Stefanie Rew-Hazel had been working at Riverside Federal Credit Union for three years when the company's CEO approached her with an unexpected request.
"How would you like to be chief financial officer?"
For Rew-Hazel, who'd graduated from the University at Buffalo in 2003 with a bachelor's degree in sociology, it was an exciting proposition. She'd been laid off four times from companies relocating or shutting down altogether before she landed at Williamville-based Sovran Self Storage and finally the credit union, where she was employed at the time as a back-office processor.
So Riverside put her through a management training program, paid for her two-year Master's in Business Administration program at Medaille College, and promoted her to various positions as she worked full-time along the way.
For the growing credit union, which has offices in Buffalo and Amherst, it was a decision to develop in-house talent for a high-level position over bringing someone in from the outside.
"You have somebody who wants to do their best for the credit union because they grew up with it," said Kevin Mietlicki, the CEO who approached Rew-Hazel. "You get an employee who's devoted."
Since Mietlicki joined Riverside 10 years ago, it's grown from about $40 million in assets to more than $60 million, and from about 6,000 members to more than 7,500. The 22-employee operation needed a high-level administrator to closely watch the financial house, and Rew-Hazel fit his personal belief in helping employees grow in the company.
Rew-Hazel, 36, is now the finance manager and she expects to take the reigns as CFO soon after her graduation from Medaille in December.
She said the Medaille program helped her gain diverse perspective on becoming a manager. She gained confidence as a presenter, to be engaging and confident in front of a PowerPoint presentation.
While at Medaille, Rew-Hazel formed a business plan for Socha's Band Instrument Repair in Lockport encompassing its plans for expansion, offer practice space for local bands, serve as a venue for musical events and market itself to musicians outside the area.
As CFO, she'll be responsible for every aspect of the credit union's financial health, balancing revenues and expenses, loans and investments.
"It's a balancing act," she said. "If you're balanced one way too much then you're not healthy, so being able to recognize that before you become unhealthy."