FAME – James Richie

FAME is a quick interview where we introduce you to fellow EDGErs and give you a glimpse into their professional lives and personalities. James has been a member of Metro EDGE since Fall 2019, joining shortly before the annual Emerge Summit Conference. He served on the EDGE Leadership Council as the Ambassador Program Chair in 2020 and now sits on the Engage Committee. Reach out and say hi!

Where do you currently work, how long have you been there, and what do you do?

I currently work at SAFE Credit Union and serve as the Senior Product Manager of Debit & Credit Cards. I’m closing in on 2 years at SAFE and it’s such an incredible place to work! My key responsibilities are ensuring SAFE’s cards offer great rewards, low rates, work when you need them to, and I help drive innovation and strategy around our payment products.

Prior to that?

I held a number of management and community outreach roles at Yolo Federal Credit Union which is based in Woodland. My most recent role was as a Digital Payments Manager where I directed the cards program, ACH operations, dispute management, and organizational support functions. I also served as Member Experience Manager, Training Manager, Branch Manager, Community Relations Officer, and various other entry level roles working my way up through the business.

What is your educational background?

Believe it or not, I have a Bachelor’s of Science from UC Davis in Genetics and Microbiology and a minor in Ecology. I sort of wandered into the credit union industry after spending a summer conducting research at the Bodega Bay Marine Laboratory. There was a Friday night I was in a wet lab working with limpets (an aquatic snail) when I had an epiphany that science just wasn’t my career calling. So I took a part time job as a teller upon graduation to pay bills and whatnot until I figured out an actual game plan in the credit union industry  and the rest is history. 

What is the best part of your job?

The variety! I’m a person who has trouble doing one thing for too long before getting bored or distracted. I’m fortunate that every day at work is different and unpredictable. A little bit of finance, tech, strategy, and operations: what’s not to love?! Plus, the folks I get to work with are some of the brightest and most compassionate people. SAFE has been recognized as the“Best Place to Work” 3 years in a row for good reason!

What do you love about living in Sacramento?

I’ve lived in the Sacramento region almost all my life and I dare you to find a better place in the world. Sacramento has some of the best breweries in the country, and we built the Farm-to-Fork movement, which is  represented in our amazing local restaurants. Plus, we’re 2 hours to the coast, 2 hours to the mountains, 2 hours to wine country, and 2 hours to the valley…any place you want to check out for a day trip is nearby.

What is one thing that might surprise people about you? 

I’ve suffered from severe depression for as long as I can remember. A lot of people see me with a smile and pretty joyous nature but deep down there’s a lot of false narratives my brain is trying to come up with. We need to normalize discussing mental health and provide affordable and equitable resources for people to get the help they deserve. It’s estimated that at least 1 in 10 people suffer from severe depression. It’s nothing to hide, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Depression is something that’s a part of me and I’ve learned how to cope with it over time, but it never truly gets easy. If anyone is out there struggling with their own mental health, please discuss it with someone you trust.

When you aren't in the office, where can we find you?

I’m either out and about just mindlessly driving around, or jamming in my music studio. A great drive on a sunny day through twisty mountain roads surrounded by pine trees is one of my favorite ways to clear the head! And then to come back home, pop open a local beer, and jam out in my music studio on any one of my many instruments (too many to mention, but I’ve always wanted to learn the harp).

What advice can you offer a young professional looking for a similar job/career path as you?

What you went to school for doesn’t have to be what you do, and if you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, make a change! Life is too short to not be fulfilled professionally. I’ve always tried to be the first person to show up, the first person to volunteer, and the first person to ask a question. Folks notice when you care and go the extra mile, and that opens up all sorts of new opportunities. You are empowered to explore, seek challenges, be your authentic self, and follow your dreams. Don’t be afraid to try and fail: that’s what it means to be human.

How has Metro EDGE enhanced your resume?

In 2020 I served as the Ambassador Chair which is tasked with connecting new EDGE members into the organization. Trying to form meaningful connections virtually with folks was definitely a new challenge; one that is certainly going to be a great skill to have as my career evolves and work environments become more flexible. I currently sit on the Engage Committee, which fosters a platform for new EDGE members to feel accepted, involved, and recognized for their participation. I’ve always been a very project and operationally-minded leader. As diversity and belonging initiatives become a central tenet of business, they’ve made me rethink and provided experience in how I engage my own teams, and how I approach creating a space for folks to share a common purpose.