"My professional life has helped me personally about coaching, how to give feedback and how to receive feedback and how to listen."
Lylia Harris is the San Marco branch vice president for VyStar Credit Union. The branch, with nine employees, opened Dec. 4. The native of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands is the youngest of eight siblings, with five brothers and two sisters. She began working with VyStar in 2006.
I wanted to be a fashion designer when I grew up. My mom was a seamstress and my dad was a baker. My mom and I would sew together, so I grew up learning how to sew. I left the small island of St. Thomas and went to Los Angeles at 17. It was a big culture shock.
My sister and I were in college – she for nursing and I was going for fashion. My mom could only afford for one of us to be in school, so I decided it was best for me not to pursue it any longer. In LA, I had no family and no support system. I came back to St. Thomas. When my son was about 1, I decided to go back into the workforce and banking was where I went at the age of 18.
I started with FirstBank of the Virgin Islands and traveled to St. John every day. You take a 30-minute ferry where you’re watching this crystal blue clear water every day. At lunchtime I would take off my shoes and go sit on the beach and put my feet in the water. I was in paradise. It was fun.
I had family in Jacksonville. Every summer my niece would come to St. Thomas or I would come here, and I loved it. I came to Jacksonville and stayed with my niece for some time and was trying to figure out, where do I go? I had a banking background and I worked for a couple of the big banks. I just didn’t feel like it was me. Somebody asked, what about a credit union? They said, VyStar is a very good company. I applied. It was one of the best life choices I’ve ever made.
I started off as a banking consultant where you share with people how to make wise choices for their financial life. The more I did it, the more I loved it. It’s rewarding because the members come back and say, you helped me save money, you’ve changed my life. You have the key to help people, and it makes a big impact.
My professional life has helped me personally about coaching, how to give feedback and how to receive feedback and how to listen. You can apply all the things that this organization teaches you to every aspect of your life.
One time in my career, one of my leaders said, someday you’re going to be a supervisor. She coached me and made me believe in myself. I became a supervisor not too long after that. This is my first branch as the vice president.
College was a journey from age 18 to about two years ago. I did everything online because it would be hard for me to be a working mom and also go to school. It was a long journey but very rewarding. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of because of my siblings, only my sister and I have finished college. My family came to my graduation. It was one of the best things I’ve done in my life.
I hope that I can really make an impact in this community. I empower my team to change lives. Every micro-skill that we practice each day is a step closer to my goal of how we can give and provide and make a change.