By W.B. King
In what is a recurring feature, Finopotamus spotlights innovative women who are positively impacting technology applications in the credit union industry, and beyond.
For this issue, we visited with CO-OP Financial Services Senior Vice President of Technology Delivery Pam Brodsack. The Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. –based CUSO’s payments solutions, fraud mitigation services and strategic counsel are designed to help credit unions optimize member experiences.
Sometime in the early 1980s, Pam Brodsack’s father brought home a Macintosh computer. In short order, she learned how to use the interface and began sharing her newfound knowledge with the rest of the clan.
“I taught my whole family how to use it and even showed my mom how to balance her checkbook with a Mac program,” recalled Brodsack. “It was internet banking before the internet.”
Years later, while an undergraduate at the University of Northern Iowa, where she would go on to earn a bachelor of arts in management information systems, Brodsack accepted an entry level position at the local branch of Equifax.
“I earned my degree in 1994 and stayed at Equifax where I worked as a help desk technician, setting up employee computers. Windows was just launching at the time, so we were beginning to transition from mainframe terminals to a computer-based network,” she said. “That process moved me into network administration and eventually network engineering and firewall programming.”
Brodsack went on to work for the Cedar Falls, Iowa-based CBE Companies where she was employed until 2013. Her last post was as vice president and security officer, IT. She next went to the Jacksonville, Fla.-based Enhanced Resource Solutions where she served for nearly two years as the company’s chief technology officer. And before assuming her current role as senior vice president of Technology Delivery at CO-OP in 2015, she earned accreditation at the University of Chicago – Booth School of Business and later a masters of business administration from Southern New Hampshire University.
“Technology is cyclical. Back in the day, everybody had a terminal that was connected to a mainframe. Then, everyone had a personal computer. But it didn’t take long before the enterprise shifted back to virtual desktop infrastructure, which is the same concept as terminals, except now computers are connected to a server,” said Brodsack. “It’s really interesting to look back at the patterns in technology and how trends come back around.”
Along with bringing home the first personal computer to their home, Brodsack explained that her father worked for John Deere (the brand name of Deere & Company). And as a result, he introduced the family to the credit union world.
“I’m a lifelong credit union member. Our family has long been members of what is now Veridian Credit Union, one of the largest credit unions in Iowa. What I’ve always seen as a differentiator of credit unions is their ability to connect with the local communities they serve, from both a human and a technology standpoint,” she said. “They keep up with the big banks in terms of technology, and when you layer in the people and the community commitment, you can feel the difference even if the products are fundamentally the same. I have more confidence that I’m protected, safe and cared for at a credit union.”
From a professional stance, however, a feeling of inclusion wasn’t always the case for Brodsack. She noted that while there have been positive changes for women in the technology space, it’s been a long road for her and her contemporaries.
“I was the only woman for a long time where I worked and in most of my college classes. It was rare for me to see another female; especially in the technology classes. The ratio is shifting. It’s still not equal, but it’s shifting,” Brodsack said. “Women today are typically in analyst roles, either business, testing or production support analyst roles. It’s still rare to find women in the heavy development, architecture and data scientist roles. They are there, just rarer.”
What Brodsack finds encouraging is the female-focused tech progress being made at certain colleges as well as with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs in high school, middle school and “even some” elementary schools.
“That influence has opened it up to say anybody can do these jobs. There’s less fear for women because they are no longer the only ones in the room,” she said. “There’s camaraderie that didn’t exist when I was first coming into the fintech space.”
When asked what advice she would give a woman looking to enter the tech space, Brodsack said since it is such a broad field, there are many different positions and opportunities available.
“Try one, and if you don’t like it, move on. It’s great to be an intern in different specialties, like requirements, data, help desk or network administration, for example, to see where your strong suit is. It’s hard to find until you’re able to experience it,” she said. “Whether it’s a formal internship, mentorship or just a job shadow, get out into the field and try different roles on for size. There’s bound to be one that will fit you.”
With nearly 1,800 employees, most of whom are tech-facing, Brodsack said that CO-OP Financial is continually undertaking critical initiatives designed to ultimately make the lives of credit unions members better.
“We’ve worked a lot on process. You have to see the whole picture so that you understand how what you’re doing impacts the user, the client, the member or other divisions in the company,” she said, adding that she is responsible for some 300 workers. “We’ve been doing a lot of this – focusing on the right systems and the workflows to bring them all together.”
As for recent technology accomplishments she is proud of, Brodsack explained that CO-OP is currently at a stage where it has launched the “foundational pieces of many target-state applications.” She called this an “early-adopter stance” with the goal of “capitalizing on the latest and greatest technology on behalf of our credit union partners,” which may not have “the capacity to experiment” at the moment.
“Beyond innovative technology, we are also heavily focused on integration. We are doing a lot of work in the cloud, making sure our solutions, like Springboard, My CO-OP, the CO-OP Resolution Center and the CO-OP Insight Center, are able to talk to one another,” said Brodsack. “At the core, this is about making it easy for credit unions to do business with CO-OP and its partners.”
Moving forward, Brodsack said the company’s strategy is to “modernize all areas of our technology,” from infrastructure and data to applications and security. “Couple that with people and process, and you can really see how it’s all coming together beautifully.”
A critical takeaway from the experiences of the last 18-plus months is the importance of being prepared, Brodsack noted. At the onset of the pandemic, CO-OP, for example, received an influx of requests from credit unions for contactless cards.
“Thank goodness we were ready. We were also ready to go with our contact center when branches closed. It was very rewarding to be in a position to offer credit unions multiple options to serve and communicate with members, whether it was ATM, website, mobile app, contact center,” she said. “It was highly successful for our credit unions because they had backups that enabled them to continue delivering a great experience even under immense pressure.”
Among the many other lessons learned from COVID-19 is that “real time” solutions are the wave of the future, Brodsack explained.
“The pandemic showed us that when things go online, you need to have a great digital strategy and the connections to all the partners necessary to satisfy that demand for ‘right-now’ experiences,” she continued. “Having automation behind the scenes that makes members’ and credit union staff lives easier feels like such a good thing to be a part of.”
If you enjoyed this article, you might like reading these Finopotamus articles as well: