As the Director of Project Management Office, Laura Mueller is responsible for leading the strategic initiatives for Marine Credit Union (MCU). Laura was born and raised in River Falls, Wisconsin. She studied communications and public relations at UW-La Crosse with an emphasis in psychology. Her original plan, she said was to go into sales just like her father.
After a short stint in retail sales, she said, “I did it, Dad. I hated it,” with a laugh. “I had to cold call. I hated closing and harassing people in the aisles. it was not my jam.” In her senior year of college, Laura started working as a part time teller at a bank. “The Monday after graduation I was promoted to a full-time teller,” she explained. In addition, she also was the vault custodian and a checking crusader. “It was a leadership opportunity,” she said.
Laura began her career at MCU in 2012 as a project coordinator. Before that, she spent nearly five years at Fiserv supporting core operating systems for banks across the U.S. “I went from the front end of banking to technology on the back end,” Laura explained. “I learned on the street. I loved it. It is such a fun and entertaining job. I was there five years. It’s so fun, all the back-end technology. And here I am now,” she added.
“My dad passed when I was only 13 years old. It had such an impact on my life. I used to travel with him. He had a cool job,” she explained. “He battled cancer for three years while I was in 6th grade to 9th grade.” It was a difficult time for her. “He was a textbook salesman,” she continued. “He sold home-economics and technology education textbooks. They were still using some of those textbooks when I went to high school,” she added.
“My mom was a freakin’ rock during all of that,” Laura said and shared that her mom was a stay-at-home mom for 13 years then went back to work after her father passed. “She was a music teacher … super musical.” Laura explained that her mom taught music lessons in their basement. She said that her mother worked in a bakery for quite a while and then went into banking. “She worked in a branch at the university. So, she got to see students and teachers every day in banking.” She said, “It is interesting the way things work out.”
Laura shared that she had personally loved project management even outside of banking. “There is always something to improve or enhance,” she said. Always something to fill my passion. Always something new and always opportunities to make things better.”
When she came to MCU, Laura said she felt there was constant and rapid growth in the organization, so she was able to grow her career there as well. “It really fuels me to leave it better than it was yesterday,” adding that she has a consistent curiosity and a passion for improvement. “I have my eye on that constant improvement.”
Reflecting back, Laura said her economics class crushed her dreams of being in business, but she “loved” her psychology class. “I did a pivot and kept that interest as a minor. Project management,” she continued, “is all about people. Twenty percent tactical tools and processes and 80 percent is indirect leadership and working with people. I have a love for psychology, emotional intelligence, and change management,” she added.
Laura said she loves change and the change cycle, which is similar to the grief cycle. “Psychology helped me and became a passion of mine. When my dad died my life forever changed. Did that fuel my interest in the grief cycle? Maybe. however, I used that to propel me forward,” she said and added that she asks herself, “Am I making dad proud?”
Her “team” at work, she said, are the “best ever. They are incredible.” That said, being in project management, Laura explained that she gets to work essentially with almost everyone in the organization. “I get to see each facet.”
Laura said that MCU has helped her to grow starting as an associate project coordinator and now as director. She shared that during her time at MCU she has had a lot of personal growth and a lot of achievements. “Keep your head down and work hard every day,” she learned from her dad. He also taught her about emotional intelligence. She said her father, too, was a strong relationship builder and shared memories of watching him greeting everyone at trades shows. “He taught me a good firm handshake at the age of eight,” she added.
“It has been really rewarding to grow up with this organization,” Laura said. She especially appreciates the stronger focus MCU now has on employees and advancing their careers and their lives. “It’s very rewarding,” she said.