Courtney Cantwell

My day job is instructional design manager for CUNA, the Credit Union National Association, which is the not-for-profit trade organization for credit unions. In this role I create training for credit union employees—everything from how to count and strap cash to how to provide financial counseling.

I was an English major in creative writing when I had the opportunity to work at CUNA as an intern one summer during college. I had an amazing boss, Plumer Lovelace, who took me under his wing, asked me what I liked to work on and helped me create a role that was a great fit. In my early years I worked with the credit union trainers and my job was to create all the communication tools for them—newsletters, listservs. It was a position that really played to my strengths.

When I started with CUNA, training was primarily delivered in person and through self-study print books. After 911 a lot of credit union employees stopped traveling to training and our business had to change to meeting those changing needs. We segued into online education—both synchronous sessions whereby attendees would log on at a specific date and time, as well as asynchronous training whereby attendees could access coursework at any time. It’s been fascinating to watch the transition of adult education over the last two decades and seeing how the Internet and mobile devices have changed accessibility.

I’ve had amazing opportunities to learn on the job and to watch the world of training evolve. One of my favorite things is seeing all of the pieces of a live training event come together and watching those “a-ha” moments occur with our attendees. I consider myself a lifelong learner and I love helping others to be too.

The credit union system is a great fit for me and I’m a strong believer in its mission. We’re a different type of financial industry—we don’t have shareholders, we have members who own their credit union and operational decisions are made with this in mind. And credit unions really do practice what they preach in terms of our “people helping people” philosophy. I’ve been in this industry over 18 years and I can honestly say I’ve never been bored.

My most memorable caffeine would be the soda I drink when I get to work and especially when I have to get up early to do something that requires physical exertion. I relied on it for a recent early morning hike to see the famous “Hollywood” sign in L.A., and, even better, for a hike I did with my mom to see the sunrise at Diamond Head in Hawaii. Caffeine gives me the kick I need to get out of bed and take on any adventure.

My current caffeine of choice is a Cherry Coke Zero—I like to “mix my own” at a soda fountain machine. If that isn’t an option, a can or bottle will do.

My favorite place for caffeine is a convenience store with a fountain machine. I think it goes with my love of travel, but I do enjoy it when I’m not traveling too.

The people I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with are my grandma and Stevie Nicks.

My grandma, Florence Cantwell, lived to be 90. She was a writer and owned Cantwell Printing Company with my grandfather. She also ran a company called Community Qwik Copy–just her and her typewriter helping people with their résumés, college papers, and typing up menus for local restaurants. She also wrote a column for the CapTimes. We shared a love of writing and it would be wonderful to have the chance to talk with her as a fellow professional, especially as she was a business woman in an era when most women didn’t work outside the home.

Although I got to spend a lot of time with my grandma, she died before I was a mother. I wish I could sit down with her again now that I am. After all, she had 10 kids and would have lots of good advice to offer!

Stevie Nicks would be my other pick. I’ve seen her many times in concert and I adore her voice and her style. She would be fascinating to talk with–I’d love a conversation that covered everything from songwriting to relationships. I read once that Stevie Nicks consciously chose not to be a mother in order to have a successful professional career. I’d like to hear more about the sacrifices she made and the things she’s seen and experienced throughout her life, especially the lessons she’s learned.

World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine: It’s hard to pick—there are just so many—but I think you have to start with something you have control over. So my pick is self-care. If more people were able to strike a healthy balance where they were feeding their mind, body and soul we’d make better decisions and the world would be a better place. It sounds selfish to focus on taking care of yourself but it’s like putting your oxygen mask on before you put one on your child. If you don’t take some time to prioritize yourself and what you need, you’re not going to be of any use to anyone else and will just move from crisis to crisis. For me, a constant state of stress is no way to live.