Synergent’s mission is to ‘help credit unions succeed and improve the financial lives of their members.’ In our monthly Employee Spotlight series, we feature one of our dedicated staff members to help you get to know the people who are working as an extension of your credit union team.
Cheryl Lancaster, Chief Strategy Officer, has selflessly devoted her career to Synergent and the Maine Credit Union League for the past 33 years—a streak which will soon be broken as she settles into a well-deserved retirement in the second quarter of this year. While we will all miss her greatly, her impact will never be forgotten.
“When I started, I was the Training Specialist—and the first to hold that position—so I developed and delivered all the credit union training programs and did internal strategic planning facilitation,” explained Lancaster. “Through the years, I moved to conference and tradeshow planning; supervising the education efforts; then overseeing the Corporate Marketing department, communications, and education. Now I’m in my current role of Chief Strategy Officer.”
With 33 years of experience under her belt, Lancaster has become an incredibly valuable resource to everyone at the League and Synergent. Since her most recent role change in July, she has done quite a bit of work planning for the organizational transition resulting from her retirement, spending a lot of time sharing her knowledge and experiences with other people both in and out of the company.
“There really are no typical days, which is why my job is fun!” exclaimed Lancaster. “I spend a lot of time fielding questions from people, helping them plan and resolve challenges they have. I also get to work on special projects which is really enjoyable because you never know where the path is going to lead you and there are lots of opportunities to influence the outcome.”
The path to her current role was largely a growth process over the years. She explained how it was a gradual process of learning how things were done, often continuing to find ways to experience different aspects of the company, before ultimately being given the opportunity to lead them and make them her own.
“I sort of fell into credit unions accidentally after graduating from college,” said Lancaster. “I worked at a credit union for almost six years in roles from teller to lending to branch operations. I think that really helped me in my role at the League and Synergent because I lived the credit union experience and then got the chance to help them with education and strategic planning.”
She enjoys that no two days are the same, and she loves getting the chance to influence the success of Synergent, the League, and our credit unions. She feels we, “help them better by having educated staff, bringing new ideas to them, and working with them on their planning.”
“I didn’t have a lot of management experience when I started here so that is a huge piece of what I learned in my time here,” said Lancaster. “I also think I have learned to be a good communicator and can bring people with differing views together for the good of their business.”
Lancaster has achieved numerous successes over the years, but she considers the highlight to be making it to the Senior Leadership Team.
“It was a long road but it is fulfilling to challenge yourself and make a difference in the outcome for Synergent and our credit unions,” Lancaster said.
She attributes her successful career to working extremely hard, especially when working on something new. She took pride in every project she had a hand in and learned to be appreciative and humble, always asking questions of the people who did the job before she did. In finding everyone willing to share their expertise, she ensured she never felt she had to do it all alone.
“I don’t think I can pick one project I’m most proud of, but I think what I am most proud of is the relationships that I have developed with coworkers and credit unions,” recalled Lancaster. “It feels like one big family, and I am most proud that I can pick up the phone and talk to almost anyone in the credit union movement like they are family.”
Part of her retirement preparations include considering what is being left for the next generation of credit union professionals, as she understands what it is like to build a career in this industry from the start.
“I want to leave behind people who can do the job better than I did and continue to make an impact,” shared Lancaster. “I would tell them to work hard, lean on people that can help, and ask as many questions as they need to.”
Lancaster says she will miss her coworkers and friends at the credit unions the most in her retirement. She has so many people that have been a part of her life over the last 33 years that have grown with her and her family, and she will miss them the most.
Cheryl loves to travel, especially with her whole family. She is also hoping to get to Disney World again soon, but in the nearer future is planning a trip to Europe with her daughter. She and her family often go to the beach and for walks, and she likes working in the garden, but she enjoys loving on her new grandson most of all and looks forward to caring for him when his mom returns to work! Cheryl is also hoping to volunteer at some organizations she has interest in after settling in to the first six or so months of her retirement.
“I just want to say a ‘thank you’ to the credit unions, the League, Synergent, and everyone at them,” shared Lancaster. “It has been an awesome career and I am glad I spent it here!”
Synergent and the Maine Credit Union League extend a sincere “thank you” to Cheryl for the time, dedication, and work she has devoted to her coworkers and credit union peers, and we wish her well in her retirement.