Photo by Hilary Ehlen
In an industry where women are underrepresented at every level—on average accounting for just 40 percent of bank depositors and borrowers and less than 20 percent of executive board members, according to the World Economic Forum—Gate City Bank stands out from the crowd.
Two of the women driving Gate City Bank’s culture of empowerment are Amanda Torok, Senior Vice President of Culture, and Heather Rye, Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Development.
In brief summary, what do you do?
AT: As the SVP of Culture, I oversee and develop team member engagement, culture initiatives, social media strategies, philanthropic giving, volunteerism, internal communication and training.
HR: As the SVP of HR and Development, I oversee the functions of human resources including recruitment, benefits, compensation, employee relations and organizational development.
What is your favorite part of what you do?
AT: I enjoy being able to connect with our community members and charity partners. Whether it’s through philanthropic giving, volunteerism or our acts of kindness, it’s a wonderful feeling to give back to our community in such a big way and make an impact that can truly touch the lives of our community members.
HR: My favorite part of what I do is interacting with team members. I enjoy learning and understanding their professional goals and passions. I take joy in finding ways I can support them and provide resources for them to be successful.
What does “organizational culture” mean to you?
AT: Your culture is your brand. It consists of the unwritten thoughts, feelings, actions, and behaviors that team members feel and enact daily. It’s what people say about your company behind your back.
What sets Gate City Bank’s culture apart?
AT: As a local, community bank, Gate City Bank’s culture is unique as we are truly committed to living out our mission and our purpose to create a better way of life in the communities we serve. After 96 years of serving our community, we are stable with a strong foundation and a legacy that is built to last. Our investment in building leaders based on their abilities provides many opportunities for women. 70 percent of our leadership roles are held by women and 64 percent of our team members bank-wide across North Dakota and western Minnesota are women.
Our unique culture doesn’t stop there. Team members are given an unlimited amount of volunteer hours on paid company time in addition to our volunteer time match program, mission and outreach program, and matching gifts program. Gate City Bank has a strong culture of celebration, appreciation and recognition. We celebrate big moments, anniversaries, awards and more with fun days, treats, gifts of apparel, gift cards and more!
Generally speaking, what are today’s applicants looking for in a potential employer?
HR: I think today’s applicants are looking for organizations that invest in their team members, that are passionate about their same values and provide opportunities for growth and development. I believe applicants don’t want to invest their time in an organization if the organization doesn’t invest in them.
What do you see as the biggest challenges organizations face when recruiting and retaining employees?
HR: We are largely in a candidate-driven market with high expectations. You can no longer have a lengthy interview process to assess skills and personality, so finding that culture fit can sometimes be a challenge with the short time frames. Organizations have to be creative and find what makes them unique to attract and keep talent. One way we have tackled this challenge is by highlighting how we invest in our team members and our award-winning culture, which makes team members look forward to coming to work each day, and in return they refer their friends and family. We also believe if your recruitment efforts are focused on ensuring applicants are the right culture-fit, this plays a big part in retaining them.
What are your top three must-read books for Ladybosses?
- Walking Papers by Francesco Clark (for anyone fighting the daily battle of chronic illness, it’s a must read!)
- Little Black Book, A Toolkit for Working Women by Otegha Uwagba
- No Ego by Cy Wakeman
- No Ego by Cy Wakeman
- The Go-Giver and The Go-Giver Leader by Bob Burg and John David Mann
- QBQ! The Question Behind the Question by John Miller
Who is your hero and why?
AT: My heroes are those who overcome life-changing battles. I admire the strength and the courage it takes to rise above a challenge, instead of placing focus on complaining or blaming.
These are the heroes, those who persevere through the hardest of times that make them into an even stronger person than where they were before.
HR: My heroes are those that serve. I am very grateful to every military member, police, firefighters and first responders. I am proud to work for an employer like Gate City Bank who supports servicemen and women. Gate City Bank provides fully-paid military leave to its team members and gives back, like providing lifesaving helmets to the Fargo Police Department, for example.
What other passions or hobbies do you enjoy outside of work?
AT: I enjoy giving back to the youth in our community through a shared passion for the art of dance. I teach a variety of dance styles to various ages at a local non-profit dance studio, Red River Dance. Most of my weekends are spent either teaching dance or spending time with my family, my husband, almost two-year-old daughter and our wild dog, Kona.
HR: A passion of mine is serving on the board at CCRI. I love how this organization is committed to providing individualized support to people with disabilities and assisting them to live their best lives. I am proud to be a part of their organization and often volunteer with their activities. For a hobby, I enjoy photography and capturing life’s moments with my husband and two kids.
What is the best career advice you have ever received? Or, what’s the best advice you have to offer?
AT: Say yes! Say yes to any new opportunity or adventure that comes your way. I think too often we settle for what we know, what is comfortable to us. We grow the most when we say yes to something we are uncomfortable with or would naturally want to say no to.
HR: Network. In a world filled with social media and text messaging, we don’t get out and meet new people. Invest in your relationships both professional and personal. Networking will help you to develop your skills, stay on top of the latest industry trends, keep a pulse on the job market, meet mentors, and build resources that will foster your career development.