"FCA has this philosophy that no matter what you don't know, we're going to teach you everything we know. The staff goes through all these steps to get you on the same level as everybody else. Nobody is left behind."
"I learned about FCA in the spring semester of my senior year at Tennessee State University's career fair. I was an accounting major but knew I didn't want to be a staff accountant or have a dull, hum-drum job. FCA seemed like a good fit because it was non-routine. I interviewed with FCA and was offered the job two days before I graduated. You can say the rest is history. I had another job offer but FCA was definitely my first choice. I began my career at FCA in July 2011.
"I didn't have any farming or banking background so it was a very new field for me. When you first start, you learn about the Farm Credit System, as well as FCA and its different departments. FCA's training program prepares you to advance from associate examiner to the commissioned examiner level. You start with basic courses to learn the job—introductory agriculture, credit, finance, communications, and appraisal classes. People ask me if I'm pursuing my master's degree and I say, 'No, not right now, but it kind of feels like it.' Some of these classes last just a week, but if you calculate how many hours we spend, it almost equates to a semester class.
"When you graduate from college, you might be a little scared that you're not prepared for your job. FCA has this philosophy that no matter what you don't know, we're going to teach you everything we know. The staff goes through all these steps to get you on the same level as everybody else. Nobody is left behind. Everybody is going to learn the same thing, whether it's something you've learned before or something you don't know. This makes you confident in your job, especially when it comes to talking to management. You really need to be trained to do this job, and the system in place is very beneficial.
"I will transition to the Association Examination Division in October 2013. You typically do about two years in the Staff Development Division when you are first hired and then after proper evaluation, you are transferred to another division.
"There really are no typical days, which is one of the things I really like about this job. When I first get into the office, I check my emails and make sure that any communication needed gets handled first. After that, depending if I've traveled the week before or if I have travel coming up, I try to complete any travel authorizations or vouchers.
"My workload also depends on the time of year. After the quarter-end, we'll probably be doing a lot of quarter-end work for institutions, including completing financial institution rating system reports.
"Right now during the summer months, we are doing compliance examinations, where we go to institutions and check for compliance with consumer lending and borrower rights regulations. This consists of checking for disclosures and checking procedure and policy manuals to make sure they comply with both FCA and federal regulations. Compliance exams tend to go a little faster than typical loan examinations and require a lot of traveling. Out of the past two or three months, I've been gone at least six to seven weeks. We usually fly in on Mondays and leave on Fridays.
"As the compliance exams come to an end in August, we'll go back to our typical loan review exams. That is when we do an analysis of the borrower's financial condition for risk identification. We're actually looking at loans for the five C's—character, capacity, capital, collateral, and conditions. When we're looking at a loan, we look at these five categories and determine whether the loan is classified correctly or needs to be downgraded. In addition, we examine credit administration on the account to determine whether it is satisfactory, needs improvement or is unsatisfactory. These week-long exams typically involve more communication with management because we might not know everything about the borrower from what we read. That is kind of nice because you're more engaged with the management team.
"Typically during the first two years, you're either going to be involved in compliance exams or loan review exams. The size of the team you go with is based on the size of the institution. The teams can range anywhere from three to eight people. We try to get interns involved with exams during the summer too. In my first year, I traveled probably around 40 or 50 percent of my time. This year I believe I hit the 60 percent mark. I've been gone at least two weeks out of every month.
"Although the amount of travel can sometimes be overwhelming, it is also one of the biggest benefits of this job. It's fun and you get to see parts of the country that you've never seen. A month after I started working, I had the opportunity to travel to Seattle, Washington, for the first time for a conference. In my first year alone, I probably traveled to 15 states.
"The biggest thing I've improved on is the ability to communicate effectively to a large crowd of experienced professionals, and to keep that intimidation factor in check. I realized I needed to improve my public-speaking skills when I gave my first board presentation. I was asked to complete lead sheets for some of the finance sections of one of the largest institutions in the Farm Credit System and present to the board. As the youngest staff member at the presentation, it was a big opportunity but also a challenge to overcome my nervousness and be confident in myself.
"I've also learned to delegate tasks and work cooperatively in a team. I always preferred to work alone on school projects rather than rely on a team. So when it came to leading my first compliance exam, I learned to delegate tasks because there was no way I could single-handedly examine an entire institution. I told my team that we've got to divide these tasks up equally so we can get the job done in the most efficient way possible.
"I'm a big fan of FCA and my job. It's nonroutine, you get to work in teams, and have a lot of interaction with other people. Plus, you're always working on different things so it keeps things interesting. Although there are some things you do regularly, there's so much more involved with the job that you don't get bored. That's a big benefit.
"FCA offers very competitive pay—a huge plus. Also, just being a federal employee, the benefits are great. I can see myself at FCA for a very long time. I really do believe in FCA's mission and goals. When I used to think about agriculture, I knew being a farmer or rancher wasn't for me. But this is a different side of it, and I have always liked numbers.
"I love recruiting season because I get to tell college students how much I really enjoy the job. I tell them this is a really good deal."
Updated September 13, 2013