Get to Know the 2022 Washington Summit EBL Scholarship Recipients

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Congratulations to the 2022 Washington Summit Scholarship Recipients (pictured left to right): Eric Floyd, Chesapeake Bank; Abbie Ford, Virginia National Bank; Kari Van Wassen, Farmers Bank; and Molly Crawford, Blue Ridge Bank

You were all first time Washington Summit attendees. Why were you interested in attending this event and what value did you find in your participation?

Molly: I had originally planned on attending the Summit in 2020, but Covid had other plans.  Given the circumstances, I was especially excited to attend the event.  I have always been interested in politics and engaged in the grassroots efforts through the VBA and ABA, but being in DC, so close the action gives you a different perspective on the legislative process and our elected officials. The ABA offered fabulous speakers during both the Emerging Leaders Forum and the Summit. It was an incredible experience and I look forward to attending in the coming years.

Eric: I always participate in CPAC and whenever there is a call to reach out to my Representative to voice my support/displeasure with a law which effects our industry. Being involved in the Summit made me aware of specific issues we want to address as an industry, which also prompted me to study more on the issues. Also, the opportunity to connect with other Bankers from various parts of the country and learn their challenges was impactful on my growth and respect for what we do daily.

Abbie: While this year was my first time attending the Washington Summit, I have always wanted to attend the event because of my interest in politics and advocacy for the banking industry.  By attending this great event, I was able to focus in on the industry’s biggest concerns – some of which do not necessarily directly impact me daily.  I gained knowledge on those concerns from my peers and was able to stand united with them as we spoke out for the industry as a whole.

Kari: Outside of the opportunity to network with others in our industry, attending the Washington Summit gave me the ability to advocate for issues that we as bankers deal with.  I genuinely believe that no one’s voice is too small.  I am always willing to let my voice be heard when given an opportunity to “have a seat at the table” and attending the Washington Summit gave me that opportunity. 

One of the sessions during the Emerging Leaders Forum at this year’s Summit was “The Great Reset: Survival Tips for Business Leaders” where the speaker shared lessons learned about culture, talent, empathy and other mission-critical issues affecting leaders everywhere. What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learned over the past two years during these uncertain times?

Molly: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to be flexible and meet people where they are.  We all have come through the past two years with unique experiences that have changed us. The speakers we heard from all offered valuable insight surrounding the evolving world we’re living in and how it relates to the workforce and job market.

Eric: What I learned is that the business community was already putting leadership skills in place to manage through these times, even when we were unaware of it. When I first started working for a corporation, leaders were valued for their IQ and business savvy. There was a shift about 10-15 years ago where the focus on emotional intelligence began to be seen as a more important attribute. Leaders who studied and worked to improve their EQ were able to navigate through challenges like the ones we have faced over the past 2 years, and in some cases, maintain a resolute team through it.

Abbie: The last two years have been the most difficult of my professional career, but at the same time, the last two years have provided lessons that will serve me well for many years to come.  The most important lesson I have learned is to cultivate and appreciate relationships while one has the opportunity to do so. 

Kari: I think we could all write a book on the lessons learned over the past two years.  My two greatest takeaways would be gratitude and perspective.  Both of these are things we tend to lose sight of in life without even realizing it.  While several things in my life changed significantly throughout the pandemic, the most important aspects of my life didn’t.  Many others aren’t able to say the same.  Often times we need to be reminded that while we all have challenges in life, it is the way we respond to those challenges that make the biggest difference.  

You are all members of the Emerging Bank Leaders group. What are the benefits of being a part of that group and your other involvement with the VBA?

Molly: The Emerging Bank Leaders Group is a fabulous resource.  The bankers involved are the best in the business and all looking to grow in their careers.  The networking is always top notch.  Being engaged with this group keeps me up to speed with all the programs that the VBA is offering.

Eric: The benefit to being a part of the EBL group and connected to the VBA is OPPORTUNITY. The connections offer us the opportunity to connect with other leaders in the industry. We have the opportunity to grow our leadership through limitless access to content and sessions led by subject matter experts. We have the opportunity to serve at a greater capacity on multiple committees. The VBA has provided the opportunity, but it is up to us to take the initiative, use our voice, and capitalize of the opportunity.

Abbie: Being involved with the VBA has proven vital to my success as a well-rounded banker.  The VBA provides guidance and support to members by way of conferences, meetings, committees, and educational opportunities. The ability to bounce ideas and knowledge around with those who face the same challenges is absolutely awesome!  Every industry should have the ability to establish a peer network and that is exactly what the VBA does for Virginia bankers. 

Kari:  The relationships I have built by being a part of the Emerging Bank Leaders Group is by far my greatest benefit.  Not only have I been able to reach out to others in the industry for work related advice, I have also built lasting friendships that I value.  Being a part of the EBL and my involvement with the VBA has helped me grow both personally and professionally.