What It’s Like to Work at a Company That Helps Grow Your Career

Mortgages and refinances hit all-time highs of $4.3 trillion in 2020, according to the MReport. That means lots of work for mortgage lenders and Northwest Federal Credit Union was no exception.

NWFCU Office

“Interest rates dropped to all-time lows and last year was one of the busiest years for mortgages we’ve ever had,” said Nestor Villanueva assistant vice president for mortgage lending at Northwest Federal Credit Union. Villanueva knew that Northwest’s culture of pitching in to help other teams could lighten his group’s load.

“Teamwork is just part of our culture. Four years ago, when we when our auto loans group really started to take off, they needed help,” Villanueva recalled. “We sent a couple of processors and closers to assist them. Last year, we needed help and they were the first team to send help. The moment we said, ‘We need help,’ everyone jumped in. People came from human resources, from indirect lending, and from consumer lending. The help from other departments made the difference.”

NWFC Plant sale

Northwest Federal Credit Union is growing and that growth translates into opportunities for employees. Villanueva started in September 2014 as a loan officer. Within the first 90 days, an opportunity opened for him to become a loan origination manager, managing three loan officers. He continued to grow his team as the credit union expanded into North Carolina and Florida. The credit union now has 20 loan officers.

“Senior management is fully aware of our potential as a credit union,” Villanueva said. “As a result of our growth, new opportunities arise. Senior management listens to our needs. We went to senior management and said, ‘We need more leadership roles,’ and they were open to that.”

Thanks to their support, Raquel Crossley has been able to move into a job as a recruiter that matches her passion. In fact, as a recruiter, she now helps other employees move into their dream jobs.

“I started fresh out of college as a teller in 2012,” Crossley said. “From there, I was able to progress and grow from team lead, then assistant branch manager.”

When Crossley was working as an assistant manager, her manager encouraged her to sit in on applicant interviews. “I found I enjoyed giving other people the opportunities to step into career changes. That’s where I found my passion.”

Managers continued to support Crossley as she sought more training and experience.

“Northwest does an amazing job of providing classes to all employees, especially those looking to get into management,” Crossley said. “You can learn the skills and implement those skillsets in new management roles. Working in recruiting, I see so many opportunities for candidates to step into roles they are qualified for. Our management really believes in supporting employees and promoting internally.”

Employees also qualify for up to $10,000 a year in education reimbursement to pursue a master’s degree, said Villanueva, who is pursuing an MBA focused on real estate.

Villanueva, who previously worked at two banks, said the culture difference is significant.

“At the banks, my managers listened to me, but I couldn’t make a change,” Villanueva said. “I feel I have a voice here. I feel like they really want to know how I feel about working at the credit union.”

NWFCU with dog

Another Northwest initiative offers employees 24 hours of paid time off to volunteer at a cause of their choosing. Before the pandemic, Villanueva mentored a local middle school student every other week.

“I ate lunch with him, played games, helped him with his homework, whatever he wanted to do,” Villanueva said. “My days are extremely hectic, but I never missed it.”

The credit union also walks the walk regarding diversity and inclusion, Villanueva and Crossley said.

I’ve seen Northwest’s commitment to fostering a diverse workplace,” Villanueva said. “I’ve been here seven years and I’ve seen that commitment get even stronger, with so many backgrounds represented.”

Crossley, who also is the diversity and inclusion coordinator, said management makes a conscious effort to be both diverse and inclusive, for example celebrating holidays from a variety of cultures. Those and other factors have encouraged her to stay.

“When I first started, I was not thinking long-term,” Crossley said. “I feel I have become part of something bigger. I’m part of an organization that believes in me, that is giving me opportunities to become successful that I would not have had elsewhere.”

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