Q&A with Becki Postma, United Way’s First Chief Administrative Officer

Becki Postma-Low Res.jpg

July 17, 2019

Meet Becki Postma, the newest addition to the Heart of West Michigan United Way team. On Monday, Becki started her job as our first Chief Administrative Officer. We talked to her about what that role means, why she made the switch to the nonprofit sector after 25 years in banking, and her love of dogs.

Are you from West Michigan originally?

Kalamazoo is where I was born and raised. I moved to Chicago for school and lived there for a number of years before landing back in Grand Rapids. And I’ve been here 20 years this month.

Where did you go to school?

I bounced around a little bit but ended up at Trinity Christian College. I wanted to be in Chicago. It’s still my favorite place in the world. I would say probably four or five times a year I go back. We drive down every year at Christmas for the market in Daley Plaza, but the other times we ride the train down and just take the El anywhere we want to go.

What did you study at Trinity?

My degree is in finance, but, starting out, I was a chemistry major. I wanted to be a pharmacist and ended up taking a business class at the same time I was taking organic chemistry and decided I liked business better (laughs). Organic is the weeder class. It weeded me out quickly.

What was your most memorable high school job and what did it teach you about what you wanted or didn’t want from your career?

I had two jobs in high school. I was a paper girl when they still delivered newspapers every single day. And I also worked at a dog kennel after school. The paper route taught me about accountability. It’s like the Post Office. You have to deliver the paper every day.

Becki’s dog, Mo, dressed up for Halloween.

Becki’s dog, Mo, dressed up for Halloween.

I would say with the kennel – I’m an animal lover through and through, always have been. Just the opportunity to take care of them and also taking payments, depositing money at the bank, doing transactional things. I wouldn’t say that led me to banking, but just understanding a little bit about how a small business worked and being around animals taught me a lot. And then I volunteered for a number of years as a foster mom for dogs. You probably won’t ever see me without a pet and most likely it’ll be a dog.

Do you have a dog now?

I do. Her name’s Mo, short for Mimosa.

You spent 25 years at Fifth Third Bank, starting as a Customer Service Rep and becoming a Vice President. What makes a company or organization one that people want to commit to in the long-term?

Yeah, I started out as a teller, as a part-time job during college. It was a nice job to have. They were flexible with hours, and I ended up in a two-year training program. After six months they pulled all of us out to help with the conversion as Old Kent was buying banks in Chicago. We were all six months out of college and the fact that they allowed us to develop training materials and help with the banks they were taking over displayed trust in us. And that was a common theme during my time there. I was allowed to try things out. There was recognition for the work and the time that was put in and there was the opportunity to learn and grow. I need fresh things. I need to learn and to be challenged and I would say that existed the entire time I was there.

They’re also very active in all the communities they serve. They’ve made significant contributions to all the communities monetarily. That was something I really valued as an organization.

What are some of your career highlights?

I was very heavily involved in the recent acquisition of MB Financial in Chicago. That was May 3rd of this past year. My role in that was helping prepare retail systems and employees for the conversion and also servicing customers post-conversion. And a lot of troubleshooting as well. For me, that type of situation where you’re just thrown into the fire and have to figure things out and make things better for customers, is what I love.

From 2008-2011, I led the effort to centralize all of our ops staff. At the time they were spread out across Fifth Third’s whole footprint. They were all supposedly doing the same functions, but they were all doing them very differently. We went from 18 different sites from Tampa to Nashville to Louisville down to six and then ultimately down to two – and the only reason we had two is for business continuity, so that if one site goes down the other can pick up all the work. It came in handy during the Polar Vortex this year, I’ll tell you that.

The process was about learning and understanding people’s roles and responsibilities and looking for the most efficient ways to do them across the board and then getting rid of those things that weren’t adding value. All of that too we did without impacting customers.

What drew you to United Way?

I would say probably a year, year and a half ago, I just started feeling that there’s something more I could be doing in my community. Our kids are now nine and eight and I had done a lot of serving before I met my husband and before we had kids. But once I had kids that kind of stopped. We became financial contributors, but the volunteering stopped. Then as they got older we started volunteering more with Kids’ Food Basket. D.A. Blodgett is another one I’ve been involved with. We explored foster care. I was looking for the thing that would fill the void for me.

I was going somewhere and I just said a prayer, ‘God, point me in the right direction.’ I literally got to where I was going and saw a friend of mine and she said, I think you should touch base with Michelle (Michelle Van Dyke, President/CEO). I called her up and we started talking about the opportunity and everything just 100% fell into place.

The thing that appealed to me about United Way is it’s not just one area. It facilitates and feeds the need in many areas. That was really appealing. There’s a way to help on a number of different levels. I have a passion for kids, but there’s so much out there that our community needs and this organization serves as that one point of contact to facilitate a connection with resources people probably don’t even know are out there.

Chief Administrative Officer is a new position for us. What’s it all about?

At a high level, my job is to take care of all of the day-to-day operations junk that keeps people from achieving their goals. So if I think about Ellen (Ellen Carpenter, Vice President of Donor Strategy, Marketing & Volunteer Center), she shouldn’t have to be focused on why aren’t her computers working. She should be able to say to somebody, figure it out for me and come back with a fix. My role and my team’s role is to handle all of that day-to-day stuff and allow the other teams to perform to their full potential.

Which one of our issue areas speaks to you most on a personal level?

I would probably say Family Stability (which includes Housing, Food Security, Family Crisis, and Mental/Behavioral Health). I think that Youth Education is obviously critical, but a lot of times those things go hand in hand. Without someone there to support a child and provide those basic needs, they can’t really learn, so for me it’s Family Stability.

What’s your favorite thing to do on a day off?

If it’s a day off without kids and it’s summertime, I love to go golfing. With my kiddos, anything outside. I coach their softball teams. We go for bike rides. Just being active with them. My sister lives right around the corner from me and she has two girls that are about the same age, so we spend a lot of cousin time together. I would say those are my two favorites.