By Kristen Cox
Jane Hatley was sitting on a panel at ISPCON, the country’s largest gathering for internet service providers, about to go on stage and talk about wireless frequency hopping, point-to-multipoint technology, when she found herself saying to herself, “How the hell did I get here?”
Jane, the WNC Regional Director for Self-Help Credit Union, has had a rich and varied career, during which she has found herself asking that question more than once. But one of the ways she has gotten to where she is has been the help of important mentors, people who have extended her a helping hand, and she hopes to extend that same helping hand to others.
Jane Hatley was the Commercial Loan Officer for Self-Help, a community development lender and real estate developer, for more than 10 years in Asheville before she was promoted to Western Regional Director when Joyce Harrison retired in 2011. This was at a time when Self-Help—both locally and across the state—was undergoing significant change due to mergers with local credit unions. Here in Western North Carolina, Self-Help had merged with Carolina Mountains Credit Union, a strong, local financial institution with a history of environmental work and excellent customer service. It originally was the employee credit union for Dupont Industries in Brevard.
Jane accepted the appointment, excited about the new services and products that Self-Help could now offer due to the merger. In addition to home and business loans, products now included checking accounts, savings accounts, CD’s, car loans, personal loans, etc. She also liked the challenge of ensuring Self-Help stay true to its mission of “serving the underserved” while expanding its market.
“It’s been an interesting and eventful time,” Jane muses. “I’m very pleased with the progress we’ve made in bringing our two institutions together, in staying true to our community development mission AND in reaching out and offering affordable financial services to more people.”
One of the focuses of Jane’s work in Asheville has been to re-energize the advisory board of Self-Help in Western North Carolina around the merger and around the new opportunities made possible by being able to offer customers new retail services. Jane has recruited some fierce, fellow female directors of non-profits, such as Shaw Canale of Mountain Bizworks, Stephanie Swepson-Twitty of Eagle Market Streets Development and Karen Cragnolin of Riverlink, along with other strong community leaders. This group of men and women are giving critical guidance and adding to an already strong and active group of board members from across WNC. “Unfailingly enthusiastic” is how Paula O’Hara, former owner of New South Business Ventures and one of Jane’s recruits to Self-Help WNC’s advisory board, describes Jane.
Charged to build visibility and raise new deposits for Self-Help’s newest branch location at 1911 S. Hendersonville Road in South Asheville, her advisory board members have been hosting house parties and luncheons, giving talks, and making other connections to help spread the word. In collaboration with Franzi Charen, founder of Asheville Grown’s Go Local campaign, Jane developed and launched the Go Local CD, which has raised over $800,000 in under four month—money that will help fund Self-Help’s lending to small businesses and residences throughout Western North Carolina.
The Go Local CD has the slogan, “Invest Local: Love WNC!”
Before she entered the business world, Jane earned a Master’s degree in English from UNC-Chapel Hill, thinking she wanted to be an English teacher. However, graduate school made her realize she was more of a writer than a teacher of other writers.
“I have nothing but total admiration for people who devote their lives to teaching. It is such tremendously important work, and it’s so underfunded and under-appreciated in this country, and particularly in this state.” She just did not feel she had what it took – “that combination of endless patience, discipline, and acting ability” that teaching required.
After working for Duke University’s Institute of the Arts, Jane found that she loved management. So she went back to school to get her M.B.A. in Finance and Marketing from Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University. After graduation, Jane managed the Tennessee Dance Theatre in Nashville and loved every grueling minute of it, taking it from a small local company into one with a national touring presence. Next, she pursued business consulting, which led to a job as the CEO of one of the country’s first wireless Internet companies, SkyRunner in Asheville.
“The biggest challenge to everything I learned in business school was running a small company, but it was a wonderful experience for me,” Jane says. This was at the peak of the Internet boom. She faced tremendous challenges, in no small part because the telecommunications world was very much a man’s world at that time. Jane was given the opportunity to run the company by the investor, Julian Price’s Public Interest Projects, and in particular by PIP’s Director, Patrick Whalen, who took a personal chance on her. Yet her small team, including Sales Manager Eleanor Ashton (now Development Director at Evergreen Community Charter School), built the company up to the point where they could negotiate its successful sale to major national investors. Learning as they were going, Jane says, “It was the most challenging job I’ve ever had. And the most interesting. And the most stressful.”
Ready for something less stressful and more predictable, Jane was hired as a Commercial Loan Officer at Self-Help. Joyce Harrison, then the Regional Director, was a wonderful supporter of Jane and her career. “It always helps if you have a woman above you, pulling you up with her!” Jane remarked. “And I appreciate the fact that our CEO, Martin Eakes, believed enough in me to name me WNC Regional Director when Joyce retired.”
Having previously run a small company, Jane was eager to get back into management. A tell-tale sign of a great leader is one who can juggle many pieces. “I guess I like telling people what to do!” says Jane. “I think what I really enjoy is the process of looking at something from a wide angle and having a lot of different things happening—and making sure that they all run smoothly together.”
Jane believes in the good work that Self-Help does and can do in Western North Carolina and enjoys the outreach work the job requires. “Many of the challenges are those that come with a non-profit—always more work to do than people to do it and the modest salaries. And there are always the challenges of getting swept up and enjoying your job too much when you also have other roles in life that are so important.” Jane is a writer, married to environmentalist and historian Tom Hatley, and mother of four kids, which may be surprising, or not surprising to the recent wave of diehard fans of Sheryl Sandberg’s recent bestseller Lean In. Both the roles of mother and writer can get subsumed by Jane’s Self-Help work.
Maintaining life balance is an ongoing challenge, as it is for so many professional women.
In talking about the glass ceiling, Jane is discerning and frank. “It’s more subtle nowadays than it was when I was coming out of business school. Back then, there was such obvious discrimination that, in a way, it was easier to deal with. I mean, my business school, for instance, had no women on its Business Leaders Speakers Series until a group of us protested and offered names of people to invite.”
Today, Jane believes discrimination against women—and against minorities—is much more hidden and carefully coded in our more politically correct world. But she says it is definitely still there—and more so in the South than in the North, based on her personal experience. “There is still way too much of a “good oldboy” feeling to a lot of the business dealings in the region,” she says. “Thank goodness for the enlightened men who don’t ever act that way, but there are still plenty of men who do—and are completely unaware of it.”
There is still much progress to be made in hiring decisions, in board member choices, in networking talks, to make sure business people are thinking in terms of diversity and gender-equality. Jane sees her role in breaking through the glass ceiling as extending an open hand to young women, and helping them when she can to move into roles that reflect their intelligence and capabilities. In the same way people like Patrick Whalen and Joyce Harrison extended a hand to her. “There’s still a lot of work left to do,” says Jane, “and, as women and enlightened men fill more business leadership roles, the more workplace gender equality progress we will see. It means a lot to me to be in a position to help other young people, especially young women, excel.”
Kristen Cox works in development, communications, and member services as an Investment Associate at Self-Help. She has had the pleasure of supporting, learning from, and collaborating with Jane Hatley to raise visibility for Self-Help in Asheville through periodic visits, but mostly from their headquarters in Durham, NC. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.self-help.org.