DOVER, Del. -- Heather Ebaugh was a college student studying behavioral science at Wilmington College when she was hired by Delaware Federal Credit Union (Del-One) in November 1995 as a teller.
Two weeks later she was a marketing coordinator. Two years, later in the midst of a core processing system conversion, she became Del-One CEO Duke Strosser's executive assistant and began backing up the data coordinator.
Now 31, she's already been the vice president of IT for $171 million Del-One since 2004, and is a finalist for the 2007 Information Technology Executive of the Year Award from Credit Union Times. Ebaugh's to-do list has included leading such crucial projects as a UNIX migration, a new archiving system, and ongoing IS security and disaster recovery advancements. That's in addition to the daily challenges of managing her own staff of four and meeting the needs of the CU's other 70 or so staffers.
Bringing people and technology together to pull off a diverse range of projects is a hands-on job at a credit union the size of Del-One and it's an area where Ebaugh excels, her colleagues say.
"In prior professional lives, I have encountered many technology executives who were passionate and brilliant but fell short when it came to execution and quality. Heather excels in all those areas," says Sharee Coleman, Del-One's vice president of marketing.
"She leads by example and always strives to bring out the best in her team and her co-workers," Coleman says.
Ebaugh, a married mother of a young daughter, says she works daily with the keen awareness of how key her department's work is to member services, and takes pride in Del-One's accomplishments.
"We don't have a team of 15 to 20 IT people. We don't have an internal programmer. But we do have the right vendors and the right people, and as the competition gets better, so are we," she says. "Technology helps us do that. "I've always been a helper. That's what made me decide to major in behavioral science and go into that field. But then I started at the credit union and found that the philosophy of people helping people mirrored my own, and this is where I decided I wanted my career to be. "I feel very passionate about my work. I think that's a strong point."
Grace under fire also is a strong point, according to a key vendor.
"I worked with Heather during the implementation of Branch Suite," says Carla Bowser, a project manager for Summit Information Systems. "At the same time, the HP-UX migration was picking up steam."
"She managed priorities with grace ... and always displayed a high degree of professionalism, even during the difficult times," Bowser says. "A couple of the aspects of Heather I appreciated most were her honesty and fairness. When she felt she wasn't getting the support she needed from us, she would let me know immediately and always thanked us for the assistance."
A particular point of pride for Ebaugh was the credit union's deployment of its disaster recovery plan.
"It took a lot of work," she says. "We spent a lot of time on it, but it was important to me and to the credit union that we do this right."
The project involved setting up a warm site with backup router and servers at one of the CU's own branches and a hot site in Corvallis, Ore. through Information Management Solutions.
"Really, we'll never be done with this. It's an ongoing thing," Ebaugh says, noting that she's now working with a vendor to send encrypted data online to the hot site.
Despite her obvious acumen, Ebaugh knows she's no know-it-all.
"I think learning is ongoing," she says. "Personal development has been a personal priority and I feel it helps me grow professionally. It gives me a good foundation to go from here to wherever my career may take me.
"I'd like to continue working at Del-One."
Her boss agrees.
"I feel like Heather's really one of the best in the business at what she's doing today," says Strosser, Del-One's CEO. "And long-term, internally, I see her as one of the top candidates for succession." --firstname.lastname@example.org