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Young Professional Reflects on Crashing the GAC

Spectra Credit Union’s Courtney Gray says the “career-changing” experience helped her realize that her voice matters and everyone’s story is essential.

young professional at the Capitol

Gray is the Marketing and Business Development Manager for Alexandria, Virginia-based Spectra Credit Union. She was one of 58 young professionals chosen to Crash CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference last month. We asked Gray to share her journey as a Crasher:

What surprised you about the experience?

Crashing the Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) was unforgettable in a significant way. I first heard about the Crash experience at the MD|DC Credit Union Associaion’s YPN Summit. Past crashers were in attendance and encouraged us to apply to Crash. What piqued my interest was the growth that each past crasher expressed that was unique to them and the advocacy of the journey. Hearing their stories led me to apply, and a few months later, I was chosen to be a 2023 Crasher to the GAC! After getting over the shock of being chosen, it felt like time flew, and I was at the GAC. What surprised me the most about the experience was being in a room with other crashers picked from each state and three from different countries you do not know, and in six days, they became like family. The crash journey is like no other. There are long, exhausting days where you learn so much – whether about yourself or the industry – that we lean in on one another to be present and make the most of our experience. The bonds I created are a lifetime.

What was your most memorable moment/activity/or speaker who resonated with you?

It is hard to pick the most memorable moment and activity as it was all great. Though, the first day of the crash experience resonated with me. Again, you walk into a room meeting individuals from each state and different countries for the first time and not knowing what to expect. We had multiple workshops focusing on personal growth, values, empathy, grace, and credit union history. All the sessions on this day set the tone for what was to come the rest of the conference, which turned out to be a phenomenal one. Crashers broke down personal barriers that allowed us to be in the moment and engage with each other as we bonded in the comradery of driving the credit union’s philosophy. It was an impactful day that allowed us to jumpstart the journey over the next several days.

How has the crasher experience impacted you professionally? Personally?

My crashing experience has impacted me professionally because I gained a more profound knowledge about our industry. I got to understand why credit unions do what we do. Our philosophy is People Helping People, but the how is important. I met industry leaders and hiked the hill with the league and my CEO to advocate essential changes such as interchange, empowering members to manage their finances, preserving the credit union tax status, etc. Deepening my understanding and being part of the comradery assisted me in further engaging my purpose in my career and wanting to grow.

Personally, I felt like this experience has helped me to realize that my voice matters. Everyone’s story is essential, and stories are what make the credit union movement impactful. In addition, I learned that it is ok to be curious – there is no harm. Naturally, as humans, we seek reasoning. Curiosity drives innovation and provides a new way to approach a problem in seeking a solution. In innovation, there is growth and opportunity to make a positive impact. An impact I look forward to continuing to contribute to.

What were your key takeaway(s)?

My key takeaway from this journey is to be authentically you. Our journeys within this industry and how we got here are different. That is the beauty that we celebrate in this industry. We want to embrace our differences; the best way is to be you. Showing up, being present, and engaging is essential, especially for the crasher journey. We take the time to share member stories, but taking the time to celebrate ourselves is just as important.

Would you encourage other credit union professionals to apply for the program?

I would 1,000% encourage all young and young-at-heart professionals in the credit union to apply to Crash the GAC. It is a unique experience to gain more in-depth knowledge. As an emerging professional, the crashing experience is career-changing. Meeting industry leaders, proactively advocating, creating connections, and developing yourself, personally or professionally, has been an eye-opener. There is great value in the experience that is tremendous.

Hear from our other Crashers in Wednesday and Thursday’s newsletter.

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