In the Spotlight: Meet Jillian Lagasse from Capital CU
by Shawn Marie Brummer
Communications & Media Specialist

Jillian Lagasse grew up as many Dakotans do – in a small town of about 2,000 people, in this case, Oakes, North Dakota. She describes herself as “a traditional Class B’er.” In other words, she participated in multiple sports and activities with her friends, including basketball, volleyball, track, band, choir, and competitive speech. Like many young people from small communities, she couldn’t wait to graduate and move to a big city.

In retrospect, she describes her childhood as idyllic, despite the fact that she developed scoliosis and even had to wear a cumbersome back brace for 18 months – 23 hours a day, when she was 13 years old. She had a tight-knit class of about 35 friends, and she and her four siblings had caring parents, her mother a nurse, her father an employee of the local school. She was creative even as a child, in fact, she and a friend started their own school newspaper and sold it to their fellow students, parents, and teachers. Each week, they used their old desktop computers, along with scissors and glue, to put the publication together. In a sense, this is where her love of marketing first began.

Following high school, Jillian attended the University of Mary (Bismarck, ND) to study business. Initially, she thought she wanted to be a lawyer, but after receiving her bachelor’s degree, she decided law school was not the path she wanted. Instead, she chose to pursue a career in marketing, and says she hasn’t looked back. Besides receiving her degree in social science and business, she left college with another “prize,” as that was where she met her husband, Ryan, in Business Law II class.

After graduating, the couple moved to the Bottineau-Rugby, North Dakota area, where they both gained some valuable work experience. While there, Jillian worked as the Marketing Director at the local hospital. A new opportunity as the Marketing Manager at Investment Centers of America in Bismarck brought them back to the Bismarck-Mandan area. There, she helped financial advisors across the county with their marketing, helping them to grow their business and gain more clients. In addition, she obtained her FINRA Series 7 and 66 investment licenses during this time. She also met Greg Gunderson there, the CEO, who was an influential leader and became a career mentor for Jillian.

“The way he managed people by leading was something I learned so much from,” she recalled. “He also took a chance on me, and gave me my first opportunity in marketing to actually manage a team. Looking back, I was quite young and inexperienced, but he saw something in me and took that chance. What I learned from that job are things that still guide me today. He was the truest servant leader I’ve ever met, and he genuinely cared for his employees and his company. He also injected fun into the workplace in a way that still inspires me to this day,” she added.

Another opportunity to work at her alma mater, University of Mary, as the Director of Alumni was offered to her. There, she worked beside Sr. Thomas Welder, who became another career mentor. “She has this incredible ability to make you feel like you are the most important person in the room – she had such grace and humility when interacting with anyone. I learned, and continue to learn from her, about treating everyone with respect and kindness, even in the face of adversity. Now that is a lesson that every working professional should think about each and every day,” stated Jillian.

While she enjoyed the work at U of Mary, her time was brief, as she was soon missing the marketing atmosphere of the financial services industry. So while that job added to her work experience, she was unable to resist applying at Capital Credit Union when an opening for a VP of Marketing became available.

She had known, over the years, a few people who worked at Capital Credit Union, going back to her college days. “They always had such great things to say about them as an employer,” she stated. And while she was new to the credit union industry, she didn’t think that was necessarily a disadvantage. In fact, she saw that as a true advantage from a marketing perspective, in reaching out to prospective members. Knowing what would (and would not) speak to the consumers, she was thrilled when she was offered the job in July of 2018 – just one year ago.

It was an exciting time to start at Capital Credit Union. They were just launching an entirely new rebranding campaign, and her first year was a whirlwind of projects, including a new website design, putting the new logo in place across all signage, forms, advertisement, as well as all printed materials. “I was lucky enough to come on board right before the new brand launch, and it’s been an adventure making sure everything fits our new brand standards,” she explained. In addition, the credit union had a new CEO when Vance Reinbold was promoted following the retirement of long-time CEO Deb Gallagher.

Now that the storm has calmed a bit following the challenges of the rebranding, her focus as the VP of Marketing is to oversee all marketing strategy, communications, advertising, and public relations for Capital Credit Union. This includes media buys, marketing distribution strategies, social media, website, events, community sponsorship, and even donation requests. In addition, as a member of the senior management team, Jillian participates in a variety of meetings that focus on strategic initiatives. However, she is quick to credit her team – including a communications specialist and two marketing specialists – for the success of her department. “Everyone knows you always hire people that are smarter than you, so I am fortunate to have an amazing marketing team that really does the heavy lifting,” she expounded.

It seems she has found her calling. “I enjoy the ‘everyone working together’ philosophy,” she says. “I love our story at Capital Credit Union, of a few employees at the State Capitol all pitching in together to help each other, starting a credit union back in the 1930s. That all-hands-on-deck, we’re-all-in-it-together mentality is something I really love! It truly feels like a family for our members and our employees.”

When asked about her take on the “Open Your Eyes to a Credit Union®” awareness initiative, as a marketing executive, she is all on board. “I think it’s a really great marketing campaign. I like the clear message and the graphics. Plus, I feel like the concept is spot-on. If we can do something together for credit unions, like the ‘Got Milk’ campaign did for dairy, it will be a success,” she stated.

Besides leading the marketing team at Capital Credit Union, Jillian is currently the Chairperson of the Bismarck Mandan Young Professionals Network, and has been active in that group since moving back to Bismarck in 2012. Over the years, she has served as Co-Lead of the Professional Development Team, YP Day Chair, Vice President, President, and now Chairperson. In 2018, she even received the Theodore Roosevelt Award from the organization. This honor is presented to an individual who has demonstrated excellence in persistence, helping enhance the social, professional, cultural, and service opportunities for young professionals in the Bismarck-Mandan communities.

In addition to the Bismarck/Mandan Young Professionals Network, she is also an active member of the Bismarck Optimists Club, where she chairs the Optimist Impact Grant program each year, and also helps plan and organize their annual Easter Egg Hunt.

In her personal life, Jillian has been married to Ryan for 11 years. He is the business manager for Mandan Public Schools, and is a fellow “Class B’er” from Rolla, ND. The couple resides in Mandan with their three daughters: Regan, age 9; Lauren, age 7; and Indie, age 4.

With a full-time job, her children, and her volunteer work, there isn’t much “free time” for Jillian. When the opportunity arises, she does enjoy running, biking, coffee dates, going to the family lake cabin, golfing, and hanging out doing “girl stuff” with the kids. On occasion, she and Ryan are able to go fishing, or participate in curling together.

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