Farewell to the SYL Grad Class of 2021!

Every January we get together (virtually, thanks covid) to welcome our newest committee members and plan our upcoming year. We also say goodbye to the committee members who have completed their three-year term with SYL. This year the incredible Larissa Wesnoski, Ryan Reiss and Shaundra Burton graduate to the prestigious SYL Alumni status! We took this last opportunity to sit down with them for a fun informal interview…. (done via email because…covid).

Tell us a little about your journey to getting on SYL, why did you join? How did you get here?

Shaundra: I had applied 2 or 3 times to get on SYL and had been declined. Which I’m grateful for, as looking back now I wasn’t ready for the journey I took while on it. Luckily enough I attended an SYL event in 2018 and the Conexus rep at the time was coming off and encouraged me to apply again. I had made some connections with others on the committee at that retreat and another CUMA event, asking a lot of questions and showing my interest and my application was accepted. SYL has opened my eyes up to the CU System as a whole and I am so grateful for all the friendships and connections I have made.

Ryan: I joined SYL at a time of significant change in my life, personal and professional. I looked at SYL as an opportunity to grow and learn, but also bring value back to my peers and the credit union system. I was someone who had personally benefited from the amazing learning and development opportunities that the committee provided, and I wanted to bring my own spin and perspective, as well as give back to the community and committee that I felt had given me so much.

Larissa: What a journey it’s been! I joined SYL to increase my awareness of the CU system, gain leadership qualities, experience, and network with areas other than HR! My term began in 2018 and following a one-year maternity leave in 2020, I’m finishing my final year in 2021. Such a rollercoaster!

What roles/committees did you have/were on during your term?

Ryan: Vice Chair, Chair, and finally a committee member. I was super fortunate to dabble, in some capacity, in almost all our initiatives and because of that I really feel I took full advantage of the amazing opportunity this committee provides.

Larissa: Throughout my term, I’ve held the roles of Communications Lead and Secretary. I’ve also been on the Lunch and Learn, Development Days, Retreat, Awards, and Onboarding Sub-committees.

Shaundra: Creative Director, Secretary, Awards Sub-committee, Retreat Sub-committee, Onboarding sub-committees and well-known devil’s advocate on everything!

Reflecting on your time with SYL, tell us a time/success/memory that stands out to you?

Larissa: The biggest success that I can think of would be the inaugural Young Leader Inspiration Awards. This was such a big feat for our small committee and watching it grow has been amazing. I can’t wait to see where it goes. 

Shaundra: The implementation of Awards. It was something new and wanted it to be a standalone event. But the sub-committee recognized we needed to shift and combine with Retreat. We had a lot of did wells from our first awards ceremony, we also learned a lot and were able to shift for the following years.  Also, all the amazing connections and friendships I have made along the way. Some have truly become family to me, I am so grateful for their guidance and continuous support!

Ryan: There’s so much. So many moments that stand out in my mind. More recently, the success we had in bringing our retreat to our community in a virtual format is something I am incredibly proud of. The conscious decision we made as a committee to really focus on staying local in 2021 and tapping into the amazing resources and experience we have from people of all walks of life in Saskatchewan, is something that I will always remember. Also – the IT nerd in me can’t help but be proud of the work we did on making that virtual experience the best it could possibly be! It was everything I imagined and more!

What was your biggest obstacle during your term and how did you overcome it/grow from it?

Shaundra: I wrote about this in a blog for SYL.  Feel free to take a peek.

Ryan: Personally, for me, 2020 was the year I was challenged in so many ways, and ways I didn’t expect. From a perspective of being able to deliver back to our community – I knew it was going to be a challenge to pivot and navigate around the roadblocks a global pandemic created in being able to connect with our community. I think we did well in that regard, the best we could have given the circumstances. What really surprised me, and I think in hindsight what I underestimated was the impact the pandemic had on us as individuals and our relationships as a committee. I just assumed we would be fine. I didn’t worry about the team, because we were strong, like minded individuals who put our community needs before our own. Nothing to worry about, right?

While those character traits are all true, we were also all struggling. And struggling in different ways. As Chair, I personally shouldered the “blame” for it all. I felt like it was my fault. I took ownership for the feelings of others and didn’t take care of myself. My biggest obstacle, in my 3-year term, was not setting my own boundaries and recognizing that it wasn’t always about me or our committee, and that I couldn’t always take ownership of the thoughts and feelings of others. Validating those thoughts and feelings and helping them to work through it doesn’t mean making it your own. I’m not going to say I’ve overcome it – because creating boundaries is still something I struggle with today. But having to navigate and manage relationships is not something I anticipated needing to do on our committee in the capacity that I did. But it changed me as a leader, and 1.5 years later it’s still a period that I reflect on. So, I guess the experience and challenge of navigating interpersonal relationships in a virtual environment is something I am still reflecting on and growing from even as my term comes to an end.

Larissa: I think the biggest obstacle I faced was learning to have qualities of an extrovert. I tend to observe situations before I give input, and that’s not entirely doable at events and on this committee. A steep learning curve, but the skills I gained are irreplaceable.