Get to Know Sherry Williams, Vice President, Loan Operations, Chesapeake Bank
2022 EBL Committee Chair

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Tell us about why you became a banker and what has kept you in the industry for the past 24 years.    

I was a part time teller at a local community bank while attending Rappahannock Community College. I enjoyed the people and real-life, “on the job” training. I quickly decided I wanted to learn more about the bank operations and take on a position full-time. I was so intrigued by how all of the pieces fit together like a well-oiled machine. I loved how I could feel the passion of helping others no matter what area I was placed in within the financial industry. I took a brief 18 month break from banking in order to go back to college and get my bachelor’s degree. During that time I became even more engaged with how each facet of a bank’s operations tied together to help clients and our communities. I knew once I graduated from Averett University I had to get back into helping people. I get my energy from helping others achieve their financial goals. I love the financial industry because I feel there is so much potential in fulfilling that core value. I have held a variety of roles and learned a lot with different organizations. Chesapeake Bank provides so much value to its employees and its community. Being a banker makes me feel like I am making a difference.

“Surrounding myself with peers and being involved in our institution and with VBA events have allowed me to establish a network of folks that I can lean on and I will be forever grateful.”

What is the most fun part of your day and/or what projects have you worked on recently that excited you?

The most fun part of my day is helping people. Whether that be helping a teammate striving to meet their career goals or by assisting in closing operations for a mortgage loan or a PPP loan for the local restaurant down the street. Over the past 18 months, it has looked like working with lenders and their clients on the operational side in order to fulfill closing of a purchase of their second home and assisting local community businesses during the pandemic with the closing of their PPP loan, which have been self-fulfilling.

Looking back on your path to your current position, talk about some key turning points or learning experiences that have made you a better banker and leader.  

Key turning points have been never stop asking questions and reaching for the next thing.  Asking questions of senior leadership and asking how I can learn more have attributed to my knowledge and growth.  Surrounding myself with peers and being involved in our institution and with VBA events have allowed me to establish a network of folks that I can lean on and I will be forever grateful.

With the ongoing pandemic, personal and professional lives have merged, leaving little to no space for separation, shifting the focus more to work-life integration. What are some choices you have made to help you stay grounded and integrate your priorities (both at work and home)?

The pandemic has been extreme on everyone in some way.  The biggest thing that I have begun doing is scheduling time for myself.  Being AWARE of my co-workers’ needs a little more and listening to others a little more intently.  We have learned a lot through this pandemic, many of which have been good.  Being nimble and flexible are two key takeaways to make this integration work.

During last fall’s Leadership Conference, one of the speakers encouraged the group to “go all in” to achieve their goals. What are you “all in” for in your own life these days? Where do you find inspiration and motivation to meet your goals?

Confidence has always been a struggle for me as a woman in my role at the bank. These days, I am “all in” to wipe away the negative “self-talk” in my head and be more vulnerable. I know I am a strong leader and strive to encourage and bring others along. I must be “all in” in my listening and communication skills must be nothing short of perfect.

Tell us how you initially became involved with the VBA Emerging Bank Leaders and why you decided to champion the group through becoming its chair.

I have been fortunate enough to attend the Virginia Bankers School of Bank Management, the Graduate School of Banking at LSU and the VBA Executive Leadership Institute. All of these programs taught me many things about myself and others. I enjoyed meeting and networking with classmates from all positions within the banking industry and all different states. I love hearing from other bankers. Having a forum to lean on as part of the EBL Steering Committee, I am confident in knowing I have a great group of people that have fresh ideas and support for one another that I can call on at any time for help.

How can any emerging bank leader lead at their bank, no matter their position?

Any emerging bank leader at their bank can lead by being involved and asking questions, no matter their positions at the bank. Always ask the question and see how you can learn more and be involved in giving back to yourself and your community.

As we begin 2022, is there one thing you are looking most forward to, for the industry or beyond?

I am looking forward to being a part of the “change” mindset as we continue to navigate the new normal.  I am a true believer in flexibility and innovation and I look forward to how I can help be a part of that going forward, not just at Chesapeake Bank but through the lens of the customer.

“Lightning round” questions:

  1. Guilty pleasure food? Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake
  2. Best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Believe in yourself/be confident
  3. Favorite weekend activity? Saltwater fishing
  4. Best part of your job? Helping others
  5. What is the best book or podcast you’ve read or listened to in these last few months? Slay like a Mother