In our new weekly feature 12 Rounds, leaders will answer 12 questions — some light, some heavy — from our Publisher and CEO Henry Sanders to help the community understand them, what they do, and why. Today: Park Bank Vice President Suzanne Johnson.
Suzanne Johnson, Park Bank’s vice president of branch banking, has over 15 years of banking experience and takes pride in working with her business clients, big or small, from start to finish with customized business banking solutions. She is also passionate about giving back to the community and to the importance of supporting local business here in Dane County. Suzanne is a Financial Literacy Council Member at the Wisconsin Banker’s Association and volunteer at our local school districts and Secure Futures.
What advice would you give someone who is a person of color not from Wisconsin who is thinking about moving to Madison?
The best way to get to know Madison is to get involved. Obviously subscribing to Madison 365 is a must! You’ll learn so much about our communities of color just by staying informed.
Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to meet with community leaders. You can learn a lot over a cup of coffee.
Finally, say yes! Get involved and attend virtual or networking events! Madison is filled with talent and you’ll find that people genuinely want to support you in your endeavors.
Name 3 songs that accurately reflect how you’re feeling.
- A Song – For Mama-Boyz 2 Men
- Brown Skin Girls- Beyoncé
- Smile – Kirk Franklin
If you could go back in time to any point of life to tell yourself something, what age would you go back to and what would you tell yourself?
I don’t know if I would go back. All of my experiences, good and bad have shaped me to be the person I am today.
What did you learn about yourself in 2020?
I learned to be more vulnerable in the workplace by sharing my lived experiences pertaining to race. Working in spaces where I was usually the only person of color, caused me to build walls as a form of protection. I learned early-on in my career to keep “all of me” to myself and relentlessly focus on work. Learning to trust my core support group in the workplace was essential to my growth.
Although I learned to be vulnerable, I also learned how genuine and real my core support group was. If anything, my experiences deepened my trust for others.
At this point of your life do you feel you have found your purpose? If so, how did you figure out your purpose?
Yes, at this point in my life I have. I have a firm belief that my purpose is to inspire, motivate, and support others no matter where they are in their lives. I like to think that I can see potential in others that they have yet to see in themselves. My goal is to support those individuals in their journey.
I believe my purpose is survival and I specialize in figuring out a solution. I can usually see past roadblocks by focusing on other ways to achieve the goal. The path might look different, but I’ll figure out a way.
As for how I figured this out, my family and faith allows me to define my purpose. In particular, my mother- she is my mentor and is an incredible woman who will go out of her way to help anyone. I admire her humility.
There is a lot of division around the issues of race in politics. What can we do to lessen those divisions?
Listen to learn vs listening to respond. Be okay with not being an expert in someone else’s experiences. I can never fully understand an experience that I’ve never lived, however, I’m willing to listen and I’m willing to learn.
Acknowledgment is key.
What’s your favorite famous quote?
You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right. –Rosa Parks
Denzel Washington or Samuel L Jackson?
I’d have to go with both as they are incredibly talented actors. In addition to their talent, I admire their commitment to marriage. That’s 76 years of marriage between the two! Such a rarity nowadays.
You are one of the few people of color in the C Suite in the Madison area. What advice would you give to others who strive to get where you are?
This is such a wonderful question that I wish I knew the answer to starting out. I don’t claim to have all the answers, however, I believe the items below have worked for me:
- Analyze and understand what qualities you bring to your work that no one else can duplicate. Display confidence in the value you add while seeking ways to become a resource to others around you. You may encounter people along the way who imply that you should “dim your shine”. Don’t let this discourage you, rather take it on as a challenge to shine brighter. You bring a uniqueness and you were chosen for a reason, make sure you know what those reasons are.
- Understand what’s important to you in an organization. Ensure organizational mission and values align with yours. Do your homework to ask the right questions in interviews, check-in’s, and at developmental discussions.
- Organically establish a trusted group of individuals who can support you on your journey. This can sometimes be the most important piece to your career progression. If you can’t find this in the workplace, find it outside of the workplace. People who can hear you, push you, and guide you along the way are essential to the process.
Why did you decide to make a career in the banking industry?
Banking chose me! I was recruited 17 years ago from a bank manager who saw qualities in me that aligned with talent they were trying to recruit. From the day I started in banking, I was naturally good at taking care of clients and I loved it! Being able to identify ways that I could help someone save money or better manage their finances meant something to me. I have also been blessed with amazing leaders who have guided me along the way. Many of whom saw potential in me that I didn’t originally see, however, they remained committed to my development. I’m beyond grateful that I get to give back to others in the same way people have given to me. People are my passion!
Fun fact: My very first bank trainer is one of my very best friends to this day!
What’s the one product you can’t live without?
Lotion or lip gloss or hair products… Ok, this question is impossible!
I noticed you don’t have a big social media presence. Is there a reason you don’t at least have a Facebook page?
I give so much of myself to my work, that I limit my social media presence to close friends and family. Trust me, I’m not that interesting, I primarily share pics/updates of my kids. They are my life!