CCUL Headlines: Industry Insight

2020 Protégé Kayla Martin shares her tips and insight on competing in the Protégé Competition

Tuesday, September 15, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Kayla Martin, 2020 Protégé, LGFCU
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Editor’s Note: At the conclusion of the Carolinas Credit Union League's 2020 CUaware Protégé Competition on January 31, LGFCU's Kayla Martin was named the 2020 Protégé. The experience, from applying to competing, was a leap outside her comfort zone and she encourages more young professionals to do the same as the application process continues for the 2020-2021 season.

As a young professional at my credit union, I was familiar with the CUaware Protégé Competition. I attended the yearly info sessions held internally but because of my fear for public speaking I never was confident enough to participate.

Fast forward to 2019, I came to the realization that if I wasn’t uncomfortable — personally or professionally — I was not growing. This idea turned into an early New Year’s resolution and I decided to be more open to pursue opportunities that got me out of my comfort zone.

Contestants get advice from past Protege finalists ahead of tomorrow's presentations
At the finals, contestants get advice from past Protégé finalists ahead of oral presentations the next day.
Representing the Tarheel Chapter, Kayla Martin delivers her 5-min presentation
Representing the Tarheel Chapter, Kayla Martin delivers her five-minute presentation in front of LAUNCH attendees and the judging panel.
2020 Protege Kayla Martin and the rest of the finalists have fun after the end of the competition
Like other CUaware Protégé finalists, Kayla had to first apply and compete at the credit union chapter level before progressing to the finals hosted at the League's LAUNCH Conference.

An immediate benefit to the winner and the two runners-up is a selection of one of three developmental scholarships provided by the League.

When the Protégé competition email arrived in my inbox last year, my initial thought was, “heck no!” (old habits die hard). But as I was running between meetings that morning, I was reminded of the challenge I set for myself: If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not growing. With minutes to spare, I darted down to the meeting to get the details on the competition. That split-second decision to get uncomfortable lead to one of the best professional opportunities in my young career.

If you are a young credit union professional who’s sitting here reading my words, nodding your head in agreement, I encourage you to follow my lead and take a few steps outside of your own comfort zone. There are exciting opportunities that await you, but you’ll never get to experience them if you let fear and comfort drive your decisions.

Looking back on the Protégé competition, I’m pleased to have the chance to share my experiences and insights with future participants.

First, choose a topic that you are passionate about. You will practice your presentation, A LOT. It’s incredibly helpful to choose a topic you love talking about and your passion will come through. And the great news is that the League provides a robust range of topics for you to choose from. There is something for everyone, regardless of your interests or focus in the credit union.

Once you choose your topic; practice, practice, practice. This was one of my keys to success throughout the competition. I practiced my presentation constantly for co-workers, friends, family, the mirror, and frankly anyone that would listen. I also continuously asked for constructive feedback.

While you do not have to take every bit of feedback and implement that change in your presentation, it’s important to understand how different people hear what you’re saying, or what areas may be a hang up. Then it’s back to tweaking, presenting and asking for more feedback. I practiced until I could recite my presentation in my sleep.

Some of the greatest feedback I received throughout the competition was the appreciation for my conversational tone. I didn’t rely on note cards and I didn’t stand behind a podium reading slides. I knew the material, used slides only as a visual guide, and engaged with the audience along a five-minute journey.

Finally, take time to study for the exam. You likely know more credit union history than you realize, and byway of researching your topic you’ll learn even more. What worked for me was creating flash cards from the study guide material, which made studying much more efficient. I would run through my presentation, then take a break and run through my flash cards. This seemed to be my recipe for success.

Overall, this competition was one of the best opportunities, both personally and professionally. Not only did it elevate my name and expose me to the board and executive suite in my organization, but I got to meet a lot of incredible credit union folks from across the Carolinas. There is nothing negative that can come from getting involved in this competition. Even if you don’t win, you’ll grow in one way or another.

I encourage young professionals to step outside of their comfort zone and take a chance on themselves. We are the future of the credit union movement and we can’t advance if we don’t get involved.

To learn more about the competition and how to apply, visit


Kayla Martin
Digital Marketing Strategist, Local Government Federal Credit Union

A transplant from Pennsylvania, Kayla is happy to call North Carolina home for the past eleven years. Joining Local Government Federal Credit Union (LGFCU) in 2014, Martin is quickly growing her career within the marketing department, advancing from social media coordinator to digital marketing strategist.

Her current role allows her to collaborate with internal and external partners to expand LGFCU’s digital marketing footprint; providing opportunities to raise awareness for the credit union among prospective member groups.

As the 2020 Protégé, Kayla selected the Southeast CUNA Management School as her scholarship prize. School was postponed this year due to the COVID-19 but Kayla plans to attend when the program resumes June 2021.


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