In 2012, Will Crosswell heard about a newly-announced competition taking place on the state level through CEO Starla Shelton, who encouraged Crosswell to get involved and enter. New to Palmetto First FCU, the credit union movement and to business development, Crosswell declined--or rather deferred--the opportunity until 2013 so he could focus on his new job.
In the following year, Crosswell thought the timing right to enter the Palmetto Protégé and he would go on to win both the Pee Dee Chapter and the Finals Competition in 2013. Crosswell reflected on his journey in the latest installment of the Protégé & Beyond blog series with Phil Kadzielawski and Sara Portis.
Though he remembers the finals competition being somewhat of a blur at the time, he distinctly remembers "calling an audible" as he approached the podium to make his presentation. "I said, yeah, I'm not going to read this," Crosswell recalled. "I'm just going to go by memory because I had done it so often at that point I think even my wife could recite it back to me."
Having secured the Protégé title, Crosswell shared that for him, the journey was just beginning. He and Dr. Troy Hall (SC Federal) entered into a mentoring relationship in the year that followed. This mentoring relationship was the genesis of the CUaware Protégé Mentor program, which has gone on to become a key professional development opportunity for credit union young professionals and managers across the Carolinas.
Looking back on that experience, Crosswell notes that the impulse to create the mentor program came from a recognition that there was a wider credit union community that young professionals could benefit from networking into, whether or not they won the competition. "There's some great leaders that were part of the competition that didn't win," he shared. "So it's to still try to find some ways to keep these leaders ... connected to C-level type mentors."
Crosswell said that being mentored by Hall opened some doors and his eyes to what credit unions could offer. "I didn't have that road map before. That's that sweet spot for each of us where our jobs transform into careers." Having recently joined the credit union movement from the political world, discovering this road map was foundational to his future success.
That road map led Crosswell from Florence up Interstate 95 to Philadelphia, PA where he serves as VP of sales and service for the $650-million Ardent CU. Although time and his credit union journey have transported him away from the Carolinas, he says he still keeps his Palmetto Protégé trophy in his office and it is a proud part of his career story.
Crosswell's advice to current CUaware Protégé Finals Competition participants is to "have a blast" and be yourself. He also points out that by competing, you're no longer a 'future leader'. "If you're stepping forward now, you're a leader," he concludes.
Special Thanks to our Featured Protégé!
Will Crosswell is the vice president of service and sales for Ardent Credit Union in Philadelphia, PA. A graduate of Clemson University, he got his start in the credit union industry working in business development at Palmetto First FCU in 2011.
In 2013, Will earned the CUaware Protégé title and later went on to pilot the CUaware Mentor Program.