An education is an investment that will continue to provide you with benefits for the entirety of your life. Oftentimes, it is your education and the pursuit of learning that sets you apart from the rest. Karen Gregerson, chief executive officer at Farmers Bank, saw the value of education early in her career.
Karen graduated from Ball State University with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting at a time when the outlook of finding a job was grim and the unemployment rate was hovering around 20 percent. She took a job at STAR Financial Bank as its audit manager and worked her way into various roles, consistently proving herself and her abilities along the way. Ultimately, she became STAR’s first CFO, a post she held for nearly 20 years.
While she was a CFO, she was becoming increasingly more aware that most people around her had a master’s degree and most of the people she was hiring had MBAs. She felt it was important that she also pursue an advanced degree, and after much research and consideration, she enrolled at Indiana Tech.
When Karen began researching MBA programs, she quickly surmised that an MBA would help her fine-tune some of the skills she had already accumulated during her professional life, but it would not challenge her in the way she was looking for. She wanted to pursue a degree that would help her grow the most, and that is when she found Indiana Tech’s Master’s in Organizational Leadership.
This degree path allowed her to focus specifically on leadership skills. Not only did the academic curriculum fit within her professional goals but, more importantly, the structure of the program fit within her personal life. It allowed her to pursue her next level of education without missing life’s big moments. The online and in-person combination gave her the best of both worlds—the cohort that she was looking for and the flexibility that comes with online learning.
In 2016, she had the opportunity to join Farmers Bank as its CEO. This gave her the chance to move to the next level of leadership and move across the state to a new community in Frankfort, Indiana. While living in Fort Wayne, Karen was very involved with the community. Taking this position afforded her the opportunity to make an impact on her new community.
The pursuit of her master’s degree not only helped her to become a better leader, but it challenged her writing skills and forced her to become a better writer and communicator. The skills that she fine-tuned while at Indiana Tech have proven to be invaluable in her role as CEO today.
“I’m not a CEO today because I’m a good accountant,” Karen said. “It takes a combination of technical acumen and personal traits to be successful. You have to build relationships with people.”
So, what has been the key to Karen’s success? She has committed herself to being a lifelong learner. She stays current with issues in her industry. And, she continues to develop her technical skills and her soft skills, knowing that those are what can set you apart. In times when the unemployment rate is high and industry is struggling, more times than not it will be education that will differentiate you from your competition.