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IBA Member Spotlight: Cris Williams

Media Center:IBA Member Spotlight: Cris Williams

Last Updated: 9/10/2020 10:24 AM

Banking Job Becomes Career for Iowa State Bank's Williams

On her way to her retail job one day, Cris Williams noticed a bank in the Des Moines skywalk was looking for a new teller. As a single mother, the work-life balance a job in banking seemed appealing so she applied for the teller position and was hired soon after. She says it started out as “just a job,” but after seeing the potential for advancement, she became even more passionate about her job and it quickly turned into a career.

Today, Williams is assistant vice president and branch manager at Iowa State Bank in Des Moines. “I remember my professional mentor saying to me very early on, ‘Cris, the sky is the limit if you work hard and never stop seeking out knowledge.’”

How did you get into banking as a career?
As a young single mother, I was looking for a job that would provide a better work-life balance than what my retail job hours were offering. One day, I noticed that the bank located in the skywalk where I was working at the time was hiring for a teller position. At first I was hesitant. I wasn’t sure they would consider someone without a formal college education. I set my fears and anxieties to the side and applied. It started out as just a job but the longer I worked at the bank, the more I realized the potential career growth available to me. I started surrounding myself with experts in the industry and learned so much from each of them. I was so inspired by the women in leadership that I was surrounded by. It gave me the motivation to pursue a career in banking. I remember my professional mentor saying to me very early on, “Cris, the sky is the limit if you work hard and never stop seeking out knowledge.”

Prior to your current role, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had, and what lesson did it teach you that you still use today?
Maybe not the most interesting job but, as a young adult, I worked at a clothing store in the mall. Even though I tried so hard to get out of the retail world due to the hours, I must say, I learned a lot from the experience. Working at the clothing store taught me many things but, most importantly, it helped me push myself outside of my comfort zone. I am naturally an introvert. Working at the mall forced me to approach people and start conversations. I remember being terrified at first but then realizing it wasn't so bad especially when those conversations led to putting a smile on customers’ faces once we were able to identify exactly what it was they were looking for. I also learned that it's okay to make mistakes, no one is perfect. The goal is to learn from those mistakes. I learned how to have fun while still getting the job done. My co-workers and I were sometimes there for some pretty long shifts; we were close and developed great relationships. I think it's so important to get to know the people you work with. We sometimes spend more time with them than we do our own families. I learned how to ask questions while helping a customer figure out exactly what it was they were looking for. Customers would sometimes come in without a clue as to what they wanted so trying to figure out the look they were going for was all about asking the right questions. Multi-tasking was also another thing I had to learn, there was always something needing to be done and there were days you had to juggle several things at a time.

What is your best elevator pitch for why banking is a great career?
Banking provides endless career paths and the opportunity to constantly be learning. It’s a diverse industry and gives you the opportunity to meet people with various backgrounds and experiences.

How does getting involved with the Iowa Bankers Association help you and your bank?
The IBA offers so many resources for an individual who wants to stay in the know. They also offer great networking opportunities.

When you’re not at work, what do you like to do most?
When I’m not at work, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. Cookouts and card games are my favorite ways to spend my time.

What is a quote or guiding principle you live by?
Never stop striving to become a better version of you.

— Edmond Mbiaka

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