Barb Kotsonis shared that she is an 8th generation Barbara. “It goes way, way back to my great-great-great grandmother. She was kind of progressive. My great grandmother was the first woman to graduate college in her city. She was the only woman in her graduating class. I’m an open book,” Barb said with a smile. “So, if you ask me a question, you’ll get an answer.”
Barb was born in Denver, Colorado. “Born to a nomadic family,” she explained, having lived in several states. After high school, Barb went to a trade school for the culinary arts and her job took her from Texas to Wisconsin. She eventually became a chef at a local restaurant. “I love cooking,” she said. “I did not love working at a restaurant. It took the joy out of it for me.” Her desire to continue to love cooking led Barb down a different career path and she soon found herself working for a cable company in the customer service center. “I did well,” she said of her time in the contact center.
When that job changed, Barb applied for a part-time position at Marine Credit Union (MCU) in June of 2008. “I went to full-time within a few months,” she shared. “I’ve been here almost 14 years.”
Barb now serves as the Service Operations Manager at MCU. She shared that “mostly” she serves as the trainer for the contact center representatives but has done some other trainings as well.
She explained that there were no training materials and only four people in her department when she started at MCU. She ended up creating the first standard operating procedure for the contact center and started training within the first two years of her career at MCU. Something unique in her training contact center reps at MCU: “There are no scripts,” she shared. “We want them to have a conversation. We want our members to have a personal experience … not a canned experience.”
Barb shared that she grew in her position when the Contact Center grew. “Contact Center work is different,” she said. She said she believes it takes a “certain niche of people” who can do it. “You can’t know if you can’t or don’t like it until you’re doing it,” she added.
But for Barb … it’s about teaching and learning. “I love the fact that I’m a chef,” Barb shared.” But working in the field, she added, “wasn’t satisfying.” So, in addition to her culinary training, Barb also attended Morain Park Technical College and earned a degree in business. “I love learning,” Barb shared. “That is why I love teaching. I will continue to learn whether I am in the classroom or not. My goal is to learn something every day, not just to quench your thirst for knowledge, but to keep yourself young.”
Outside of work, Barb shared she is very family oriented. She has four children and together, her and her husband Jack, have 11 grandchildren. “We’re busy and Christmas is really expensive,” she added with a laugh.
Barb has also been active for over 25 years in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA), a community of people who research and re-create pre-seventeenth century skills and culture through activities, demonstrations, and events. This is something she has shared with her children while they were growing up and two of them remain “hard core” in the SCA. “We are very involved,” she said. “It’s a big part of our life.”