Welcome back to one of my favorite blog series, 'Girl Banker in the Making'! The purpose of this series is to highlight young women just getting their start in the banking industry as a means to motivate other young women to consider banking as a career path. The best part about 'Girl Banker in the Making' is that the post is authored by the young woman being highlighted in an effort to journal her own girl banker story. Lilly Niedermeier | Loan Processor | Focus Bank My name is Lilly Niedermeier, and I am currently a loan processor at Focus Bank in Paragould, Arkansas. Paragould is located in Northeast Arkansas just northeast of Jonesboro, home of Arkansas State University (Go Redwolves!). I have lived in this area my whole life. I graduated high school from Crowley’s Ridge Academy in 2014 and Arkansas State University in 2017 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Finance with an emphasis in Banking. While there, I met many professors such as Dr. David Kern who fueled my desire to pursue a career in the banking industry and was honored to receive the Group 1 Arkansas Bankers Association Scholarship and the Arkansas State University College of Business Finance/Banking Department Award. Growing up I always loved organization, numbers, typing, and any kind of paper work. Perfect for banking, right? Nonetheless, I never considered a banking career. I tossed around several career ideas throughout my junior high and high school years. From Physical Therapist, to Nurse, to Teacher, the one thing I knew was that I wanted to help people. During my Senior year at Crowley’s Ridge Academy, I worked at the school’s preschool doing after school care. I enjoyed working there for a few hours after school every other day, but I quickly realized I was not cut out to be a teacher. (My hat goes off to all the teachers out there! I admire you!) With graduation drawing closer, I decided that I would pursue a career in accounting. It was not something I was passionate about, more or less, I just thought it would be a good degree to have. I started looking for a job that pertained more to my degree. I was looking for a summer job as well as somewhere that I could continue to work part time throughout college. While working at the preschool, without realizing it, I made valuable connections with the parents of the students. The son of the Regional President of Focus Bank was attending the preschool at that time and after a few days (okay, maybe weeks), I worked up enough nerve to ask if they were hiring tellers. He was able to put me in touch with the teller supervisor and five days after graduation I started working at the bank as a part time teller. As I look back on that time in my life, I believe that is the first lesson in banking I learned, or more accurately one of the first life lessons I learned, which is the importance of networking. It is crucial in the banking industry and life in general to make connections and to build a strong network of piers around you. During my college years, I worked as a part time teller and eventually full-time teller at Focus Bank. I fell in love with Focus Bank and the banking industry in general. The relationships I was building with my coworkers and the customers was unparalleled. After a year I was hooked! I knew that this was an industry I wanted to be in for a very long time. As I analyzed each role within the bank, I decided to pursue a career in community bank lending. After all, it combined my love of organization with helping people. Watching the lenders build relationships with customers and help them in many different ways was something special. I changed my major at Arkansas State to Finance/Banking and the rest is history…well, in the making. In the Spring of 2016, my school advisor suggested that I do an internship. I reached out to the Regional Bank President and Senior Vice President at the location where I was currently working about doing an internship in the loan department. In late April of that year, I began my internship working two days a week as a loan processor. The internship confirmed my desire to pursue a career in lending. Being a part of helping someone buy their first car, first home, or grow their business, is very rewarding. When the internship came to an end in the fall, I was promoted to a full time loan processor. Taking on this new position and finishing my bachelor’s degree was challenging, but I had a wonderful support system at work and home. Once again, I learned a valuable life lesson, this time on stress and time management. I also got engaged and married in 2016. It was a busy year to say the least! I graduated from Arkansas State University in May of 2017 and have continued working as a loan processor at Focus Bank since that time. I am blessed to work with a wonderful group of people and a Senior Vice President who invests time and energy into helping me grow my understanding and knowledge of lending and the banking industry as a whole. My future goals include pursuing a career in community bank lending and investing my time and energy into our local community to better it now and for future generations to come. I believe our community banks have such a vital role in the process of helping our communities grow and I am blessed to be in the industry. Looking back on my past and forward to the future, I am forever grateful that my eighteen-year-old self mustered up enough courage to approach the bank President and I am grateful for the opportunity I was given to work at the bank. I would have never imagined that I would fall in love with the banking industry, which brings me to the quote by Nora Roberts. “If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.” I have seen this proven true time and time again. As women in banking, and young people in general, I believe it is so important to advocate for ourselves, and to make our intentions and goals known. If you don’t ever ask, then you will never know what could have been. I am truly excited to see what my future holds and what the future holds for all Girl Bankers.