonics program that showed me pictures of objects and would pronounce the name on headphones. I also had to learn how to write in cursive, and that, in my 5thgrade opinion, was harder than learning English!
I slowly started to pick up the English language as Arturo helped me with most of our subject areas. What a huge burden placed on such a young boy, and he was so patient with me! I remember that I could carry on conversations by Christmas and I finished the year with A’s and B’s. I continued progressing through 6th grade and finished the year with mostly A’s and a few B’s. I made all A’s in junior high and high school and I graduated as the class valedictorian. I had amazing, encouraging teachers all through my education at Guymon Public Schools and I had great opportunities. I participated in band and academic team and made great friends. In junior high, I got to return the favor from that kind boy in 5th grade who helped me when I didn’t speak the language. A couple kids who didn’t speak English were placed in some of my classes so I could help them. I am forever grateful that my mom kept us on “vacation!”
When it was time to decide on a college, the deciding factor was, of all things, communal bathrooms. (I was terrified of them!) I decided to stay home and attend Oklahoma Panhandle State University and it was one of the best decisions my young, shy, sheltered self ever made! I had extraordinary professors from day one. Our class sizes were small, and the professors really care that we learned the material. They weren’t just checking us off on a role sheet. In high school, I had fallen in love with the English language, so I decided to major in English with a secondary school teaching degree. I gained an outstanding education from OPSU. I graduated magna cum laude without taking any business or finance courses other than my gen ed. (Don’t tell any of my banker friends!)
In high school, I got a job at City National Bank and Trust Company in Guymon, OK microfilming documents when I was only 16 years old. Now, I tell people that I was in archiving to fancy it up a little. At that time, we processed in-house, and I was soon trained on the night processing duties. I learned how to update our system, print statements, sort checks on a 16-pocket proof reader, fold statements on a tri-fold machine, and much more. Because I was alone in the building for most of the time, I had to learn to be resourceful and to try to solve problems on my own.
During my first summer at the bank I trained to be a teller. Some of my coworkers thought I’d be terrible which may have had something to do with the fact that I was so quiet that most of them assumed I didn’t know how to speak English. In fact, some of them didn’t even know I worked there because I came in when they had already left for the day. I loved being a teller and to this day, it’s still my favorite job that I had as a banker. It’s the job that has the most interaction with customers and there’s such a sense of satisfaction in keeping a balanced, tidy teller drawer.
When I returned to school, I continued performing the night processing and I kept learning other duties such as account opening and wire desk. I worked at the bank when I went to college, filling in the teller position according to my schedule, and then night processing in the evenings and still some microfilming on the weekends. Mid-way through college, a couple coworkers left and I inherited some of their duties. Later, the IT director left and I inherited those duties at the most exciting time in IT…Y2K! I inherited that job because I was the most knowledgeable in our core, which does not translate to IT, but I am so grateful for that opportunity. I added IT as a minor in college and I learned trial by fire.
The computers didn’t crash on January 1, 2000, so I kept the IT role going forward. During the last couple years of college, another coworker left, and I inherited duties relating to the investment portfolio, accrual accounting, and the holding company. I was also an assistant to the president, so I learned some about lending and deposits. Additionally, I was the only Spanish speaking employee at the time, so I spent a lot of time translating in the loan department. I feel I learned a lot about the lending process solely from doing that.
At some point in college, I started running payroll. I did all the things! After graduation and some employee retirements, I became the head of HR, operations, and IT. I loved it all! My days were challenging but never mundane! I had amazing opportunities to grow in banking by attending Oklahoma Banking Association schools in operations and banking along with several seminars in all my fields of interest. The turning point in my career was attending Graduate School of Banking Colorado in 2006. That is where I learned to push my limits, come out of my shell, and make lifelong connections. Not to mention it is where I found my voice!
My career grew from there as I continued to grow in knowledge and gained credibility to try some ideas that were out of the box. In 2018, my bank merged with Equity Bank, and my role became market president. I am forever grateful to have worked in a little bank where I had to figure out how to fix things on my own because that has helped me understand procedures at a larger institution. In October 2019, I was named Regional Retail Manager for 9 locations in my market area. I feel like I’m back in my wheelhouse and I am very much looking forward to growing in this new role.
In the last few years, I had the opportunity to become more involved with the Oklahoma Bankers Association and I was honored to join the Government Relations Council in 2016 and the Board of Directors in 2017. In 2020, I was elected First Vice Chair. I am so thrilled to continue serving the OBA for another 3 years. Along the way of my banking career, I fell in love with what community banking is and how it fuels community growth. I feel it especially living in a rural town.
I met my husband at OPSU when he was trying to set me up with a friend of his. He just decided to ask me out for himself. We married in 2006 and made some great memories before welcoming our daughter in 2018. We were married for 11 years and had come to the conclusion that we were not going to be able to have kids after several years of trying. In fact, I was 17 weeks along before I found out I was pregnant. Nothing like passing out in front of a bunch of bankers at a convention! Two of my amazing banking friends, Kelly and Chris Jordan, that stayed with me to make sure I was okay that day. I assured them I was fine because I had just had bloodwork done with an annual checkup. I knew I just needed a cookie because I tended to pass out if my blood sugar got low, but Chris made me promise him I’d get checked out. That’s how I found out I was pregnant. Our daughter was born in February 2018 and she has been our absolute joy.
I have been very lucky to have had supportive teachers and bosses and I have lived in the same town for decades. However, I have most definitely felt that I’m treated differently because of my ethnicity. When I started school, the population of Guymon had a very different makeup. I was the only foreign-born student in my grade and I only remember a couple other Hispanic kids at the school. There was one boy who would make comments like “go back to your country.” He was in my home room in 5th and 6th grade and he really tortured me. He got another boy to join in but he was always the instigator. Looking back, I think he got more aggressive as I mastered the English language and earned better grades than he. I remember one incident from 6th grade vividly. He blamed me for stealing his Eversharp. Of course, I didn’t know what he was talking about, but then I found it in my bag. The teacher believed me when I said I hadn’t stolen it and I remember the teacher giving my classmate a stern talk in my defense. From then on, the teacher became more protective of me and I don’t remember the boy being as aggressive.
I had a few other incidents like that through school, but it changed as the years passed. The ethnic makeup of the town changed when a meat packing plant opened when I was in 9th grade. The town became more accepting with the influx of Hispanic people to the town. Now, Guymon is the only town in Oklahoma with a Hispanic majority and there are multiple ethnicities and nationalities in town. In fact, there are over 30 languages spoken in my tiny town! Although I fully respect police and what they do, I have had a couple incidents that I wondered if I had been stopped just for the color of my skin. I remember one incident when the officer asked me for my license and registration and his demeanor completely changed toward me when I answered his questions in perfect English.
I know I am treated differently when I visit retail. There is a major retailer whose practices really bother me. When I go in on the weekend with no makeup and my workout clothes, I get stopped for them to check my receipt almost every single time while I see white people walking by without question. When I go in my business attire with my brand name purse, I NEVER get stopped! Mind you, I don’t ever look sloppy or dirty, but I am still judged by the way I look. There is also another small retailer in town that has treated me much differently depending on how I’m dressed. I can’t even get an employee to help me if I go in my gym clothes, yet they cater to me if I go in my business clothes. I have not shopped there in a while. I am naturally an introvert (Myers-Briggs score of 98% to prove it), and I am generally very quiet (although I’ve forced myself to come out of my shell in the last few years). I think that makes people believe I don’t speak English, or they can take advantage of me. I have lived in Guymon for many years, so I don’t notice different attitudes toward me much anymore, but I’m still reminded sometimes when I travel.
I will forever be grateful to my mother for choosing to keep us in school here. Being in the US opened infinite opportunities I would not have had otherwise. I am lucky to have had so many amazing experiences throughout my life and I love my family’s culture as well as the American culture.
Below is a picture from a half I ran in 2017. It makes me smile every time I look at it. I had given up on the hopes of having a baby after 11 years. The previous week, I had fainted at a bank convention, and chalked it up to my blood sugar being low. I picked up a pregnancy test on my way home that Friday and got a positive result. I thought it was a false positive because I just couldn’t believe it, not to mention I had a half marathon that Sunday! I had a talk with baby and told him/her that I would only run if he/she felt okay with it. That was the most fun race and I smiled at the finish line because the baby crossed it with me. I later found out I was over 4 months pregnant.