Local Perspective: Supportive Small Groups
Barby Wulff, associate director of production
At Veterans United Home Loans, small groups have become a way for employees to collaborate and support each other through their common interests and passions while learning new things.
When loan officer and team leader Rachel Bruce approached us with the idea of an ongoing support group for female loan officers, this was an easy yes, and the Women in Production small group was born. As the associate director of production, I was excited to come alongside Rachel to set up this group.
I started in the mortgage industry in 1999, when there were few female loan officers in the industry. In 2009, I joined Veterans United as one of only three female loan officers. In 2012, Rachel had a 4-month-old baby and a new job at Veterans United. She learned to navigate and master both roles.
Rachel and I are both extremely passionate about using our combined years of experience to help the now 80-plus female loan officers at Veterans United find more happiness, success, and support. We know the loan officer role can be fast-paced, and with life and family obligations, it can be hard to make time for meeting other like-minded women, even women in the same company. The time to invest in yourself often seems unavailable. We hoped this group would create opportunities for these women with so much in common to meet one another for positive discussions sharing best practices and ideas while building each other up.
Women in Production held their first monthly breakfast meeting in June 2018. Since then we’ve had some of our top female loan officers speak on time management and how to balance family life and work life to find your own level of success. We’ve had round table discussions where everyone offers their best practices. Our guest speakers have included family counselors who discuss everything from dealing with a difficult family member to having a difficult conversation with your child.
We have created an open line of communication between these women that did not exist before. Now there’s an e-mail group where we can recap our meetings and also share ideas or ask questions. The feedback has been positive and we’ve collected ideas from group members for future meetings. We’re thrilled to see our meeting numbers growing and have an exciting line up of both guest speakers and topics to help this group continue to grow, learn, and support each other.
Barby Wulff is the associate director of production at Veterans United Home Loans, NMLS 17710. Rachel Bruce is a loan officer at Veterans United Home Loans, NMLS 951471.
Cindy Gardner, software development manager
I’ve spent my entire IT career in Columbia, first at MU for 27 years and then for a stint at Carfax before joining Veterans United. Before I came here, hearing that Veterans United was ranked nationally as one of the Best Workplaces for Women sparked my curiosity. I wanted to find out why.
Now, after joining the team, I think it’s the culture that makes it special. The values aren’t just words; our employees live by them. It’s a culture that continues to evolve and never becomes stagnant.
Early on in my career, I would say that 80 percent or more of my colleagues in the IT field were male. It was a male dominated field, but that isn’t the case anymore. The technology field is now more diverse and the opportunities are boundless, regardless of gender.
I co-chair our Women in Technology small group at Veterans United. It started about a year and a half ago and has more than 50 members. The group offers a platform for collaboration for our female employees in IT. We meet collectively as a group every six weeks and have subgroups that meet more frequently based on their individual passions.
At one recent meeting, we talked about a presentation on how different genders work together in IT. The presentation was based on a survey compiled by one of our members. Keeping the lines of communication open and offering a forum to collaborate means a lot for our growth as both employees and people in general.
The group is also expanding outside of Veterans United to promote awareness and education regarding technology as a career path for local female high school and college students.