Celebrating 'Black History Month': CEO Spotlight on Harold Roundtree

Harold Roundtree, CEO of UNCLE CU
Harold Roundtree, CEO of UNCLE CU

February is Black History Month. To celebrate, the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues are honoring the achievements and contributions of African American credit union leaders and asking them to share some perspectives about their heritage, career, and family.

Today, Harold Roundtree, CEO of UNCLE CU, shares his insights:

What does Black History Month mean to you?
I see Black History Month as a celebration and awareness of contributions that African Americans have made in the growth of America throughout history. It is also an opportunity to debunk some of the stereotypes that have plagued African Americans over the years.

What makes you proud of your heritage?
Our heritage is woven with the fabric of strength. We are a people who have had to persevere no matter the odds. In addition, we have had to adapt and keep our eye on the ultimate goal, and find creative ways to make it happen.  

Who are some role models that have inspired you?
During an early phase of my career, I had a boss who encouraged me to take on additional assignments, even though there was no associated pay increase. The hidden paycheck was the experience I gained. He also encouraged me to return to school to pursue my MBA.

In addition, I would by remiss if I did not mention my mother and father. They both migrated from the south as individuals in search of a better life. They met in San Francisco, married (and stayed married until death), had five kids (I am the fourth of the bunch), purchased a home, had long working careers, and promoted achievement no matter the odds to their children and grandchildren.

How long have you been in the credit union industry?
28 years.

What is it like to be a black leader within the credit union industry?
After working in the both the banking and savings-and-loan industries, I have enjoyed working with large and moderate (UNCLE CU) sized organizations because I’ve had the ability to see the direct impact of my efforts to grow the business. Throughout my career as a leader, I feel I have had to validate my experience on a recurring basis to be seen as credible and knowledgable. As a tall black man, I need to remain cognizant of not intimating my audience before my first words are spoken.

What is the best career advice you’ve received?
Consider every experience a learning opportunity and a building block toward your future goals and aspirations.

What barriers have you had to overcome to reach this point in your career? How did you overcome them?
I remember times in my career where people made assumptions about what I could do or the experience I had, which led to an unconscious bias. In some cases, it affected my ability to be considered for future opportunities. While it was very demotivating, I thought about my mentors and their "never give up" attitude.

So I did the best I could to promote my abilities, tenacity, educational background, as well as my past performance and ability to demonstrate how I produced results.

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